LOCAL artists are putting the finishing touches to their work and preparing to welcome visitors during the 35th Oxfordshire Artweeks festival.

From tomorrow until Monday, May 25, everyone from casual onlookers to avid collectors can visit artists in their homes, studios and exhibition spaces free of charge.

A total of 403 venues will throw open their doors, with the first week focusing on North and West Oxfordshire, the second on Oxford and the third on South Oxfordshire.

A taster exhibition, Oxford’s Sea View, has been running at The Jam Factory in Park End Street this month. It features the work of multiple artists who take their inspiration from the seaside.

Arts manager Gena Johns, who arranged the exhibition, said: “There’s a good community feel in having all the artists come together at the same time.

“It’s important for them to be able to show their talent. Some people can’t always exhibit.

“The response from Artweeks is always really good. It gets more customers into the space. We have sold a piece this week.”

Her own work Caring About Banbury features 3D hand-cut collages of photos from Japan and Oxfordshire.

The surreal results, which explore her feelings about her Japanese heritage, will be on display until May 10.

Miss Johns added: “It’s nice to be involved on both sides.”

Festival guides have been distributed in their thousands to shops and other establishments around Oxfordshire. In Oxford alone there are 164 participating artists.

Among them is Rose Wallace, a ceramic sculptor who creates traditional Staffordshire Flatback figures from waste materials.

The East Oxford artist, based at Magdalen Road Studios, uses discarded plastic containers, recycling waste and other rubbish to make plaster cast moulds.

She said: “It takes about four hours to make a piece of work. It’s very labour-intensive – each piece is unique.

“It’s my sixth Oxfordshire Artweeks now. It’s great to meet the local public and a really good promotional tool.”

Similarly excited to meet visitors is photographer Ross Mackenzie, based in Headington, Oxford, and the Shetland Islands.

He is now readjusting to warmer climes after a period spent in the northernmost reaches of Scotland, where he collected a series of striking wildlife images.

Mr Mackenzie is a more frequent visitor to the Arctic and Antarctic, and images of polar bears will be available for sale alongside Scotland’s puffins and gannets.

He said: “I’m reducing my carbon footprint. My theme is always ‘remote and wild’ “The temptation is to think that you have to go on a plane and fly far away.

“I did Artweeks last year and it was a really rewarding experience to have people come in and look at the pictures. Climate change is an issue people ask about a lot.”

Schools, stately homes, back gardens and churches are among venues playing hosting exhibitions.

Most offer refreshments and the chance to purchase the artwork. All promise a unique experience.

Musician and potter Charlotte Storrs is looking forward to welcoming people to her garden studio in Culham, Abingdon, where she makes functional stoneware.

Banbury Cake:
Perfect fit: Kate Hopkins from Chipping Norton with a pair of her ceramic shoes

Her bowls, flowerpots and other creations have been sold at Fortnum & Mason and Liberty department stores in London.

She said: “I use a white glaze and ceramic rollers. I’m passionate about working on the wheel. I only throw on a wheel because it’s so much fun.

“I work in our garden, which is a very peaceful place. It’s absolutely superb at this time of year. My husband grows veg and we have a hydroponic greenhouse.

“There’s a lot to see.”

Meanwhile in Didcot, painter Robert Strange is celebrating after one of his creations was used for the front of the South Oxfordshire trail map.

Formerly an art teacher, he retired two years go to concentrate fully on his own work.

Lush green paintings of Oxfordshire landscapes form just some of his output. What Mr Strange is better known for are bright renderings of ties, cards, Christmas wrapping paper and other ephemera scrunched into boxes. His dice image graces the cover of the guidebook and hangs alongside others on the bridge by Oxford’s railway station.

He said: “They’re very popular. The paintings take about three to four hours but those drawings take up to 120 hours.

“I did Artweeks for the first time last year and it was very successful. It gave you confidence.

He added that Artweeks was about more than just the works on display, but about community: “You don’t realise there are people working down the street from you in their back bedrooms. You don’t realise these people are artists.”

For a full line-up and more information on May’s events, visit artweeks.org