The walls are gallery white and the décor simple and modern. That’s because Kim Clarke’s aim for Sunshine Books, Art And Coffee is to make a space where she can hang top quality contemporary art from Sussex.
Since she opened in August, abstract pop creations by the young artist David Shillinglaw have been presented on the walls.
“He’s getting a lot of interest right now,” says Clarke over coffee at the back of the bright, roomy café, halfway between the Connaught pub in Hove Street and the King Alfred sports centre on Hove seafront.
“Apparently Danny Boyle wants him to work on his new film, and he comes from the same street art movement as Banksy.”
Shillinglaw, who painted the shop’s yellow façade, is about to make way for work by the seven artists Sunshine will be hosting during the 2012 Christmas Artists Open Houses event.
From December 1 to December 16 the place will be transformed as part of the tenth edition of the event’s winter run, in which 54 venues are taking part this year.
Clarke, who loves art but admits she’s little aptitude for it, says regular re-hanging is part of her grand plan.
“We made the walls white so the place has the aesthetics of a gallery. The atmosphere, look and feel will change regularly thanks to the rotating exhibitions.
“It means the café will be continually transformed – it is like a blank canvas.”
Still, there is a vintage-looking coffee machine on a newly built lime-green counter, which is made with the same type of recycled wood from The Wood Centre as the tables. The environmentally friendly approach continues with low-energy LED lighting.
Among the seven artists exhibiting at the café during the festival are print and tapestry-maker Zoe Bailey, painter and card maker Alice Kemp and hand-crafter and knit-maker Emilie Woodman.
“We want to make this place a hub for artists,” says Clarke, who before taking the keys to the premises in April worked as a social worker. “And we want to showcase artists by providing a space for people to display and sell their work.”
Such an ethos is one reason for Sunshine to link up with Artists Open Houses.
But it also fits with Clarke’s aim to create a “community space”, which is something she’ll have to do given the café’s location in deepest Hove.
So, as well as the art, coffee, cakes and sandwiches, she is going to be selling books.
Two bookcases at the back of the shop are filled with second-hand books for sale and for browsing – from a collection of tales called The Naughty Nineties to a book on The Swing Era 1936-1937, as well as Rough Guides and autobiographies.
Soon there will be brand-new books for sale because Clarke believes it’s about time we started supporting bookshops which promote the book as a medium and contribute to the country’s tax receipts.
“I love to study and I love to read,” she says, before revealing her favourite book is Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston, who was part of Harlem Renaissance movement in New York in the 1920s.
“The idea to do a bookshop with a café has been in the back of my mind since 2003. After the social work and working with people with severe disabilities, I realised we have to make the most of the short time we have got.
“It dawned on me this it is the thing I want to do. So I said I’m going to do it and have done it.”
Clarke came across Hurston when she was studying in the US as part of a degree in American literature as a mature student at the University of Sussex .
And it was in Massachusetts, over the road from the Mount Holyoke College, near Boston, that she used to drink in a café which provided the inspiration for Sunshine.
The education lover has since taken a course about how to open a coffee shop at London School of Coffee and a bookselling course via The Booksellers Association. She’s honest, and admits “it’s a work in process”.
So while she tries to increase the number of books on offer, there is another open-mic night planned for December 6 and she is working to get her temporary alcohol licence turned into a full licence.
There is the idea of a pop-up cinema and plans are in place to expand the kitchen and offer more food to complement the breakfasts and sandwiches which are served with the Kimbo coffee.
- Hove Street, Hove. Open Monday to Saturday 9am to 5pm and Sunday 10am to 5pm. Call 01273 730007