The annual York Open Studios returns next month. Yvette Huddleston spoke to some of the artists involved this year.
“You meet people who might not normally go into galleries, which can be a bit intimidating, and you can really engage with them over two weekends,” says Linda Combi, one of 70 artists taking part in next month’s annual York Open Studios.
Combi is a highly respected illustrator whose work has appeared in a number of publications including the Observer Magazine, the Independent on Sunday and Tatler as well as featuring in illustration exhibitions in London. For the Open Studios she is showing a range of mixed-media collages and constructions, quite different from her illustrative work in terms of materials and dimension. “Also the subject matter is my choosing – and it’s very personal,” she explains. “The theme is exploring the relationship between music and sense of place – how you can hear a song and that reminds you of where you have been.”
Having travelled extensively – to France, America, Cuba, Egypt, Greece and Spain – Combi brings the colour and atmosphere of a variety of different cultures to her work.
She has been involved with York Open Studios since the event was launched in 2001 with the aim of promoting, celebrating and encouraging participation in the visual arts.
This year, once again, it is showcasing work across a wide range of media featuring both well established and emerging artists. It offers visitors the opportunity to not only view – and buy – interesting artwork but also to engage with the artists in their workshops. “It’s about reaching a new audience,” says ceramicist Jill Ford whose stunning pots and ceramic wall pieces are inspired by nature and landscape. “You can talk to people in more depth and explain about the background to a piece of work.” Last year Ford spent two months up in the North West Highlands sketching and painting and returned to her studio reinvigorated by the mountains and the sea. “I was working through new ideas – looking at the cracks and fissures in rocks and the way the tide comes in and sculpts the sand. Then I looked at the way lichen and barnacles grow. That creative retreat provided a lot of visual material.” Out of it she has created a whole new range of work with a coastal theme that includes beautiful porcelain pots with lips that curl over like a wave breaking and glaze containing bubbles and drips that convey a sense of fluidity.
Stained glass artist Ann Sotheran designs and makes work for many different locations, predominantly for churches, but also in private houses and public buildings. “Because I work to commission I always have a starting point and then it is a case of putting my own personal style on it,” says Sotheran who has been working with stained glass since 1982. She also makes commemorative pieces some which can be quite large-scale ornamental works but for the Open Studios she has been creating smaller items, such as free-hanging artwork, that people can buy and take away with them.