Open hearts, open minds…
Artist Amy Wright (AKA ScatterPoppy Studio) came to Peterborough from the North East of England in 2010. Since then, life has taken some unexpected turns, but involvement in Peterborough Artists’ Open Studios (PAOS) has become a mainstay and a constant. Here, Amy talks about membership of PAOS – a collective of local artists who open their studios to the public in June/July 2023, and present the Affordable Art Fair on 3 December – and how the local arts community, and art itself, have got her through the most difficult of times
How would you describe your work?
I would describe my art as quite eclectic – anything from abstract painting to watercolours to sculpture. But I mainly work with polymer clay. I’m self-taught. But my dad’s an artist – also self-taught – and I’ve got a family full of arty people: graphic designers, photographers, my Mam and my Nana sculpted within sugar craft, so I kind of grew up with it. It’s in my blood. Everything I know I learned from my Dad at a very early age.
Have you always made art?
It’s always been in my life. When I left school I stopped for a long time – you know, you get a job, the real world hits – but then I picked it up again. And that’s how I got into Open Studios as well.
In 2014, I lost my husband. I was only 30 at the time, and I’d only been in Peterborough for four years. We’d already gone out and met a few people on the art and crafts scene, and that’s how I met [local artist] Tony Nero – around 2011. And the year my husband died, Tony basically dragged me out of my house and took me around the studios. So, I picked up my art again after losing my husband, and it was a bit of a saving grace, to be honest. I was just a bit lost. I haven’t got family, here – my family are 200 miles away – so I needed something to call mine, to keep me going.
It took me about five years to get involved with PAOS as a member, then I did my first open studio in 2019. Then, obviously, COVID hit, so I didn’t do it for two years. And then I did it again this year, so 2023 will be my third year.
That first experience of having an open studio… what was that like?
Honestly, I was terrified! I still struggle to call myself an artist. It’s one of those things that I think a lot of artists will relate to, but the more people you meet, the more confidence you get. And the feedback I got that first time was amazing – people saying they’d never seen anybody do what I do locally, that it was really different – and I’ve been asked to do workshops and all sorts since. I’ve always wanted to be a part of an art scene, and there’s nothing like this up north where I’m from, so my dad’s quite jealous!
I keep on trying to develop artistically for my dad and my late husband, but it genuinely is my passion. And it’s like therapy for me. The important side of it for me is that you’re putting something out there that can resonate with somebody, that can bring a smile. If you sell a piece, that’s a bonus, but just to get that feedback and that positive energy from it is priceless. What I do is a piece of me and if I can pass that on and give someone joy from that, that’s the most important thing. That’s why I do it.
And you’ve recently got more actively involved with Peterborough Artists’ Open Studios…
Yes, I joined the committee this year. Peterborough Artists’ Open Studios has been going for 22 years, and I wanted to help keep it going. I know I wasn’t born here, but this is my hometown now. And this is the one thing that keeps me going. I think it’s just so important – it’s a massive community thing, and lots of people know it’s going on now, but many people still don’t. We just need to keep shouting!
How does being a member of PAOS help get the work out there?
As members, we get a free page on the PAOS website, so we get to advertise and update our work on there.
But the main event is the summer show. We do exhibitions for three weekends over the summer, where we essentially open our studios, a lot of us exhibit together in a shared space, and obviously we’re featured in the PAOS brochure every year which we do for Open Studios. But the important part is getting to meet people and talk to people – to make it real for them. So much stuff is online now I think it’s even more important to meet people face to face.
There’s also The Affordable Art Fair just before Christmas. Tell us about that…
That’s on Saturday 3 December at The Fleet in Fletton. It’s something we’ve done for about three or four years and we’ve got about 35 stalls this year. Basically, as many members as we can fit in a space put on a big fair for Christmas, selling their work! And we make it affordable; we cap the price for pieces, so in this show no piece will be more than £100.
Is it important to try to make art affordable?
Massively – especially now. It goes back to getting your art out there and making a difference for someone, making it possible for them to own a piece of art. Not many people can afford an original, because you pour your heart and soul into it and some pieces take hours, days or even weeks to complete. But making it affordable – by doing prints of your work and things like that – is really important. And I say that as an avid collector of local art as well. My walls are covered with pieces of art from so many different local artists; it’s become a bit of a hobby alongside my own art. The handmade
community is absolutely huge right now – things like Etsy and Folksy – and during COVID people were spending more time online, spending more money online, and I think through that people have realised how big the handmade and artistic community is. And although people have got less money to spend now they’re more inclined to support an artist or a smaller business. I do and I think it’s really important to support local arts and crafts.
We’ve [artists] also raised awareness of mental health in the past couple of years, which is absolutely brilliant, and with that comes the awareness of why artists do what they do, and how it can help. It’s certainly been my saving grace since I lost my husband.
It’s difficult online sometimes, because I think a lot of people are expecting that we can operate like Amazon do, but I think most people do appreciate the skill and the time and the effort that goes into these pieces. And for me, if something speaks to me, that’s something special. It’s a bit like falling in love, isn’t it?
What will people be seeing on your stall and in your studio?
I’m trying to concentrate more on my polymer clay work, rather than the more commercial pieces. The market kind of sucks you in, and you start to create for the market, but for me that takes the passion out of it a bit. So I want to get back to my roots, get back to my passion and create more meaningful pieces. I do mini figurines and sculptures – a bit like art toys or collectibles – and I have noticed I get a lot more interesting feedback from those things, that take more time than I spend on my more commercial bits. So, I’m going to try and focus on just putting something a bit different out there.
I’ve always got a million ideas swirling around my head…
Affordable Art Fair
11-4pm, 3 Dec, The Fleet, Fletton
FREE Admission & FREE Parking
PAOS 2023 Open Studios
24th/25th June, 1st/2nd/8th & 9th July
Various locations in and around the city