Artist Open Houses promises the perfect shopping experience
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From Hove and Portslade to Fiveways, Seven Dials to Rottingdean, seaside neighbourhoods will come alive with arts and crafts displayed in the homes of a vast range of artists and makers over the weekends December 2-3 and December 9-10, free entry.
And the great news is that for the first time, it is all back to pre-pandemic levels, if not a little ahead.
Judy Stevens, AOH director, said: “The winter open houses started about 20 years ago. The main festival started 40 years ago and the winter festival then began in a fairly small way. A few of the spring artists thought it would be worthwhile to do something in the winter and to begin with there were four of them and it then it grew to about 16. It is still smaller than the May festival but it has a slightly different focus, on makers rather than fine artists though obviously there are still fine artists. Originally it was a Christmas festival but it has broadened out since then. But it's still a lovely way to do some Christmas shopping, going into an artist’s lovely warm house and studio and perhaps having a glass of mulled wine or a mince pie rather than walking down a big cold high street! Obviously it is a matter of choice but the warmth and the comfort are a big factor and also the fact that you can have a proper conversation with the artist and know something about what you are buying and also know that it is unique. And you will also know that the money you are paying is going to go directly to the artist. But really it's a two-way benefit. The artists also really enjoy doing it. They love to talk about their processes and it is also great to have that artist interaction. Artists spend a lot of time working alone in their studios so they always do love having the feedback from people visiting them.”
There is inevitably a degree of crossover between the May and winter festivals: “But every year we do like to have new artists taking part. There are always popular artists that visitors like to come back and see year after year but what helps keep it fresh is that there are artists that are new to it all that have come in from outside
“So it's all going very well and in fact this is the first year that we are back to pre-pandemic levels, in fact maybe one or two houses above. I think everyone is so relieved to be able to come back out without having to worry about masks or numbers of people in the house.”
Judy has been open houses director for around 20 years now and loves doing it: “It has been a big learning experience but also it is very exciting and it's great to go around to meet people and see the houses and then when you think about the festival that we have produced over the years and what it has become, then it certainly does feel very worthwhile.”