Review: North Somerset Arts Week 2011

Despite having to do most of my visits on the last day, I did manage to cover quite a few venues.  I should have provided myself with a pink siren on the top of the car and entered each venue Starsky and Hutch style (but without the energy and I believe, in my head at least, I had a better cardigan on!)

It’s always good to see what the local arts community is up to both personally and from a business point of view.  It’s great to get out and meet your existing and potential customers too.  Apart from anything else, its great fun and you get to nose at people’s houses and gardens (and there are some crackers!)

Thanks to everyone for making it all feel very welcome and it was nice to have so many enthusiastic and caring questions about our move to Chelvey this year (Venue 56)!

The North Somerset Arts week takes place bi-annually and brings together young, old, beginners and seasoned professionals alike.  It’s a wonderful time to be in North Somerset whether you live here or are just visiting.  Spanned across 10 days to include two weekends, the arts week provides you with a chance to meet the Artists directly and to see/take part in community arts projects.  Some open their studios; hire a venue such as a Church or some simply open their own homes as a temporary gallery.   There are around 117 venues, some of which have a number of artists in the same venue, so there is a lot to see!

This makes for a great eclectic mix of styles and a genuinely relaxed and unique atmosphere in which to enjoy all sorts of arts.  You can experience anything from viewing a painting to watching dance or listening to music to participating in workshops and demonstrations.  It really is great entertainment for all the family and serious buyers alike.  A lot of venues offer refreshments too, so you can plan and meander your day away around this beautiful part of the countryside.

This is a review of my personal experiences, what I thought was good about it, what I thought wasn’t so good and of course some comments on picture framing related stuff along the way (well, you didn’t expect me not to mention the F word did you?!)

My Highlights

I genuinely loved all the venues I visited (listed at the end) every single venue produced quality ideas and work but I can’t mention everyone here or it’ll become a book!

I was surprised and much enjoyed the Backwell School students and staff (Venue 27) exhibition.  It was my first visit of the Sunday morning and I only meant to stay for 10mins, I ended up staying nearly an hour and was genuinely blown away by Kathy and the Mark’s enthusiasm.

The reception was full of artwork from young and adult students plus staff, there was creativity in abundance and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

The White Loft Gallery in Backwell is a relatively new art space.  It’s flooded with light and has an exceptionally nice feel to it.  As you would expect, it’s a professional space filled with work from all mediums.  I couldn’t resist purchasing a fun Rabbit figure from Sew Crafty and I was very taken with Steve Joyce’s Sculptures, with a definite sense of humour!

“Sew Crafty Tag”

It was a shame that some of the more out of the way venues didn’t get as many visits.  If you didn’t get to them you most likely were missing out on a treat.  Nick Sparks, in Worle, for example, (Venue 91) should most certainly have made more fuss of his stunning garden features, which I think complimented his quirky (and sometimes genius) artwork perfectly.

Behind the unassuming exterior of his home, there was an unexpected set of objects at the bottom of his garden!  For starters, there was an actual Tardis, I kid you not.  Then, as you start to look around, you begin to notice little bits and pieces that at first sight seem normal…I felt very privileged to be shown around and it’s a memory that will stick with me.  Some very clever and witty pieces, perhaps not meant for the arts trail but which should certainly never be overlooked again!

“Dr Who Let the Dog out …”?

Venue 49 (Clevedon) also stuck in my memory.  Firstly, I didn’t expect the stunning white interior of the house (photos to follow), it could have actually passed for an upmarket gallery space, took my breath away as I walked in!  Great quality artwork by this collection of artists and really well put together.

After initially, slightly dismissing the art installations of Darren Smith (at the same venue), by the end, I really loved it and the statement piece of the wine rack was just fantastic (photo’s to follow).  What a great way to communicate some of the more trashy music culture of today!  To me, it summed it up perfectly!  Something that looked, at first glance, thrown together, actually must have taken some serious time and thought.

I wish I had had more time to view Darren’s work now.  It made me laugh and it made me think.  Work like this is often missing from the, sometimes, warm and fluffy art trails.  We need more controversy and diversity!

It was nice to see some new work from a staple favourite of mine, Robyn Coetzee (Venue 64 – Congresbury), it amazes me how she always comes up with new ideas that are just so appealing to many.

Along with Jonquill Brooks, who’s original 60’s & 70’s fashion drawings were fabulous and the stories behind them very interesting indeed.  Again, this was something a little different from the norm and with all things vintage being popular at the moment, I hope she did well.  She’s an original first time around!  Shame though, that some of the more creative “art deco” inspired mounting Andy did for the originals were not on show, as they added nicely to the feel.  Or did I miss them?  (The Framer had to do something inspired to cover the un-removable marks on the delicate original paper. The results of which, Jonquill was delighted with).

“Vintage Fashion Original Drawings”

The Walled Gardens once again had a beautiful array of work on display and constantly delivers quality work all year round.  Barley Wood is such a perfect location to show off wonderful artwork.  My friend was delighted to discover Bill Moore’s family pottery sessions and I know she’s going to get booked onto one soon.  Work that I hadn’t seen before was from Sandie Hargreaves, her wire figures caught my eye at the back of the room.

It was a great idea to extend the exhibition space at Prestowe (Venue 67 – Wrington) by erecting a gazebo on the drive.  I must say, I did enjoy the black and white Indian photographs on canvas by Ann Dale, very striking!

Getting down to Riverside Studio at last (Venue 85 – Banwell) was a treat!  It was really great to see everything up at once, the way it was meant to be viewed.  It gave me a real sense of the work on a bigger scale.  The space is lovely and has a real warm feeling about it.  Also, got the old cogs whirring about work to display in our new workshop!  Wonderful!

