A personal reflection on 2010, Art under the Microscope as part of Cambridge Open Studios

Nectarine Skin at 20x magnification

Eleven am, I'm sat in a deck chair on the lawn awaiting the first visitors of the day to my Cambridge Open Studio - this was how my Saturdays and Sundays over the past three weeks began. How many visitors would come? And why?

This was the fourth year of my exhibiting with Cambridge Open Studios, where over 200 artists in Cambridgeshire open their doors to the general public over four weekends in July. In addition to the theme of new images through the microscope (see my images), there was also a play with 3D photos - esoteric I know, but this is the extreme end of communicating in pictures, print and person!

Visitors began to trickle in, 33 for weekend 1, then a flood of 52 in weekend 2 and finally 66 over weekend 3, 151 in total! This was amazing, twice the average of previous years, with a quarter being familiar faces from previous exhibitions.

What attracted the visitors? In conversation they revealed that more than half were intrigued by the microscopy images and the vibrant colours. They wanted to know how the pictures were taken and were amazed by the simplicity of the quick practical demonstration. Another major group were the photographers, artists, teachers (arts and science) and students who had a creative interest both in the subject and the techniques.

Once at the studio, the stereo-microscope was the other key attractant, with over 20 samples from around the home fascinating anyone over 5yrs of age. Visitors were also intrigued by the 3D pictures put up as a demonstration this year. Whilst less than a third of visitors could freely view the 3D pictures using "cross viewing", most fortunately could view the example with the help of mirrors.

I'd love to be able to say that picture sales reflected visitor numbers! Reality was slightly different in the current economic climate, though card sales went well.

So was it worth it? Most definitely!

Apart from the few people who wandered in - and straight out again, most visitors were interested, engaged and we had great conversations as much about them as the shared delight at the images on show. The artists and photographers discussed their interests, subjects and media; sharing ideas adds to existing artistic knowledge and skill. There were generous additions to my visitors book with many leaving contact details to be kept informed of future work.

An additional bonus was contribution to my CPD - as some visitors were willing models for my portrait photography practice (Link).

Cambridge Open Studios is a rewarding experience for artists looking for interaction with the public and I would thoroughly recommend taking part, whether as a member with the ability to set up an online portfolio on www.camopenstudios.co.uk or a participating studio in 2011.

Chris Thomas,,
helping you communicate in pictures, print and person. Interested? Get in touch with chris@miltoncontact.com