Our guide to Cambridge Open Studios 2022
By Alex Spencer and Louise Cummings
Follow the bright yellow flags dotted around the region this month to discover a feast of talented artists taking part in Cambridge Open Studios. The first events take place this weekend.
There’s a chance to peek inside 231 studio spaces at this year’s event, as 378 artists – spanning painters, jewellers, sculptors, photographers and furniture makers – showcase their skills.
It’s the perfect opportunity to discover hidden locations and meet the artistic masterminds in their natural habitats over four weekends in July.
Gabriella del Valle, jeweller and chair of Cambridge Open Studios, says: “Everyone is welcome at this exciting and enjoyable celebration of creativity. Whether you’re an art enthusiast or just casually interested in art, you can talk directly to artists, watch demonstrations, and even be inspired to buy something for your own home. “Plus, because the event is completely free to visit, even if it takes place in a gallery, there’s no pressure to buy anything. Everyone will receive a warm arty welcome!”
A printed guide, with a map and listings, will be available in libraries, tourist information sites and some Cambridgeshire cafes, and the Cambridge Open Studios app will also provide venue information and full artist details.
Cambridge Open Studios takes place July 2-3, 9-10, 16-17, and 23- 24. Find out more at cambridgeopenstudios.co.uk.
We have picked out five of our favourites here.
Susan Abbs: Finding the light on the horizon
When your world has been reduced to the size of a one room studio in the garden for weeks on end, it can have a massive impact on your painting - as artist Susan Abbs explained to Alex Spencer.
Just before the pandemic, Susan, 56, was diagnosed with cancer and underwent major surgery followed by five rounds of chemotherapy. She never had her sixth and final dose because the world suddenly shut down due to the Covid outbreak and Addenbrooke’s Hospital decided she would be safer staying away rather than completing her treatment.
But her two adult sons came back home to stay during the lockdown, which should have been lovely - except that she had to isolate herself because her immune system had been battered by the cancer treatment.
“It was a strange time,” says Susan. “They would come and wave at me through the window and I had meals delivered to my door. But I didn’t mind too much as I was feeling very poorly and needed to rest.”
The studio, where she still works and will be exhibiting her paintings during Cambridge Open Studios this month, has fantastic light and allowed Susan to continue working.
“I was diagnosed with stage three cancer. The chemo was actually worse than the surgery and in the midst of all this happening there was the pandemic and I was basically locked in my studio, isolating from my family,” she says.
“Both my boys, who live in London, came back to be with the family and they had to be kept away from me at that stage because my immunity was so low. The family decided to basically lock me up in the studio! It’s a self-contained studio so I can fully live here. But I would get a knock on the door, and there was food left outside. When my chemotherapy was stopped, and my immunity got better, I could go out for walks and have lunch in a garden of the family all spread out.
“There were glimpses of light. My normally polite friends took charge of not just me, but also of my family and looked after them, and the wonderful staff at the hospital took such great care of me. I just wanted to express this through my art - that in the midst of all this darkness, there’s always light.
“I think art really helped me through my illness because throughout it all I was just drawing away and painting, mainly lots of sketching while I was waiting for treatments while I was undergoing the chemo.
“Before the pandemic, I had been painting landscapes and wildlife, but when we were allowed back out for our daily walks I noticed more and more people out and about and they started to creep into my paintings,” she said.
“The pictures in my pandemic series were colourful and showed people in the background taking their daily walks. But just lately I have noticed in my work a lot of darkness creeping in. And I have begun a whole new series of black and white paintings. I just feel like the colours I had been using previously are a bit garish now.
“It’s not that I’m feeling all doom and gloom. I am in a good place now. And it feels great. But for me I realised you can’t portray light without darkness. It’s only in the extreme darkness that you get to see the light properly and that’s wonderful. That’s what I’m trying to portray in this new series. I hope when people look at the paintings that you're not seeing the darkness. I hope that you see this light as well.”
Susan is a mixed media artist who works with both traditional media and iPad. Originally from Singapore, she has lived in the UK for nearly 30 years. A keen urban sketcher, she can be seen drawing on locations around Cambridge with her iPad.
She teaches art in her studio in Cambridge as well as life drawing at Hills Road College and her work can be found in the Cambridge Art Book.
She has created a series of sparkling moonlit seascapes in black and white, called Light on the Horizon, which emphasise the brilliance of the light on the water.
Susan says: “No matter how dark things get, there’s always hope and there’s always a light at the end. I want to tell people, you can get there.
