Art for all - Somerset Open Studios

Updated: Jan 20, 2020

We've started to use the hashtag #artforall on Twitter and Instagram whenever we chat about art, because whoever you are and whatever you do, art can inspire you in ways you'd never expect.

Whether it's a detailed pencil illustration bringing nature to life on the paper in front of you, an abstract painting that dazzles you with colour, or a sculpture with simple curves and achingly smooth lines... art can make you think, make you laugh, or just make you stand back and say "Wow, how beautiful is that?".

Well, to get those feelings going and to discover something new, there's no better time than Somerset Art Weeks - two weeks dedicated to showcasing the creative arts in Somerset. This year it starts on Saturday (15th September) until Sunday the 30th and it's the turn of 'Somerset Open Studios', a biennial event which basically sees over 300 artists open the doors to their working lives... either in their own studios, or in pop-up's across Somerset. You can visit, chat, see and experience some amazing work happening right in front of you, as well as supporting creativity in our brilliant county.

Open Studios artists work (from left to right) Emily Duchscherer Kirk, Rebecca Bruton, Annie Fry & Terri Hogan

We always try to get to as many venues as we can and like last year, we're sharing our pick of the bunch with you here - the artists that've caught our eye. We'd also love you to tell us about the places you're going to check out, so if you fancy sharing any of your Open Studios adventures with us on Twitter and Instagram, just tag @somersetcool.

Right! Without any further faffing, here they are - 'Six of the best' that we'll be getting along to... and we've thrown in a couple of wildcards too! All of the main six are dog friendly venues, because there's no chance we're leaving our hounds, Petal and Flower Pot, out of it! ;). The Somerset Open Studios guide is really clear on whether dogs are welcome at each venue and what you can expect, so if you haven't got your hands on a hard copy yet, you can download the free guide right here.

Our picks

1. Slip Glint Print - Venue 96

Manglehouse, Denman Cottage, Church Street, Lopen, TA13 5JX

Ceramics, Sculpture, Painting, Prints, Drawing

Open Studios Guide, page 43

Take a trip to Denman Cottage and you'll discover three artists at work - Angela Naunton Davies, whose print 'waves' we've got a bit of a crush on...

Waves by Angela Naunton Davies

Heidi Warr, who makes stunning ceramics...

Geometric Web by Heidi Warr

and Marcus Jubb... in fact, one of the main reasons we'll be checking this studio out is because we love the sound of Marcus' unique 'Solarlight' garden chandeliers. They're handcrafted with recycled materials and born out of his fascination with the sunlight, reflections and how to capture the rainbow of colours they create.

A solar powered garden chandelier by Marcus Jubb

If there's one thing we love it's a rainbow (and solar power is definitely the way forward!), so we reckon we'd while away many an hour watching the patterns an outdoor chandelier would cast!

2. Millie Gleeson - Venue 9

Tiggers, Panborough, Wells, BA5 1PN

Fashion, Painting, Photography

Guide, page 8

Quite simply, Millie's work gives us goosebumps. It's bold, brave and beautiful.

Little Love Caster by Millie Gleeson

As Millie says of her art:

"My paintings are staged around a powerful female character. Painting women allows me to unlock a part of myself, which I feel resides in them, becoming both a transformative and reflective process. They evolve from performance-based photoshoots, integrating costume and movement".

Working Woman Blues by Millie Gleeson

We can't wait to see the range of paintings, costumes and photos in her garden studio - and meet Millie too.

Jiwoo by Millie Gleeson

3. Lanacre Barn Gallery - Venue 56

Lanacre, Withypool, TA24 7SD

Painting, Photography, Prints

Guide page 26

Looking forward to seeing Jo Minoprio's beautiful tree top captures

You could say we're a bit tree obsessed and can often be found taking snaps of trees from underneath a canopy of leaves or between bare branches, so when we saw that Exmoor artist Jo Minoprio has a beautiful collection of 'tree-top' photographs, this became a must visit for us.

What stories the trees could tell us!

Jo also creates work using watercolour and ink and will be exhibiting alongside her son, emerging artist Louis Down.

4. 121 The Archeology of Destruction - Venue 121

Eastville Project Space, 2/F Thorne House, Yeovil, BA21 4JD

Photography, New Media, Painting, Installation

Guide page 60

Jenny Graham and Farmer Glitch respond to disused industrial sites

Here's one that really excites us. We don't really know what to expect, but that definitely gets the blood pumping! :) Artists Jenny Graham and Farmer Glitch are responding to disused industrial sites in and around Yeovil and their experimental work combines sound, video, photography and found objects... plus, there's a special event on September 22nd as part of the Wyrd Wild West Festival ("a wyrd old festival in a strange old town"), as well as a 'BOXED' workshop led by Jenny. You can take part in making a cabinet full of curiosities from found objects. All in all, expect something very different - and where there's unique, that's where we'll always head :).

Jenny uses her memory of places as inspiration for her paintings

Here's a shout out for Yeovil-based artist, Emily Duchscherer Kirk, too. She's close by at Venue 120 and her brightly-coloured, raw expressionist paintings make our hearts sing!

Emily's painting 'Possible'

5. Shave Farm Studios - Venue 138

Shave Farm, South Brewham, BA10 0LG

Mixed media, Painting, Prints, Drawing, Sculpture

Guide page 66

Whilst we *might've* had our heads turned by the fact that there's a Gallery cafe with "astonishing cakes" ;), the art will definitely be cool too, as six artists - Rowena Pearce, Terri Hogan, Kay Lewis-Bell, Annie Frey, Liz Hawkins and Annemarie Blake - display their eclectic works in this lovely setting near Bruton.

