THE Eden Valley Artistic Network (EVAN) have, after due consideration, decided to go ahead with their September Open Studios event.

The group has said that, given the current Covid-19 situation, there will be changes to access and precautions.

The event will also only be taking place within the Eden District this year.

EVAN’s stated mission is to bring art and people together. It was formed as a 'friendly and inclusive' artistic network, embracing artists, organisations and venues based in the North Lakes, West Lakes and Eden Valley.

Its gallery space at Corney Square, Penrith provides a creative hub – a friendly environment for all artists, whether they are just starting their practice or are established creative professionals, to meet, connect and develop.

The space is intended to be somewhere art is created and artistic collaborations, from workshops and exhibitions to arts trails and the arts festival, are generated for everybody in the community to enjoy.

EVAN, along with other Cumbrian organisations, closed the gallery door earlier this year and cancelled forthcoming events, including the Spring Open Exhibition and May Open Studios & Art Trail.

Re-opening the gallery on June 16 has allowed members to see each other again as well as welcoming back the local community, albeit socially distanced and with reduced opening hours.

The September Open Studios will provide a further opportunity for art lovers to meet artists, see them working in their own working spaces, and purchase art - within the latest government guidelines.

EVAN ran its Spring Open Exhibition virtually, sharing online the work and creativity of painters, glass workers, ceramic artists, jewellers, textile artists, printmakers, and photographers.

The #VirtuallyEVAN hashtag also provided a platform for members' sales during lockdown.

EVAN members continued producing work throughout lockdown, many using the opportunity to experiment with techniques, revamp workspaces and websites, try different genres, or simply take inspiration from natural changes brought on by spring.

Lauren Frost, one of the network's members, has just graduated with a Glass and Ceramics degree from Sunderland University, but was unable to have her final degree show due to the Coronavirus pandemic.

However, the unusual circumstances of the pandemic compelled her to set up her own studio (far sooner than she had anticipated) back home in Penrith, where she first developed her love of ceramics.

“I first threw a pot when I was studying A Level Art at Ullswater Community College," she said.

"As a child, I remembered watching the potters working at Wetheriggs and I’d always wanted to learn the craft for myself. I spent many hours practising in the UCC art department and felt fortunate to be encouraged and supported by the staff there.

"After attending the Foundation Art course in Carlisle, and an evening class with local potter, Mary Chapplehow (an amazing teacher), I decided to specialise in ceramics at degree level. Just before the country went into lockdown, I received delivery of a potter’s wheel and a kiln. Using clay dug from my friend’s allotment, I continued to produce work and take inspiration from my surroundings.

"A love for the natural environment is a strong influence in my practice. I throw delicate vessels on a potter's wheel; sometimes functional and always decorative. Once fired, these vessels become a canvas, capturing a memory of a place.

"I am now working on a new ceramics collection, which I hope to exhibit as soon as the situation allows. I joined EVAN last summer and it has been a fantastic network to be part of.

"Despite a sudden return to Eden when my university campus closed, I felt included and supported by the EVAN artists. Finishing university and starting a career as a ceramicist during the Corona Virus pandemic has felt far less daunting.”

Another EVAN member, Haydn Morris, is an established landscape artist, working mainly in oils and watercolour.

He said: “During lockdown, I couldn’t take new work to the galleries or welcome visitors to my studio, as I love to do.

"You’d think, then, that I was free to do lots more painting than usual, but it was a strangely unsettling time at first. After a while, I began to explore the countryside around Ullswater, close to home, and found inspiration in a quieter-than-normal natural world.

"I soon got back into painting a series of watercolours of the emerging springtime and some larger oils. Now I’m working on a commission, for a client who discovered me on social media.

"EVAN has been a lifesaver during lockdown – a forum for networking with fellow artists in the district and an opportunity to show work ‘virtually’, while the EVAN Gallery in Penrith was closed. I’m very excited at the prospect of EVAN Open Studios in September.

"I value the opportunity to show people my work in the studio, where they can view a wide range of paintings and see how I work. It has been a surprise to me just how interested people are in my sketch books – perhaps because they can’t see them anywhere else!”

Chris Hurford pursued a degree course in ceramics after completing an art access course.

Her recent sketch studies look at the insect collections at both Tullie House Museum and the Natural History Museum.

She has exhibited locally at Wray Castle, Ashness Bridge, Carlisle Cathedral, Brantwood, Wreay village heritage centre, and each year, with other local artists, at Greystoke Church.

She says she was planning for an easier year in 2020, after a very busy 2019.

But now various plans are on hold and a piece of work, consisting of hundreds of white fragile porcelain leaves edged in black entitled 'When winter leaves fall in spring' has been started in response to these difficult times.

“Two friends died with the virus almost as soon as it hit this country," Ms Hurford said.

"I was shocked, and it brought home just how serious the pandemic was.

"The lockdown meant the diary was full of crossings out and it made me sit still instead of racing around. I made my work in clay but also had time to do more sketching, painting, and experimenting with things in the studio I had not touched for ages. Exploring the local area; the woods, lanes and moors has been good and given many ideas.

"For Open Studios I am planning to look at water again. Last September was good; people joined me by bridges along the River Eden. Some did nothing, others wrote pieces, made paper boats, photographed, or sketched.

"It was a very relaxing time and I thought a repeat would be good, this time at places around Ullswater. For six mornings during the event I have chosen places we can easily get to around the lake where we can easily stay apart.

"All are welcome and you do not have to show anyone the results if you don’t want to!”

EVAN said the decision to hold the September Open Studios forms part of the group's 'commitment to making the art of local artists accessible to everyone and connecting like-minded people'.

EVAN Open Studios takes place from September 7 to September 20.

A map of artist and studio locations will be available soon.

The EVAN Gallery, Corney Place, Penrith is open between Tuesdays and Saturdays 2-5pm, for the time being.

For further information, please email: