I love Open Studio events, the chance to visit artists in their studios, see where and how they work and chat about all things arty. This year, my illustrator friend - and daughter - Zanna and I took the plunge and joined nearly 300 other South East Open Studio Artists opening our doors most hours during two weeks in June not sure what we were letting ourselves in for.
I am one of life's optimists. I tackle all sorts, my eyes on the goal, not on the effort it takes to achieve it. So I was not a little surprised at the hard graft awaiting us.
There was the marketing and the promotion, printing of flyers, cards and posters, collaboration and synchronisation with fellow artists, landscaping the garden, sourcing props, display stands and tables, making several treks to Ikea for shelving, drawers, pin-boards and lighting and then having the pleasure of putting it all together. Then there was the task of scraping from my mud-caked studio (nearly) every trace of clay in addition, of course, to letting our creative juices flow and in my case making sure that my small kiln didn't go cold for weeks! It was 3 a.m. on the first day of opening that our heads finally hit the pillow.
Needless to say, the real challenge was yet to come. Who would have thought that welcoming a steady flow of visitors, offering drinks and nibbles, listening, talking and answering queries could be exhausting. Every night, at closing time, we would just about make it to the sofa on the top floor of our upside-down house hoping for a little pampering from those kind souls around us.
Every day we met more wonderful people, some of them had travelled considerable distances to visit us, we saw which work held their attention, listened to their feedback, their ideas and contributions and made valuable new contacts. As Zanna was giving impromptu workshops, I found myself balling up clay for anyone fancying a go on the wheel. A plucky lady in her nineties is set to return for a one-to-one lesson as throwing on the wheel is on her long list of things to do. Naturally, we were happy every time a piece of art or ceramic found a delighted new owner whilst the visitors' book was swelling with lovely, much appreciated comments.
So, did we have a good time and did opening our studios live up to our expectations? As our thoughts turn to the commissions we have taken on, our joint response is a resounding yes. Will we repeat the performance next year? Another definite yes. Is there anything we will do then which we wished we had done this time? Oh yes, have our bags packed before Day 1 and for some serious relaxation jet off to some tropical island the moment the last visitors have said their goodbyes.
Only kidding, Zanna and I had a fabulous time!