This image: Jo Tunmer
The annual Cambridge Open Studios is a chance for art lovers to meet artists and discover where and how they work. We talked to some of those involved to find out more
One of the many wonderful things about living in or around Cambridge is having access to a vibrant, thriving local art scene. One event that encapsulates that vibrancy more than any other is the annual Cambridge Open Studios, taking place this year throughout July.
Cambridge Open Studios (COS) is one of the oldest open studio events in the country and can be traced 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 the 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 area.
Although COS has grown enormously, the ethos remains the same, as Jo Riches, who helps to promote and market the event, explains. “Open Studios offers the opportunity for people to buy art if they want to, but the aim is to make art accessible and to welcome the public to see how artists produce their work. The event is free to the public, and most of the artists offer a range of different items, so if a painting or piece of jewellery isn’t in your budget you can buy some cards or a mug featuring the artist’s work.”
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. “We have a new member meeting every year,” says Jo, “and we also have a mentor scheme, where artists who have never taken part before can get tips from some of the COS veterans.”
The chance to spend a July weekend travelling around our beautiful city and the surrounding villages, meeting and talking to artists and seeing a huge range of different types of arts and crafts, is one that shouldn’t be missed. Some artists join forces, showing on the same weekend so that visitors can do an ‘art trail’ around a particular area. Others collaborate, sharing a studio space so that you can see more than one artist at a time. There’s absolutely no pressure to buy, and it can be a way of finding out what you like, whether that’s printmaking, jewellery or woodcrafts, and it’s a wonderful event for families – it might even provide inspiration for the next generation of Cambridge artists!
- Cambridge Open Studios runs for four weekends in July: 2-3; 9-10; 16-17; and 23-24.
- Visit www.camopenstudios.co.uk to download the free guidebook and find full details of the artists involved.
- The guidebook is available in galleries, museums, independent cafés and Park & Ride sites throughout Cambridgeshire.
- The Twitter feed (@CamOpenStudios) and the Facebook page feature 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.
DANIEL HUMPHREYS Furniture designer/maker Weekends three and four
"This is my first Cambridge Open Studios. I moved to the area a year ago from London and a friend who was living and working here recommended the event to me. I went back to college three years ago to study furniture making, and although I’ve done a new designers exhibition, I’ve never done anything else like this before.
“I rent a workshop at The Wood Yard on Cheddars Lane. There are three of us who work here so we’re doing the event together, and some friends who are painters are also going to exhibit in our space, too. I make bespoke furniture, inspired by the Arts and Crafts movement, at a range of prices, so I hope that some of the people who come along will like my work and commission pieces.
“I’m always busy working, so while I am doing some special preparations for COS – I’m going to get some leaflets and brochures showing my work printed – I also want visitors to see how I really work, so I’m not going to tidy things up too much! This is a proper, working workshop, and I think that’s what makes it interesting, and hopefully that’s what people are coming to see. I’m a little bit nervous, but mostly I feel excited about showing my work and getting the chance to show people what I can do.”
This image: Jo Tunmer
JO TUNMER Printmaking, painting Weekends three and four
“I’ve been doing Cambridge Open Studios since 2008. I really enjoy showing people how the work is actually made, and people are usually very interested in the printmaking. I have a studio outside, and then I open up another workroom in my house as well.
“Cambridge is a great place to be an artist; it’s well known for technology and biomedics, but things are changing, and I’ve been very involved in developing independent events in and around the city. I created Cambridge Showcase, and am also one of the founders of the Cambridge Original Printmakers Biennale.
“Cambridge Open Studios is fun and very different to showing your work through galleries, as you get to meet your customers face to face. It’s open to artists from all genres and media, so it’s very broad. I’ve made some of my closest friends by collaborating with artists I’ve met through Open Studios; it’s great to meet other artists, and even though they may not work in the same medium, they’re all creative so we can share ideas. This year, I’m sharing my studio with three other artists, a jeweller, a ceramicist and a wire artist, so there will be something there for everyone.”
This image: Alison Hullyer
ALISON HULLYER Printmaking, Illustration Weekends two and three
“I’ve taken part in Cambridge Open Studios many times; it’s been part of my summer schedule since 1995. It spurs me on to produce plenty of new work each year, plus it’s a good incentive to tidy up my studio!
“I really enjoy meeting people face to face and getting instant feedback for my work. I usually sell through galleries, and I never actually know where things are going, so it’s nice to talk to the people who are buying my art and hear their stories. I find out if it’s a present for a special occasion, or where they’re planning on hanging something in their houses.
"It often leads to commissions, too; at the moment I’m working on a piece that someone has commissioned to go with something they bought last year, and they’ve specifically requested that it feature cow parsley and hares.
“I work out of a garage next to my house. My etching press is in there and I put up tables and screens to display my work.
"People are very interested in the process of printing; not many people realise what’s involved, so it’s great to be able to demonstrate. I let children have a go at rolling things through my press, and it’s lovely to feel that I might be inspiring a future generation of artists. Local schools and colleges send students and I have leaflets that they can take away, and let them take photos for their projects.
"I remember going to see a printmaker’s studio when I was a sixth former, and it was eye-opening for me to see you could actually make a living out of it.”
BARBARA STANLEY Watercolour painting, photography All four weekends
“I’ve taken part in Cambridge Open Studios twice before. My paintings are watercolour or pencil images of natural life – plants, birds, minerals, fruit – and I’m Photographer of the Year for the Royal Society of Biology.
“I’m a retired artist now, really. I don’t enjoy the promotional, business side, getting out there and trying to get my work seen, so COS works well for me; they take care of the promotion and people come to me! When visitors are interested in finding out more about my work it’s nice to talk to them, but some people just want to browse quietly and not be bothered. There aren’t any other artists involved in Open Studios where I live, in Tadlow, so people do have to make an effort to come to me – but I’m happy when they come, and don’t worry too much if they don’t! Not everyone is coming to buy, some people just want to look, but others leave with a picture or two which is always nice.”