Norfolk Open Studios

LORNA MARSH Norfolk’s thriving arts community will be pushed centre stage for two weeks from tomorrow when the increasingly popular annual Open Studios event gets under way. Lorna Marsh previews the mini festival.

LORNA MARSH

Ffrom Burnham Market to Blundeston, artists are throwing open the doors to their studios, spare rooms, sheds, caravans, boat-houses and out-houses to share their work and their passion for art.

The Open Studios event, part of the Norfolk and Norwich Festival, has exploded in popularity since it started life 15 years ago as Picture This.

This year it features more than 200 artists and is expected to draw in tens of thousands of visitors who flock to the studios, attracted by the principle of seeing the artists in their natural habitat, however untidy that might be, and the chance, if they want it, to informally chat to them about their work.


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The event, which continues until Sunday June 3, allows art lovers to experience the working surroundings as well as the finished pieces, which can be bought without gallery commission.

Various forms of art are on display ranging from oils, photography, water colours, etchings, sketches, linocuts and sculpture to quilting, basket-making, collage, pots, fabric design and even 'life casting' where limbs, hands and other parts of the body get immortalised in plaster.

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Venues are dotted all over Norfolk as well as the fringes of North Suffolk and Lincolnshire as far apart as Sutton Bridge in the north-west to Halesworth in the south-east of the studio map.

Several well known names are taking part including Zacron of Wymondham, who once worked with the Beatles; Peter Kavanagh, who is a children's book illustrator as well as a painter from his studio in Sheringham; and Susan Gunn, wife of former Norwich goalkeeper Bryan, who has made a name for herself as a modern artist and was winner of the Sovereign European Painting Prize last year.

Jonathan Holloway, director of the Norfolk and Norwich Festival, said: “For me, Open Studios is an annual pilgrimage for the visual arts: a chance for creative people to meet and to share their passion and endeavour with a general public excited by the energy and creativity of the region's visual artists.

“While the Norfolk and Norwich Festival brings the best of the world's performing arts to Norfolk, Open Studios brings the rest of the world to the visual arts of Norfolk.

“It is an essential part of the annual artistic cycle of Norfolk, providing a two-week focus for artists and for audiences - and in doing so helps artists to shape their artistic process. I really look forward to these weeks every year, to the days when I can get my map out and start driving around those studios.”

And it is not just visitors who get enjoyment from the event.

Lifecaster Michelle Payne said: “I love the format of the open studios - a way to display your works for the general public to visit your environment as a working artist.

“I find that open studios is an inexpensive marketing and publicising tool, and it keeps you in touch with those people who enjoy the arts, and enables you to take time out to talk about your work, and lets the public get to know the artist who produces the works in a more friendly atmosphere.

“We are not all stuffy and pretentious!

“The best way to enjoy open studios is by creating your own arts trail.

“Look in the brochure at the artists you would like to see more of, be aware they have many more works on display, and then make your own day out.

“Share the journey with friends - often the artist can tell you the best places to visit in the area to make your trip relaxing and enjoyable.”

The event is designed to appeal to anyone, whether they are looking for a thoughtful present, to commission a work of art, for the perfect picture for their living room, or simply interested in looking around or chatting to a local artist about their work and techniques.

Apart from the open studios, taster exhibitions are designed to highlight and preview the main event.

Not all artists are opening their studios for the whole two weeks so it is advised to check details in the event's brochure which is available free of charge or via the website.

Entry to studios is completely free.

For a copy of the brochure call 01603 877750 or e-mail info@nnfestival.org.uk. Details are also available online at www.nnfestival.org.uk/OpenStudios

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