Open Season’s Greetings: Latest 7 finds Brighton and Hove’s most stylish annual Christmas shopping experience is at the Artists Open Houses
Imagine Christmas shopping, but in the comfort of someone’s home.?We don’t mean sitting on a computer and shopping for the latest offers online either. We are talking about browsing exclusive, individual, quirky handmade gifts and sipping a glass of mulled wine besides a blazing log-fire. This is the reality of the Christmas Artists Open Houses – the unique alternative to the horrors of high street Christmas shopping and an annual tradition in Sussex that has quickly become a firm favourite.
This year, 83 venues will open their doors over three weekends: 27–28 November, 4–5 and 11–12 December. Some venues open their doors for the whole three weeks; others open at selected weekends. As well as paintings, prints and sculpture, there are ceramics, jewellery, textiles, lighting, home-furnishings, cards and a variety of Christmas decorations on offer.
With so many Open Houses clustered within easy walking distance of one another, it is easy to spend an entire afternoon visiting them all, meeting the artists and makers, browsing the work and indulging in the odd mince pie or two. Many of the Open Houses sell homemade teas and cakes in aid of local charities. In last May’s Artists Open Houses, over £250 was raised by one house alone for The Martlets Hospice.
The Christmas Artists Open Houses offer up a feast of work at all price ranges. It’s the ideal solution to all your Christmas present dilemmas. Here you will track down that elusive present for a friend or family member of all ages. Choose from an eclectic range of bunting, tea towels, fabulous creatures, tin toys, leather purses, place mats, tea-lights, knitted hats and scarves, cufflinks, mittens and pet accessories. Experiences range from boxing and burlesque in the bathroom, an evening of Queer Songs and Readings, an Alice In Winter Wonderland installation, synaesthetic paintings, kids’ workshops, print and photography gift vouchers, litter bugs and John Mills’ amazing ‘Mr Watts’ children’s books.
The city-wide Christmas Open Houses stretch from West Hove to Rottingdean, with more venues in Ditchling, Newhaven and South Heighton. Houses will show work of artists of all ages and from all walks of life; some will even display exciting work by school and college students.
The Christmas Artists Open Houses are full of magical encounters to engage and surprise visitors. There really is something to be found for everyone.
Open House highlights
At Quebec Street alongside The Black Rabbit’s knitted toys and other artwork, you can buy wonderful quirky gifts and paintings, produced by adults with learning difficulties.
The Brighton Oasis Project will showcase work of women and young people affected by drug and alcohol misuse. Taking part in a photography project, they use cameras to explore their lives, relationships and surroundings. The work is shown along with other more established artists and makers. View their work and support their valuable charity.
At St Dunstan’s, artwork and crafts made by partially sighted ex-service men and women can be seen alongside work of the St Dunstan’s staff. The St Dunstan’s craft workshop members will also take visitors on a conducted tour of the splendid Francis Lorne designed 1930s building.
Elsewhere, at the new A&E Gallery in Cheltenham Place, visitors are invited to celebrate 25 years of video gaming, where some of Brighton’s leading illustrators and designers pay tribute to their all-time favourite video games. Take part in a multi-player face-off against your favourite artist, or prove your retro gaming skills in a Nintendo tournament.
Visit a taxidermist in Washington Street and a doctor of Asian kitschology in Wilbury Grove. In Norfolk Road, buy Pup Aid charity Christmas cards, and have your portrait done in a pop-up studio. In Coventry Street there’s a glamorous take on a traditional street kiosk offering an abundance of gifts for under £10 – with a free cup of cinnamon popcorn thrown in with every purchase.
At The Cow Shed, guest artists include the designer of iconic Pink Floyd albums The Division Bell and The Dark Side of The Moon.
Christmas is truly celebrated at the Artists Open Houses, with a plethora of Christmas trees, Christmas wreaths and Christmas cards. Christmas tree decorations of every sort – from glass snowflakes to Japanese temari thread balls – can be found in many houses. Here you will also find hampers stuffed with delicious homemade Christmas goodies and vintage crockery. Hot spiced perry, honeyed vodka, hot sweet chai and Swedish Glögg will all help to get you in the Christmas mood.
Christmas starts here!
This is just a small selection of this year’s Christmas Artists Open Houses. The Christmas Artists Open Houses brochures with complete listings are now available at venues throughout the city including Brighton Dome Box office, Brighton and Hove Museums, the Town Hall and Jubilee Library, as well as in all 83 Open Houses.
Visit www.aoh.org.uk to find out more and to find links to many of the artists’ and makers’ own websites.
To download the AOH iPhone app, visit Apple’s iPhone apps store and search for AOH. The app allows users to keep all details of the venues in their pockets, filter to select those nearby, and mark and locate venues you are especially interested in.
• Venue opening times and dates may vary, so be sure to check individual brochure listings. Some venues have chosen to open on the weekends of the 20/21 November and 18/19 December.
• Please remember that most houses are unable to accept plastic, so bring cheque-books or cash.
• The majority of venues are ordinary homes and may not have disabled access. Please check whether a disabled symbol is shown in venues listings, or check the online disabled access page.