Surrey Artists Open Studios 2008

PUBLISHED: 19:38 14 September 2010 | UPDATED: 15:18 20 February 2013

Jim Tucker

Jim Tucker

Artists all over the county have had months of frenzied activity in preparation for the annual Surrey Artists Open Studio event. JANET DONIN meets some of the talented individuals getting ready to throw open their doors to the public

Originally published in Surrey Life magazine June 2008

Artists all over the county have had months of frenzied activity in preparation for the annual Surrey Artists Open Studio event. JANET DONIN meets some of the talented individuals getting ready to throw open their doors to the public Photos by Andy Newbold

Have you ever longed to own an original painting or sculpture? Me too, but the thought of braving a major gallery is rather daunting. How much more enjoyable it would be to meet the artist in person, in a relaxed environment, before investing in that all-important piece for your home?

Now, thanks to the Surrey Artists Open Studios (SAOS ) event, you can do just that. This month, talented artists around the county will be throwing open their studio doors and inviting us in for a chat. This is a great opportunity to get to know how their work is produced, what inspires and influences them and, most importantly, have the opportunity to buy something direct from the artist.

This is the ninth successive year of the flourishing SAOS and as the event increases in popularity it has attracted nearly 300 artists and craftspeople. On offer, you'll find watercolourists, potters, print and jewellery makers and sculptors, as well as those working with textiles, ceramic and stone. Many artists have participated for years in SAOS and all agree that they derive as much enjoyment from meeting their guests as selling their work.

Christine Hopkins told me that she "likes to know that her paintings are going to a good home" and Janet Crook says she'll be "waiting with cups of tea for her visitors while they have a good chuckle over her imaginative sculptures!"

This year, SAOS will also be hosting Surrey Art in Action where you can meet a variety of talented artists and participate in one of their mini workshops. "This is an exciting new event which will run over three days from May 29 until May 31 at the Mill Studio at Guildford's Yvonne Arnaud Theatre from 12noon to 5pm," says Caroline Jackman, the coordinator of SAOS, "so don't miss it!"

As always, there will be a bus tour visiting a number of studios in the Guildford area on Sunday June 15 and there will also be an opportunity to enter a fee prize draw worth 150. You'll find all the information in the brochure or on the website.

Making it into print

Richenda Court is a very tenacious lady working as she does in etchings. Of all the art disciplines, this is probably the most labour intensive involving sometimes as many as 20 different procedures. She etches most of her work on to zinc and occasionally steel at Morley College, in London, but all her initial sketches and ideas are created at home.

"I like the challenge of quite large etchings," she says. "I start with an idea then slowly add more to the design so I never know quite how anything will turn out. It's a very addictive journey."

Richenda has a background in dance as well as art, so many of her works have the fluid movement of dancers within the design, often mixed with birds or fish to intensify the effect.

She works mostly in black and white, which lends itself to etching, but more recently she has been working with linocuts. It's a medium that she says is very joyful as the effects are more immediate and she can introduce colour to the design. But whereas with metal plates she can do a print run of up to 25, with lino she's limited to around six prints.

To achieve the right effect with linocuts, she uses an overlay of colours, which is a precise technique that she enjoys almost as much as working through the numerous trial and error stages of creating her etchings.
"Linocuts are more simplistic than etchings," she says, "so it's quite nice to mix up the two processes to stop myself going crazy."

  • Richenda Court, The Fountain Gallery, 26 Bridge Road, East Molesey, KT8 9HA. Tel: 0779 9107108

Junk male

Jim Tucker likes nothing better than trawling between the boats in Dungeness harbour or poking about car boot and jumble sales, for it's there where he finds his treasures.
A truly unique artist, he uses aesthetic, discarded and weathered found objects to create his works, which he says are "an art form midway between painting and sculpture".

There's the old metal supermarket sign etched with rust marks that's one of his favourite framed pictures. "It's violent yet delicate at the same time," he says. Then there are the three-dimensional collages made from scraps of driftwood and toy bricks, and the boxed framed work of discarded sandals, which he aptly calls 'Singles'. All simplistic materials, but it is Jim's artistry that makes the abstract pieces so special. "I always start with a frame as I like to see the setting, then I isolate the materials into shapes and colours trying to create movement and vitality," he says.

