Norfolk Open Studios preview

Rachel BullerNow in its 15th year, Norfolk Open Studios is one of the most exciting and ambitious events on the region's arts calendar. With more than 250 artists showing their work throughout the county for the next two weeks, this year's promises to be just as big and bold.Rachel Buller

Every year hundreds of artists scattered across the county open up their homes, private studios or even garden sheds for a very unique and personal arts event.

Like an informal art trail, people can visit as many of the exhibitions as they want, getting the chance to meet face to face with the artist in an informal setting, giving them the chance to explain about how the pieces are created, the materials used and about their backgrounds.

Open Studios is also a great way for artists to sell their art as they can really connect with their audience - in many cases the public can watch as they work.

Last year's event saw more than 26,000 people roaming the countryside to see an eclectic mix of work and almost ��m of art was sold.

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This year's Open Studios takes place between May 16 and May 31 and will include everything from textiles and ceramics to traditional painting techniques and wood sculpting.

Many artists are going one step further than simply opening their doors to the public this year. For the first time, many will be holding talks, giving demonstrations and holding workshops to let the public have a go.

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Some will also be holding private viewings, complete with a glass of wine or tea and cakes.

There are also a series of mini trails in different areas where artists have come together to help you make the most of all the art on display, these include Briston and Hunworth, North Walsham and Hindolveston, Gunthorpe and Fulmodeston.

The mini trail in Briston and Hunworth has been created by six artists in the area, all with very different skills, including printmaking, painting and glassmaking. They will be on hand to talk about their techniques, their inspirations and will be offering demonstrations.

Norfolk Open Studios is organised by Norfolk and Norwich Festival in partnership with the participating artists.

Jonathan Holloway, artistic director of the Norfolk and Norwich Festival said: 'Norfolk Open Studios is not only a fantastic opportunity to see, buy or commission beautiful art, it is an adventure: a journey down the highways and byways of urban and rural Norfolk to uncover new talent and rediscover established artists.

'It is a chance to step out of galleries and into the heart of where the region's art is created, to experience something unique that you couldn't see anywhere else.'

Two of the artists taking part in this year's Open Studios are husband and wife team Martin and Victoria Pigg.

It will be the third year that Martin has taken part and this year he has persuaded his wife to exhibit some of her work as well, both showing their collections at Victoria's parents' farm in Rockland St Peter.

They both have very different styles, Martin is a wood sculptor and Victoria paints and draws, in particular people and places.

Following the success of Open Studios, Martin has given up his job as a self employed tree surgeon and has become a full time artist.

'I heard through another artist about Norfolk Open Studios and they said I should think about taking part.

'It went incredibly well and I sold out in the first week. In the second year I was still working as a tree surgeon but from the sales from the exhibition and the encouragement I got, I felt I should give it a go and become a full time wood sculptor.

'I first started sculpting about eight years ago, but it was really just whittling with a pen knife. It just started to evolve from that.

'I have a strong connection with trees through my work and I have always been fascinated by nice attractive pieces of wood.

'It was a life changing decision to go full time but it was because of Open Studios, it was brilliant meeting the public, the people buying my art, and it filled me full of confidence. I am quite a shy person and I was really scared before my first exhibition, but people were so friendly and it was nice and relaxed because it was in my environment. It is great because I offer them a drink, and I can explain about my ethos, where the wood comes from, what inspires me, I think that is important to people.'

For Victoria, this will be her first time exhibiting, and for her it is just a hobby as she works as communications officer for Girl Guiding Anglia.

'I did art at college and my mum has a few of my pictures on the wall but that's about it, I hadn't done anything else before. I've done a few new pieces for the exhibition and I have used trees as a theme for quite a lot of them as I think it ties in nicely with Martin's work and makes a nice connection.

'I have obviously helped out Martin at the last two Open Studios and it has been great having the public around.

'If you are in a gallery you don't get that direct interaction with them, but when they come to see you, they are so encouraging and you get honest feedback - what they like or don't like - and they want to know more. Mum and dad really enjoy it as well and don't mind us taking over, or using up their supplies of tea and coffee for all the visitors.'

t To find out more about where all of the artists are exhibiting, when the special events are on and the different art trails, visit

You can download a brochure from the site.

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