Britain's Open Art and Craft Studios FEATURE

In many parts of the UK throughout the year, artists and crafts people collaborate to open their studios to the general public. Open studios give art lovers the chance to buy art and crafts direct from the makers. They also provide fascinating glimpses into how artists and craftsmen work and live.

Britain's Open Art and Craft Studios

Picture: More Than Art - a family run business on the outskirts of Saltash, Cornwall, selling original & limited edition pictures, ceramics, glass, jewellery & cards.

In several regions throughout the UK, artists and crafts people coordinate annual open days and create art trails to guide visitors from one studio to the next. These opportunities to see artists in their workplaces are in some areas, for instance North Yorkshire, Cardigan and Liverpool, simply called Open Studios, while other regions have more colourful names like Dumfries and Galloway's Spring Fling.

However simple the name, plenty of colour is on display. Painters, photographers, jewellers, potters, textile artists and wood turners take part in almost all Open Studios. Blacksmiths, glassblowers, basket weavers, furniture makers, stonemasons and papermakers may well participate, and every trail is likely to feature at least one artist who does something as extraordinary as kinetic sculpture.

And what a variety of studios are open! Some are the artists' homes, while others are garden sheds, converted warehouses and old farm buildings. Part of the fun of going to Open Studios is seeing how artists and crafts people work in the spaces available to them.

While some Open Studio trails lead visitors round big cities, many meander through small towns and villages and out into the country. As so many artists draw their inspiration from the land, they tend to gather in some of the loveliest areas in the British Isles, such as Cornwall, Lincolnshire and Aberdeenshire. Most Open Studios take place between May and September, when the countryside is at its most lush.

By opening their studios at the same time, artists and crafts people are able to promote their work more effectively that they can individually. Their brochures can be works of art in themselves. Available in print and/or online, the brochures profile individual artists, give clear directions to their studios and detail associated events, such as taster exhibitions, mystery minibus tours, concerts, hog roasts and woodland discos.

During Open Studios, members of the public have the chance to meet and talk to artists about inspirations and techniques, to look through sketchbooks and to watch demonstrations. Sometimes, they have opportunities to try a craft or contribute to a group work of art. Above all, they can buy direct from the makers and commission personalised items. Prices range from less than a pound for postcards to hundreds and low thousands of pounds for paintings.

This year's Open Studios are listed online. They can attract so many visitors to an area that anyone planning to stay overnight is advised to book accommodation in advance.

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