This image: Cathy Parker recreates trees and landscapes using oil, acrylic, watercolour and ink
The annual Cambridge Open Studios is a chance for art lovers to meet artists and discover where and how they work. Siobhan Godwood talked to some of those involved to find out more
Anyone who lives in Cambridge or visits regularly will know what a vibrant art scene there is here. And if there’s one event that really captures the vitality of the local creative landscape it’s the annual Cambridge Open Studios event, taking place this year throughout July.
Cambridge Open Studios (or COS) is one of the oldest open studio events in the country, dating back to the 1960s, when a small group of Cambridge artists joined forces, opening their studios to the public as part of a movement to demystify arts and make them available to all. Since then the event has gone from strength to strength, and currently has around 470 active members from Cambridge and the surrounding villages.
As well as a way for art lovers to discover local talent, COS allows artists and craftspeople to get advice and tips from other artists, and have their work included in the event’s promotional materials and social media activity. For some artists, it’s a unique way to get their work seen and noticed, too. “I had a long break from art while I had my family,” says Caroline Henricksen, who exhibited her botanical watercolour drawings at COS for the first time last year, “and I’m so glad I did COS.
Image: Tom Sims specialises in acrylic and gouache mixed media painting, and will be exhibiting at COS from his studio in Ely together with his wife, Valerie Sims
“Through my work being on the Open Studios website, I ended up on Countryfile on the BBC and that led to my cards and prints going into galleries all over the UK. But for me, the best part of COS was the comments I got from people who came to see my work. It was such a boost to my confidence, and made me feel that coming back to art was something that I could make a success of.”
The experience of spending a July weekend travelling around our beautiful city and surrounding villages, meeting artists and seeing a huge range of different art and crafts, is one that shouldn’t be missed.
Part of the event’s ethos is that there’s no pressure to buy, and there’s almost always a range of items at different price points, from huge multimedia artworks to packs of postcards.
So whether you’re looking to add to your collection, discover a new local artist, or just immerse yourself in beauty and creativity for the weekend, there will be something at Cambridge Open Studios for you.
This year Cambridge Open Studios runs on 7/8, 14/15, 21/22 and 28/29.
KATE GREEN Artist, colourful abstract paintings Weekends one and two
I did Cambridge Open Studios for the first time last year. I was ready to start networking with other artists and it was really useful as a way to start getting myself known. I had lots of work that I was keen to get feedback on, and I wanted to share what I do and hopefully stir creativity in other people. It was lovely to invite people into my home – my studio is in my garden – and people were interested in seeing how I work.
I feel that it’s important to show people my process, because what I do is actually really simple. It’s abstract, it’s bright, it’s colourful, and it’s the sort of thing that anyone could do, and people like seeing the layers and how I build things up using straightforward techniques. It empowers people and hopefully inspires them to have a go themselves.
LOUISE HILTON Artist, primarily nature-inspired watercolours Weekends two and three
This is my first time doing COS, and the team have given me lots of support and advice about how to make the most of the event. They offer a mentoring service for first timers, so I’ve been teamed up with Helen Clark and she’s passed on lots of hints and tips. I’ll be exhibiting from my home, and there’s been lots of preparation as I wanted to have lots of work ready that people haven’t seen before. I’m keen to get my art out there for people to see it, and I’m also really looking forward to meeting other artists; there’s a thriving artistic community here in Cambridge and it’s exciting to be a part of it.
Images: Louise Hilton (above) and Jocelyne Dudding (right)
JOCELYNE DUDDING Jewellery inspired by Cambridge Weekends three and four
This is my fourth year doing COS; I exhibit with a ceramic artist and a painter on Fen Road. It’s a huge amount of preparation, and I know it’s good for me to have a deadline, but it’s definitely a bit stressful! This year I haven’t had much time to make jewellery as I’m on the guide commitee, and have been spending lots of time helping put together the famous yellow guides that help visitors choose who to visit and where to go.
As an artist, I’m part of the East Chesterton Trail; there are 18 artists all within walking distance of each other, and when each of us has visitors we recommend other artists for them to visit on the trail. There’s a lovely sense of community, being part of Open Studios.
HEATHER STOWELL Jewellery Weekends one, two, three and four
I exhibit for Open Studios in the Artists Marquee at Burwash Manor with a group of other artists, and help to organise the gallery there as well as exhibiting myself, which is a bit of a juggling act!
Many of us who exhibit in the marquee have been doing COS for years, so there’s a real community feeling, and we get to know each other and take pride in each other’s work and achievements.
And of course there’s quite a bit of cross pollination – each of us has visitors who have to come to see our work specifically, but of course they see the other artists’ work while they’re here, so it’s a great way for visitors to discover new local artists, and for each of the artists to reach a new audience.
STEWART HEARN Glass blower Weekends two and three
I’ve done Cambridge Open Studios five times, and this year I’ll be exhibiting my work alongside my wife Kathryn, who is a ceramicist.
We’ll be displaying our work in the house and the workshop – we’ve got a listed barn in our garden which we got permission to convert it into a glass-blowing studio, and Kathryn has her studio next door to it.
Last year we exhibited in our house too. It was good to show my glass in situ as people often like the work but can’t quite imagine it in their homes, and seeing it in ours really helped. We don’t do demonstrations, because it’s nice to chat to people and it’s very hard to do that when I’m demonstrating.
People are interested to hear about the work and the ideas behind it, and I enjoy the chance to talk about it. I’m looking forward to this year’s COS, but feeling slightly intimidated by the prospect of getting everything ready for it!
Images: Stewart Hearn (above) and Layne Rowe (right)
LAYNE ROWE Glass Weekends two, three and four
This is my first time doing Cambridge Open Studios, as I’ve recently moved to March in Cambridgeshire and set up my studio. I’m going to have part of my house open, with some of my work displayed in the home setting, and also some set up in my workshop and in another small gallery that I have upstairs.
I’m preparing my work all through the year anyway, but in the run-up to COS I’m making sure that I have a little bit of everything from my range, all ready at once. I want people to see the full breadth of what I do, and it’s good to have a deadline to work towards to get my studio all sorted and ready for people to see. Being new here, I’m looking forward to getting to know people in the area and for them to get to know me and my work.
Visit camopenstudios.co.uk to download the free guidebook, find full details of the artists involved and to check which weekends each artist is exhibiting.
The guidebook is available in galleries, museums, independent cafes and park-and-ride sites throughout Cambridgeshire.
Twitter @CamOpenStudios or the Facebook page features details of the artists and information about trails or collaborations.
Look out for the yellow flags that artists display to show that they’re taking part in the event and are open to visitors.
Image: Paul Jannsens works in oil and acrylic paint combined with collage on wood