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.
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.
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...
Heidi Warr, who makes stunning ceramics...
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.
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.
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".
We can't wait to see the range of paintings, costumes and photos in her garden studio - and meet Millie too.
3. Lanacre Barn Gallery - Venue 56
Lanacre, Withypool, TA24 7SD
Painting, Photography, Prints
Guide page 26
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.
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
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 :).
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!
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.
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).
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
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!
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.
The Somerset cool wildcards
1. Shepherds Hut Studio - Venue 190
Whitley Farm, Whitley Lane, Walton BA16 9RW
Guide page 89
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! ;)
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 :).
And how about these cool coasters and place mats? Loving the colourful, simple style, so yep... this wildcard will definitely brighten up our day!
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.
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).
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.
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)
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.
*Photography credits to the artists mentioned in this blog (& a couple of our own too!)