All AOH local trails have a ‘Trail Contact’ who is the first point of contact for Open Houses wanting to a join trail in their area. We asked Shyama Ruffell, one of a group of three Trail Contacts for the Seven Dials Trail, to tell us a bit about her trail and preparing for her own Open House.
I am one of three Trial Contacts for the Seven Dials trail. When I was originally asked to be the Contact for the trail I was fairly daunted at the thought of it, especially as our previous Trail Contact had been so hands on, organised and had been doing it for quite a few years.
As a full time professional artist and single mother time is precious – even though my boys are relatively grown up – so it was a great relief when Kate Strachan and Jaq Buckeridge stepped forward. We joined forces and decided to utilize our skills and experience, which we have done now for three years.
Do you have trail meetings ahead of the festival? Are they useful for discussing Open House preparations with other trail members?
Yes, we do and in fact we have our first meeting tonight (20th Feb)! One of our sponsors is a local pub which has a great meeting room and which we use for our meetings. This is our first chance to connect with all of the houses on our trail. We welcome our regulars, and introduce ourselves to new members.
We have already been to a meeting with the AOH Team and all the other Trail Contacts, so this is our chance to communicate any information from the AOH Team. We also listen to and note any questions or feedback from the houses for future AOH Team meetings.
What preparations do you need to do ahead of opening your house?
The preparations I do for my house are probably standard for most people. I clear the space; books and ornaments are removed from the shelves, which then look filthy so they are all cleaned. Once the area is all clear I panic and wish I had redecorated. I fill in all the holes in the walls from the previous show, which have been revealed from behind my own wall art, and paint anything that needs to be refreshed.
How do you select your guest artists and curate your open house?
Choosing artists for my May Open House is fairly straight forward for me. My parents were in the first ever wave of Open Houses over in Fiveways, years ago. They were the 6th or 7th house to open, and I was invited to exhibit with them as a guest artist. Years, in fact, decades later they decided it was my turn to take over at my house at the Seven Dials and they retired their house (but not themselves). I have now hosted the Family Show as The Family Line for several years. Alongside Mum, Dad and daughter artist, I usually have some 3D representation, a sculptor or ceramists and a friend who turns my kitchen and garden into a cafe.
What do you most look forward to about opening your house?
I most look forward to the the last price label being stuck on the wall. That means the show is up and ready for visitors. Once this has started it’s a great social event.
What advise would you give artists opening their house for the first time this May?
My advice to new Open Houses would be to just go for it. Clearly label the work, get a credit card reader, smile and be ready to receive all sorts of interesting people and, hopefully, buyers into your home.
Seven Dials Artists Open Houses Trial