Between 15- 30 September, artists are opening their studios and working spaces to the public for Somerset Open Studios. Many of the studio venues in West Somerset are readily accessible on foot from West Somerset Railway stations and the event offers the opportunity to experience a day out on the railway in a new way. Guided by directions in the Open Studios guide booklet and looking out for the distinctive bright yellow signs you can discover artists in all sorts of unexpected locations and buildings, from rural barns to garden sheds to quayside shipping containers. The event allows a rare opportunity to meet and talk to the artists and makers in their workplaces and learn first-hand about their creative processes. And, of course, there is the option to buy or commission work direct, at best prices, or just to pick up a souvenir card or postcard.
Easiest to reach from the train are venues in Minehead, Blue Anchor and Watchet. Within Minehead there are five venues to visit. Leo Davey, a prize-winning painter, has a wide choice of beautiful work, including recent paintings of the SW coast path, in his studio gallery off Friday Street. Debbie McCarty (jewellery) and Gary Mills (textiles) are clustered nearby. A short walk away, towards North Hill, Hilary Adair RE is showing paintings and fine art prints and a little way out of the town centre, Joanne Horrobin shows enameled copper vessels and sculptures.
Along the line, just a couple of hundred yards up from Blue Anchor Station, Peggy Lock is showing exquisitely detailed linocuts and screenprints based on nature and still life. A longer walk from Washford Station, passing Cleeve Abbey, will take you to Jane Hood (painting), next to the White Horse Inn.
Watchet offers the largest cluster of venues on the art weeks trail, 10 artists over 6 venues. Studios are dotted around the town, several in artists’ houses, for example Jenny Barron’s (painting), up the hill from the station towards St Decuman’s Church and Well, or Emma Bradshaw, Jan Martin and Jill Newton (paintings and prints) all up the coast road past West Beach. On the harbourside, just at the seaward end of the station platform, Contains Art presents four artists’ studios in converted shipping containers and an exciting, colourful installation by Georgina Towler extending into the welcoming courtyard. In addition to its open studios Watchet also offers two gallery exhibitions during the art weeks fortnight, Lydia Halcrow’s ‘Mapping Place’ at Contains Art and a retrospective of the artist John Wealthy, at The Lynda Cotton Gallery in Swain Street, with Alison Jacobs’ Mayfly Studio close by.
For those up for a longer walk or cycle (planning and a map needed), it is possible to reach some of the more rural venues, along the edge of the Quantocks, from Stogumber and Crowcombe Heathfield stations. Barry Hibbert is showing paintings in Stogumber, there are venues in Crowcombe and Bicknoller villages and Cecilia Leete’s jewellery workshop is at Upcott Farm. A highlight of the trail is Andrea Oke’s residency project ‘Shadowland’ at Halsway Manor, the National Centre for Folk Arts (NB 27 – 30 Sept only).
Take care to check artists’ open days and hours in the 2018 Open Studios Guide, which gives details of all venues and can be found in Tourist Information points, libraries, museums, galleries and other cultural centres as well as cafes, bookshops and some of the WSR station waiting rooms. To receive a copy by post please email [email protected] or you can browse an online version at somersetartworks.org.uk.