Suffolk Open Studios

Ian Collins Expect a warm welcome rather than a chill warning from scores of SOS artists over June weekends, when a record tally lifts a creative lid in Suffolk Open Studios. Ian Collins reports.

Ian Collins

Not drowning but waving - an SOS signal over June weekends will hail more than 130 fine artists and craftsfolk taking part in Suffolk Open Studios.

The annual event, like its Norfolk counterpart each May, began from very small beginnings in the early 1990s and has grown and grown into a grand creative carnival accessed entirely for free and embracing some delightful settings.

Now the dazzlingly diverse show is spread across Suffolk in sheds and tents and garages and caravans, as well as in garrets and attics and spare rooms. Then there are the converted social, farm, religious, commercial and industrial spaces and fine purpose-built studios.

You name it, nowadays an artist may be in it…

SOS takes in all manner of artists and many craftsmen and women as the county-wide display of recent and on-going creativity ranges over painting (in watercolours, oils and acrylics), drawing, sculpture, printmaking, photography, textiles, ceramics, jewellery and glass.

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As well as the chance to view, this is also a selling exhibition with something for every taste and pocket among the thousands of works on show. Special commissions are possible, too.

Some 30,000 free colour brochures have been printed, and are now available in public buildings such as libraries and tourist information centres (or by telephoning 01449 675513 or e-mailing directory@suffolkopenstudios.co.uk).

The guide, complete with fold-out map and clear directions, gives opening times for each studio during one, some or all of the four featured weekends of June as well as contact details for visits by appointment during the rest of the year.

Bawdsey print-maker Alison Calvesbert, SOS chairman, said: “Suffolk Open Studios provides visitors with the perfect opportunity to meet the artists in person and discuss with them their inspiration, motivation and process and also to view - and buy - original artwork both completed and in progress.”

There is a record gallery of artists from St Edmundsbury, the Waveney Valley and Suffolk Coastal, where some of the most beautiful land and seascapes in England seem to have made a particular impression on the exhibitors.

Painter Gillian Crossley-Holland, of Church Farm Barn, Rickinghall, near Diss, is all set to serve bubbly and special art offers to mark her tenth year as an SOS exhibitor. She will be showing work such as the haunting oil pastel Late After-noon - The Creek, on the previous page.

Wingfield's Rosemary Elliott - whose Over The Ridge acrylic on canvas is also pictured over the page - describes her work as “atmospheric paintings of rural Suffolk and Norfolk landscapes with sweeping open skies reflecting the ever-changing effects of light on land and sea”.

Living and working in the shadow of Blythburgh Church - the Cathedral of the Marshes - painter Paul O'Leary is also fascinated by the way light falls on an edgy, watery, eastern landscape. His broad, wide-horizoned scenes are very often punctuated with the profile of that celebrated medieval tower looming beside his studio.

Lowestoft's Michaela Barber, on the other hand, is more concerned with the meeting points of wild and working worlds - capturing telling juxtapositions in compositions shot with a camera.

She says: “I concentrate solely on photography, enjoying the textures and colours in the things I photograph. My subjects range from the ever-changing sky above Pakefield beach to the slowly decaying remnants of fishermen's boats and their machinery.

“I particularly enjoy the use of still photography to catch moments of change - contrasting the openness of blue skies and white clouds, for instance, with close ups of beach debris.”

Michaela's creative aims are beautifully highlighted in the image entitled Yellow Beach Poppy, illustrated on page one.

SOS members will also be combining in a series of group art displays during the summer and beyond. Treats in store include the Summer County Show in the Upstairs Gallery in Lloyds Bank, Exchange Square, Beccles, in August.

t More details of all these events at www.suffolkopenstudios.co.uk.