Patchings Farm Art Centre (Calverton)
Member Name: 87degrees
Patchings Farm Art Centre (Calverton)
Advantages: Loads to see, huge variety in what it offers, good events
Disadvantages: Not great for non-artists
Patchings hosts various concerts and events through the year, including a Christmas market and a teddy bear fair. There have been several performance and dinner evenings done at Patchings by the Oxton Amateur Players (a local drama group) which compose of a short play, a three course meal and then another play. The events are usually good fun. They have a list up on their website of what they’re running and when so take a look and see if there’s something that interests you. The Christmas market is a great place to get gifts, since there’s a large collection of stalls with craft and hand-made items. The teddy bear fairs are good for young children or for collectors, but might not be so interesting to others.
~~~ The Festival ~~~
The best known and largest of the Patchings events is the festival, run every summer. The dates are also up on their website, I won’t specify this year’s because it will get out of date. It runs for four days, Thursday to Sunday, in June. There are large marquees in the grounds, split into sections such as jewellery, pottery, paper, woodwork, painting and so many more. The marquees contain stalls each with a different group or person demonstrating. Patchings try to get in people who will actually be showing how they do their craft, so you’ll see people weaving, painting, making pots or doing whatever it is they do. There’s also a large section devoted to art materials.
There are ‘celebratory artists’ who hold demonstrations or give talks, but there is always a limit number of spaces for these and tickets can sell out quickly, particularly on the Saturday and Sunday. The celebratory artists tend to be internationally respected so you’d be getting tips from people who are not only making a living from their art, they’re making a good living. For several years, Pollyanna Pickering gave talks. She’s a wildlife artist who travels the world. I don’t particularly like her paintings, but her talks are wonderfully entertaining.
The Festival is huge, but in fine weather it can get very crowded, especially on the weekend. I’ve never known them sell out of tickets, so you should be able to come on the day and buy them at the gate. But, if you plan on bringing a lot of friends or organising a group, it’s better to book in advance. There’s also a special offer on group bookings. Last year (2005), it was buy ten tickets and get an eleventh free. It’s usually that or something similar. They also like to know how many large groups are coming because it means they know how much space to set aside for coaches in the car park.
I’d really recommend coming to the Festival. It’s a lot of fun and a great place to pick up gifts or get interested in a new hobby. If you live nearby, I’d suggest not booking your tickets, that way you can pick whichever day looks to have the best weather. There are loads of people who come from all over the country for the Festival, both demonstrators and visitors, and it seems to get bigger every year.
~~~The Centre’s Facilities~~~
This is a nice restaurant built in, as the name might suggest, a converted barn. It has table service offering full meals or light snacks, open from 9.00am to 10.30pm. There are a few outside tables and a small area with sofas and armchairs.
I’ve never had a main meal here, but the homemade cakes are gorgeous. I’d highly recommend the lemon drizzle cake and the Patchings flapjacks are better than any others I’ve tried. The food is cooked on site and Patchings have won awards for hygiene. There are no additives or preservatives and they cater for special dietary needs.
One of the two main art galleries. This one hosts exhibitions of pictures. Most exhibitions last a little over a month, though a few go on a bit longer. There are some exhibitions by an individual artist, such as Ann Blockley or Alistair Butt, or by large groups or organisations. The gallery has hosted exhibitions by the Royal Institute of Oil Painters and the Colour Pencil Society. These exhibitions are good because there’s a wide range of styles to look at, so there should be something to everyone’s taste.
Once a year, Patchings hosts the Artist and Leisure Painter Competition. This competition is run by two popular art magazines and is open to amateur painters. Don’t misunderstand this; the competitions entries are far from being low standard. A large number of pictures in various media, on various subjects, in various styles are exhibited in the Barn Gallery and the Crew Yard Gallery. There are always a large number of entries, so the pictures go through one level of judging and then the best of them get hung in the galleries. Visitors can vote on which paintings they like and one competition prize is given to the artist whose painting received the most votes.
