The Open House Host – Martha Mitchell

THE OPEN HOUSE HOST: the planning, the guest artists, the event!  In this series of interviews we ask experienced Open House Hosts what they love about taking part in the Christmas Festival. In the second part of the series we visit Martha Mitchell of Martha Mitchell Design in Hove.


A drizzly, grey day did not deter me from walking over to Hove to explore the light filled space that is Albert Mews Studio: home to Martha Mitchell, Joanne Corney and Lizzie Lock and host too many other talented creators for this year’s Artists Open Houses Christmas Festival.  With gift ideas ranging from £2-100 the residents at Albert Mews look forward to meeting their customers face to face. They won’t be open for the first weekend of Artists Open Houses Christmas Festival, (they’ll be at MADE Brighton) but will be raring to go from the 27th of November. It’s a busy time and a lot of work, but it’s a lot of fun!  Here’s an interview with Martha Mitchell.

Tell me about yourself – what kind of work do you do?

I am a homeware and gift designer – I draw intricate black and white illustrations which I have made in to products ranging from stationery to homewares!

Who are your guest artists for Artists Open Houses Christmas Festival 2015?

We haven’t finalised all of our guest artists yet but we have most of them.

Joanna Corney and Lizzie Lock share the studio with me so the three of us are here permanently!

Joanna Corney (homeware) –

christmas-open-house2Lizzie Lock Millinery  (millinery)-

Guest artists confirmed so far:

Chhipa (unisex shirts) –

hose. (hoisery) –

Patricia Holubowskyj (knitwear) –

Maggi Whatford – leather bags and accesories

Hove-made (pickles and chutneys)

Corrine Taylor (organic aromatherapy products) –


How many years have you been involved with Artists Open Houses Christmas Festival?

This will be our 5th Christmas open house!

What inspires you to return as an Artists Open Houses Christmas Festival host each year?

I love opening up for the Christmas open house as it gives me an opportunity to sell directly to our customers from the studio, often resulting in people returning throughout the year to buy products! It’s also great to be able to offer up some space for guest artists to sell too!

 Has participating in AOH Festivals influenced your work?

It has in the respect that you can listen first hand to what your customers like or don’t like and make sure you change it for the next year!

How do you choose your Guest Artists?  

We use a variety of ways to choose guest artists – we often go on the Artist Open Houses website to see which artists are looking for houses to exhibit in, and throughout the year we keep our eyes open when visiting local art fairs and galleries!

Preparing for Christmas is always a large undertaking, let alone hosting an art show too!  When do you start and what you do to prepare for Artists Open Houses Christmas Festival?

Luckily as there is 3 of us in the studio the work load is split 3 ways! (I don’t know how people open up on their own!)

The actual planning of the Christmas Open house starts in September but it is not until 2 weeks before that we actually clear out the studio and get everything ready for the private view. We are very lucky to have great friends and family who kindly prepare food for private view so that is always one less thing to worry about! For the Christmas Open House the music is easy – Smooth Christmas! (24 hour Christmas songs on Smooth FM!)

Are your Guest Artists involved in the preparations with you? If so how?

Our guest artists don’t actually help with the general set up of the studio. Because the three of us work permanently from the space it is often easier to do the set up in the evenings and when we have some spare time!  In the week of the private view the guest artists will come in to set up their own spaces.

albertmewsworkspaceWIf you do the AOH Spring Festival too, how do the two differ?  How are they the same?

We do also exhibit in the May Open House and there is definitely a different feel. In May we tend to have larger more expensive artists and designers taking part and we try to make it more like an exhibition space; whereas for the Christmas open house we try to have more affordable gifts for around £50 and under. The preparation for the May Open house is definitely easier as we don’t have the added pressure of Christmas orders to contend with!

Do you have any favourite memories or stories from Artists Open Houses Christmas Festivals past?   

Last Christmas we actually benefited from the rain! (believe it or not) We found that people would often come in to the studio to shelter from the rain and then end up staying for tea and a slice of homemade cake – often leading to a sale!

Finally …please let us know your favourite Christmas song/ tv special/ movie/tradition.

I am a HUGE Christmas lover!

My favourite Christmas song is Shakin Stevens – Merry Christmas Everyone

TV Special – Downton Abbey

TV Movie – Christmas with the Kranks


Martha Mitchell 

Albert Mews studio

11 Albert Mews

Third Avenue