This image: Alice Thomsen
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
Cambridge Open Studios is an annual event that offers art lovers across the city and surrounding villages the chance to visit artists – often in their own homes or studios – and not only see their work, but also find out more about the creative process and life as a working artist.
Cambridge may be famous for its contribution to science, technology and academia, but there is an extremely vibrant, thriving artistic community in the city, too, and Cambridge Open Studios is one of the oldest events of its kind in the country. It started life back in the 1960s, when a small group of Cambridge artists and craftspeople banded together to open their studios and workshops to the public, spurred on by a desire to make art accessible to everyone.
It now involves over 470 artists every year, and has become a regular fixture on the calendars of arts lovers across Cambridgeshire. For all the artists involved, it’s a wonderful opportunity to not only show their work to a local audience, but also to open their workspaces to visitors and get the chance to talk about how they work.
Cambridge Open Studios runs for four weekends in July; this year running on 1/2, 8/9, 15/16 and 22/23. See the full artist listings at the COS website, camopenstudios.co.uk
MORVEN DALTON Jewellery Weekends one and two
Morven makes sterling silver jewellery with accents of gold and semi precious stones inspired by nature and textiles. She also produces mixed media abstract and landscape paintings.
“I did Open Studios two years ago, and it was a really worthwhile thing to do. When you work as an artist you’re in your own little bubble, and don’t get the chance to talk to people. It’s good to get the chance to explain my techniques, and it’s a much more personal way of showcasing my work. I last did it two years ago – last year I had my daughter, so I had a break – and I’m still getting commissions from people who visited me back then. Visitors can look at my jewellery, and then ask me to make something similar, but slightly different, and seeing my work and meeting me at the same time really helps with that process.
A few years ago I was working as a teacher, and going to Open Studios as a visitor was what inspired me to give jewellery-making a go as a career; I hope that people who come to see me might go away and decide to do something creative themselves.”
NAOMI DAVIES Artist Weekends one and two
Naomi – a former Edition cover artist – describes herself as an ‘urban sketcher’, and many of her pen and watercolour drawings feature scenes from our beautiful city, often with bicycles in!
“This is my second year of doing Open Studios. I live just off Mill Road, and it’s quite a challenge to get my house ready to have people traipsing through and getting rid of the dog for the day! I actually paint and draw while people are coming round to visit; little miniatures so that people can see what I do and talk to me about it.
“I take requests from visitors, things like a Cambridge satchel, or a pair of converse shoes. I particularly enjoy it when children visit, I like talking to them and showing them how I work; last time one little boy from across the road made a display of his own drawings and showed them alongside mine!”
REBECCA STARK Clocks, artist Weekends one, two and three
Rebecca makes handmade metal clocks using techniques including etching, engraving and riveting. She shows these alongside her mixed media paintings.
“I’ve done lots of Open Studios; I think my first one was in 1994! I had a long break when I had my daughter and got back to it around five years ago. You get really wonderful feedback from visitors – most of the year I’m just beavering away in my studio and if you sell just to galleries you don’t get that.
“It’s nice to hear what people like and don’t like! People come to Open Studios, then they get back in touch to ask me to make things for wedding presents and other gifts. So it’s a good way of making contacts that then provide me with work throughout the year.”
ALICE THOMSON Painting Weekends one and two
Alice produces beautiful mixed media paintings of Cambridge life, full of movement and colour.
“I usually do Open Studios every other year. I’ve got a studio at the bottom of the garden, but it’s a bit too small to show the work, so I’ll probably put it up in my house. As well as completed works, I also show works in progress and my sketchbooks, so that people can see how I go about producing my paintings.
“I have a very loose, free style, and it’s difficult to explain to people without them being able to see it; Open Studios is a great opportunity for people to see everything in the flesh.”
KATHARINA KLUG Ceramics Weekends two, three and four
Katharina works in ceramics, producing contemporary wheel-thrown works featuring contrast, strong colours and bold, graphic patterns.
“This is my fifth consecutive year of doing Cambridge Open Studios – even the year I had my baby, I did it for one of the weekends. After the first couple of years I was beginning to get a following, and had visitors who came back each year, so I didn’t want to let anyone down!
“A lot of people don’t know what goes on behind the garden fences of Cambridge. There are so many artists who have studios and workshops in their gardens, and maybe even their neighbours don’t know! Open Studios really opens things up; now my neighbours know what I do, and other people from Cherry Hinton and the rest of Cambridge, too. Being an artist can be a very isolated way to live, because I’m always in the workshop at my wheel. So for me it’s great to meet people and talk about my work, and it helps me feel part of the community.”
CHRIS WOOD Glass Weekend one
Chris creates optically kinetic works, harnessing light into patterns of light, shade and colour.
“I’ve exhibited in COS since 2008; I’m an old hand! I like welcoming visitors into my home, which is in Ely, and talking to them about my work; plus, it gives me the motivation to tidy my garden! I exhibit my work in gallery and museum exhibitions across the UK and internationally, so doing COS is a good opportunity for me to show my work locally for a change.
“I try to make some smaller scale affordable works, suitable for domestic settings, specially for Open Studios, as my larger panels can be quite daunting, size wise – but they are all made using the same processes. I also like to make some experimental, playful work which isn’t necessarily for sale but fun to talk about with visitors.”
HEATHER STOWELL Jewellery Weekends one, two, three and four
Heather is a bespoke jewellery designer and silversmith; her work features vintage and antique buttons set in hallmarked silver and gold.
“I’ve been doing COS since 2009. I usually show my work all around the country; this is one of the times that local people can come and see my work and find out what I do. I teach jewellery design, so it’s nice for my students to come along and be inspired.
“I exhibit for Open Studios at Burwash Manor, in the Artists Marquee, with a group of other artists. As well as taking part as an exhibitor, I help to organise the gallery, which involves taking applications from other artists to be part of the marquee, organising flyers and other promotional materials. Being in the marquee is an excellent way to meet other local artists, and many of us come back and do the event year after year, so there’s a real feeling of community. I have visitors who come along to see me, but I also get to show my work to people who have come to see the other artists in the marquee, so there’s a whole new audience to discover.”