Artists Around Wetherby - the creative collective in the West Yorkshire town

Pink Bouquet by Rachel McNaughton

Pink Bouquet by Rachel McNaughton - Credit: Archant

Enterprising artists celebrate a different side of Wetherby. Justine Brooks finds out.

Clare Dean

Clare Dean - Credit: Archant

The idea to create Artists Around Wetherby came about over a few drinks in the pub, the charming Bingley Arms in Bardsey in fact. Artists Clare Dean and Rachel McNaughton were discussing the wonderful success enjoyed by North Yorkshire Open Studios and York Open Studios and lamenting the fact that their geographical location in West Yorkshire barred them from taking part. So they decided there and then to create their own open studio event.

‘We even decided on dates,’ says Clare, who along with Rachel and painter Ailsa Read now form the Wetherby Artists Committee. ‘We decided it should be in May because York is in April and North Yorkshire Open Studios is in June and we didn’t want to clash with them.

That was back in 2014, and the group has just wrapped up its 2018 Open Studios, its fifth annual event, and another great success which provides artists with an opportunity to market and sell their work and members of the public the chance to see how and where artists work – as well as enjoy a great day out.

Clare said this year’s open studios event was good. ‘I absolutely love the event. People come and look at the work, and then this year, on the Sunday, we all sat out in the garden and had cake.’ It turns out that as well as being a talented painter of flowers and animals, Clare also makes exquisite cakes. ‘I tempt people in with my cakes,’ she jokes.

Glass blower Julia Rushworth Photo: Andrea Thornton

Glass blower Julia Rushworth Photo: Andrea Thornton - Credit: Archant

The group is artist funded and artist led and over the five years since its inception has included the work of between 21 and 26 artists annually, all based within a six-mile radius of Wetherby and taking in the surrounding villages such as Bardsey, Thorner and Kirkby Overblow.

The group includes painters such as Rachel McNaughton, who paints delicate watercolours of landscapes, animals and flower subjects and Ailsa Read, who paints moody mixed media seascapes. ‘People come back year after year and new people come every year, some people become friends too,’ says Alisa. It’s clearly a great way for artists to find new collectors and a more personal way to buy art than in a gallery and, says Ailsa, the group is always looking out for new artists to take part in the open studios programme.

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Accomplished painter Vivienne Rawnsley’s studio is another highlight. Vivienne is a Fellow of the Society of Chartered Artists and Designers and creates canvases in a wide range of subjects from landscapes to seaside to flowers from the garden.

But it isn’t just painters the committee wants to support and promote. ‘It’s important to us that we represent other kinds of media too, so we have a glass blower, a silversmith and a ceramic artist too,’ says Clare. In other years they’ve also had a sculptor.

Painter Ailsa Read

Painter Ailsa Read - Credit: Archant

The glass blower is Julia Rushworth, who graduated from the National Glass Centre in Sunderland in 2014 and who now works from her home-based studio making vases, vessels and decorative pieces for the home using traditional glass making techniques.

Ceramic artist Jan Bulley creates her pieces in a sculptural way, hand coiling and using slabs of clay rather than making on the wheel. Jan also paints and creates collograph print works. Silversmith and jewellery designer Chris Alldridge makes bespoke creations from her studio.

Artists Around Wetherby run twice yearly artist demonstrations at Wetherby Town Hall where they promote open studios and raise funds for charity. In the last year the group has raised £1,000 for St Gemma’s Hospice in Leeds. The committee is considering putting on a pop-up gallery in one of Wetherby’s empty shops, and there are plans for a Christmas event in Wetherby Town Hall.

Vases by Julia Rushworth

Vases by Julia Rushworth - Credit: Archant

Keep an eye on their website for more information: