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Somerset Open Studios 2023

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16 September- 1 October

The Return of Somerset Open Studios

Although Somerset Art Weeks takes place every year, not everybody realises that the autumn event has an alternating focus which celebrates different approaches to presenting the work of the county’s artists and makers, and sometimes those from further afield. This year’s Somerset Art Weeks will be the first full Open Studios event since 2018, providing an opportunity for Somerset Art Works Members to open the door to their creative spaces and for eager art lovers and visitors to experience the intrigue and magic of the creative source. It’s shaping up to be another busy Somerset Art Weeks and there will be much for people to discover across the county, in one of the most eagerly anticipated events in Somerset’s cultural calendar.

Behind the scenes, the ephemera of studio practice includes desktops, indeed every available space bursting with inspiration: notes and memos scribbled on walls, strange, bespoke tools, and shelves bulging with sketchbooks, the seeds of ideas. Somerset Open Studios provides a chance to see work in progress too and hear the story of the creative journey – vessels waiting to be fired, paintings emerging from the canvas, or even curious half-formed structures coming to life.

A whistle stop tour of the county gives a flavour of this year’s event. At the stunning setting of Emmetts Grange Threshing Barn in Exmoor National Park, printmakers Jim Starr and Judith Westcott show large scale, experimental bird paintings on canvas, original limited edition hand pulled screen prints, handmade woodblock prints and linocut prints drawn from the natural world.

In Coleford, tucked away between Frome and Radstock, this pretty old mining village hosts studios by Janette Kerr, David Parfitt, Val and Andrew Scott George. Andrew paints luminous landscapes in the old medium of egg tempera, while Val creates prowling, elongated animals in papier mache as well as animal head candlesticks in clay. Janette and David focus on encounters with land and sea, near and far; Jannette is known for her masterly depiction of wild seas and the forces that shape Shetland and David for his intimate water-infused observations of the Somerset Levels and woods.

Elsewhere, other artists inspired by The Levels and its ecology, such as Jackie Curtis, Julia Manning and Robert and Julia McKenzie work in print, paint and paper, responding to the fragility and complexity of the natural world and its patterns, rhythms and textures.

As well as individual studios, you can also discover small collectives and pop ups at established arts spaces. The A2 Gallery in Wells are hosting Sarah Ball whose work is intrinsically bound in landscape, focussing on nature, observation and process. The Round Tower at Black Swan Arts in Frome hosts new work by Summer Auty, one of four SAW – supported Creative Pathway Bursary artists. On the other side of the county, the Bridgy Gallery in Bridgwater features a working collective of in-house and guest artists.

Castle Cary hosts an exciting cluster of creatives at Pithers Yard including photographer Dave Watts, painter Franny Watts, prop maker Charlotte Austin as well as Tom Baskeyfield and Lotte Scott, who create works informed by interests in ecology, spirituality, matter and place.

And, as if the above was not enough to whet your appetite, there are other artforms including ceramics, textiles and puppetry! Near Frome, ceramicists Christine-Ann Richards and Lutz Krainhoefner have a joint studio venue- with work inspired by travels to China and Japan and burnished, smoke-fired pottery and glazed stoneware. Jan Ollis presents new work in applique at her new studio near Wells, combining text and image. At Torre Cider Farm near Watchet, Karina Heard works with puppets- random thoughts that become a new character. After the successful Shrouds of the Somme project, Rob Heard is producing new work in wood, following the shape and twist of the branch, each informing the design.

There are, of course, many other artists and studios waiting to be discovered and with many new artists and studios taking part this year, there are sure to be some surprising discoveries across the breadth of the county.

Whether it’s discovering a new artist, buying from a favourite or seeking your own creative inspiration, the event's quality, variety and depth will amaze you.

After the return of the Art Weeks guide last year, Somerset Open Studios 2023 will feature a full programme of artist studios, demonstrations and activities for all to enjoy, including Family Friendly Weekends and an Education Pack for schools. The event is a fantastic way to explore the county, providing the opportunity to experience a wealth of creativity in often little-known places, and to make a day of it alongside the best of what Somerset has to offer in hospitality amid stunning locations.

The Somerset Open Studios Guide will be available at cultural centres including Tourist Information Centres, Libraries, Museums and Galleries from August and information about the event will be available on the SAW website from July, so you can start planning your visits!
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