The Cicada Christmas Cracker

Just one more feature open house post before the festival gets under way this Friday.  The Cicada Christmas Cracker is hosted by Nick Osborn & Moira Macfarlane. As a watercolour artist and jewellery maker, Nick has had great success.  The open house is named for Cicada Jewellery, a line Nick developed in the seventies.  After great success with a shop in the North Laine and internationally on a wholesale level, Nick now makes every piece of jewellery himself in his Brighton studio/workshop. He has no desire to return to wholesale, Cicada Jewellery will only ever be available in strictly limited quantities and sold, not in shops but at exhibitions and Artists Open Houses.   The Cicada Christmas Cracker has a talented group of artists anSally Laned artisans showing this year, offering something for everyone.


How many years have you been part of AOH Christmas?  What drew you to it and what brings you back?

We have been opening our house as part of the AOH Christmas since 2004 (by ‘we’ I refer to myself and my partner Moira Macfarlane). In other words we have opened every year that the AOH Christmas houses have been running, except for the first year – 2003 – when I was a guest artist in a house in Patcham.

Having seen the success of the Patcham house I decided to open in my own house at Christmas thereafter. This meant that I could be in control of how the house looked, and who would be showing with me. Also, being in my own house meant that I did not have to pay commission to anyone else for sales of my work and that I could charge a reasonable commission (15%) on sales of my guest artists work. Christmas 2004 proved a great success not only for me but also my guest artists and this has proved the case in every year since – in fact each year is a little more successful than the last! I shall go on opening for as long as there is a Christmas AOH festival.

Do you show at the Spring Festival and if so how do the two events differ?  Do you do anything differently for each?

We open for four weekends in May and have been doing this for the last six years and have every intention of continuing to open every May in the future. I am a member Phil Duncanof The Fiveways Group of Artists.

There are differences between Christmas and May openings. In May we also open the garden area which means that we can show a range of works suitable for being kept outdoors. At Christmas the garden does not look its best (!) so we don’t use it. Besides, the days are shorter and the weather can be pretty unpleasant.

Another way in which the two events differ is in the buying habits of our visitors. CatBrown

At Christmas they are mainly concerned with buying gifts for others, while in May there seems to be a greater willingness to buy for themselves.

Hospitality and a friendly welcome is very important to us and we offer free refreshments to our visitors – the difference between to two events being Pimms in May and Mulled wine at Christmas!

Do you do any particular special house preparations for the Christmas Festival?  How involved are your artists in this aspect?

We don’t have any special preparations for the Christmas festival compared to May. In fact we encourage our guest artists not to provide specifically ‘Christmassy’ works – we wish to display the type of work which they make all year round, so in that respect we are not a ‘Christmas Shop’!

Where does the name “The Cicada House” come from?

The Cicada House refers to the range of resin jewellery which I create in my workshop at the bottom of our garden. I have been making this work for over 40 years, having started the business in 1973 with my ex-wife Pat Thornton.The first range of jewellery we produced were Cicada (insect) brooches based on the pre-war French designs, though this has now expanded into a wide range of other designs – (see my website Cicada jewellery has been a major part of my life’s work to date and a great many people, particularly in the Brighton area, are familiar with it. Plus I just like the word Cicada!

How do you choose your artists? 

We met most of our artists by visiting art/craft fairs and seeing and liking their work (and them!). A number of our artists have been showing with us every year since we opened. It is certainly a sign of our success that most of our guest artists are keen to continue showing with us year after year. That being said, some stay with us for only a few years and this gives us the opportunity to bring in new artists. Each year we have one or two new artists. The overall number of artists has grown over the years, but so has the amount of space we have available. We currently open the ground floor and first floor of our house. (We inhabit the two rooms in the roof for the duration of the show!)Karen Rao

Do you have any new and exciting products for the Christmas Festival?   Are you aware of anything new from your fellow artists?

Whilst not all our artists produce new work for each show, many do. This enables us to have a ‘something for everyone’ approach, which is certainly appreciated by our many visitors (about 1,500 over 4 weekends) as well as being reflected in the considerable number of sales. We have estimated that about half of all visitors make a purchase.

Two of our newest guest artists are mosaic makers and this has definitely given an added dimension to the overall feel of the house.

Any fond AOH Christmas Festival memories?  Favourite songs or Traditions?

All my memories of previous Christmas Festival openings are good ones. We have always adopted an open door welcome to our visitors and like to make them feel relaxed and happy in the house. We’ll talk to them if they want to talk and leave them in peace if they don’t. We have a total determination never to hassle them into looking at or buying anything they are not interested in and it seems to work. Many of our visitors tell us what a pleasant experience it has been to come to our house and many return year after year.

We don’t have favourite songs as such – just a Kindle playing downloads from Spotify (and yes, I do pay a monthly subscription!) We keep the music very much in the background, but it can be heard at sub-nuisance level. We don’t wish to distract our visitors from the all important act of looking at the work.

Traditions? Not really – we’d need to be going for about 50 years for them to evolve. Until then it’s just a Happy House of Fun!

Laura Dunn

You can meet Nick and his guest artists (listed below) at:

The Cicada House Christmas Cracker!

30 Stanmer Villas, Brighton, BN1 7HP

The Cicada House Guest Artists

Yolande Beer – Ceramics

Cat Brown – Ceramics

Phil Duncan – Sculptural Ceramics and Garden Pieces

Laura Dunn – Ceramics

Helen van der Linden – Mosaic Artist (Mosaic Mad!)

Sharon Hine – Stained Glass Hangings and Animal Prints

Celia Hughes – Fabric Bags etc..

Jan Irvine – Drawings and Collage Prints

Jude Turner – Covered buttons as hair accessories, badges & more

Karen Norfolk – Tabletop Sculptures

Rosemary Land –  Stoneware decorated Pots and Bowls

Sally Lane – Stained Glass Panels and Mirrors

Victoria Lovell – Stoneware Hares  & Chickens and other

Lisa Guyalog (Lubilou) – Stoneware Creatures

Linda Rainbird – Fabric creations

Karen Rao – Contemporary Felting

Clare Rose – Creative Mosaics and Textiling

Shirley Trevena RI – small framed Giclée Print

John and Helen Warren – Stoneware ceramics, cane toppers and wall plaques

Post by Anne-Marie Olczak