I took part in my first (and hopefully not last) Cookham and Maidenhead Arts Trail (CAMAT) last year (2018). I initially had to be coaxed into applying by sensible friends as obviously art is made to be hidden away in my house and never seen by other humans. I’m glad they did the coaxing, it was a brilliant experience and a great opportunity to meet some wonderful people in the local arts community. Not having an acceptable space of my own, my house being a tsunami of child, cats, toys and mess, the incredibly kind Stephanie Gay offered me the opportunity to share her studio for the weekend with herself and Satu Vartiainen.
The weekend was surprisingly tiring given it was mostly given over to sitting around talking about art, but being alert and open to talking to strangers all day for two days is I imagine even a struggle for the most extroverted (of which I am not). I possibly over-prepared by putting together a 25 minute showreel video/animation to display, making a custom postcard stand and getting t-shirts printed with some of my favourite hedge wizardly illustrations, I was very happy with the overall effect.
I didn’t know what to expect from the audience, but given they had to make an actual effort to go round to artists studios and houses to view their creations I shouldn’t have been surprised by how engaged and positive they all were. It was especially brilliant that many people had not only bought their children with them but were getting them interested and involved. My weekend was made when a 12 year old shouted “THAT’S SO COOL” at one of my animations and compared it to a computer game I had never heard of. General response from the visitors was positive, with plenty of people stopping to chat for a while and talking about what I do. Happy that on more than one occasion people had seen my work previous to showing up and had already formed opinions and questions. I did inwardly titter at the small handful of people who walked in, took one look at my work and walked straight out again, it wasn’t for them and that’s fine.
As well as the individual open studios there was a group show for a week at Norden Farm (Maidenhead’s arts centre) which I showed three pieces at. I even managed the private view without having a breakdown (everyone was lovely).
Overall a fantastic experience, not just as an artist but as a visitor as well (although only to the group show), the quality of the creative output round here is marvellous. I feel a little regret that I’ve not made the effort to do the arts trail as a visitor previously, the reason being I felt incredibly awkward at the concept of just showing up at someone else’s home/studio and poking around, but having done it now would recommend it as a great opportunity to engage with the local arts community even if you are a little on the introverted side.
Thank you to everyone involved for being incredibly welcoming.