Visiting The Hearth Vintage Bazaar 13th and 14th April 2013.

I recently decided to volunteer for The Hearth, which comprises eight artist studios, a cafe and community hall, inside a restored early 17th century manse next to Horsley Village Church.

The Vintage Bazaar was the perfect time to meet with the resident artists and see the Hall in use. After a few hours chatting to artists, traders and volunteers I came away having met some lovely people, mentally bought a house full of vintage collectables, and planned a future trip all around Northumberland to visit some of the stall holders’ shops.

With organisers making sure yellow AA signs are in place the night before the event, even those of us venturing out of Newcastle city centre for the day had no trouble making our way to The Hearth.

Arriving a few hours before the Bazaar officially opened I decided to stay out of the way of the busy stall holders, and took the opportunity to grab a coffee before exploring the artists’ studios.  Inside The Hearth Cafe I met Alanna, the cafe manager, who was busy with last minute preparation but took a few minutes to tell me about the menu for the day, which already smelt delicious. A tasty sounding pea risotto caught my eye on the specials board, but as it was only 9:30am I figured it was a bit too early for that, so decided it was time for a cappuccino in the sunshine. The Café is open seven days a week, and Alanna ensures they work closely with all activities which take place at The Hearth.

Outside I found artist David Holliday, also grabbing a coffee before the visitors arrived. David specialises in watercolours and has a background in design and illustration. His paintings range from townscapes to wide open beaches, moody landscapes, puffins and pigeon houses. David has been involved with The Hearth since it began nine years ago, as well as running his own business and studio from there.  I also discovered that David’s dad is closely involved in the running of The Hearth, this sense of community is key, with Artists, Café staff, Trustees, Tenants, Volunteers and Administrators all working to create a village venue which provides access to artists’ workshops, live music, heritage talks and good food as well as offering a glimpse into the working environment of artists through the open studios.

The majority of studio holders are located in the main building, above the Cafe. Here I found Jill Stewart, Carol Robinson, Ruth Hicken, Cathy Duncan and Mandy Pattullo busy setting up their studios. Each artist welcomed me in, sharing information on their practice, the workshops they run and their experience of basing themselves inside The Hearth.  I could have spent hours exploring each artist’s space, from Carol’s hand dyed yarns, to drop spindles Ruth uses for workshops , the colourful metal jewellery in Jill’s display case, and then up into the two attic studios where intricate prints by Cathy and an Aladdin’s cave of textile and collage works from Mandy greeted visitors.

There are two further studios to the back of the Hall, where I found ceramic artists Melanie Hopwood and Sara Jane Palmer, as well as printmaker Rebecca Vincent who runs Horsley Printmakers. While the artist’s studios and practice differ, there was a similarity in the way this group talked about The Hearth and the artists they share the building with, there is a sense of pride and a desire to see the art centre thrive from all involved.

After meeting the artists inside the main building I walked across to the Hall where the stalls were now set up and visitors had already started to fill the space. Linda Mansfield Walton’s photography was on display in the entrance of the building, an extensive collection of work considering Linda recently suffered an injury which had seen her unable to photograph for the past few months. Beautiful images of nature hung on each wall with additional images laid on a table.  Linda was pleased to point out the vintage embroidered table cloth she had brought, a hand stitched piece belonging to her mother, in keeping with the vintage theme of the weekend. Inside the main Hall six separate stalls were showcasing everything from original Japanese kimonos, vintage found photographs and dolls clothes to jewellery and even gardening tools. One of my personal favourite finds was a copy of Ian Fleming’s Goldfinger, but I have a weakness for old books.

Wandering through the bazaar I was struck by the standard of sellers, it was a different experience to the student ‘vintage fairs’ I attended regularly while studying. The goods on sale were less about cheap ‘retro’ clothing, and more about items and collections gathered by specialists. Fiona Neilson’s stall caught my eye, as one of the first stalls and one of the most extensive collections, covering clothing, glass, ceramics, costume jewellery, books and photography. I learnt that Fiona runs her own shop at Kirkharle Courtyard, a collection of galleries, workshops, antique/vintage stores and restaurants in Northumberland. Kirkharle Courtyard is also home to The Capable Gardener, better known as Philipa, who informed me this was her third year trading at one of The Hearth’s fairs.  Philipa had brought a selection of UK made tools and gardening accessories, including sustainably sourced turned oak tools from Northumberland and beautiful aprons. She also sells locally grown plants and heritage seeds from her shop. We chatted about the link between antiques and vintage collectors and those who enjoyed gardening, both with encouraging elements of sustainability.

Other stall holders included Maureen Morano, a vintage textile collector, who has been sourcing items for almost 25 years, Albert Weir of Albert and The Lion based at The Antique Centre in Powdon, another Northumberland hidden gem, and Louise McClure who described her vintage collecting as a ‘hobby’, but had travelled from Harrogate to take part in the fair. Suzanne from Magpie Maison, a small craft and design studio in Durham, was also selling unusual decorative items, made from a variety of vintage treasures repurposed in the studio.  

Horsley Village Church also took part with lots of activity. Church members had grown seedlings of flowers with a spiritual meaning that were given away to visitors to grow. A charity, selling exotic print bags  successfully sold all their stock. An exhibition of creative and inventive recycled crafts was on display by the Hearth Art & Craft club and Fairtrade products were being sold

With almost 700 visitors over the two days this was another busy fair for The Hearth. Each resident artist has work for sale at The Hearth, and most of them also run workshops from the site. This accompanies a regular schedule of hires in the Hall, so the Open Studios events are only one of many activities which take place all year round.

It will be obvious to anyone who visits during one of these events that a lot of hard work and organisation goes into them. From the bunting and signage around the building to the appropriately chosen stall holders, the theme of the Vintage Bazaar was well thought through and was in fitting with the location and surroundings of Horsley. Having the opportunity to dip in and out of artists’ studios and chat to them inside their work space made it feel like residents of The Hearth were truly welcoming visitors into their community. The sunshine added something to the day and I left feeling like I had spent the day with some lovely people in a beautiful venue, very much looking forward to my next visit.


Sinéad Burke – Volunteer PR Officer


Images : Sinéad Burke 2013

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