Eel Pie Island Open Studios: June & July 2017

As part of Richmond Council’s ArtHouse program, the artists of Eel Pie Island in Twickenham invite you to the summer Open Studios weekends on June 24-25 and July 1-2, 2017 (11am – 6pm).

This private island in the River Thames opens to the public only twice each year, so don’t miss the rare opportunity to experience its otherworldly atmosphere, peek inside the artists’ studios and perhaps purchase or commission a piece of artwork. 

Ann will have her latest collection of paintings, sculptures and furniture on display – some of which were exhibited in East London galleries this spring. If you’ve been following the story of the missing ducks, you’ll be interested to see the completed doll’s house now outside of her studio as well.

Alongside Ann, there are many other talented artists whose studios will be open to visit. Follow the trail past the colourful cottages and offices (Tech 21, the Love Shack, Blinkwater, The Lion Boathouse), past the Twickenham Rowing Club and through the metal doors of the shipyard.

Check the map you’ll receive when you cross the bridge over the river and wander around to see potters, painters, jewellery makers and other creatives. Many will be demonstrating their craft and will be happy to chat about their process and inspiration.

Between studio visits, there’s plenty to see: boats planted with flowers, mannequins playing dress-up, and many other oddities that give Eel Pie Island its particular charm.

Be sure to pop in and say hello to Ann, sign her guest book to receive newsletters and stay up to date with all of her exciting news this year and perhaps even catch a glimpse of Syd, the island cat who loves to hang out on Ann’s work table!

More information here.

Words and photos by Stephanie Sadler, Little Observationist.

Ducks and Chains and a Doll’s House: On Reactionary Creativity

Walk past Ann’s studio on an ordinary week and you’ll notice how colourful the exterior is, how there are trinkets and treasures hung from the windowsills and placed on every possible surface. It’s a scene for inspiration and curiosity and an important setting in which Ann’s creative work takes place.

Last week was not such an ordinary week.

If you walked past Ann’s studio last week, you would have found it stripped of its usual playfulness. In place of the bright children’s toys and patterned English china were long rusty coils of chains. They were dragged up from the island’s shipyard and draped heavily over tables, wound around a wooden duck and snaked across the blank pages of an open book. It was an unusual scene.

The beauty of Ann’s studio is that it’s a place for exchange: of kind words, of creative ideas, and very often, of things. People from the island and their visitors will come to give and ask permission to take those quirky knickknacks that give this place its character.

This open interaction with the local community of both artists and boat people is something that Ann welcomes with delight. And so it was with disappointment that she noticed two of her beloved wooden ducks were recently stolen without mention. She posted a polite message on a notice board asking for them to be returned, but unfortunately they were never brought back.

Instead of becoming upset or angry about the situation, she reacted creatively, as is her nature.

Re-designing the space around her studio with hefty chains and removing the colour is a perfect example of how one person’s actions can inspire another’s creativity. She was also pleased to find that someone else had then reacted to her own reaction by framing the notice board across from her studio with another chain.

Ann’s reactionary creativity then went beyond the chains. She reclaimed her studio by re-decorating the space once more with new items. The bright colours she so adores were back in the form of a magenta coloured mannequin stuffed with laminated maps of London, white-painted wooden fish poked through the spokes of a bicycle wheel and a vibrant yellow shoe hanging from the windowsill. She stuck a variety of vivid magnets on the studio wall featuring everything from Banksy’s street art to sea creatures to London icons. There is a table full of ducks, beneath each of which is a bright red sticker that says “This belongs to Ann Bubis.”

The most impressive addition, however, was of a doll’s house.

The door of the house is open, showing four rooms inside. To the inside of the door, the roof, the exterior of the house and each of the rooms, Ann has affixed various bits and pieces that were either gifted to her or found in charity shops.

There’s a lot to look at here with some re-occurring themes: ducks, food, music and ordinary household items. It appears that these could not easily be taken as they are glued on, but in reality, of course they could be, as could the entire house.

A selection: On the roof, there’s a little pink sewing machine, a fireplace with birds and a plant perched on top, a bird in a cage and a tiny doll in an orange dress. In one room, there’s a knife and a fork near a pie and a full-length mirror, a candelabra and a piano topped with a dancing mouse. In another, a blue porcelain duck takes centre stage, a river scene from a puzzle with missing pieces decorates one wall and a sink is tipped over in a corner. In a third room, there are more ducks: on a table and on top of another piano, an Eiffel Tower toy jutting from one wall and bathtub in the back corner. The fourth room has a small doll hanging upside-down from the ceiling at the front, another duck, a rocking chair and lounger in the middle and a grandfather clock resting on a bear’s head in a corner. On the outside, there’s all sorts of food and animals, a toilet with a teapot on the lid, a rocking horse, a guitar and a cassette player.

There are many stories.

Ultimately, this is a statement that what is on the outside is as important as what is on the inside – a message applicable to Ann’s studio space and perhaps the way we present ourselves or interact with others too.

Like all of Ann’s work, the transformation of her studio yard including the intricate doll’s house goes back to the storytelling that is woven through everything she does. “I make things for people to react to, to make up their own stories about,” she said. “My work is for other people to interpret. It’s not my story. People often like something I’ve created because it reminds them of something else in their own life.”

A few days after these photos were taken, additional items had vanished, including some of the magnets and the yellow shoe seen here. This time, Ann has decided to leave red stickers with big black question marks drawn on them in the places where the items once were. The story continues.

