Making Merry Open Studios - Christmas Shopping with a Difference

Since its creation five years ago by Winchester City Council's tourism service, Making Merry Open Studios - the annual opportunity to showcase artistic talent in the Winchester district - has become immensely popular amongst artists and craftspeople, as well as Christmas shoppers looking for individual gift ideas. This year an extra day has been added to allow even more time to browse the wonderful works of art on view, with the event running from Friday 17 to Sunday 19 November.

There are nearly 50 separate venues from Alresford to Wickham offering a wealth of contemporary and traditional art and craft items; from fused glass jewellery to smoke-fired ceramics or digital imagery to textiles, as well as a myriad of painting styles. And what's more, everything is available for purchase in a relaxed atmosphere accompanied - in many cases - by the odd mince pie or glass of mulled wine. Some artists are offering demonstrations or explanations and advice for those visitors interested in creating their own works of art.

For the first time Winchester City Museum is joining in by offering a selection of handcrafted silver, gold and copper jewellery created by Manu Kugler, whose inspiration came from the Museum's own collection, while David Kitchin - owner of the recently reopened Rowley Contemporary Art Gallery in Great Minster Street - is keen to show art in a friendly environment.  Alternatively the Pottery Café in Parchment Street is a wonderful place to visit with the children to create a truly unique piece of pottery as a gift for a loved one. Or visit the home of Stephen Paul Clarke, an abstract artist influenced by many different shapes and forms. His work has recently been displayed at the Theatre Royal Winchester.

Winchester City Council's Special Events Officer, Elaine Robbins, commented, "This event has grown spectacularly over the last few years; the creative community seems to be spreading the word, which is very satisfying as if the artists and craftspeople enjoy taking part then visitors will also enjoy the experience. I think the opportunity to talk to the artists about their work makes the purchase all the more special."

In and around the towns and villages of Alresford, Bishop's Waltham, Kings Worthy and Wickham there are even more artists and craftspeople to discover, offering a selection of delightful paintings, beautiful ceramics and fused glass. Jan Griffiths in North Boarhunt, just outside Wickham, specialises in sculptural ceramics using a 'raku' firing process, which makes each piece unique, while her colleague Dee McNamara creates beautiful fused glass wall hangings and other items.

Winchester City Council's Leader and Portfolio Holder for Economy and Tourism, Cllr George Beckett, said, "Events such as these are very important to us as they not only raise the profile of the many artists and craftspeople living in the district but also offer an appealing reason for visitors to discover the charming towns and villages nearby. I can't think of a more pleasant or relaxing way to solve the annual Christmas gift problem."

From cards and prints at very modest prices to bespoke items to lavish on your nearest and dearest, Making Merry Open Studios promises treats to suit all pockets. And without the stresses and strains of busy shopping centres as the world decides to undertake its annual Christmas shopping pilgrimage, there really is no better reason to take a relaxing tour of the visual feast on offer over the three days. If you can't wait to see what is on offer, a selection of work is already on display in 'The View' on Bridge Street, Winchester, where it will remain until Tuesday 21 November.

A full list of participating venues, opening arrangements and access for visitors with disabilities can be found in the Making Merry Open Studios programme available from Winchester Tourist Information Centre, telephone 01962 840 500 or email, or from the website