At the start of exhibition, Patchings tries to get the artist (or one of the artists in the case of group exhibitions) in to talk about their paintings or give demonstrations. If you want to see an exhibition, try to make it for the opening day because there’s a good chance you will get to talk to the artist.
The Barn Gallery is a lot smaller than most city art galleries, but Patchings makes up for it by having so much else on site. It’s also up a flight of stairs, so people with physical disabilities could struggle.
Patchings (at least at the time of writing) is short a member of staff to man the centre, so frequently the Barn Gallery is shut to allow the staff to work other areas. If you find this, just ask in the art materials shop and they’ll open up for you.
~Crew Yard Gallery~
This is the second of the galleries, but doesn’t display many pictures except during the Artist and Leisure Painter Competition. The Crew Yard Gallery shows sculptures, pottery or metalwork. It has a large selection of gift items, including jewellery, ornaments, stuffed toys and much more.
Having the galleries split like this means that visitors can look at what they’d prefer. This gallery is on the ground floor and so a lot more accessible than the Barn Gallery, but the whole centre is built on uneven ground, so if you’re unsteady on your feet you’ll need to be very careful.
~Art Materials Shop~
Exactly what you’d think from the name. It sells art materials. This includes paints and easels, notebooks and pads of paper, pastels and pencils… it sells a lot. But it doesn’t sell everything. They make a point to stock everything that might be required by people taking any of the Patchings courses, along with commonly purchased items. However, if you’re after something that’s a bit rarer, you could be disappointed.
If a few people ask for something that’s not in stock, it might well be added to the next order. But this isn’t a large shop. Unlike most city stores, even if an item is added to the list it probably won’t be ordered until the end of the month.
A place where they frame pictures. Most frames are made to order, but there are a few standard-sized photo frames. If you have a picture you want framing, it’s a very good place to go since they have wide range of wood and mountcard. The staff can recommend materials to go with a painting and are happy to discuss the available options.
However, if you’re looking for an interesting day out, this isn’t the best part of centre to visit, unless you have a liking for this area.
~ Pavilion ~
The Pavilion is used for large functions and is hired for birthday parties and wedding receptions, along with a few other events and celebrations. The Pavilion is a large wooden building with a private patio and a bar. A party in the Pavilion can include a meal, which could be a full three-course dinner, a sit-down buffet (with the possibility of starter and desert as well) or a finger buffet. The prices vary depending on what you’re ordering, but all the food is cooked on site. The menu is set beforehand, so everything is prepared fresh. Having done some part-time work in the kitchen here, I can say without doubt that they’re very strict about keeping the kitchen clean and hygienic.
Patchings doesn’t provide music or entertainment, but the owners do know a few people they can put you in touch with if you want a disco or something similar. There’s a lot of choice in a party here, not just the menu but also decorations, timing, welcome drinks, whether there is a bar tab, and so on. One disadvantage is, because the floor is a natural stone tile, the chairs often end up uneven and wobbling.
If you want to hire the Pavilion, the best person to speak to is Pat Wood, the wife of Chas, who deals with most of the details and runs the kitchen.
The Pavilion is also used for some art classes and member days. For the general visitor, it’s usually closed, except at the Festival when it’s one of the main refreshment areas.
~ Resident Artists ~
There are seven resident artist studios, though some have more than one displaying work in the studio. The artists are usually very happy to talk to visitors about their work. Unfortunately, though the centre is open seven days a week, the resident artists don’t have to stick to the same opening hours. Many don’t open their studios on a Sunday, or they could take a day off in the middle of the week. There’s usually several people there, definitely when there’s an event on, but if you’re coming to see a specific artist, you might want to phone up first and just check they’re in.
The resident artists are:
Joyce Dandridge. She does textiles, including rag rugs, embroidery and weaving.
Jo Lloyd. Another textiles artist, but this time specialising in rugs.
