Artists’ Open Houses

What is Artist’s Open House? …

MorganMorgan by Thomas Everchild

Imagine … it’s a sunny Saturday afternoon, you’re standing in your kitchen, doing the washing up. You hear a sound, you turn – and there’s a complete stranger standing behind you. Your worst nightmare? Well, for some 250 Brighton householders, that’s exactly what’s wanted – for the four weekends in May, at any rate.

One of the biggest UK festivals of artists’ open houses takes place throughout May every year in Brighton, East Sussex. Other similar events happen in other areas of the UK, including Bath, Birmingham, Bristol, Cheltenham, Leicester, Manchester, Oxford, Stroud, Somerset and Worthing.

The Open House movement began in 1981 when Ned Hoskins turned his house into a gallery for that year’s festival. Thirty years later, 250 houses are opening, showcasing the work of many more artists, makers and craftspeople.

An Artist’s Open House is usually just that – art exhibited in a private house, but can sometimes have a wider meaning and include open studios, exhibiting cafés or galleries.

Fine art, ceramics, watercolours, print, etchings, wood-carving, metalwork, sculpture, computer art, embroidery, silver and stone jewellery, textiles, glass work, stone-carving, cards, prints, good conversation and a lot of cakes will be on offer over the next four weekends. You’ll find unique gifts, jewellery, original artwork and home adornments everywhere you look. Some of the houses may take credit cards, but it’s best to have a good supply of cash. If you require wheelchair access etc, it’s best to contact in advance to check, as Brighton is built on hills and incorporates a lot of steps.

Now, the idea of strangers walking into your home does take some getting used to. I tried to explain it to a European visitor to the UK, whose bemused response was ‘in my country, people come in your house, they steal your shoes…’ and imagine what a New Yorker must make of the concept?

So what’s the appeal of the Open House? If you love art and houses [and Brighton has some gems], you’ll enjoy the chance to meet the artists in their own homes, admire the ubiquitous stripped floorboards, fireplaces and sash windows, and get some ideas. The British are renowned for our love of visiting stately homes open to the public, and the Artists Open Houses give us the opportunity to enjoy a buffet of stately homes in miniature.

But shouldn’t it all be about the art? A resounding no to that, you might as well go to an art gallery instead, if that’s what you’re looking for. Edwardian terraces, Victorian villas, Regency mansion flats, high rises with spectacular views … Brighton has them all. Some venues are in shops, cafés and studios [and some of the houses do feel more like commercial galleries and shops than homes] but for me the artist’s open house is just that – meeting the artists at home surrounded by their inspiration and the fruits of their work.

Usually Victorian or Edwardian, from the tiniest terrace to the most imposing villa, there most definitely is a Brighton style. Stripped, sanded and varnished floorboards are the thing, with carpets a rarity – perhaps a wise decision, in view of the crowds that some houses attract. Fireplaces, cornices and picture rails abound, having survived the seventies and now well cared-for. Walls are universally plain painted, and paint is inevitably matt not gloss, the better to show off the work. It all makes for an elegant, simple and harmonious finish. The English garden rules; terraces, decks and sculpture, vegetable plots, afternoon tea and a lot of bunting are well in evidence. Quite a few chickens have arrived too; it seems all over Brighton artists and makers are living the good life. Perhaps this really is the future, back to a past of smaller, more personal businesses, and products on a more domestic and creative scale?

Visitors do like picking up the new brochure and planning a route for the afternoon. Some people plan according to interests and will only visit houses showing photography, for example. Others will only go to houses they are familiar with. We tend to plan a different route for each day’s trailing, combining as many houses as possible with the shortest amount of walking – ensuring that we include plenty showing the teacup and plant symbols, that guarantee home-made cake and a cup of tea in an unfamiliar garden. We hope you’ll enjoy your trailing, and if it’s your first visit to an artist’s open house, we’re pretty sure it won’t be your last.

Ask before taking photos – if you do Instagram, you may find the artist will be pleased for you to highlight their work and their name.

This website aims to promote the Artists’ Open House movement and the wider art world in which many open-house artists exhibit.

Please email images, links and news of your open house festival, event, house, exhibition and artwork to us at features@artistsopenhouses.co.uk

The reviews at this website are the writers’ personal responses to art and houses visited

 

 

Artists’ Open Houses 2018

Our 2018 art trailing starts right here

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And we’re off!

Two Artists’ Open Houses private views today – Dion Salvador Lloyd and 9a Hove Place.

This year we’ve finally  made the leap to Instagram so you can follow our trailing as it happens over at @philippa.hammond.

