For me summer has always meant that it is Open Studios Season, so it seemed timely that with my own Open Studios event just over a week away that Izzy and I discussed Open Studios on the podcast this week (release date 1st July). I have been a participant in Cambridge Open Studios for 17 years, first taking part in 2005. It is a large well organised event that takes place every July all over the county, not just in Cambridge, despite the name. But these events take place throughout the UK, usually during the summer months and vary from the large county wide events like Cambridge to small village Art Trails or even individuals holding their own event. All you really need is a space to exhibit and a means of spreading the word. Throw in a bunch of like minded friends to do it with and you've got an event! For the visitor they provide a wonderful opportunity to see a wide range of original art including painting, sculpture, ceramics, jewellery, glass and textiles and to be able to buy directly from the artist, often seeing where and how the art was made.
Open Studios - a chance to meet the artist and see their work
For the artist they are hard work, both in the weeks ahead and especially during the actual event - there is nothing quite like that G & T at the end of a seven hour stint of chatting non stop to visitors! But they are always great fun and can be very rewarding, especially when work sells. Of course it is always wonderful when work sells but Open Studios is not only about selling. It is also about building connections with potential customers, making useful contacts, sometimes finding new critics and even making new friends. I have met so many interesting and lovely people over the years as well as some very strange people if I'm honest (I have a few hilarious stories I could tell but I'll be discreet and keep them to myself!) It's also a great way of learning new skills from having to hang work, create sales spreadsheets, dealing with press as well as being confident enough to chat to the visiting public. It has certainly put my organisational skills to the test over the years.
One of the decisions to be made is where to actually hold the Open Studios as the word studio can encompass a huge variety of spaces. I visited studios that have literally been the kitchen table, where work has been spread around the room and the artist's tools have been out on the table where they work. Others have joined together as a group and have hired a village hall, the local library or a similar large space as a venue to display their work - there are as many different scenarios as there are artists.
Art in the garden this year!
In the past I used to put work in my hall and dining room, clearing both of excess clutter and marking the rest of the house as private. But having moved house two years ago and then being in the middle of the pandemic last summer, this year will be the first time I have participated in my new home. My studio is actually in the garden and as my house isn't really suitable for having visitors traipse through (having very few clear straight walls on which to hang art is one big limiting factor!) this year I have decided it will be an 'Art in the Garden" event. I have organised a gazebo and I'm hoping it will be fine and dry so the art can be scattered around the garden. Given that we are still living in rather uncertain times I'm hoping this will make it a safe event and will encourage people to come out and visit.
The work is made, I'm hopeful of some press coverage this week in The Cambridge Independent and I have invested myself of a card reader machine so all I need to do now is put up a few posters locally, continue with my efforts to post on social media and keep my fingers crossed that the sun shines for the middle two weekends in July.
You can find details of my Open Studios and all the artists participating this year via the Cambridge Open Studios website where there is a digital guide to download. Alternatively there is an App so you can have all the information in one place on your phone. Maybe I'll see some of you... it really would be lovely if you came and said hello!