North Tawton artist Ruth Helen Smith has set up a new social group to provide support and inspiration to artists in the area.
‘Red Mud Arts’ was officially opened at the beginning of September following Ruth’s hard work to get the group up and running in order to provide social, emotional and creative support for artists in the North Tawton area.
Ruth said: ‘It’s so important for artists to have community because it can be quite a lonely job. You don’t have colleagues and you don’t really have people to bounce ideas off.
‘Red Mud is essentially about bringing artists together to socialise and just see what happens, to be a bit of a support network and provide the opportunity for co-creating and collaboration.’
Ruth was inspired to set up the social group following her and her husband’s move from London to North Tawton where she discovered there was no such support network despite the large number of artists in the town.
During her time in London, Ruth had found support and inspiration by socialising with other artists and decided to establish an artistic community group to provide North Tawton artists with that same experience.
In the two weeks that the club has been up and running it has already proven to be a success with 50 people coming to the inaugural meeting and member artists on the hunt for a permanent meeting spot.
Ruth added: ‘We want to find a bit of a venue that’s going to be a bit of a performance arts hub. So, that would be really good.
‘We’re also going to try and pull information on local events together into one place to promote what we are doing because it’s really difficult to know what’s going on unless you trawl through the parish magazine or all the different Facebook groups.
‘We’re hoping to set up a website which will have all the events in chronological order so you can see what’s happening this weekend or whatever.’
Ruth has signed up to be part of this year’s Devon Open Studios which she also hopes will bring artists closer together. In fact, nine other artists in North Tawton alone have signed up to be part of the art event, which allows artists from across the county to open their studios to the general public and showcase their work.
North Tawton’s artists seem to be particularly talented and have caught the eye of the Devon Artist Network which sponsors the Open Studios event and the Emerging Artist and Joanna Radford bursaries.
Last year, Ruth won the Emerging Artist bursary award which has been awarded to another North Tawton artist this year: PJEJ Grey, who has also won the Joanna Radford bursary prize for excellence
With such a vibrantly creative community, Ruth and her fellow North Tawton artists have set up their own art trail for visitors to follow.
Ruth said: ‘It’s nice to have something that brings artists together to work on the same kind of thing. You can look at the Devon Open Studios catalogue and do the rounds and pick out the people you’re interested in.
‘It’s really amazing that there has been ten people here this year. Last year there were five of us and we got together and organised an art trail as part of the Open Studios – that was really nice. This year we managed to persuade another five people to join us and then I was, like, wow.
‘The amount and quality of artists who are just literally all local to here is just so completely inspiring. It’s really exciting and it’s great because then it inspires my work.’
Ruth runs her own gallery which is always open to visitors and other artists alike and has also set up extra space for art residencies in order to continue collaboration between artists outside the Devon Open Studios.
Ruth added: ‘The idea is that artists can come and stay and then use the gallery as a studio. We’ve had a few residencies which has been fun.
‘It’s all about connecting people and engaging people in the arts and connecting artists too so that there’s more interesting conversations happening – if you’re an artist on your own you end up just in your own little world.
‘The thing with the art residency is you’re then introducing people from further afield into the conversation locally which is really important for the cross-pollination of ideas and styles and disciplines. We’ve had a film-maker, painter and storyteller.’
Devon Open Studios runs from September 10-25 this year and is the annual flagship event of Devon Artist Network which provides creative opportunities for Devon artists.
During the Open Studios fortnight members of the public have the chance to speak with the artists themselves, whether they be potters, painters, jewellery makers or even wood workers, and see them in action.
North Tawton’s Open Studios artists include the Sculpture School, Celia Olsson, Janet Jarvis, Jo Purdue, Ruth Helen Smith, PJEJ Grey, Art Scribe, Dingle Forge, Rosie Brewer and Emmeline Webb.
For more information about Devon Open Studios visit www.devonopenstudios.co.uk or to join Red Mud Arts visit @redmudarts online.