Shopping with art
Laura Cartledge finds a Brighton house that proves an old creative protest is still helping put local talent on the map.
Ned Hoskins may not be a name you are familiar with.
However the results of his actions, more than 30 years ago, are still celebrated in style.
In protest at the ‘lack of visual arts’ in the Brighton Festival, Ned and ten of his artist friends took things into their own hands – and his home.
This unconventional exhibition in 1982 helped to establish artist’s open houses as a phenomenon and now the event spanning Brighton, Hove and beyond, is the largest of its kind in the UK.
Boasting the work of more than 1,000 artists and makers, at around 200 different houses and studio spaces, this Christmas will once again not only put undiscovered talent on the map but it creates a shopping experience unlike any other.
“I am going to go shopping in my living room,” confesses Vivienne Ridley, who will be playing host for the first time at her home ‘FortyTwo’ on the weekends between November 29 and December 14.
“Everyone will go home and I will be able to try all the dresses on.”
Vivienne’s open house in Hampstead Road will feature a collection of printmakers, fashion designers, painters – including Vivienne’s daughter – photographers, sculptors as well as book readings and authors.
While it sounds like fun, Vivienne, who starting making jewellery ‘many moons ago’, has a serious motive behind taking part, in that it gives her something to work towards.
“It’s only in the last six months that I’ve been in my studio,” she reveals, “before I was always setting up in a corner of the house.”
Over the years her designs have gained attention from magazines, appeared at Clothes Show Live and formed half of prestigious design partnership Ridley and Dowse.
But it seems Vivienne’s latest collections are particularly close to her heart.
“I think the idea has been to keep it moving and making things,” she agrees. “I don’t want to get bored; I want to be able to investigate new things.”
Currently, those ‘things’ refer to old buttons and gumball prizes which she transforms into brilliantly unique pieces.
“With gumball machines you will have something precious that is made in a cheap material so I like the idea of taking it back,” explains Vivienne.
“As for buttons, one week I didn’t know anything about them and a month later I was an expert on the eBay selling price.”
When it comes to her finds, Vivienne says if she doesn’t know its history she ‘likes to make them up’, an aspect which is coming in to its own thanks to a collaboration with friend and writer Erinna Mettler.
“She came up with the idea that her stories could be linked to one of my pieces,” Vivienne recalls.
“My gumball prize casts mean I have this monkey and she wrote this piece about a monkey that shoplifts and gives what he steals to people who don’t have anything.”
So how did Vivienne decide on who should exhibit in her home?
“I started thinking of the other people I know that make really nice things,” says Vivienne simply. “I asked 12 and they all said yes.”
As well as offering a chance to meet the makers there will be exclusive chances to purchase ‘old samples and end of lines’ which Vivienne explains will not only be cheaper but potentially ‘completely unique’.
“It feels a very friendly thing, I want it to be a nice relaxing atmosphere where people can buy and see nice things.
“I keep drawing pictures of the room and saying ‘you can have that area’, there’s no doubt it will be full,” she smiles.
“I think the most enjoyable thing is it feels like a privilege. They are all really talented people so it is a privilege to work with
This feeling is also returned by those joining Vivienne, including fashion director Kim Hunt, who runs Modern Love with illustrator Sarah Arnett who has recently been commissioned by Dior Perfumes to create an artwork.
“We were really flattered to be asked by Vivienne, she has great taste and it’s a really great group,” agrees Kim.
“At Modern Love we do have a very strong fan base in Brighton and the surrounding area, due in part to when Sarah had her own brand.
“But I know people in London look to the open houses and hopefully the combination [with other exhibitors] will bring in new people as well.”
Describing Modern Love as ‘an artistic take on women’s clothing’ with inspiration, from ‘the people, places and things’ the duo come across, turned into prints by Sarah.
“I think there was a time when we thought we should tone down things, but we got over it,” she grins. “The name does sum us up very well.
“We want to be modern in our approach, and being digital is very modern, but we have a great love of nostalgia.”
Offsetting the ‘strong’ print, Modern Love focuses on ‘easy-to-wear’ designs such as the popular kimono-like dresses and is always happy to discuss bespoke ideas with customers.
The garments are produced in limited edition runs, so Kim and Sarah can respond to customers needs and continue to innovate,
which makes the open house a great opportunity for buyers.
But why else does Kim think the event appeals?
“Lets face it, we are nosy about other people’s homes,” she laughs. “The thing is there’s so much more joy in it.
“Too often shopping is about ticking off the list, while this is more in the spirit of it all.”
For more about Vivienne’s open house, 42 Hampstead Road, Brighton, BN1 5NG, visit www.fortytwobrighton.co.uk
Information about all of the Brighton and Hove’s Artists Open Houses, visit www.aoh.org.uk
Top image – Vivienne photographed by Paul Treadgold
November 28, 2014 Culture and Events