Something’s happening at the bottom of the garden

I went to visit Helen Hallows’ studio today. She and David Hallows have opened their home to the public as part of Derbyshire Open Arts, three days of artists opening studios and showing their work in public spaces across Derbyshire.

I arrived in the rain with a couple of plants in hand (for the oft painted vegetable garden) to be shown into their welcoming and absolutely gorgeous home, which provided a superb setting for the prints, collages and ceramics on show. Helen and David both have studios at home, and are playing host to three other artists. There was a display of ceramic jewellery by Jamie Parks in the kitchen, Jane Bevan had been having great fun curating her own work in the greenhouse, and Maxine Greer had set up a pop-up cinema at the bottom of the garden.

It’s lovely to visit an artist’s home and studio to see the collected ephemera of inspiration, and work displayed in a domestic setting. After a few years of visiting events like this I also took the plunge opening my own home to the public in one way or another.

After years racing around the East Midlands working in the public sector I wanted to start working closer to home, more creatively – and get to know the place I lived in a lot better. After some research I established The Refectory Table – a project running creative business courses at home for small groups.

After starting The Refectory Table opening the garden as a space for activity was a natural next step. I started gardening fifteen years ago and after some faulty steps started to get the hang of it. In the late summer of 2012 the garden became part of the National Gardens Scheme (NGS), gardens that open for charity across the UK. I opened the garden to the public for two days also holding a Secret Craft Fair, showcasing work by artists and makers.

The Secret Craft Fair gives the ground floor of our home over as public space for the duration. The living room’s been a market place, a site for installations; the kitchen wall becomes a gallery. The area near the washing machine becomes a sales area, the greenhouse a showcase, and the garden wall’s a gallery.

By the conclusion of our next event in June we will have shown work by 19 different artists in our home and garden. Ah yes, the bottom of the garden – that’s where this blog started. In a bid to utilise as much space as possible the shed is also a pop-up venue.

It’s played host to Martin Currie and his Raygun Consultancy, a surreal and scarily believable travelling theatre of rayguns and tall tales. In 2013 the shed became a bed-sheet cinema for the premiere of Maxine Greer’s stop motion animation Peg Tango. Maxine met Helen Hallows at that event – and you can see Maxine’s latest film ‘Storm in a Teacup’ at the bottom of Helen’s garden this weekend. It’s another lovely film with an optimistic ending.

Plans for more creative events in the shed, the garden and house are brewing – but in the meantime, it’s lovely to visit other folk who are opening up their homes, and seeing what’s at the bottom of their gardens.

Derbyshire Open Arts www.derbyshireopenarts.co.uk

The Refectory Table – www.therefectorytable.com

NGS Open Gardens & Secret Craft Fair June 7 & 8 2014

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