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Avoid the Christmas rush at Ouseburn

Nestled in the fast-growing Ouseburn Valley are eight studios that can help us to avoid the last-minute scrum for Christmas presents.

Nestled in the fast-growing Ouseburn Valley are eight studios that can help us to avoid the last-minute scrum for Christmas presents. Philippa Stewart reports.

Pyjama-clad bodies will soon be sneaking downstairs expecting to be greeted by a mountain of presents. And the kids are excited as well.

So, what will make their eyes light up this festive season? Musical boxer shorts? Santa socks? Or a nice warm scarf? Cue Ouseburn Open Studios weekend.

Taking place in the Ouseburn Valley in Byker, Newcastle, on November 29 and 30, this annual event aims to help us put the sparkle into our Christmas offerings... and let’s face it, offers a pretty pain-free alternative to the traditional trudge around the shops.

And the 130 artists, designers and jewellery makers taking part will happily fling open their doors to public scrutiny, welcoming questions about how they work and the chance to discuss potential Christmas commissions and purchases.

But for Nick James, furniture maker and director of The Mushroom Works, this is more than just a sales opportunity.

"This weekend gives us the opportunity to show the public exactly what happens in our studios," says the 29-year-old. "It gives them the chance to find hidden treasures that can mean something to them.

"They know the story behind the pieces and it becomes more than a table or a chair.

"They value the work more because they know the people behind it."

Although you may be expecting to have to pay through the hooter for this kind of purchase, Nick is quick to point out that going for the personal touch doesn’t have to be the pricey option... take The Mushroom Works’ 20x20 for £20 scheme.

Nick explains: "The idea is that people can get a 20cm square piece of original art for just £20.

"It means people can buy a really special gift that won’t break the bank."

If your walls are too full to hang a canvas, but your shelves are sparse, then the studio group Cobalt offers the opportunity to see glassware and furniture designers in action and maybe find the ideal gift idea for your special someone.

Gavin Marshall, a glassmaker at Cobalt, says: "Some of the artists at Cobalt will be selling their works over the weekend.

"There is a really large range of stuff on offer, so everyone will find something."

Meanwhile the RASKL design team will be on hand to discuss the creation of your dream desk or a table that is too good to be true.

David Angus, 29, one of RASKL’s three directors, says: "We can have a 3D design up on the computer within 20 minutes of someone talking to us.

"People know exactly what they are getting, because they can see it before it’s made."

The Christmas spirit will be evident throughout the weekend, with each studio putting on special events and demonstrations. Ukulele-playing sensation George Welch will be performing at the nearby Biscuit Factory Studios on Stoddart Street, Shieldfield, Newcastle.

While Bernadette Korenteng, one of the painters based there, will be leading a life-drawing class over the November open weekend.

She will also be providing a graffiti art class to entertain youngsters who come along with their parents.

Family-friendly Northern Print Studios are providing the chance to look at a printing press in action as well as a chance to take a turn at printmaking.

While live music will be on offer at 36 Lime Street Studios as will an abundance of coffee and cake.

Studios taking part in the November weekend are scattered through the Ouseburn Valley and include some that are off the beaten track.

To help the wandering public, the organisers are putting on a free bus service between the venues throughout the weekend.

Emma Holliday, a painter at 36 Lime Street, said: "I think people enjoy being able to talk to artists.

"People can buy a painting from a gallery at any time but it is only this weekend that lets people talk to the artists behind them."

The Ouseburn Open Studios Weekend runs from 11am to 5pm on November 29 and 30.

Doors opening in the Ouseburn include...

The Art Works: Run by Matt Forster and Nicolette Perry, the Art Works hosts new exhibitions every month.

Self-taught watercolour artist Matt will be putting on painting demonstrations throughout the weekend.

Biscuit Factory Studios: Home to 28 independent studios including photographers, sculptors and glass workers.

A special Christmas Stocking gallery is planned for the Open Weekend and the professional artists that occupy the space will be displaying their works on both days.

Cobalt: Established eight years ago the Cobalt studio houses eight artistic businesses including glass maker Gavin Marshall who was a highly commended newcomer at the British Craft Trade Fair two years ago.

Foundry Lane Studios: The former print works is now the home to a series of small companies which are newcomers to the Open Studio Weekend.

Artist Alex Charrington will be showing his work over the weekend and fashion-lovers will enjoy an exhibition by fashion photographer Steve Lomas.

RASKL: The brainchild of David Angus and siblings Daniel and Nicola Rose, the RASKL design team offers the chance to see concept furniture in 3D thanks to the magic of computers.

36 Lime Street: Described as the biggest and oldest studio group in Newcastle, 36 Lime Street is home to 25 independent artists.

A Grand Art Raffle will be held offering vouchers for buying or commissioning a work from the artists present.

The Mushroom Works: This community interests company has 12 studios in a converted warehouse and has been largely responsible for organising this year’s weekend.

Northern Print Studios: Every aspect of printmaking is covered in this contemporary print studio.

The studio has more than 150 members and is open to anyone who has an interest in printing.

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