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25 September 2014


On Monday I had the opportunity to head out East to visit a selection of studios participating in this year's Art Weeks.
My first port of call was to see Jane Mackey at her wonderful home and studio in Haselbury Plucknett near Crewkerne. Jane's venue has twice won 'most favourite venue' and I knew I would be in for an artistic treat. Her and her husband have worked incredibly hard restoring their historic home and when Jane originally signed up to take part in Art Weeks 2012 the outbuildings that she planned to turn into her print studios were pretty much derelict. So not only did she need to complete her studio in time, she then had to get busy creating; there certainly is nothing like a deadline to make you turn out some work instead of procrastinating about it! 

Jane taught art for thirty years and found during that time no window in which to be artistically expressive herself. After attending a few refresher courses on various printing techniques Jane has surrounded herself with the equipment to experiment with most processes including woodcuts, screen prints, etchings and monotypes. An 1890's Albion Press stands proudly in her studio and if you sign up to one of her workshops you too could go home with a set of your own prints produced on this wonderful piece of engineering. 

Jane Mackey
The house is also open with an extensive exhibition of Jane's captivating Somerset landscapes, which are very reasonably priced. There is also a pop up cafe, where you may enjoy tea and cake either admiring the ancient beamed ceiling of their dining room or sitting out on the lawn. 

A great Venue to visit and one that is open every day during Open Studios from 11am until 6pm.

Next stop was Somerton, somewhere I have not had the opportunity to visit in the past and I was quiet taken by the town's distinctive architecture. I also got distracted in the vast antiques centre, however I had come specifically to visit the Somerset Guild of Craftsmen and catch up with Mayumi Kaneko - one of the four artists awarded this year with a SAW Creative Pathways Bursary. 

Mayumi Kaneko
Mayumi had set up her loom in a room that lent itself well to working in for it was airy and filled with natural light. Her aim is to capture the movement of the River Parrett as it journeys through the Somerset Levels, highlighting the positive aspects it brings rather than focusing purely on the devastating floods of last winter. The final pieces are due to go on show at an exhibition in Japan this coming October. If you wish to witness Mayumi weaving with Japanese paper yarn, you will find her at the Guild on Monday 29th September, Tuesday 30th September and Wednesday 1st October. 

Tricia Burridge
Throughout Art Weeks the guild are presenting a number of demonstrations by their members; embroiderer Tricia Burridge was busy on her sewing machine when I visited. For details of their events during Art Weeks please refer to page 48 of the SAW 2014 guide. I left the Guild cradling a box of Christmas presents!

Time to head off for my next destination, en route I called into the Red Brick Building in Glastonbury for coffee & cake and another quick look at Kate Noble's exhibition in the gallery upstairs. I had not had a chance to take it all in on the night of the SAW launch party and felt it warranted a second look.
The next part of my journey took me along some splendid straight lanes that are so distinctive of driving on the Levels - my destination Venue 169, Thornreed Studios and the home of artists Jane Peck and Simon Ledson.

As well as being busy painting his well know landscapes, Simon has also spent the Summer months mentoring artist Andrea Oke - another of the SAW Creative Pathways Bursary winners. Her work in response to the Levels is displayed for you to see and is something quite unique. Andrea has recorded conversations with the local population, capturing their valuable insights regarding it's wildlife, the landscape and of course the consequences of flood. Andrea has then taken these recordings, monitored the sound waves and then interpreted these soundscapes into 2D images. The results are very stylish, striking in their simplicity and very well executed. I am pleased to say that some little red dots were already next to a couple of her pieces.

Andrea Oke
Simon Ledson
Thornreed Studios are open everyday during Art Weeks between 11am until 6pm, do visit if you get the opportunity. The pub next door to Jane and Simon's studio apparently is highly recommended - all I can say that if a pub can survive somewhere that remote it has got to be worth hunting out and surely a great lunch out is all part of the Art Weeks adventure?!

Open Studios runs until the 5th October, there are over 200 Venues to choose from, I urge you to make the most of this wonderful opportunity, to step through doors rarely opened to the public and visit the artists in their studios - it makes buying work from them, in their homes, to hang in your homes a very memorable experience.

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