Walking into Venue 95 – Sand Bay, was literally a ray of sunshine!  Annie’s new glass pieces made the light bounce around the room, beautiful work with some wonderful vivid colours!  But I can’t get Derek’s Elephant (washed up?) on Sand Bay, out of my mind!  Apart from the subject matter, the deep rich red colour in the painting put me in mind of photographs of colourful spices in an Indian market.


Now a word about the framing!  It was lovely to see an example of a picture frame actually helping to sell the artwork for someone!  Walking into one venue (one of our customers), we noticed a picture, we had framed, sitting on the floor in the hallway.

Previously, for an exhibition, we had framed some work for this customer.  Some of the colours and subject matters were similar but lent themselves to a number of framing options.  At the time, she decided on two frames (completely different in colour and style).  By showing the two, it was enabling her to appeal to different sets of customers and as a result was helping her sell her work.

We saw some great framing examples around the trail.  You could really tell those that had invested time and energy in their framing.

You don’t expect everything to be framed exceptionally, especially if it’s an art group, school or beginner and that’s absolutely fine.  For some, it’s just about the taking part and experiencing an event like the trail, and that’s the way it should be!

But once again, I really couldn’t believe some of the awful frames some works were stuck in.  I’m talking about some that were so obviously shoved in cheap ready frames just to get them on the wall and with a hefty price tag.  I fail to see how this can be justified.  In my opinion, if you can’t or won’t spend the money on framing, then just don’t do it!  It de-values your work and you will never know how many people it has put off from buying it.  Getting something mounted professionally is less money and at least shows respect for your work and the buyer.

This is a subject that I bang on about and I’m quite aware that I might well be a bit anal about framing since it’s my business!  I honestly understand how expensive it can be.  Someone viewing your work may not be looking at every detail of a frame, but they DO look at the overall impression.  If it’s a bit grubby, uninspiring, a bit sad, doesn’t fit properly or just doesn’t do anything for the picture at all, then you ARE almost certainly losing out on sales!

Treat the selling of your artwork like you would your house.  Presentation is everything and you need to help people visualise it in their own home.

As I’ve said many times before, how can you expect someone else to love your work (and therefore ultimately pay money for it) if you so obviously don’t?  Ever wondered how people manage to sell work off a gallery wall, when it’s the same or below your standard of work (aside from client lists and promotion)?  It’s all in the presentation.  It not only shows that you care, it also shows professionalism and imagination!!  Sure, save money by learning how to frame artwork yourself, but whatever you do make sure it’s had some thought put into it and executed well!

In one venue, the surroundings were stunning, the artwork was stunning but one particular artist let it down by displaying work stuck in cheap black frames.  They were literally falling apart and the black plastic covering was peeling off.  It wasn’t as if the price was £5 either!

To sum up then ….

All in all though, it was such a fabulous arts trail with lots going on.  But I’d like to see some more diverse things happening, in order to bring a variety of people to visit.  The idea of demonstrations and workshops is a great idea as it gets people taking part, rather than just viewing statically what’s on offer.  I think the Community Arts Day at Backwell School, was a fantastic idea and by all accounts, a success, as was some of the other music, workshops, drama and storytelling events.

It needs some fresh ideas to spice it up.  We could do with more of the other arts being represented too.  For example, short films, street art, digital media, designers of all kinds, more of a cross section of music (like the fabulous Poppy Perezz – Venue 66a), dance and perhaps some local food producers getting more involved.  This could compliment what is already a great 10 days.

Only another two years to go until the next one!  Can’t wait!

Details of who took part can be found at  Via this website, you can also find details of how to get involved in the future or how to keep in touch (e.g. Twitter, Facebook etc.).

Artists I managed to visit are as follows:

  • Backwell School students and staff including Kathy Patterson & Heather Gibbard Venue 27
  • Liz Bird & Anna Harley – Venue 30
  • The White Loft Gallery – Venue 31 including Clare Challice, Claire Hall, Steve Joyce, Anthea Matthews, Kath Hambleton, Lorraine Jones, Sue Congdon & Andrew Slocombe
  • Pyne Point Six – Venue 44 including Jo Whiteland, Huw Richard-Evans, John Pope, Louise Pope, Jean Fellender & Laura Cramer
  • Robin Lane – Venue 49 including Jude Harrington, Darren Smith, Rob Donachie, Kate Newlyn & Ian Shipton
  • Caroline Cunningham  & Becky Wills – Venue 50
  • Claverham Meeting House Barn – Venue 54 including Gail Mason, Jonathan Kinkead & Alexandra Chetwode
  • Conny Ridge – Venue 17
  • Chelvey Designer Makers – Venue 56 including Jim Sharples, Nigel Howe, Phil Lovemore, Rohan Scadding & Tom Carey
  • Solarsense – Venue 57 including Marilyn Barrett & Charlotte Harris
  • Jean Cannan, Suzanne Clarke, Jean Kent, Susan Heaton & Ron Wright – Venue 58
  • Richard Brooks, Jonquill Brooks & Robyn Coetzee – Venue 64
  • Barley Wood – Venue 66 including Jane Geeson, Sue Bryant, Jennifer Davidson, Karen Edwards, Sandie Hargreaves, Barbara Burden, Bill Moore & Samantha Gilraine
  • Prestowe – Venue 67 including Ann Dale, Chris Pate, Harriet St Leger
  • Riverside Studio – Venue 85 Jed Franklin & Sean Gordon
  • Nick Sparks – Venue 91
  • Derek Stenner & Annie Taylor  – Venue 95

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