Times They Are A-Changin'
Nothing stays the same for ever and in the words of Bob Dylan, when times are a-changin' we can learn to swim with it or we can sink. With another year of Open Studios finished I have been giving some thought and reflection on how things have changed over the years and how that might take me forward.
My first year with Cambridge Open Studios was back in 2005 and in the intervening period I have only missed three years. Two years were due to personal circumstances and the final year I missed was the summer of 2020 when due to the pandemic Open Studios didn’t happen and we operated an Open Windows instead. It was hugely successful, attracting many friends and neighbours. It was different, it was a change and I loved it.
Over the years, some years have been more successful than others with visitor numbers going up and down along with sales. And despite trying to reason why there is no obvious answer. Friends have suggested that maybe it’s quiet some years because it clashes with Wimbledon, but it always clashes with the tennis. They say maybe it is the heat, the rain, the wind, or whatever else the British weather throws at us but as a rule people come out (or don’t as the case maybe) whatever the weather. So mostly there is no rhyme or reason, and these things fluctuate. But there has been a noticeable downturn since 2021 with the number of people visiting falling consistently and sales dropping rapidly each year. My guess is that people are tightening their belts and art is certainly not a necessity when it’s a case of finding enough cash to buy food or pay for heating. And if you are not interested in buying then maybe there doesn’t seem like any reason to come out and look. I don’t know, I’m guessing.
This year wasn’t a complete wash out, despite us been blown and buffeted by the wind. My studio is in the garden and although there is plenty to see inside, I also display art under a gazebo outside as well as dotting it about on garden chairs. There were several precarious moments when I thought we might lose everything to the elements, including the gazebo but with some deft rearranging we were okay. There were new visitors and regulars as well as old friends to catch up with but the highlight for me was when my friend Annie turned up and saw her portrait for the first time. Looking at her reaction I think she was pleased with my record of a happy day out together at the National Gallery.
I’m not ready to decide whether I will take part in Open Studios next year or not. I need more time to reflect on what the next year will bring but there are definitely changes ahead and I relish the prospect rather that lamenting the loss of the way things used to be.
The past three years have already seen many changes in my working life too. In my own personal art making there has been a shift from creating textile art back to my love of drawing and painting. The pandemic saw a transition to online teaching and of course there has been the success of my podcast with Isobel Moore which we started at the end of 2020. But as time moves on there are more changes ahead. I think that for me at least, online teaching has peaked as people look for more opportunities to meet in person and family circumstance are now also demanding changes in my priorities.
I used be a regular blogger, often writing three or four times a week and enjoying a regular following. The first couple of posts were cringeworthy and my first photo was of a splendid courgette flower. Once again, courgette flowers and fruits are popping up all over my allotment. You would think I would learn over the years that two plants are perfectly adequate for two people but no. More about my abundance of cougettes later. During Covid the endless repetition of the days largely spent inside doing the same things left me with little I wanted to write about. As I wrote less the blog gradually faded away with my final post written in June 2021.
When I set up this website I started a new blog here keeping it largely about art and art related subjects and although I have enjoyed writing, I find it hard to keep up the momentum to write regularly, especially when I am also writing a subscriber newsletter every other week. At the time that I was blogging regularly my now fortnightly newsletter was a rare and occasional missive.
And so, in the spirit of change I have decided to combine my blog and newsletter and I have moved to Substack where my intention is to write weekly not only about the things that I would usually put in my newsletter or here but more generally about art and my other creative interests too. Later each week I will put a shortened version of that weeks Substack here as a blogpost (which is what you have been reading) but to get the full version delivered directly to your inbox you will need to subscribe, which is completely free.
Which neatly segues me back to the courgettes... because you'll need to follow me on Substack to find out what I've been doing with them!