“The Takeaway: Rellim Collection tracks down art for buyers on a budget”
Jill Miller had always wanted to open her own art gallery, an interest fueled by the career attorney’s longtime love of collecting. Now she’s living out that dream after opening the Rellim Collection, a gallery and consultancy in Towson that specializes in art for customers ranging from longtime collectors to those on a relatively limited budget.
Miller saw an unmet need, as well as a business opportunity, while helping her daughter decorate her first apartment in New York several years ago. THey were seeking high-quality art to spruce up the new abode, but struggled to find a middle ground between buying generic prints or low-quality posters at “big box stores” and “very expensive blue chip art” far above their price range Miller says.
“I started thinking, there’s got to be something in between,” she says. “We can’t be the only people looking for this.”
Miller, who’s been building her own collection for years while practicing law, did her research and learned of a growing wave of businesses that procure art for first-time collectors or those seeking to decorate their homes without breaking the bank.
She also visited markets and scoured the web, identifying countless pieces that were more affordable than what one might find in a gallery.
“What I discovered is there is so much art to be had…so much so that it’s a full-time job just going through it and trying to find it,” she says.
With her own formidable inventory already, and after two years of planning and networking with artists, Miller in December opened the Rellim Collection, a gallery and consulting firm that tracks down high-quality pieces with price tags usually ranging from $300 to $1,200, or commissions new works for clients. She set up shop in the former Record and Tape Traders space on Dulaney Valley Road in Towson.
Miller hired two part-time staffers to help out as well, and is coming off what she says was a strong first month. “It’s sort of like I opened my eyes and here I am.”
Miller prefers to bring along physical artwork to let a customer try it on for size, but that’s not always possible since many pieces are custom-ordered or stored off-site.
That can pose an obstacle for helping customers when they can’t actually see how something will look in their home.
“How do you sell people are that you don’t have?” she poses.
The longtime collector has more broadly had to reframe her process for choosing art- namely, buying items with styles or color schemes that she might not necessarily put up in her house. “The quality of the art,” including an artist’s craft, print quality and framing, “is non-negotiable,” she says, “but taste is completely negotiable.”
Technology has been Miller’s friend. She purchased a large non-commercial printer that can produce mockup copies up to 20 inches tall and 27 inches wide, which she then brings to someone’s home to see how a piece might look. For larger works, she uses a projector to digitally preview how art would look on someone’s wall.
To get better at picking items not suited to her own tastes, Miller has found she must pay closer attention to hallmarks of high quality, such as how a piece is framed and stretched, the vibrancy of its colors and the detail evident in original works or from the printing process, than simply what appeals to her
As a first-time gallery owner, Miller has found that this work takes time. As with any commitment purchase, many customers want to stop in for an introduction, then make another appointment or have Miller come over to showcase a piece, or need to “sit with it” and mill their options.
“It’s not like going to buy a shirt where you walk into a store, try a shirt off the rack and you buy it,” she says. “It’s patience and it’s a process.”
But that process of working with clients to track down art that fits within their price range, and perfectly in their home, “gives me joy,” she says.
“There’s nothing but happiness in it- not like practicing law where there’s a lot of stress and a lot of angst,” she says. “They say if you find something you love, it’s going to be enjoyable. This has just added so much positivity to my life.”