Artists’ Open Houses Christmas 2012
December brings a smaller Artists’ Open House Festival to Brighton and Hove, with fifty-four houses and venues opening across the city this year to showcase the best in art and craft for Christmas. Browse hand-made presents, cards and decorations in peaceful surroundings away from the high street and be sure to find something very different for your Christmas 2012 gifts.Many venues are selling refreshments, with mulled wine and mince pies joining the traditional summer tea, coffee and home made cake on offer, and winter sees many of the Victorian and Edwardian houses showing off their best features – welcoming fires burning in ornate fireplaces.
Most venues are open Dec 1/2, 8/9 and 15/16, from 11.00 – 17.00, but do check the brochure carefully as opening dates and times are decided by the owners.
Saturday December 1
2012 Beach Hut Advent Calendar
Tonight also sees the first opening of the 2012 Beach Hut Advent Calendar, a month long event. From 5.30-6.30 every evening in December one beach hut along Hove seafront per night will open its doors to reveal a festive display as part of a giant Advent Calendar. See www.beyondchurch.co.uk for more.
Saturday December 1
The start of Christmas proper and a flourish of Christmas fairs to visit on the way to our first winter open house; Bluebell Would [ venue 7]. A wealth of paintings, cards, glass mosaic mirrors, cosy hand knits, collages and decorations in this warm and welcoming house with, Martin Rolt’s moody seascapes and Fiona Hutchinson’s pretty silver shell jewellery standing out.
Then to Studio 106 , a mews shared studio space featuring the work of many artists each with their own quiet space to visit and enjoy. Particularly liked Grizelda’s topical cartoons which have featured in the Independent and Private Eye, and Maria Tribe’s accomplished paintings and prints.
Lastly to Villa LVI  with its fabulous Roman mosaic kitchen floor and a great display of hand-made glass. Most striking was the glass garden, glass flowers ‘growing’ out of a mossy table.
Sunday December 2nd
To Festive Fox , Joy Fox’s house on a hillside, with front door to the first floor then down to basement kitchen to the garden. Enjoyed the tweedy kilt-pin scarves and foxy buttons [English country style with a twist]; and Betty Bib’s intricate hand and machine embroidered landscapes.
 Milton House featured Hoity Toity vintage inspired jewellery – especially liked the Roman-looking earrings with twisted gold wires and tiny beads, and wall boxes with letters and dinky toy collages.
Then down under the viaduct to Glass in Fusion  at Beaconsfield Studios, Stephanie Else’s glass studio with handmade pieces, ranging from affordable little gifts and decorations to some stunning wall hangings and epic-size platters. My first buy here – a glass pendant with golden flower patterns. Just along the corridor is Caia Matheson’s painting studio – see the large scale misty green woodland canvasses in oils.
Finally today as darkness falls, up the road to 99  a beautifully presented house overflowing with gifts – very superior Christmas wreaths, handpainted miniature ceramics, woven silver jewellery and tapestry bags.
Saturday December 8th
Another foray into Hove today for first breakfast, then straight on to second breakfast at  Sunshine Books, Art and Coffee. This bright, family-friendly cafe near the seafront does exactly what it says on the tin, with a lively exhibition of mixed media collages, prints, paintings, Brighton photography and textiles. Particularly liked Helen Jewell’s purple leather silhouette raven brooch with a golden beak, Made by Mabel’s charming children’s knitwear and some gilded flower paintings [no sign of the artist’s name, sadly].
Dion Salvador Lloyd
Then along to  9A Hove Place. The term ‘basement flat’ doesn’t do justice to this terrific venue, hosting a harmonious exhibition of ceramic and oil paintings from many artists which blend as if they were made to live together. Stormy atmospheric paintings by Dion Salvador Lloyd and Justin Weeks plus imposing sculptural and monochrome ceramics by Dan Kelly left a lasting impact. In complete contrast were Ian Gregory’s tempting little turquoise ceramic birds and Bailey Tomlin’s delicate peapod and flower brooches.
