What’s not to love about Ouseburn Open Studios?

As an army of local makers and creators prepare for a weekend welcoming visitors – regular and new – through their workspace doors, Sam Wonfor takes a look at what we can expect as the closed sign is turned 180 degrees for the 23rd Ouseburn Open Studios.


In the days up to Ouseburn Open Studios, I always imagine an urban valley full of artists united in a tidying up frenzy akin to the one which engulfs our house whenever the possibility of non-everyday visitors fights its way through the chaos.

Now, while I don’t like to generalise, I would be comfortable predicting that ‘artist’s studio’ wouldn’t be in the top 10 answers on Family Fortunes if Bob Monkhouse/Max Bygraves/Les Dennis/Vernon Kay (delete as generationally appropriate) was asking: Name a place you would associate with being spick and span…

And nor should they be aiming to be. Nothing saps creativity like a triple hit from hoovering Henry and his mates, Misters Sheen and Muscle.

That said, when looking to sell your work and/or share the practice which produces it – as is the underpinning philosophy of Ouseburn Open Studios – it’s probably sensible to eradicate any possibilities for health and safety infringement, to say nothing of coffee cup experiments looking to solve the antibiotic resistance crisis. (Welcome to my office, kids.)

Plus, giving any room a good bottoming always brings with it the real possibility that you’ll find the thing you’ve been looking for, for months. Talk about win win win.

So, this weekend sees the 23rd anniversary of this thoroughly lovely two-day event – with the added bonus  of a Friday evening gathering thrown in, thank you, The Mushroom Works.

Following its acorn-sized beginnings in 1995, Ouseburn Open Studios has branched out beautifully in the years which have followed, stitching itself into the patchwork quilt I like to call ‘stuff people really look forward to’ (and that’s why no-one ever asks me to name anything) on Tyneside.

If you’re unfamiliar, the event exists to offer an annual – or now bi-annual thanks to the Spring incarnation – platform to the local arts, craft and design scene, coming direct from the heart of Newcastle’s burgeoning cultural quarter.

Taking place between 10am and 5pm on Saturday and Sunday (Nov 24 and 25, 2018) those who make the wise decision to have a mooch about will be offered the opportunity to go behind the finished works of more than 200 local artists and design-makers, and buy from a massive range of affordable and original work. Paintings, ceramics, sculpture, jewellery, furniture and prints are among the delights which you could end up stroking lovingly in the comfort of your own home… or giving as very special Christmas presents.

Suitable for all ages, eight venues have signed up to whack a big old OPEN sign on their respective front doors, while a supporting offer of live music, workshops, food and drink will ensure everyone is catered for.

Here’s a rundown of some highlights:

Håp and Sue Woolhouse at 36 Lime Street are taking part in Ouseburn Open Studios

Hap and Sue Woolhouse are among those from 36 Lime Street taking part

36 Lime Street
The ‘Seek’ exhibition encourages visitors to explore the common ground between artist’s work in the gallery and in their studios in the five story listed building whose address gives the studios their 36 Lime Street name.
There’ll be a raffle, featuring letterpress prints as tickets, with all profits going to the building maintenance fund.

Cobalt is taking part in Ouseburn Open Studios

Drop in on the artists at Cobalt

People are being invited to explore the resident artist’s studios, arts venue and other spaces in development, while being tempted by the smell of proper coffee, home made food, a fully licensed bar, music, DJs, silent films and workshops at Cobalt.
In the evening a separately ticketed gig will see ska/reggae/hip hop band King Porter Stomp doing their thing.

Jim Edwards' Ouseburn painting. Visit his gallery as part of Ouseburn Open Studios

‘Ouseburn’ by Jim Edwards

Jim Edwards Artist Studio Gallery
Presenting his latest exhibition, You Are Here, Jim Edwards has taken the theme of Wayfinding and run with it; knowing where you are, where your desired location is, and knowing how to get there from your present location.
He has also put aside a framed limited edition print, which will be up for grabs.

A fluted cabinet from James Design at the Mushroom Works, which is taking part in Ouseburn Open Studios

James Designs is among those showing off their work this weekend

Mushroom Works
Visitors are once again being invited to chew the fat with the many artists and designers who have found their studio home in the Mushroom Works. They’ll be happy to talk about their creative process, techniques and inspirations. Meanwhile there will also be the opportunity to buy work – including the always popular  20cm x 20cm original artworks, which are all priced at an affordable £20. And if you just can’t wait to get amongst it. There’s a ‘Sneak Peek Preview’ tonight (Friday, Nov 23) from 6pm to 8pm.

Print your own Christmas cards at Northern Print during Ouseburn Open Studios

Who doesn’t fancy having a crack at making their own Christmas cards?

Northern Print
Peppered with works from up and coming and well known artists who base themselves at Northern Print – to say nothing of other big names from the UK and beyond, you’ll be invited to step behind the scenes in the printmaking studio to meet the artists who work there, and even get involved yourself. How would your loved ones like to receive a Christmas card printed by your own fair hands? Spoiler alert: They’d bloody love it.
Speaking of Christmas cards, there’ll also be an exhibition of joy-filled greetings from John Purcell Paper featuring  colourful, pop-up printed constructions commissioned over three decades.
And if your time at Northern Print inspires you to want to do more, you’ll also have the chance to peruse the new programme of classes and courses.

The Biscuit Factory at Ouseburn Open Studios

Seasonal goodwill and treats to match will be on offer at The Biscuit Factory

The Biscuit Factory
What better way for The Biscuit Factory to celebrate its new contemporary craft space than this? The gallery will be chocka with busy artists and makers and soundtracked by jazz duo, Hand to Mouth. Taking inspiration from the its current headline show, A Northern Winter, expect to be charmed by the seasonal decor. You can also paint your own Christmas bauble, get involved in the sing-a-long brunch in the Factory Kitchen and shop to your hearts content for gifts to make your Christmas list feel smug as all giddyup.

Visit the Biscuit Tin during Ouseburn Open Studios

The Biscuit Tin is opening for this lovely weekend

The Biscuit Tin Studio
A home for 40 artists, designers and makers, the former factory unit is a must-stop on any Ouseburn Open Studios tour. Exhibition wise, Life Class is dominating the gallery space, which features the work of Biscuit Tin artists and their friends. There’ll be the opportunity to partake in a glass of wine and have a go at drawing while you’re there.

Have a play with clay at Kiln during Ouseburn Open Studios

Play with some clay at The Kiln

The Kiln
Getting to grips with clay is what’s on offer at The Kiln throughout the weekend. The popular Mediterranean bar and kitchen, which boasts a delightful pottery and ceramics workshop, called 1265 Degrees North, will be throwing its doors and arms open to welcome in the public and encouraging them to have a play date with clay. There’ll also be a terrific range of ceramic works for sale throughout the venue too.

Sounds a boatload more than canny, doesn’t it? For more information on Ouseburn Open Studios, visit www.ouseburnopenstudios.org

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