Newcastle’s Open Art Studios 2015

Objects of desire

The annual winter Open Artist’s Studios event was here again, proving very popular with the North East natives on this wild and wet November weekend. The various open venues are situated in and around the Ouseburn valley, formerly a very industrial quarter of the city. This area is now a real hub for the creative arts in Newcastle and every year there are more opportunities to enjoy the wide range of colourful creativity and maybe purchase some Christmas presents into the bargain.

We’ve all been there

Interesting buildings open their doors and offer a unique chance to glimpse into the working world of over 200 artists and designer-makers.  2015 celebrates the 20th anniversary of this event and more artists than ever took part representing a huge variety of affordable and original work to buy from paintings, ceramics, sculpture, jewellery, furniture, prints, small books of philosophical thought, and more.

Giving you a heads up

The open studios all seem to have names connected with food. Lime Street Studios, The Toffee Factory, The Mushroom works, The Biscuit factory and the Biscuit Tin. It is probably coincidental but it does make everything sound extra tasty. I’ve been going for years, and every year I lust after the Julia Roxburgh tea pots and ceramic flights of fancy which are rather expensive and then I scale down my expectations and buy some nice cards instead.

Letters from Newcastle

The artists are always very friendly and keen to chat about their work with the punters (sometimes being an artist can be a solitary experience) and there is usually a steady supply of chocolates, nibbles, mulled wine and mince pies on the go to make the browsing sweeter. We encountered a particularly tasty homemade mini stollen at one point. You could easily consume your entire day’s calorie requirements in sugar and carbohydrates it you visited enough of the studios.

3D fuzzy felt pets

We popped into a new (well new to me) floristry shop called Wildflower which overlooks the woodland under the Metro Bridge. ‘I often look out of the window to see the little black faces of Jacob sheep starting at me’ said the lady. The Ouseburn is also the location of the City Farm incidentally.

The future is flowery!

There are lots and lots of lovely paintings and artwork and I did enjoy the magical felt work of Sanja Ratkusic. Her felt wizards and 3D framed portraits of pets were quite unusual and I very much enjoyed her fantastical knitted creatures, bears crossed with meerkats and weird dollies and of course some very cute owels! Sanja is from Bosnia and fled the conflict there twenty years ago and brought her Eastern European creativity to these shores which is very welcome.

Owels are a hoot!
The Mushroom Works housed some of my favourite artists making seaside themed images in bright paintings and coasters and cards. Another resident there is the very talented Nick James who makes  beautiful wooden furniture. I nearly bought one of his table lamps again and I just adore his stylish and elegant sideboards and tables and cupboards in different types of wood. Apparently you can commission a piece of furniture from him and he will come around to your house and have a conversation about it before he comes up with a bespoke design and makes it for you. How very civilised.

Wooden wondrousness
Ceramics are one of my passions and I am always delighted when I see some new creative twist on this art form. One such are the ceramic bottles which are modelled on the old glass pharmacy ones which people like to collect. There were bottles marked poisonous, and casts of old Lowcocks pop bottles with place names on them and medicine bottles all cast into colourful ceramic form. They are if anything more collectable than their original inspirations.
Poisonous pots

Although there are old favourites at the open studios there are always a few surprises. I’ve enjoyed looking at arts and crafts all my life I am probably quite hard to please, but the artist’s Open Studios event seems to manage it somehow every time.

You have been warned!

Picture perfect puffins