Finally today to  Albert Mews Studio. Usually a buzzing makers’ studio, it’s home to this collection of artist makers for the Christmas festival. Handprinted tights by Hose, ceramics and textiles printed with Brighton scenes by Martha Mitchell Design, Lizzielock’s 1920s cloche hats, Kysam’s witty little silver gifts including plectrums and chip forks and Anna Collete Hunt’s ceramic stag beetles with golden horns are just a few of the highlights.
Just noticed – a chance conversation with one of the  artists saved us from missing the New England House Christmas Open Show – unlike everywhere else they are not open at a weekend, but on Thursday 13th and Friday 14th December 12 – 8pm instead. Looking forward to this one, but can’t help thinking it’s likely some people will assume the only two days they are opening will be a weekend, and so will miss out.
Sunday December 9th
We began today at Olive Street Artists , a pristine house of ceramics, prints and textiles. Especially taken with Adam Regester’s one-man Artyadz studio producing small original paintings, bunting, ceramic buttons and handknits, and the work of two very different jewellery designers – Annie McCabe’s italianate flamework glass bead bracelets, earring and necklaces and Annette Street’s delicate Silvessence pieces.
Then to Bonnie and Clyde and Friends , a light, airy pastel pink and white house, for collage and print, scarves and jewellery displayed attractively over vintage books and screenprints with a strong Carmen Miranda vibe.
Be prepared for stairs, says Ed Kluz , and it’s up to a top floor 200-year old flat with bow windows overlooking the sea and Norfolk Square. This is a fascinating exhibition of Ed’s Brighton-inspired paintings, prints and collages, and especially his miniature scraperboard images. Particularly liked the Long Man of Wilmington and Vandalian Tower pictures. Ed is also currently exhibiting in London Past and Present at Potterton Books, 93 Lower Sloane Street [until 24th December 2012].
To Christmas Boutique  at Cross Street Workshop; a room where Jane Austen might have felt at home – wood panelled walls and marble fireplace a harmonious background for bunting, embroidery, mosaics, printed textiles and silver jewellery; just a few of the great selection of gifts to browse.
Then to Chapel Mews for two open studios, beginning with Borderline Studios , home to ceramicists and painters. Noticed Fay Green’s blue celadon bowl, Kathy Laird’s pretty ceramic Christmas tree stars and Mike Topham’s clever canvases using wire ‘drawings’ instead of pen.
Thursday December 13th
Caught the New England House  show today – a trail all by itself, over six floors in an extraordinarily hideous building rejuventated by a colony of artists, craftspeople and small businesses producing out of the units on each floor. A sometimes slightly eerie atmosphere, as Christmas music echoes down the concrete corridors, and quite a lot of mulled wine going on.
On Level 2 I spotted John Dilnot’s insect and bird -inspired prints, especially Startled, his print of glowing green starlings in a tree. Sadly Create photographic studio and gallery opposite were missed off the exhibitor list, so be sure to take a look.
Lots to see on Level 3 [plus cafe] then to Level four. Especially liked Sue Haseltine’s Pink Peony painting here.
Level 5 featured Sam Williams’ retro prints with a 50s Sci Fi film poster feel, and Jake Spicer’s Draw studio – life drawing classes in an inviting theatrical costume and props atmosphere.
Level 5 Unit 3 is something special – a ceramic studio home to six ceramicists, each so different in style and method, all harmonising together. Rowena Gilbert’s elegant grass-patterned bowls and vases, Linda Calvert’s tall slender white lamps formed from casting the patterns left by the sea on sand and Simon Mathews’ handthrown ceramics in misty greens and soft blues stood out.
Level 6 – lots more here, especially Dupenny’s naughty 40s’ pin up and burlesque girl drawings covering everything from knickers to a standard lamp, My Little Robot’s cute ceramic robots and some fabulous views over Brighton at sunset.
Grab your chance only till 8pm today because they are going it alone and not opening when all the other Christmas open houses are open …
Saturday December 15th
Today kicked off with a walk along the seafront between the piers. The old fisherman’s workshops in the arches under the road opening onto the beach have been sympathetically restored and colonised by cafes and artists, many open all year round.We visited two neighbournng arches exhibitiing in the Christmas AOH; starting with Little Beach Boutique . Featuring handmade glass, I most liked Suzanne O’Leary’s frozen blue slice of wave, complete with bubbles, capturing the spirit of the sea. Some very charming children’s felt character slippers from Charlotte Macey, too.
