You may have noticed a cheerful rash of distinctive red and yellow signs appearing all over Dorset, pointing the way to the 300 studios opening for Dorset Art Weeks 2014.
Nearly 1,000 artists, makers and designers will be showing their work in the biennial free event, which runs from now until June 8.
It was one of the first events of its kind in the country when it started in 1992 and it remains one of the biggest.
For thousands of Dorset people the 16 DAW days are red-letter days, and for thousands more, from further afield and even from overseas, it is also an unmissable event.
The signs lead visitors along lanes and tracks, up highways and byways, through streets and into remote rural spots and busy conurbations to studios, workshops, halls for shared exhibitions, garden rooms for solo shows, or even converted garages.
For the exhibitors who open their doors to so many strangers intent on casting an eye over their work it is equally a time of discovery – and self-discovery.
DAW, through its director Jem Main and his team, retains its national importance by constantly evolving, reflecting trends and adding events that run concurrently with the open studios so visitors have plenty to engage them.
A new visitor experience for DAW 2014 is Insight On-site, or IS/OS, featuring artist and sculptor Felice Hodges of Witchampton.
The project aims to broaden and enhance visitors’ experience and inform them about the ideas, processes and contexts of a number of respected artists and makers.
Practising artists Fran Norton, a DVA board member and lecturer at Arts University Bournemouth, and Jem Main, a former gallery director and, since 2011, the director of DAW, will lead pre-booked groups on daily visits to selected studios and workshops and host panel discussions at galleries.
Visitors will learn how to look at art and understand the intentions and skills of the artist.
The IS/OS visits will take place between 11am and 12.30pm – and there will be 15 places per session. No charge will be made, but a minimum £5 per person donation to support the DVA charity is suggested.
Another event highlight will be Artists at the Castle, featuring artists Frances Hatch and Robin Mackenzie in residence at Durlston Castle’s Fine Family Foundation gallery.
Both artists have fast-growing reputations: Frances for her work in ‘plein air’, regularly working in extremes of weather and increasingly making work from pigments made of the stuff of the immediate terrain, and Robin as a printmaker committed to working with the traditions of woodcut, engraving and linocuts.
Dorset Art Weeks is organised by Dorset Visual Arts – DVA. DVA is delighted that Humphries Kirk are continuing their sponsorship for DAW and are focusing their support this year on the Durlston Residence.
Catherine’s studio open for the first time
Catherine Legg has a lifetime love of textiles and making things. After doing a series of part-time art and design courses, she decided a few years ago to take the plunge and enrolled in the full-time Textile Design Degree at the Arts University Bournemouth.
“The degree is very wide ranging, from hand embroidery through to digital design,” she said.
“Early on I decided that I wanted to be a designer/maker and concentrated on learning the skills that I thought I would need.”
Since finishing the degree last summer Catherine, from Bournemouth, has been busy setting up her home studio and designing and making a range of textile-based products.
Some of these have been sold through local galleries and shops including Number 83 in Westbourne, The Poundbury Gallery in Dorchester and Hawthorn Contemporary Craft Gallery in Blandford.
“As a new designer/maker I have decided to open my studio for Dorset Art Weeks,” she said.
“I will be giving short demonstrations of different textile techniques at 11am and 2.30pm. I intend to demonstrate screen printing, heat transfer dyes, machine knitting and free machine embroidery.
“Some of the inspiration for my work comes from my garden which should be full of early summer flowers during Dorset Art Weeks. I often use foliage from the garden to produce printed textiles using heat transfer dyes and to expose screens for my screen printed fabric.”
For Dorset Art Weeks Catherine has also produced a range of simple freshwater pearl necklaces in matching handmade jewellery bags.