The doll’s house (still untouched at the time of writing) will be on display during the upcoming Open Studios events in June and July (details to follow).

Words and photos by Stephanie Sadler, Little Observationist.

Eel Pie Island Open Studios Weekend: December 10-11, 2016

The artists of Eel Pie Island in Twickenham welcome you to Open Studios weekend on December 10-11, 2016 (10:30am – 5:30pm).

Open Studios Weekend on Eel Pie Island: December 2016

It’s an invitation you won’t want to turn down.

There is nowhere in London quite as colourful or eccentric as Eel Pie Island. It was music that first made this community synonymous with creativity boasting names like John Mayall, Mick Jagger, Cyril Davies, Eric Clapton and David Bowie (among many others) as a part of its vibrant history. But in more recent decades, it’s the visual artists – the potters, sculptors, jewellery makers and painters who find their inspiration here.

Eel Pie Island

They hone their crafts in studios with background sounds from the working boatyard with which they share the island. These aren’t just any boring old studio buildings either; imagination is alive here and they are as quirky as they come. You’ll spot costumed mannequins, Buddha sculptures sitting among pots of plants, wax-dripped candles on crooked wooden tables and various other oddities during your time here.

Ann’s studio, for example, is the first you will see and its exterior changes almost daily. There may be teacups hanging below her window sill, perhaps a rusty piece of metal salvaged from the boatyard leaning against a wall and most likely ceramic duck sculptures or toys of some sort tucked into crevices.

Eel Pie Island - Ann Bubis Studio

For this one weekend in December, the 25+ artists on this usually private island will fling open their studio doors and let you take a peek at their work, their kilns, their tables full of paintbrushes and the inspiration that hangs on their walls.

Pop in to meet Ann who will have her paintings and sculptures along with many other pieces on display. She is always happy to make time for a chat. You might even come across Syd, the cat who loves to sleep among her artwork during Open Studios weekends.

"Poppy", 2012

Work from all artists is for sale and it’s the perfect time and place to pick out some Christmas gifts that you wouldn’t find anywhere else in this city. Plus, you’ll be supporting local artists and having an entertaining day out for yourself too. Be sure to bring a camera!

More information here.

An Artist’s Life on Eel Pie Island

Ann Bubis - Eel Pie Island Studio

Artist Ann Bubis pointed toward the middle of the narrow green footbridge as we walked over the muddy Thames. “From that point onward, everything changes,” she said.

Ann Bubis - Eel Pie Island Studio

And she was right. As the main pathway onto this private island in southwest London came into view, the chaos of city life vanished. We walked toward her studio, set alongside a working shipyard in the heart of Eel Pie Island. Trees stretched overhead. Birds squawked. Occasionally, a resident called hello or pulled a rattling trolley of art materials, but sounds were few and a welcome peacefulness set in.

Ann Bubis - Eel Pie Island Studio

“What I love about the island is that it’s a creative space full of harmony, happiness and positive energy,” Ann said.

Ann Bubis - Eel Pie Island Studio

The community on Eel Pie Island is composed of what Ann refers to as “Land People” – herself along with the other artists and local residents – and “Water People” – those whose time and work revolves around the river, whether they are rowing, fishing, building or maintaining their boats which, for many, are also home.

Ann Bubis - Eel Pie Island Studio

The mutual respect and admiration between them is obvious, even to an outsider. Everyone is willing to lend a helping hand when needed, stop for a brief chat before carrying on with their day or share their individual creative skills or inspiration and a word of encouragement.

Ann Bubis - Eel Pie Island Studio

Ann’s eccentric studio space itself is a great example of this. As we approached, I could see tea cups hanging from the window sill, a vintage orange telephone, boat parts she plans to turn into art and all sorts of duck trinkets. The islanders know this is a space for creative interaction and, as such, they may bring her something – a wooden horse toy, an old record, a scuba flipper – and take something in exchange. The space changes constantly, daily almost.

Ann Bubis - Eel Pie Island Studio

The island is also special because it offers something else this community values: privacy. Living in and among nature without the city’s tourists or even many friends visiting throughout the majority of the year allows for this and it contributes greatly to the sense of balance, positivity and support that is found here.

Ann Bubis - Eel Pie Island Studio

Ann often creates with the muffled sounds of a boatyard in the background: a metallic clang, some heavy materials being shifted from one place to another, drilling, shouting and laughter from the workers. Some days she will listen to classical music or a comedy show on the radio or the sound of insistent London rain pattering on the roof.

Ann Bubis - Eel Pie Island Studio

Inside, her studio is as colourful as it is outside, filled with surreal sculptures she creates with charity shop finds, pieces of furniture to be refurnished and topped with her signature mosaic stories, wonderful flowers on her worktable that are delivered weekly and inspire her intricate canvas paintings. Again, there are ducks hidden everywhere in every form, an inspiration to Ann and a symbol of nature and positivity.

Ann Bubis - Eel Pie Island Studio

Some time in November, the next Open Studios event will be organised – dates are still to be determined, so stay tuned – but if you stop by, you’ll see the ducks that Ann walks by every day gathering for food near the footbridge. You’ll have a glimpse into the lifestyle of this creative community. You might even be lucky enough to spot Syd the cat who loves to visit Ann on Open Studios weekends!

Ann Bubis - Eel Pie Island Studio

Words and photos by Stephanie Sadler, Little Observationist.