Then to 229 Ceramics , home to the work of a group of ceramicists. A great selection on offer; the silver birds, miniature egg cups for quails’ eggs and the polka dotted milk carton milk jugs all caught my eye.
Into town next, to Limited Editions  housed in Wagner Hall just behind Churchill Square. This venue houses work by users of mental health services and people with learning difficulties, and proceeds support skills and confidence building projects. They are joined this year by Dee Williams, stained glass artist who can create an impression of your cat in stained glass, and also specialises in renovating vintage stained glass.
Then up to Alejandro Martinez Art . Martinez is an architect and artist in pen and ink watercolour and computer print, specialising in animals, architectural drawings and landscapes. Loved the simplicity of “Beachy Head”, muted, delicate washes of watercolour and free flowing lines.
The Thistle House  Enjoyed tea and ginger shortbread on the sofa in front of the lovely fireplace at this warm and welcoming house. Liked the scented handmade candles in vintage cups and glasses’ fabric animal sculptures and printed bedlinen.
Finally today as the rain set in to Artbelieve , a tiny and very attractive flat housing contemporary work inspired by urban life and landscape. Particularly liked Daniel Doherty’s prints and collages and some teeny boxed hangings of bats and seagulls.
Today dawned beautifully bright and sunny, so I decided to do the long Fiveways circle of houses. Theresa Winchester and Friends  houses a great variety of work. Winchester’s accomplished linoprints inspired by myths, legends and wildlife are joined by Polly Finch’s dainty papercuts Maria Tilgard’s sinuous and eerie black swan cushion and Peter Brett’s simple Shaker wooden pieces.
The Wildlife Photographer  is to me what an Open House is really all about – meet the artist and family [and lovely blue dog] and enjoy the photography and needlework on display in their home. World travelling photographer Andrew Forsyth has captured some spectacular wildlife, landscape and astronomy shots.
The Cake House  is very well named! A fantasy cupcake and a cup of tea in the kitchen with the papers first [well it was Sunday morning] then a look around. Clair Letton’s engrossing paintings of colourful towns and villages had the feel of the best children’s book illustrations; I especially noted “Butterfly Collection” and “By Moonlight”. A rainbow coloured staircase and lots for children made this a very family-friendly house.
Over Fiveways to Art @ 73  – a bit out of the way but worth the walk, with a house full of guest artists. Perhaps this did make the house feel rather impersonal, more like a shop with very little evidence of family life, but the mulled wine and friendly welcome were great. Nick Orsborn’s juicy watercolours and cicada jewellery and Dee Wadham’s Love Letters [hand painted mounted wooden letters] very attractive.
Nearby is The Red Door  [and some more mulled wine]. A new venue showing Nicola Jackson’s handmade turquoise butterfly-covered sketchbooks, Kitty Cava’s fine art printmaking [the Morning Glory prints stood out] and Karen Tilley’s cyanotype prints.
Then down to All Colours Permitted , housing some superb work – fine art in textile form. Francoise Koester’s hand painted silk bed covers, cushions, hangings, scarves … gorgeous colours and striking designs. Agnes Chevalier’s intricate hand and machine embroidery as framed pictures and jewellery – sadly as her picture “The Green Man” has been sold, only prints and cards of this Tolkienesque green woodland scene are now available to see.
Sylph Baier  opens her garden summer house again to visitors – if you can tear yourself away from the charming chickens! Fleur Grenier’s pewter decorations, especially the long mistletoe branch are so attractive, and Michael Embden’s hyper realistic paintings of the South Downs are the highlight.
Then finally as the heavens opened again a return visit to Glass Infusion  to pick up some more of Stephanie Else’s almost edible coloured glass fridge magnets, and to Caia Matheson’s studio for superb woodland oil paintings.
The end of another Artists’ Open Houses Christmas event.
See you in May 2013 and meanwhile if you have an exhibition, open house or other art event anywhere – please do let us know.