Looking forward to another season of vibrant art and open houses.

AOH 2017

Some of our favourite images from this year’s Brighton Artists’ Open Houses festival

You can follow our journeys round the 2017 AOH houses and studios

by checking in on our Twitter feed

@artistsopen

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AOH 2016 – fifth weekend

Our visits to houses over the final weekend

A brief trail report for us this weekend. Our house guest had asked for a guided tour so we’ve revisited quite a few of the houses we’ve already covered, including Wolf at the Door, Dion Salvador Lloyd, Milton House, Glass in Fusion and Cecil Rice, along with some we hadn’t been to yet this year.

Final weekend impressions … have felt a little put off by several times being told ‘there is art for sale all round the house and the garden … ‘ I understand that’s the goal for all artists, but I don’t need to be prodded quite so much.

I’ve found I most enjoy the houses that keep to the Artist’s Open House ethos. I’ve felt most at ease when I’ve clearly come into the artist’s home, have the chance to meet them and chat about their work, and don’t feel as if I’ve strayed into a gallery or department store. I do wonder if the cost of appearing in the brochure drives a need to have as many guest artists as possible?

Each year there seems to be something that pops up quite frequently, and I noticed this year the image of Frida Kahlo appearing in paintings, prints and jewellery by several artists.

The cupcake seems to have had its day …

 

Seven Dials venue 11: The Magic Lamp

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Up to this pretty, friendly lamplit flat on Dyke Road, for small scale gifts in digital, paint and thread for friends and home.

Highlights:

Rubandagar’s striking shadow and flaming tree painting

Caroline Jones’s sleek wood work

Seven Dials venue 8: Salon des Sources

An engrossing exhibition, particularly strong on ceramics and wearable art jewellery

Highlights

Jaq Buckeridge’s Chinese – inspired ceramics

Kate Hackett’s  Brighton ceramics with a Swallows and Amazons nautical air

Caroline Smith’s Decorated Woman power pieces – confident statement necklaces

Steve Carroll’s prints with vintage spaceman style

And I absolutely loved Rosie Odette’s powerful and striking gem-dotted gold bangle

Seven Dials venue 7: Family Art Line

Ruffell and Slade and friends welcome visitors to home and garden again this year – they’re a long established family show. Visit the garden studio for paintings and prints too.

Highlights

CR dynamic London oils

Frances Doherty’s garden ceramics have real presence

Beyond the Level venue 9: The Stanley Road Store

Quirky clothes and vintage jewellery, textiles, lamps, plants for sale and a fun portrait tent in the garden. A bit of an ‘everything must go’ feel with prices-slashed announcements to each visitor …

Beyond the Level venue 8: Circus at the Circus!

Curtis Tappenden’s solo residency at the Circus Coffee House documents his time spent around circus artistes, capturing moments of their performances with energy, humour and speed.

Beyond the Level venue 10: 38 Viaduct

Pausing only to admire the vintage steam roller parked outside the Duke of York, we headed up Viaduct Road next to see Judy Martin’s adventures among characters, catacombs and corpses captured in pen and ink, biro and watercolour – swift portraits of life and death. Particularly struck by the Him series – little studies of the mediaeval mummies of Palermo.

Beyond the Level venue 7: Glass in Fusion

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As the last few minutes of the last day of the 2016 Artists Open Houses festival ticked away, we dropped in for a revisit and a catchup with one of our favourite venues, where Stephanie Else creates the most marvellous glass.

Next stop Christmas …

Brighton Modelworld 2016

We report from this year’s event

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We spent most of our weekend at the Brighton Centre, enjoying Brighton Modelworld 2016.

A packed centre saw exhibitors, model makers, dealers, demonstrators and clubs all drawn together by their love of making, showing and using their models.

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For the railway fans there’s everything at every scale to see, experience and buy. Vintage steam trains and layouts, a whole Lego seaside town, intricate worlds created by dedicated societies. Go up in scale and you can ride on a miniature working passenger train in the main hall, or find out how to go and visit real working lines and stations.

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It’s not just about trains. Dolls’ houses, narrowboats and caravans create entire little worlds in miniature and there’s a whole room dedicated to the sights and sounds of circus and fairground. Radio-controlled boats on a pond, planes, helicopters, racing cars, Tamiya trucks and drones are attracting the have-a-go fans, and there are plenty of comic and film figures, fantasy wargaming characters and model soldiers. Whatever your interest, there’s an amazing variety on show and certain to be something here for you.

