Part of Essex Summer of Art ENAS events

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In July 2019, over twenty studios in this idyllic setting opened their doors to offer an insight into the creative process, as well as the opportunity to participate.

Open Studios offered a chance for members of the public to see the amazing diversity of talent and skills that are nurtured here at Parndon Mill. In addition to the fine arts of painting and sculpture, these include craftwork in glass, textiles, calligraphy, guitar making, ceramics, jewellery, printing and metalwork. There was also an insight into architectural skills and the work of graphic and product designers. The artists, craftspeople and designers were available to talk about their work and to demonstrate their techniques. There were also many opportunities to “have a go” at some of the crafts; glass blowing was especially exciting and resulted in many visitors taking away a bauble or a vessel!

The exhibition in The Gallery, Homage, presented work by artists attending the painting and drawing sessions led by Roger Jeffs in the Project Space at Parndon Mill. These students had investigated, deconstructed, interpreted and reworked paintings by great artists of the past, creating a celebration of, and a thoughtful tribute to our shared art history. In addition to this, many of our artists had examples of their artworks exhibited in The Project Space. Hopefully this encouraged our visitors to make the trip to the top floor of the Mill! Also in the Project Space, it was a delight to hear Richard Ove Stokkereit playing one of David Rouse's classical guitars from time to time during the weekend. Around the corner by the back meadow, visitors had a chance to see examples of stone carving and stone lettering in action from visiting artists Anthony Lysycia and Simon Langsdale.

Outside the mill building on the island, Deana Kim Page's Art Play Tent was full of children of every age who were encouraged  to express themselves creatively with materials ranging from pencils to clay. Also nearby, Ewa Wawryzniak offered the chance for visitors to have a go at glass fusing, creating varied artworks from a choice of interesting materials. Alongside these activities there was plenty of space for visitors to enjoy a rest in the sunshine by the canal. Amongst them, the queues for the BBQ, Ghanaian cuisine and cake tent seemed to grow ever larger! 

It has been great to see Open Studios grow in popularity every year, and to have the opportunity to introduce our creative community to so many people. However, it is becoming increasingly apparent through events like this that Parndon Mill is something of a victim of its own success. This year, issues surrounding the Mill's water supply made the organisation and running of Opens Studios very difficult. Parndon Mill is not connected to mains water. It relies on an increasingly unreliable well that is not capable of supplying water for the needs of the amount of visitors that we received during the weekend, which this year reached over 800 people. We are very grateful to Harlow Fire Brigade, from whom we borrowed almost 3300 litres of water to increase our supply on site. However, it is becoming increasingly clear that this is not a sustainable solution to the problem, as it requires significant logistical planning and pressure. 

Due to the increasing pressures of Open Studios, the event will not be running in the summer of 2020.
Parndon Mill will still be welcoming participants to our large range of art classes that are held throughout the year. Last year we had an incredible 3700 student engagements, and the full list of our workshops can be found here. 

In 2019 Parndon Mill launched a Borehole Appeal in order to address our water issues. A solution to our lack of water is the drilling of a borehole; however, the estimated cost of this project is £20,000. To read more about the appeal, click here. To donate, please follow this link: Any amount you can give, no matter how small, will help us towards our goal to maintain Parndon Mill as Harlow’s creative oasis.

We would also like to take this opportunity to thank the few hundred kind people who filled in visitor experience questionnaires at Open Studios this year. This is crucial for Essex arts development, and also so helpful to us in delivering a better experience for the future. Responses to the event were overwhelmingly positive, and it was wonderful to see visitors relax by the canal after finishing the trail of over 20 different artist's studios. Here are just a few of the many comments that we have received over the years:

'This is the most inspirational place in Harlow.'
'Fantastic! Exciting and creative work happening so wonderful for the local community to be able to share it & be inspired.' 
'This is a wonderful day. The studios are beautiful and inspirational. My two children (4 & 7) were very interested. The artists and craftspeople all spoke to them with enthusiasm.'
'We've had a fantastic afternoon, looking at beautiful objects and speaking to very talented and friendly artists. Thank you!'
'Amazing diversity! We did not know you existed! An interesting 'venue' in its own right'
'Fantastic opportunity to experience the wealth of arts and creativity in your local area.'
'Excellent selection of creative arts & crafts. Hoping to join a few classes and workshops.'
'We love the opportunity to introduce the children to such a wide range of arts.'
'Beautiful setting. Important art and business base for local businesses, adding tremendous value to Harlow.'
'I liked the drawing tent' (Ben, aged 4). 'I liked doing the clay and the colouring' (Fred, aged 8).