A fantastic mix of painting, prints, drawing & sculpture at Shave Farm Studios

We've also heard a rumour that some of Lydia Needle's beautiful handcrafted bees might be winging their way over here too (see what we did there? ;)).

Lydia's beautiful needle felted bees, in vintage containers

Anyway, whilst you're in the area, why not pop along to Collette Woods and Jackie Brooks studio at 82 Bruton High Street too? 'Dare to be free', at the Bruton School for Girls, also looks pretty special. The students worked with Dorcas Casey to create flags, as part of 'Processions' - a mass participation event creating artwork to mark 100 years of votes for women. There's a family friendly workshop with Dorcas on 29th September, when you can make your own flags and badges that capture the suffragette spirit - and you can see the flags the students made too (just to say, this venue isn't for hounds - see page 64 in your guide for details and opening times).

Flag making at Bruton School for Girls

Opposite the school is where you can find Luminara Star, one of the artists who is part of the Somerset Art Works 'Creative Pathways' development programme. Pop in and make a piece of papercut art at her studio - venue 132.

6. Clare Lloyd - Venue 143

Studio 11, Silk Mill Studios, Merchants Barton, Frome, BA11 1PT

Jewellery, silverwork, fashion

Guide page 69

How about this for a splash of beautiful colour!

Ahh - we'll admit it. We're complete colour freaks and so Clare Lloyd's beautifully vibrant jewellery was always going to be on our list to take a closer look at. Clare creates her contemporary jewellery collections from resin clays, precious metals and polymer... and they're fabulous!

Unique designs, gorgeous colour

Clare's studio is at The Silk Mill and if you haven't been, it's a fantastic venue in the heart of Frome... choc-full of artisan workshops and studios. The good news is that whilst you're there, you can see another four awesome artists at work too! Check out the creations of (from left to right) Amanda Bee, Lynn Keddie, Hayley Trezise (with her Raggedy clothing brand) and Sally Whelan.

Beauty and diversity of work at Frome's Silk Mill Studios

The Somerset cool wildcards

1. Shepherds Hut Studio - Venue 190

Whitley Farm, Whitley Lane, Walton BA16 9RW


Guide page 89

Feyn Pilkington uses traditional egg tempera paint to create her work

Part of the artist's description for this tiny studio says:

"The quiet ones speak with the loudest voices"

and on seeing that, we just have to head here. We've got a bit of a thing for shepherds huts, only two people can get into the studio at a time and paintings are created from "life, memory and imagination", so we're definitely taking a chance on this one. Let's make some noise! :)

2. Sarah's lovely stuff - Venue 74

1 Hointon Road, Trull, TA3 7EP

Paintings, prints, drawings

Guide page 32

Were we drawn to this because Sarah's stuff is called 'Sarah's lovely stuff' and because we love lovely stuff? Hmmm maybe... but when you check it out, the stuff is flipping lovely! ;)

'Bird with Leaves' mono print by Sarah Thompson-Engels

Sarah's paintings, mono prints and cards have a quirky personality and to us they feel warm, bright and fun... and there are dogs! Sarah calls this one 'a whippety sort of thing' so that's right up our street/country lane :).

A whippety sort of thing - ain't that the truth! :)

And how about these cool coasters and place mats? Loving the colourful, simple style, so yep... this wildcard will definitely brighten up our day!

Bright. Simple. Beautiful. Sarah's stuff is definitely lovely!

Why not drop in on some artists we've previously written about too? Artists that are continually doing cool stuff in our county. We'll be getting over to see Rebecca Bruton at ACEarts who creates amazing textiles work with free-motion embroidery.

Her last body of work was detailed and delicious! We can't wait to see Becky's new creations during this Open Studios

Rebecca will be working alongside Lydia Needle and on 29th and 30th of September, they'll be running workshops to create white poppies for an installation at Kingsdon Church, if you'd like to be part of that (guide page 48).

And we're always up for a visit to Lucy Large (venue 47), Jackie Curtis (venue 16), A load of old scrap (venue 15) and Joy Merron (venue 160).

Stunning work rom left to right - Lucy Large, Jackie Curtis, A load of old scrap and Joy Merron

Here's a shout out to Rubbish Art too... no, not rubbish art in general ;), but this awesome project at venue 164, creating cool art from waste and recycled materials. If you want to discover why it's absolutely not rubbish in the traditional sense, then have a read of our blog about it right here - and pop down to the Art Bank in Shepton Mallet to support their open studio.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle at The Rubbish Art Project

Lastly (but by no means leastly - yeah I know, we just made that up for a giggle! ;)) we think we'll kick off Open Studios in true Somerset style by visiting Venue 165, where Angela Morely and Miriam Sheppard are popping up at Pilton Cider! They're turning it into an artists studio complete with cider tastings - now that could definitely catch on! (guide pg 79)

Fire. Sky. Cider. Can't wait to see the finished pop up - behind the scenes work in progress is top left!

So, all that's left to do is say 'cheers' to a fantastic couple of creative weeks... whether you're an artist, maker, Somerset Art Weeks regular or someone who's totally new to Open Studios and is visiting venues around the county for the very first time. We hope you've found something here that's made you want to get out and get inspired by the genuine magic of #artforall.

I don't know about you, but we feel so very lucky to live in a county with such a thriving and diverse arts community - and one that welcomes everyone to be part of it.

#Somersetopenstudios #artweeks18 #somersetcool #somersetblog

Petal pup having her say on where we should visit! ;)

*Photography credits to the artists mentioned in this blog (& a couple of our own too!)

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