Opening our house to the E17 Art Trail
A quick overview of what I loved about having an open house show of my work
We live in Walthamstow in north east London. For 15 years the E17 Art Trail has grown to become a thriving cultural force in the area. This year it ran for 16 days across 200 locations involving hundreds of participants. It was truly awesome.
This has been the first year I’ve taken part as an artist showing work and I’d like to talk a bit about why I’ve found it such a rich, fun experience.
Bringing it all together
I signed up to be part of the trail about six months ago. It seemed a long way away at the time. By that stage I’d been making my own work for a couple of years and was feeling that I’d like to try and get it in front of more people and this seemed to be the perfect opportunity. As a family we decided to go for an open house show as it would give us control and a reasonable amount of space to play with.
I continued to make things right up to and through the course of the show. What I didn’t expect was how enjoyable it would be to plan it, figuring out what would sit with what, and how they should relate — to work this out in a rough way was quick. In the final couple of weeks it dawned on me that we would also have to move a hell of a lot of stuff out of the way, to give people the space to see the work. As that happened it was then possible to make the detailed decisions on the precise locations for pieces.
In the last couple of evenings before we opened it was possible to really get a sense of how it was coming together. It felt like a show. Most excitingly it felt like a body of work. As someone who likes having ideas and making work quickly—I experience my work as lots of discrete packages—so seeing it connect into one thing has been really cool.
What laid the ground work for this was deciding a while back to become utterly shameless in the way I share my work. Since making this conscious effort I’ve made more, more fluently, more consistently and with greater joy than at any other stage in my life. It’s been great. Sharing has been the key. I share before things are ready, warts and all and that’s been fantastically liberating because it’s no longer about the work having to be perfect. (This started here on Medium but Instagram has taken over to a large extent because it’s so immediate.) This show has been a continuation of this. I worked pretty hard to make it hang together, but as it ran I realised I could just keep adding (a real benefit to having it at home) and get feedback on those things very directly.
The feedback has been great, not only nice things (although people have been very kind, the visitors book is full of stuff to cheer me up when I’m feeling a bit crap) but constructive too. Very little of my work is truly finished, it’s all just the latest iteration, so I really welcome this kind of input—it makes stuff better. Suggestions have ranged from tweaks to existing work, builds on and extensions of ideas, people who might be able to help, and places to approach to show and sell stuff. This has given me a huge amount of impetus for what’s next.
I’ve met a lot of neighbours that I might never have otherwise, it’s been a joy and makes me feel even closer to the community around here. Also, a lot of artists and makers have been visiting each others shows, meeting these people in real life and online has opened my eyes to the wealth and diversity of creative talent in the area. And I’m very hopeful that friendships and collaborations will develop from meeting these people.
The running and organisation of the trail
I haven’t mentioned this side of the trail because from my perspective it was so smooth. This is from signing up, providing information for the guide, images for press and other bits and bobs. Laura Kerry and Morag McGuire and their team (all volunteers) do a truly incredible job to herd cats (artists) and produce an incredibly welcoming and rich experience over the course of two weeks, which not only includes all the individual shows, but also dozens of events and happenings. The guide alone is a wonder, making a large and sprawling thing, simple and accessible. In the run up to it being produced I got a call from Laura to confirm my details for the guide, she flagged up something that was missing. She’d been on the phone all day doing the same thing with many other artists (something that would drive me up the wall) but she was so helpful and patient. It’s that kind of care and love that runs through the whole thing, like the word Brighton in a stick of rock.
I feel like this has really helped build a bit of momentum and I’m looking to maintain that. The first aim is to find ways to show my work again. I’ll definitely be signing up for the next trail, but in the meantime I’d like to aim for a local gallery show. I will also continue to generate new ideas, and iterate existing ones, with a view to getting more of my work into shops. I’m particularly excited about a couple of products that I think could be things people really want to have in their homes. I’ll be approaching people with the view to stocking these products, and may try a crowdfunding to help fund a decent production run. Here’s a couple of prototypes that I have in development right now.
To everyone involved in making the E17 Art Trail happen — thank you. It’s been a wonderful and rewarding experience.