It has been a year of tumbling records for 2016’s Marlborough Open Studios, a preview of which opened to the public this morning (Friday).
The scheme, now in its 21st year, has finally reached the milestone of exhibiting 80 artists, while the geographical boundaries of ‘Marlborough’ have been stretched to encompass Rowde (west of Devizes), Radley Bottom (east of Hungerford), Hodson (north of Chiseldon) and Tedworth House, south of Tidworth.
And eager collectors are already snapping up art. Even before the preview show at Marlborough College’s Mount House Gallery – where price tags range from £40 to £5,000 – had opened to the public, 18 pieces were sold at a VIP evening hosted by lead sponsor David Dudley.
His company designs its own jewellery and sources distinctive pieces from across the UK and Europe.
Art, he told his guests, is all around us “and we are lucky to have so many artists of great national acclaim” in the Marlborough area.
Among the guests at last night’s VIP launch was mayor Margaret Rose who, with her late husband Bernard, ran an art gallery in Ramsbury. She snapped up a painting of an owl by Burbage-based wildlife artist Debbie Blount.
Another purchased piece was an intricate textile sculpture by royal milliner and first-time exhibitor Jane Corbett, who will be showing with photographer Deborah Husk at Alton Priors.
Open Studios chairman Lisi Ashbridge was at pains to point out the extensive range of art on offer: from massive sculptures by blacksmith Melissa Cole, whose forge and studio is on the A4 midway between Marlborough and Froxfield, to intricate pieces of jewellery by first-timer Theresa Hing, from East Garston across the Berkshire border, and a miniature representation of the houses on The Green at Aldbourne, made in driftwood by Baydon artist Kareen Jackson.
Practitioners in oils, watercolours, pencil, ink and charcoal, join sculptors, glass workers, wood turners, photographers, ceramicists and calligraphers in throwing open their doors across 42 locations.
Every year the Open Studios committee grants a bursary to an emerging artist, and this year the bursary has been awarded to wounded soldiers Martin Wade and Richey Burnett, who are following a City & Guilds course in painting at Tedworth House - HQ of the charity Help for Heroes - under the tutelage of Jenny Arthy.
The Open Studios preview show runs from 10am until 5pm on Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday, and from 10am until 3pm on Tuesday.
The Open Studios art trail is held over the first four weekends in July. For details, log on to www.marlboroughopenstudios.co.uk