Jim trained as a graphic designer but found the medium too restrictive. His light bulb moment came when he discovered collage. He's been working with found objects for many years now, primarily because they provide colour and a unique surface quality and he says the joy of his work is the roller coaster of possibilities they provide.

In many ways, he is influenced by Miro or Klee, "but my main man is Kurt Schwidlers".

  • Jim Tucker, Lavender, Bunce Common Road, Leigh, RH2 8NS. Tel: 01306 611436.

Queen Bead

Jo Rohrer has been working in the wonderful world of lampwork - or the craft of making beads - for about 18 months and counts herself very lucky. In her sunny studio, she's surrounded by glass rods in every colour of the rainbow, but when she melts the glass under her torch and swirls it around a mandrel, it becomes the most beautiful bead. Until she took a stained glass course, Jo had never done anything creative in her life, but it was lampwork that captured her imagination.

"Each bead is like a work of art in its own right." she says. "The way the various shades of glass fuse and separate under the torch is just fantastic. I can't think of anything more pleasurable."

All Jo's designs are abstract, whether round beads or flattened square beads. Some are etched or layered with dots, which are very popular, while others combine glass with silver or enamel powders.

"I love working with orange - it has such energy," she says. "Green used to be my least favourite colour but now I work with it all the time and I wear green a lot, too."
The colours in fashion this year are pink, peach, lavender and green, so Jo is concentrating on those colours for her beads. She sells the beads individually at fairs but also makes the most beautiful and unique jewellery, which she'll be selling from her studio.

  • Joanne Rohrer, The Old Coach House, 1st Floor, Charman Road, Redhill, RH1 6AH. Tel: 07801 071497

Funny girl

Janet Crook says she 'works on the daft side of sculpture' - by which she means that all her pieces are designed to make people laugh. There's the sequence of pot-bellied dancers in bright blue with marabou wings, and the polar bear that's too hot so he wears his fur coat over his shoulders - her nod to global warming!

Working mostly in porcelain, she may have as many as five or six pieces on the go at any one time. Starting with the feet, she gradually builds up the figure in stages as the piece air-dries, then it goes into the kiln for about 18 hours before it's glazed and finished. Some of her pieces are also fashioned in chamois leather, which she paints, while her earlier pieces are made in crotched fused wire on a metal frame.

Before turning to sculpture six years ago, Janet was an animator, working on films like Who Killed Roger Rabbit?, but now when she's not working in the studio she's making endless sketches of her ideas or rummaging around jumble sales and fabric shops for interesting materials. "I just can't keep still!" she says. On the go at the moment are winged horses, bobbing elephants, a cycling cat and a girl with flapping arms.

"I love to get movement into my sculptures," says Janet, which brings a smile to her face.

  • Janet Crook, 18 Vincent Road, Dorking, RH4 3JB. Tel: 01306 887726

Paper Mate

Christine Hopkins loves collecting old newspapers, sheet music, pages from encyclopaedias and masses of tissue paper. They may sound like a load of old rubbish but they are the collage base for her unique and very colourful works.

Her style of painting involves layering up tissue paper over printed material so that when she applies the paint to create her work, the print is faintly visible and becomes part of the effect. "It gives extra depth and texture to my paintings and portrays an unfolding story as it draws you into the image," she says. Lately, she has also been experimenting with painting through mesh or net to give added texture.

Christine has been painting for about 12 years now, having taken an adult education course in watercolour. But it wasn't until she saw a demonstration of collage that she became utterly mesmerised and inspired. She paints mostly using acrylic ink and wax crayons and her favourite subjects are what she calls "the built environment" - by which she means the linear shapes of architecture with landscape and water playing a predominant part. A particular favourite is a coastguard's cottage with an incongruous line of washing going out to sea.

When it comes to SAOS, Christine says it's her big chance to sell on a more personal level: "I like people to see how my work evolves and to have a connection with where my paintings are going," she adds.

  • Christine Hopkins, 55 Wray Park Road, Reigate, RH2 0EQ. Tel: 01737 241718

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