Artists Open Houses talks to artist and designer, Jehane Boden Spiers
AOH: Hi Jehane – welcome back to Artists Open Houses – we’ve missed you!
JBS: Thank you – it’s exciting to be back! I’m opening as a new member of the Fiveways Artist group this year. Our address is 89 Waldegrave Road, Fiveways, BN1 6GJ
AOH: When did you first start taking part in the Artists Open Houses Festival?
JBS: I first took part in 1996, over twenty years ago. I was a graduate working as a textile designer in Vienna. I came back especially for the May festival. I exhibited with watercolour painter Shirley Trevena (RI). Her Open Houses were incredibly popular – it was a very special place to start!
I opened my old house in Cuthbert Road from 2002 – 2011. I think I was first person to give their Open House a name –‘The Yellow House’.
AOH: How long is it since you last took part?
JBS: My new house is called ‘Jehane’s Open House’. The last time I opened in Waldegrave Road was in 2013.
We have recently renovated to create a lovely white space in our living room. A new Open House had to be! We are actually in the midst of major building work in our kitchen at the moment. With only 5 weeks until May – time is tight. Nothing like a deadline!
AOH: Do you think the AOH festival has changed a great deal over the years?
JBS: Yes, it has changed significantly.
The number of Open Houses has more than quadrupled since I first took part. There were about 50 when I started – there must be over 200 now? It’s an amazing success story. All “fringe” events and Artist Open Houses were listed as part of the main festival programme. As the popularity of the fringe events grew it was inevitable to divide into separate programmes (similar to Edinburgh Festival).
We didn’t even have an Artist Open House brochure then (as you know only too well!). As a past chairman of the Kemptown Artists group myself, I remember only too well how each geographical area had monthly meetings and produced their own independent brochures. We tirelessly drove around to other areas to ensure distribution. There were so many different brochures – you can just imagine what our hallways were like! I’m appreciative of the hard work you have done to create the single AOH brochure. The benefits are not to be underestimated, thank you!
The Brighton Festival itself has also developed a more consistent and polished brand identity. Whilst I value the initiative of a guest curator, I personally miss seeing the work of a local artist on the front cover of the main festival programme. I am delighted therefore to see local artist David Shrigley as both guest curator and front cover artist this year!
I still have a framed copy of the 1996 festival poster by Victor Stuart Graham in my studio. I’ve had many requests from people to buy his poster over the years. I’ve published a greeting-card of Victor’s 1996 festival poster for my Open House this year. I’m also looking into producing a print in collaboration with Victor.
AOH: What is most important for you personally about taking part in AOH?
JBS: To have the opportunity to show and sell my own artwork. I value the opportunity to speak to buyers about my work directly. This year I have developed a new range of work including opulent red velvet cushions, tea-towels, zipped purses, framed prints, and my own cards & gift-wrap.
AOH: You’ve also got some really exciting guest artists exhibiting in your Open House this year – would you like to tell us a bit about them? We really want to hear about the installation in the garden shed!
JBS: I’m so glad you think so! With 25 years in the creative industries, I have met a lot of amazing people. Ken Eardley, Marion McConaghie, and Annabet Wyndham are all old favourites. Natalie Pedetti Prack is a designer from Vienna who I have known since 1995.
Debbie George is a painter based in Sheffield. We have connected on Instagram via our love of the Wedgewood range of Eric Ravilious ceramics. Debbie has created 15 original new paintings especially for the show – a Ravilious piece will definitely feature! I met printmaker Jane Walker, jeweller Iris de La Torre, and ceramicist Justine Allison at the Brighton Art Fair (organised by Jon Tutton & Sarah Young). These three artists are all coming from further afield. They will be exhibiting in the AOH Festival for the first time this year.
I also run my own artists’ agency, JEHANE Ltd. One of the artists I represent is Cressida Bell (Vanessa Bell’s grand-daughter) whose hand-printed scarves will be in my Open House this year. I will also be selling an exclusive range of Cressida’s stationery and cards that I have licensed to a leading publisher Museums & Galleries. I have personally admired Cressida’s textile designs ever since I was an art student – it’s wonderful to come full circle!
Atelier Stella is a local ceramicist whose work is hugely popular. Stella will be making some extra special large pieces for the show, which are much too big to post! ‘Patternistas’ are a dynamic design duo who I met a Decorex last year – they will be bringing one of their designer rugs produced by Rug Couture.
Our garden shed installation is a piece de resistance!
Philippa Stanton is well known for her beautiful shed. As she isn’t opening this year, we have collaborated to create something new. It will be an inter-active installation. It’s on a highly ‘topical’ theme, which will incorporate poetry and streams of coloured ribbons. But can you guess what it is?! Maybe we should do an AOH giveaway if someone can guess the theme correctly!
AOH: That sounds a really great idea!
AOH: You have also been invited to curate another Open House this year – would you like to tell us a little about that?
JBS: I was invited to curate TRIO by an interior designer and long-term client Diana Garnier. She has commissioned many of my embroidered cushions, wall-hangings, and framed artwork over the years. TRIO is Diana as the host, myself as the curator, and my partner Richard as the resident picture-hanger. Richard has worked in the gallery sector – everything is hung to a central eye-line as if it were a Tracey Emin!! Ha ha! Maybe next year!
Each of the seven artists has created a new piece of work especially for TRIO. This includes a drawing of Kemptown by Ulrika Jarl, a Beach-Hut in enamel by Janine Partington, a collection of framed glass by Stephanie Else, a Brighton map by Eleonora Kolycheva, an image of Madeira Drive by Ilona Drew, and newly coloured New York prints by leading illustrator Paul Thurlby.
TRIO is at The Villa, 11 Walpole Terrace – Kemptown Artists Group. It is open Tuesday-Thursday 8 – 4pm as well as weekends 12 – 6pm. A percentage of all sales during week-days will be donated to the Rockinghorse appeal.
AOH: Is there anything else you would like to tell us?
JBS: We will be offering tea-and-cake for the first time this year!
We are also showing the artwork of Sarah Hamilton, a London printmaker. Sarah is the founder of the ‘Just A Card’ voluntary campaign. The campaign aims to encourage people to buy from Designers. It reinforces the message that all purchases, however small, even ‘just a card’ are vital to the prosperity and survival of small businesses.
I have set up a dedicated Open House instagram account if anyone would like to follow along! It’s @jehane_openhouse.
Thanks for the interview AOH!
AOH: Thank you Jehane! We hope you have a great festival.
Open House instagram @jehane_openhouse
Artists’ Agency instagram @jehane_ltd
Open House twitter @onlinesince2002
Artists’ Agency twitter @jehane_ltd
Facebook is @JehaneBodenSpiers
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