artists' open houses

How Artists Open Houses inspired one artist to turn her home into the work of art

We thought we’d speak with an artist who has been truly inspired by the AOH festival. Not only that, but The Ceramic House was also nominated for 2013’s Best Open House award. We caught up with Kay Aplin, the owner of the house, to find out more.

1.      Tell us a little bit about yourself and your work.

I specialise in architectural ceramics so in other words I make a lot of tiles! My background is in public art; I make commissions for the public realm using ceramics, mosaics, glass and occasionally concrete but predominantly my work is in ceramics. I’ve been doing this for the last 18 years since I graduated in 1995 and I’ve worked mainly in the UK, but also internationally, including Guatemala and Denmark. I moved to Brighton five years ago and that’s when I got involved with Artists Open Houses.

2.      Where do you get your inspiration?

Over the years I’ve been working on commissions for clients so there has always been a brief and quite often a theme attached and the work always responds to site. Nowadays the work is still inspired by place but I’m also very inspired by botanical themes and patterns in nature and architecture. I often take myself off up to The Downs and I’ll see a little flower or a blade of grass swaying in the wind that’ll just trigger something in me. I’m always busy taking photos of things I see and think are interesting– it happens now almost unconsciously!

3.      Tell us about the house! How did that idea come about?

When I first moved to Brighton, my neighbour was taking part in Artists Open Houses. I knew immediately that the house would be the main feature as that was how my mind worked back then; I didn’t make pieces for exhibition, I made permanent installations. That was ingrained in me, so I decided to use the house as my blank canvas.

4.      What made you initially decide to get involved with AOH?

When I first moved to Brighton I’d never heard of Artists Open Houses before – I didn’t even know much about Brighton Festival! But when I discovered it, I realised what a great opportunity it was. I’d be able to actually show my work in the flesh rather than people only being able to see photographs of work I’d installed into site, usually far away. I wanted people to be able to come and touch the work – to interact with it.

5.      What has kept you coming back to AOH year after year?

The main reason is that I love doing it! I love curating the shows and finding amazing artists to be a part of the experience.

I am also thrilled about the incredible feedback we’ve had from people and how encouraging all of the visitors are. As an artist you often end up working alone day in, day out so it’s really nice to be able to have that interaction and find out what people think. The experience of interacting with the people who come through the door is a fantastic part of Artists Open Houses. I really enjoy the experience and it’s just a nice thing to be involved in.

6.      What is your favourite part of the AOH experience?

Definitely curating the show; the process of looking for the artists, inviting them to participate, deciding where it all goes and what goes with what. I’ve got this opportunity to invite famous artists to exhibit!  Granted they don’t always say yes but when they do it’s amazing! Like Sandy Brown for example – she’s a big name in ceramics so I was really pleased when she said yes.

7.      In May 2013 your house won the ‘Best Open House Award’. How was that experience?

It was fantastic! We were secretly hoping we’d win as we’d been shortlisted the year before and the comments had been so encouraging. We also had 21 incredible artists in the house so we felt we’d delivered a high standard.

8.      What impact do you think being a part of Artists Open Houses has had on your career?

It’s massively helped to raise my profile; it’s put me on the Brighton map. There are a lot of artists in Brighton and when I arrived I was working nationally, so locally it’s been fantastic for helping to get my name out there. Beyond that, because of AOH I set up The Ceramic House website and as a result of that it’s helped to generate a new audience all over the world. I wouldn’t have built that website if I hadn’t have taken part in AOH. It’s helped raise the profile enormously - everywhere. And of course it’s led onto other ventures like the pop up restaurant and offering accommodation. It’s a great platform for artists and we definitely need to be encouraging more people to do it!

9.      What advice would you give to artists considering open their houses as part of AOH?

Be prepared for everyone trampling through your house! You definitely have to be the kind of person that’s alright with that. Also presentation is crucial so it’s worth spending the time presenting the pieces you are exhibiting really well.

Finally I’d say to always be welcoming. People want to be welcomed and have interaction with the artists – plus it makes it so much more of an enjoyable experience for you too!

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