Artists and craftmakers in North Wales open up their studios for Helfa Gelf Art Trail

By Ruth Hazard | 30 August 2012
Matt Sherratt in his studio© Helfa Gelf
Helfa Gelf Art Trail, Gwynedd, Conwy, Denbighshire, Flintshire and Wrexham Counties, throughout September 2012

Creating art can often be a lonely and isolating experience, especially if your studio happens to be situated in the rural valleys of a Welsh mountain range.

But follow the Helfa Gelf Art Trail and there's a chance to see inside the studios of over 300 artists and makers that are quietly working away in the mountain tracks and sea-side cul-de-sacs of North Wales, an area often overlooked when it comes to visual arts.

“Being part of Helfa Gelf makes you realise you are joined to a lot of other artists out there,” says Mandy Coates, a traditional and contemporary basket maker.

“We’re a very big, vibrant, local artistic community.”

Each weekend in September, members of this creative collective will open their studio doors to the public, offering visitors the chance to get amongst the paints, clay and saw dust to see how and where they work.

Mandy Coates basket making© Helfa Gelf
Many have been inspired by the local environment, using their rural surroundings as a source of inspiration for the methods they use and the forms they create.

Coates, for example, began her craft after meeting a basket maker at a festival 28 years ago.

“What appealed to me was the simplicity of the tools and the fact that she gathered all her materials from the countryside around her,” she says.

“So I came back and began to make things from gathered materials. Then I started to grow willow to get the different colours.”

It’s a similar story for sculptor Matt Sherratt, who recently moved to the Conwy Valley from London.

“In London, where I was taught ceramics, I was just one of many artists in my field,” he says.

“Up here, I have the freedom and space to create my own work and try out new techniques and finishes.”

A full range of art forms will feature at studios along the trail including drawing, felt, jewellery, painting, photography, printmaking, rag-rug making, sculpture, spinning, textiles and video making.

  • A free mini bus tour is visiting artists in rural Conwy on Saturday 15 September. To join email
  • To help to plan your free artistic adventure, The Art Trail Map is available at and includes information on studio locations, artist profiles, access information and opening times.

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