Sunday, September 6, 2009

Things to do in Northamptonshire - Open Studios

Starting in June each year, the Open Studios Northamptonshire project start printing and distributing brochures about the event. Over the next four months, more than twenty thousand brochures are given out in Northamptonshire and the surrounding counties of Warwickshire, Cambridgeshire, Leicestershire, Rutland, Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire and Lincolnshire.

What is it?
During the first two weeks of September every year (since 1996), shedloads of Northamptonshire artists open up their studios to the general public as part of the Open Studios Northamptonshire event. Every type, format, medium and style is covered by a variety of artists, from abstract acrylic through pop art painting and stylised sculpture and on to clay work, ceramics and textiles.

Many of the artists have works available for purchase, and some will accept commissions. A number are just displaying work they have done in the past, and a few will probably be working on something while you're there.

Where is it?
All over the place. The Open Studios brochure includes numbered listings of all exhibiting artists, including addresses and other contact details, and brief descriptions of their work (usually with a photograph or scan). The numbers are referenced on a map (usually located on the centre pages for easy location) which covers a fairly wide area - on the edge of 2009's map are Milton Keynes, Brackley, Banbury, Rugby, Market Harborough, Uppingham, Oundle and Bedford.

The exhibitions are in all sorts of different places, many clustered in towns, but with a worthwhile number out in all sorts of village locations that you've never heard of. The venues are equally diverse: your first visit may be to a funded art gallery, while the next is in somebody's garage or shed, and the one after that in a communally rented studio space. There are also exhibitions in various pubs and cafés throughout the county, as well as artworks on display in some of our halls and stately homes.

When is it?
Each of the brochure's individual artist listings include a calendar indicating on which days over the Open Studios fortnight (the first two weeks in September each year) they are exhibiting, and at what times.

Any tips?
A lot of artists participate in Open Studios. So many that it's not feasible to get round them all in one day, or even a weekend. With this in mind, the brochure is useful for planning your visits- have a flick through, circle the ones that snag your imagination, and then see where they are on the map.

Depending on who you are and your motivations for visiting artists, you may want to see if you can split your chosen artists into groups based on location- one clump for Saturday, one clump for Monday, etc.

Anything else?

Devising your own Open Studios 'tour' can provide an opportunity to see bits of Northamptonshire (and just over the boundaries of other nearby counties) that you didn't even know where there. In past years, we've come across lovely cafés tucked away in remote corners that we wouldn't otherwise have had reason to visit, and discovered views of the local countryside that take your breath away.

For the artistic, it's an excellent opportunity to go and see what everyone else is doing, pick up hints, tips and inspiration, and to chat to other people in your field.

For the more inquisitive people out there, it's a great opportunity to have a nose around other people's houses and gardens!

More information
If there are any Open Studios Northamptonshire exhibiting artists out there who read this, I'm more than happy to include a link here to your websites; just get in touch!