“My womb was removed in the cancer treatment. And I think throughout the process I was still almost in denial about that. I wasn’t quite accepting it. It’s taken me two years to realise actually, I had an operation and my body has undergone quite a traumatic time. But now it’s time to get back to how I was and get fit again.”
The paintings that Susan will be showing during Cambridge Open Studios will include her series called Park Life, which depict brightly-coloured park scenes with images of wildlife and people using the paces during the pandemic. She also has sketches drawn during chemo sessions and her most recent series of monochrome pictures.
At first, she didn’t recognise that her pictures were changing as a result of her journey through cancer and recovery.
“My oncologist asked me if my art had changed and I didn’t think so, but then I started to look again at my work,” she says.
“I just got to a stage where I started painting darker and darker pictures. I was experimenting and playing a lot because I get bored easily and I like to try new things. And I think during the play, I realised that actually I feel happier when I'm working on darkness and then bringing out the light.”
Susan Abbs will open her studio on weekend two and three of Cambridge Open Studios (July 9 and 10, 16 and 17). For more details visit cambridgeopenstudios.co.uk
Jui Yu Sun (Ebu)
- Specialism: Contemporary oil paintings on canvas
- About: Incredible stories and legends come to life in Ebu Estandar’s (Chinese name Jui Yu Sun) striking paintings. Born into the Bunun tribe, she grew up in a small village in the mountains of Taiwan before heading to college to study interior design. “I get inspiration from my aboriginal tribal culture, myths, traditions and surrounding nature. Also, from my surroundings when living and travelling in different countries, such as Mexico and the UK,” she explains.
- Where: 14 Market Lane, Linton CB21 4HU
- When: All four weekends
- More at: ebuart.com
- Specialism: Finely finished sculpture combining carved wood and stone
- About: Initially studying photography and painting, Phil was inspired to take up sculpture after an encounter with a chisel and a block of ice on holiday in Sweden! He learnt woodcarving at the Violin Workshop in Hartington Grove, and now carves stone, using a practice that combines carving different materials with assemblage. He also volunteers for Rowan, the arts charity for adults with learning disabilities. Predominantly abstract, Phil’s sculptures are inspired by the human form, and life drawing is a vital component. In November 2021, his work was selected for London’s Mall Galleries’ ING Discerning Eye exhibition and awarded the regional prize for East Anglia.
- Where: The Pitt Building, Trumpington Street, Cambridge CB2 1RP
- When: July 9-10
- More at: philcope.org.uk
- Specialism: Vibrant paintings
- About: Describing herself as ‘a colouraddicted artist’ Amanda paints in acrylic, mixed media and watercolour, using a vibrant palette. Asked what inspires her eye-catching paintings, she says: “The atmosphere of a place, a plant bursting through a wall, people chatting at the market. I love bright colours and playing them against each other! “My current interests are street scenes in Morocco on the one hand, and pure abstract on the other. I also enjoy portraits in watercolour,” she explains. Amanda will be opening up her home studio, so there will be paintings on the wall, prints and originals for sale plus sketchbooks to browse.
- Where: Venue 96, 14, Wrens Close, Ely CB6 3EQ When: July 2-3, 9-10
- More at: placelifecolour.com
- Specialism: Elegant handmade jewellery
- About: Mary trained in silversmithing and jewellery making at the Sir John Cass School of Art & Design in London. She loves incorporating gems and semi-precious stones into her pieces, though Mary’s special area of interest is pearls. “I’ve been working with pearls for more than 25 years,” she explains. “They’re timeless and above all beautiful. I love to combine them with gemstone beads, silver and gold. I also offer a fully guaranteed restringing service.” Mary’s inspiration comes from historical research and interest in how we project ourselves through our adornments.
- Where: The Pitt Building, Trumpington Street, Cambridge CB2 1RP
- When: July 2-3, 9-10
- More at: quitecontraryjewellery.co.uk
Tom Gaskell (Limned Glass)
- Specialism: Handmade fused and kiln-cast glass
- About: Tom’s vibrant pieces are created from thin sheets of coloured glass, glass powders and granules, which he designs and shapes before melting in a kiln to form bowls, dishes, vases, plaques, ornaments and glass jewellery. “I particularly enjoy reproducing and interpreting natural scenes in glass and taking natural materials – such as leaves – and turning them into glass pieces,” explains Tom, who has an engineering background. “I love to experiment and try new things.” Tom will be demonstrating his techniques for visitors during his Open Studios weekends.
- Where: 18 Kingfisher Walk, Linton, Cambridge CB21 4UA (just down the footpath adjacent to 54, The Woodlands)
- When: 9-10, 16-17 July
- More at: limned.glass