Mandy Severis. Textiles again. She specialises in silks, doing silk painting, machine embroidery, marbling and a variety of other techniques. I think her silk painting is especially good.
C & M Bearhugs. Handmade bears. As well as being able to look round the studio and buy bears, they offer courses on making teddy bears.
Ray Gannon School of Pottery and Ceramic Art. You should be able to guess from the name, but they deal with pottery and ceramics.
Gillian Woolley Swift. She is a painter who deals primarily in seascapes.
Tas Severis. Mandy’s husband and one of those people who seems able to do anything. He does work in pastel, oil and watercolour on a variety of subjects including landscapes, portraits, still lives. At one point he did a series of wonderful cloudscapes. Of the resident artists, I’d say he’d have to be my favourite because his studio contains such a range of work.
~ Bed and Breakfast ~
The bed and breakfast is used mainly by those who’ve been at parties or receptions in the Pavilion and don’t want the trouble of getting a taxi back home late at night but still want to drink. It’s nothing special, but it’s clean and gives a decent breakfast in the morning. I wouldn’t really recommend it though unless you’ve been up at the Pavilion, in which case it’s very convenient and there’s nowhere else nearby that is.
~ Grounds ~
The grounds are only open in July and August, but they’re pleasant to have a walk round on a sunny day. There’s a small lake with a Monet style bridge over it. The gardens aren’t much of a challenge if you’re into hiking, but they’re nice for a gentle stroll. The ground is pretty uneven, so people who have difficulty walking or disabilities might struggle.
~~~ Courses ~~~
The dates for the courses are all on the Patchings website. To sign on for any of them you can call the centre or, if you live nearby, stop into the Art Materials Shop, which is where the course lists are kept.
There is a selection of courses for beginners, improvers and continuation. The courses involve a series of lessons every week or every two weeks. The year is split into terms that basically follow the same dates as a school term, so you’d sign up for a course that would last for either the autumn, spring or summer term. There are also one day workshops if you don’t want to sign on for a whole term.
There are watercolour and pastel courses with Chas Wood and oil courses with Liz Wood. There are also classes that lead towards an A-Level in Art, though you can sing on for these courses without taking the exam at the end. Starting this year, there is a course offered in a variety of media with different tutors leading to a Patchings Diploma.
There are also classes run by the resident artists, including bear making and a very popular course on life drawing with Tas Severis. The life drawing offers a four week course, with a two hour session every two weeks.
~ Children’s Activities ~
These are very popular with kids. They’re also popular with parents who want a break during the school holidays. The courses are either two day courses in half terms or three day courses are in the Easter or summer holidays. They’re aimed for 8 to 16 years.
All materials are provided by the centre and the kids can be taught various subjects including pottery and watercolour. The children who apply are split into roughly age groups, so if friends are applying, you should say when you book that they want to be together. By splitting the groups, the classes are smaller so the kids get more help from the tutors.
There are also courses run for young people which are particularly aimed at those studying for an art GCSE.
~~~ Getting to Patchings ~~~
Patchings is in Nottinghamshire, and it takes between twenty minutes and half an hour to drive from the city. If you are coming from Nottingham, head towards Arnold and then on towards Calverton. Patchings is well signed in the Calverton area. There are maps available on their website.
The address is:
Patchings Art Centre,
~~~ Overall ~~~
If you are an artist or interested in art, I would recommend a trip to Patchings. However, I think it would be better to check their events calendar and visit on a day when something else is on. If you don’t have much of an interest in art, you probably wouldn’t find it particularly interesting and it would be somewhere to stop by briefly on your way somewhere else, rather than to be a destination in its own right.
I would however recommend the Patchings Festival to everyone. It’s a great day out with loads to see and do. It does get crowded on nice days, but that should tell you that I’m not the only one who thinks it’s well worth a visit.
Summary: Great place for artists to visit, not so good if you're not interested in art.