It’s been a whirlwind of a few weeks, but the 17-19th May marked the first Wivenhoe Art Trail of 2024, my second art trail, and the first time I’ve opened my new studio to the public properly. 

First up, a big thank you to the organising team for a fantastic event – make sure you’re on their mailing list for the next one in November –

After six years at Ardleigh Studios I was familiar with the concept and madness of open studios weekends, but the art trail is different in some ways. Rather than just one building with all the studios open, artists all over Wivenhoe open their doors – some at home, some at studio spaces and some at central spaces they’ve hired for the weekend (which is what I did last November at the British Legion, with two other lovely artists!). 

It means there is lots to see and do, a nice walk between them all and the potential for discovering new artists & makers as well as visiting your favourites.

This year there were lots of other people opening in the business centre too:

Ella Johnston Art

Wivenhoe Printworks

Ann Bielecka

Railway Glass Studio – Alison Chapman was the only page I could find to link but the others are Anna Popkin, Jenny Spillane and Claudia Uller.

Charlotte Bernays

We were joined at the business centre by Amy Coco, and my ex-Ardleigh neighbour Rosanna Clare was just up the road, alongside new friend Grace Woods.

Of course also open were our amazing foodie stops Norwegian Bakers, Bolivian Pastries and tEMptation tea rooms, as well as Trinity Patisserie who has recently moved from the business centre and opened in new premises on the High Street. And not forgetting Consciously Clothed who has also opened up here recently!

(I love my new studio – can you tell?!)

Prep & planning

I’d originally cleared the week before as far as possible to blitz the prep, as I knew there would be big things like signage, and unexpected small things right up to opening and beyond. Obviously, because my life is daft and I am overly optimistic about time, I then found myself with some meetings and networking plotted for the week and also a situation Mum needed a hand with which took up most of the Tuesday. 

I managed the meetings, Mum’s thing and one networking event, and sent someone in my place to my regular group, and somehow it did all work out by opening day! 

My new studio has a broadly similar overall footprint to my old one, but lower ceilings and is split into three rooms. I realised I’d probably need the office for work / storage / packing throughout the weekend, so planned to make my reception space and the main studio room the focus of where people visited. 

First up was sorting out all the signage, which you can read about in my thrilling posts detailing making and hanging all my current signs

After checking with some of the other artists in the business centre, I also got my huge Felix the Unicorn poster out, and hung him downstairs to entice people in. 

Next was deciding how to organise the different things I offer so they were logical, appealing and people could find their way round even if I was busy talking to someone else. 

I set up the main studio room first as people tend to drift through reception into the bigger area and then lurk there. My lights & cameras had to be packed away first as they took up too much space, so with a nice clear room, I chose to have my small prints & art cards on a big table at the top of the room, to the left as you come through the internal door, with an easel with a big print next to it. Over-door hooks then let me turn my cupboards into a mini gallery, and I added a hamper of the bigger, limited edition prints to sit next to the easel for people to flip through. 

On the other side was a table with example prints from mermaid and fantasy sessions, and on the gridwall just beyond that were nine prints from brand shoots, and some information & flyers about magical brand photography. 

Pocket hugs and badges sat alongside the mermaid & fantasy sessions, and by the middle of day 2 I also added a fan because it was Very Hot despite the weather forecast! 

A last minute addition to the space was my big blue velvet chair with my big Finfolk tail draped over it, and some of the smaller tails and my Finis & Mahina fins on the chaise longue by the window – I remembered just in time that many people have no idea what a professional mermaid is, and most people are fascinated and want to see the tail. 

Finally, I changed up the gallery in my reception space to show more art and just a couple of brand photos, as the trail is art-focused and that’s what people want to see most. And then put the hoover round, tidied up the by then chaotic office, got my payment terminal & bags & stickers out, and I was ready to open! 

(and by this time, I was on first name terms with the staff at the Range because I was there every day picking up picture hooks, rails, shelves and other bits and bobs…) 

The trail weekend

I wasn’t sure what to expect – Ardleigh open studios were always steady but not too insane, and the November art trail was steadily busy, but events near Christmas always have a different vibe. Other people said to expect Friday to be quiet and the weekend to be manic, and they were right! 

There were so many visitors, and all sorts of people – some local residents, some other artists, some people who follow me and my work, some friends, and some people who just love visiting the trail. It was so lovely to be able to talk to them all, show my studio off and talk about art and magic and mermaids. 

A few people took photos, and I now have a 360 shot of the space courtesy of visitor Petrus Swart at FotoMatrix Ltd, which was cool to watch being done! He’s also created a tour of some of the artists on the trail including my studio.

Moon Hare was my most popular print sold over the weekend, and Time Blind and Lost Library my most popular cards, closely followed by Memory Tides and Fluffy Bees: Blue in cards, and Almost at Sea and Exuberance in prints. 

By the end of the weekend I was shattered but in a really good way, and I snuck over to the Railway Glass Studio downstairs and bought this gorgeous glass magpie from Alison Chapman while we were all packing up on Sunday. 

If you came to visit, a massive THANK YOU – it was wonderful to see you. If you couldn’t but are reading this, also a big thank you – I appreciate everyone who visits, reads and shares my art. 

The studio is just about back to normal and I am already excited for the November trail – mark the dates, 15-19 November 2024 and hopefully see you there!