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We were surprised there were so few Star Trek and Star Wars models represented – perhaps it’s a different crowd, served more by the Brighton Film and Comic Con? But Doctor Who was a strong presence – a full Tardis police box, console and set, with a team of Doctor cosplayers were hugely popular, the roving interactive talking Daleks a real highlight.

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Exhibitors are happy to discuss their work and to demonstrate their models – find out how to construct incredibly detailed model houses from cardboard packaging, coffee shop stirrers and Weetabix, and watch the close work involved painting intricate wargaming characters. There are painting and making workshops on offer for a few pounds.

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So who’s it all for? Traditionally it’s seen as something for boys and yes there were certainly more boys than girls represented here, and not many older teens. The little boys and girls at this weekend’s Modelworld are the future of STEM in the UK and it was great to see so many families, often three generations all out having fun together.

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Not crowded but with enough people to generate a real buzz, they’ve got the scale and venue right. We weren’t so keen on the Brighton Centre catering and pricing – we tended to pop out for some fresh air and coffee nearby, and we’d welcome more seating inside the various halls.

Must see – Titan the Robot. This huge walking, talking, singing entertainer gives three daily performances. You’ll believe he’s talking to you!

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Favourite image from the show – passing the skills from one generation to the next.

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Best memories – we waltzed with a Dalek, got squirted by Titan the Robot, and made and flew a plane.

Looking forward to Brighton Modelworld 2017

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Mummeee … I think there’s something a bit funny about the new au pair …

www.brightonmodelworld.com

Made It 2015

Thoughts from a weekend visiting Made It; the 2015 University of Brighton graduate art show

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@artsbrighton #brightonshow15

Thoughts from a weekend visiting Made It; the 2015 University of Brighton graduate art show:

It’s Saturday afternoon at the beginning of the Show, yet the university isn’t Tweeting or reTweeting. For an organisation launching inexperienced artists into a saturated market, isn’t this a significant missed opportunity to promote?

And the scowling black clad security guards add an unexpected air of menace – although we did wonder if they might be an installation…

The highlights

If you’re looking for drawing, painting, print, graphic design, sculpture, 3D and illustration, you’ll find them all and more represented best in Fashion and Textiles, rather than in their dedicated courses.

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Clear, focussed research into themes and their execution – and exuberant flights of fancy in texture, colour and detail. Many of the designs, prints, swatches and experimental knits are covetable works of art in themselves.

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Tellingly, these courses also feature Business Studies – but why does the University itself describe this as ‘a rare mix’ in its prospectus entry for the course? All their courses should prepare students to survive and prosper in the real world.

Digital sound and video showcase enigmatic film, fragments and noise – the digital game, sound and SFX professionals of the future practising their scales in public.

BA Hons Architecture

Future British cityscape being created right here at the old fruit market – spectacular location!

Some fascinating models and plans

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But …

As ever, much is mysterious and enigmatic; ideas are pursued down the rabbit hole and the results and ‘outcomes’ described in the most impenetrable of artist statements.

A selfie-obsessed extended childhood stretches across the borders, making it often difficult to tell which discipline you’re in.

With the pushalong toys, budgies, pink fluffy soft fake fur, glitter, giant Quality Streets and a big straw hut, there’s an ephemeral child-like theme in the Sculpture room – at least the boat is a full size outline of a Viking longship, to add a bit of ballast.

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The back to the womb tone continues in Fine Art Painting and Performance & Visual Art, where things are happening in soft pink or dark little rooms; ballooning clown shapes and comforting wraps dominate the Fashion show and there are pompoms, a pink fluffy bathrobe and several projects about childhood bedrooms in Illustration and Graphic Design.

In something of a contrast, there’s also quite a penis fixation this year – painted, sculpted, papier mache, joky bananas and bracelet charms … I took to playing ‘where’s willy’ as we visited each room, and can’t help wondering what’s been happening here recently …

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Students are allowed to produce video and performance work of a standard that would not get them cast or hired in the real world and it’s difficult to imagine what a cinema and theatre-literate audience makes of them. They need to know how to write, use a camera, produce quality sound and speak and move on screen and it looks like they aren’t being taught how. The answer ‘but this is performance art, not theatre or film’ doesn’t cut it in the real world.

So few of the artists’ statements and name labels include Twitter, Linked In, Instagram and website details, and there are few business cards around. One student is showing a brilliant commercial idea – yet told us that he has no business plan, funding or online presence set up over his final year ready for graduation into the real world.

Preparing students for practice and business in the real world should surely include highlighting the importance of networking, personal brand and online presence, as well as the business plan and essential funds.

Utterly loved the budgies and went back to say hi again.

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