Countywide Culture

Formerly a biennial event, Somerset Art Weeks has gained such momentum it is now held annually. Every year, Somerset's artists join together to bring a vast array of exhibitions and demonstrations, working studios and activities in a celebration o...

Inspired by their beautiful surroundings, several artists have moved their studios outside to courtyards and wildflower gardens, areas open for strolling, relaxing or rejuvenating. Refreshments play an important part in the event, with temporary caf�s offering scones and cakes in various wonderful locations, which include an atmospheric Tudor painted room and an exotic Indian tent.

For anyone who wants to roll up their sleeves there are several opportunities for hands-on experiences during Somerset Art Weeks. You can throw a pot, try weaving, glass blowing and basketry or take a taster session in printmaking, quilting, and sculpting. If you prefer a less active education, there are illustrated talks on a variety of techniques, and artists will always be on hand to answer questions.

The county is divided into five areas: Sedgemoor takes in the fascinating charm of the Somerset Levels, through Bridgwater and Burnham-on-Sea, then east to Cheddar and Wedmore. Among a wide choice of studios you'll find traditional cabinet-making, ethereal landscapes in oils and watercolour, impressionistic studies of the sea, trompe l'oeil, papier-mach�, hand-knitted embellished jackets and equestrian photography.

The heather-clad moorland and rocky coastline of West Somerset gives creativity a natural kick-start. The wide range of works, including hand-coiled pots, pastel and charcoal drawings, embroidered tunics, bright contemporary paintings and enamelled silverwork are largely inspired by the intensely beautiful rural area in which they are made.

For anyone who wants to roll up their sleeves there are several opportunities for hands-on experiences

The variety in Taunton Deane is unsurpassed and includes works sourced entirely from 'found materials', bold, colourful pictures, seascapes, huge paintings of beasts and birds, installations of music and prose, and an exploration of Somerset's Second World War heritage.

In the east of the county, Mendip boasts more than 60 studios this year bringing colourful contrast from seascapes in an ancient hill village to modern wire wall hangings, bespoke metalwork, intriguing puppet sculpture and a collection of unique crowns and tiaras, all gathered around a clutch of famous historic towns - Wells, Frome, Shepton Mallet and Glastonbury.

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South Somerset offers a sunny, Mediterranean feel with watercolours of France and Italy, and pottery in turquoises and mauves. You'll find off-the-wall versions of old masters, collographs, nave sculpture, equestrian art and clocks made from North American hardwoods.

A journey around Somerset is always breathtaking; Somerset Art Weeks manages to make it even more so. With such a variety of works on display, this is the perfect excuse to take some time, head out and discover new parts of the region in a festive celebration of beauty, nature and talent. BY SANDY FRANCIS

Somerset Art Weeks 08 Open Studios runs countywide from 13-28 September. A free guide is available from local libraries and TICs or visit To request a copy of the guide, call tel 01458 254253 or e-mail

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