North Yorkshire Open Studios Returns this June to Celebrate Local Artists
North Yorkshire Open Studios is back, celebrating local artists and makers, giving them the chance to sell their work directly to the public. Project manager Garth Bayley shares why this interactive annual event is so important
‘It’s had various incarnations along the way,’ says Garth. ‘It was run by a company called Chrysalis Arts, but it’s now artist-run and and artist-led – that’s so important. Now it’s run by artists for artists and it’s all about promoting artists in North Yorkshire. We are a non-profit organisation and represent a broad selection of artists. It’s very inclusive and we try to get as many people on board as we can.’
This year, 108 selected artists and makers are opening their studios across North Yorkshire. Visitors will see work from Annie Farrer who has been painting Ingleborough in acrylic and oil, Lisa Metcalfe who works mainly with acrylic paint, collage and mixed media from her garden studio, and Grassington sculptor Mark Butler who works mainly in cast bronze, as well as Sowerby’s Paul Laycock’s wheel-thrown stoneware and porcelain, Thornycroft’s Croft Pottery and jewellery made by Hunmanby’s Lynne Glazzard.
‘We’ve got a range of different creators involved from jewellers to printmakers, but also furniture makers, sculptors and potters,’ Garth says. ‘Our big thing is that we’re hoping to keep expanding to make this the biggest arts organisation across North Yorkshire because we cover the entire region. Last year we had people drive from Skipton and do a loop of the whole of North Yorkshire so they could see more of the area and find out more about the different artists and the different processes they use,’ Garth recalls. ‘I thought that was really great.’
The various events running alongside the Open Studios offer even more chances to discover new artists. ’This year we did our first group exhibition where artists have had the chance to have their pieces shown at the Inspired By… gallery in the North York Moors, and we’ve had really positive feedback,’ says Garth. More than 150 artists from across North Yorkshire are showcasing their work there until 21st May. Visitors will have the chance to vote for their favourite 2D and 3D piece, with two winners receiving £200 towards art materials. Plus, there’ll be Meet the Artist events and demonstrations where artists can share their techniques and advice.
While the world is a lot more digitally-focused than it was in 2005 when this all began, Garth says nothing beats the face-to-face communication that Open Studios offer. ‘You can get a feel of an artist’s work online but you don’t get to see them in action or working in their studio,’ he explains. ‘For me, one of the most important things is being able to talk to people. Most of us will offer you a tea or coffee and we’ll sit and chat and you can have a look around. There isn’t any pressure to buy. You can simply use this as a learning experience if you want to know more about art processes. Yes there are lots of YouTube videos, but you can’t ask for advice or get involved like you can in person. Obviously we all want to sell something, but it’s also a very social thing. Everyone is talking about mental health at the moment and just going out and experiencing new things and meeting new people is one of the things we’re trying to focus on because it really helps.’
Garth is determined to prove that anyone can give art a go. ‘There’s nothing better than picking up some paint and trying,’ he continues. ‘I often hear people saying they can’t do it, but if you keep trying every day you’ll soon find you have an artistic feeling that comes from somewhere. It’s all about looking and focusing. It’s not all about big gestures and gallery-worthy work, we just need to create something that speaks to ourselves. It could be a memory, for example. All those small things bring out the creativity in you, and make life a lot more interesting.’
Garth moved to North Yorkshire just before the first lockdown and held his first exhibition with North Yorkshire Open Studios last year, but he was straight in at the deep end. ‘The project lead was having a baby and they needed somebody to take over,’ he explains. ‘Because it’s all run by volunteers, there’s a lot of work to put in, but I think it’s a really great way of reflecting diversity. I’m really keen to grow this and get as many people involved as we can to disperse the creativity right across the county.
‘Because it’s all run by volunteers, there’s a lot of work
to put in, but I think it’s a really great way of reflecting diversity.
I’m really keen to grow this and get as many people involved
as we can to disperse the creativity right across the county’
‘Next year will be the first year that artists can partake in both the York and the North Yorkshire Open Studios. Previously, artists could only be involved in one or the other but we’ve taken that rule away. It’s the main way of getting artists seen by the public, and a lot of artists have been really grateful for that. I want to see us including a more diverse range of individuals too, and we want to be inclusive of everyone.’