Chichester Open Studios Artists

Are Art Trails Important?

Posted by Nicola Hancock on 11th April, 2019

As this question is posed casually over tea and biscuits, heads swivel and there’s a sharp intake of breath. After a startled pause and a chorus of emphatic YES’S we explore why it is that Art Trails DO matter!

In conversation (left to right)
Heather Stevens, Art Smith, Pim Gleadle, Semi-Precious Jeweller, Jo Strain Mixed Media Jeweller and Vidya Thirunarayan Functional Ceramics and Sculpture.

  • ... Three years ago, these artists who live and work in our Regis sector, didn’t know each other despite living within a four mile radius for over a decade. The Art Trail introduced them and created the opportunity to inspire each other and to work together.

    Chichester Art Trail

    What do Art Trails have to offer?

    Heather, Jo, Pim and Vidya

    Pim: Visitors come from far and wide to see us. They really value the opportunity to meet us in our workshops and chat informally. They look forward to the Trail every year and get enormous joy from each visit.

    Heather: Artists are passionate about what they do, why they do it, what inspires them and visitors find that infectious. 

    Vidya: Yes, people love to understand your original idea, your process and the journey your piece of work has been through. When they buy something from you, it is more than the final product. The art work is imbued with the story of how it was created and the creative energy that went into it.

  • Chichester Art Trail

    A relaxed environment

    Heather, Jo, Pim and Vidya

    Jo: Yes, many visitors have commented that they find art galleries intimidating, whereas they find artists’ studios relaxed, creative places where they are often encouraged to not only look at but to touch and pick up work.

    Your senses are engaged whether it’s the smell of wood or oil paint, the sound of a hammer on metal or a jeweller’s saw, the rhythm of the sewing machine or potter’s wheel, or a visual feast of colour.

  • Chichester Art Trail

    and there's variety...

    Heather, Jo, Pim and Vidya

    Heather: You would be hard pushed to see such a variety of art forms in such a small area; my metal sculptures, Jo’s mixed media jewellery, Vidya’s functional ceramics and sculpture, Pim’s gemstone and silver jewellery, Mick [Meech’s] fantasy ceramic sculptures, Ann [Smith’s] textiles and paintings, Gill [Hunter’s] animal sculptures, Jonathan [Waights’] objet d’art pots, vases and hand painted tiles…

  • Chichester Art Trail

    Visitors can have a go

    Heather, Jo, Pim and Vidya

    Vidya: Many visitors ask if they can have a go and come back for a half day workshop to make a pot and decorate a tile. Very quickly they lose themselves in complete concentration.

    Jo: Yes it’s always wonderful to see the variety of work produced by a group using the same limited set of materials. And to see their pride in their achievement.

  • Chichester Art Trail

    Could you.......?

    Heather, Jo, Pim and Vidya

    Heather: Another great thing is discussing ideas for that perfect gift or spot at home. Whether it’s a variation, different size, colour or form, or something completely novel, working with someone to develop their ideas and create something that’s right for them is fascinating.

    Jo: ‘Commissioning’ sounds so grand and rather scary but in the relaxed environment of the studio it’s natural to discuss ideas and explore possibilities. I find people book time with me after the Trail to discuss their ideas for a special piece of jewellery.

    Pim: It’s a bit crazy but I’ve been known to shorten or alter earrings while people wait, or get out beads in the colour they are looking for and discuss designs.

    Vidya: I remember being asked to create an entire dinner service. During the coming months my husband thought I had decided to live in my studio.

  • Chichester Art Trail


    Heather, Jo, Pim and Vidya

    Pim: And then of course there’s the fact that artists mostly work alone. The Trail is a great opportunity to learn more about other artists in your area. Jo and I got to know each other when she visited me on the Trail and discovered we live almost opposite one another.

    Vidya: Jo’s studio is tiny so I invited her to show in my studio and that’s how we ended up collaborating on a jewellery collection.

    Pim: A lovely lady in the village visited me and was so excited that she offered to publicise the Trail and my Venue to her workplace and hobby groups. She thought it was a great reason to invite more people to come and explore our village.

  • Chichester Art Trail

    Always something new

    Heather, Jo, Pim and Vidya

    Heather: Seeing other artists work often triggers new ideas for my own creations. This year I’ve developed a new style of flower inspired garden sculpture based on copper and buttons.

    Jo: I’ve developed a new range of earrings and (laughing) I’m currently obsessed with extending the use of textiles in my mixed media jewellery. I’ve developed my own technique for literally using my hand as a loom. Pale and interesting, bold and bright, my living room is festooned with ideas.

    Pim: I know what you mean… new beads, new shapes, new colours all inspire ideas and by the time I’m half way through [making something] at least another three design ideas are buzzing round my head.

    Vidya: With ceramics, it takes time to develop an idea and perfect it. I’m really pleased with the way the terracotta and white glaze designs I started last year have developed. The animal sculptures I started creating in the autumn have been very well received and I’ve added some hand built pots to explore other forms.

  • Chichester Art Trail

    And all because

    Heather, Jo, Pim and Vidya

    Three years ago, these artists who live and work in our Regis sector, didn’t know each other despite living within a four mile radius for over a decade. The Art Trail introduced them and created opportunities to inspire each other and work together.

    You can read more about them here on the Art Trail website, and find more of their work at the links below. Plus…of course…do go and meet them in person, at Venues 124 and 125 during the first two weekends in May.

    Share your thoughts on why Art Trails matter – email


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