December brings a smaller Artists’ Open House Festival to Brighton and Hove, with fifty-four houses and venues opening across the city this year to showcase the best in art and craft for Christmas. Browse hand-made presents, cards and decorations in peaceful surroundings away from the high street and be sure to find something very different for your Christmas 2012 gifts.
Many venues are selling refreshments, with mulled wine and mince pies joining the traditional summer tea, coffee and home made cake on offer, and winter sees many of the Victorian and Edwardian houses showing off their best features – welcoming fires burning in ornate fireplaces.
Most venues open Dec 1/2, 8/9 and 15/16, from 11.00 – 17.00, but do check the brochure carefully as opening dates and times are decided by the owners.
Saturday December 1
(Map and artist profiles at the AOH listings site)
2012 Beach Hut Advent Calendar
Tonight also sees the first opening of the 2012 Beach Hut Advent Calendar, a month long event. From 5.30-6.30 every evening in December one beach hut along Hove seafront per night will open its doors to reveal a festive display as part of a giant Advent Calendar. See www.beyondchurch.co.uk for more.
Saturday December 1
The start of Christmas proper and a flourish of Christmas fairs to visit on the way to our first winter open house; Bluebell Would [ venue 7]. A wealth of paintings, cards, glass mosaic mirrors, cosy hand knits, collages and decorations in this warm and welcoming house with, Martin Rolt’s moody seascapes and Fiona Hutchinson’s pretty silver shell jewellery standing out.
Then to Studio 106 , a mews shared studio space featuring the work of many artists each with their own quiet space to visit and enjoy. Particularly liked Grizelda’s topical cartoons which have featured in the Independent and Private Eye, and Maria Tribe’s accomplished paintings and prints.
Lastly to Villa LVI  with its fabulous Roman mosaic kitchen floor and a great display of hand-made glass. Most striking was the glass garden, glass flowers ‘growing’ out of a mossy table.
Sunday December 2nd
To Festive Fox , Joy Fox’s house on a hillside, with front door to the first floor then down to basement kitchen to the garden. Enjoyed the tweedy kilt-pin scarves and foxy buttons [English country style with a twist]; and Betty Bib’s intricate hand and machine embroidered landscapes.
 Milton House featured Hoity Toity vintage inspired jewellery – especially liked the Roman-looking earrings with twisted gold wires and tiny beads, and wall boxes with letters and dinky toy collages.
Then down under the viaduct to Glass in Fusion  at Beaconsfield Studios, Stephanie Else’s glass studio with handmade pieces, ranging from affordable little gifts and decorations to some stunning wall hangings and epic-size platters. My first buy here – a glass pendant with golden flower patterns. Just along the corridor is Caia Matheson’s painting studio – see the large scale misty green woodland canvasses in oils.
Finally today as darkness falls, up the road to 99  a beautifully presented house overflowing with gifts – very superior Christmas wreaths, handpainted miniature ceramics, woven silver jewellery and tapestry bags.
Saturday December 8th
Another foray into Hove today for first breakfast, then straight on to second breakfast at  Sunshine Books, Art and Coffee. This bright, family-friendly cafe near the seafront does exactly what it says on the tin, with a lively exhibition of mixed media collages, prints, paintings, Brighton photography and textiles. Particularly liked Helen Jewell’s purple leather silhouette raven brooch with a golden beak, Made by Mabel’s charming children’s knitwear and some gilded flower paintings [no sign of the artist’s name, sadly].
Then along to  9A Hove Place. The term ‘basement flat’ doesn’t do justice to this terrific venue, hosting a harmonious exhibition of ceramic and oil paintings from many artists which blend as if they were made to live together. Stormy atmospheric paintings by Dion Salvador Lloyd and Justin Weeks plus imposing sculptural and monochrome ceramics by Dan Kelly left a lasting impact. In complete contrast were Ian Gregory’s tempting little turquoise ceramic birds and Bailey Tomlin’s delicate peapod and flower brooches.
Finally today to  Albert Mews Studio. Usually a buzzing makers’ studio, it’s home to this collection of artist makers for the Christmas festival. Handprinted tights by Hose, ceramics and textiles printed with Brighton scenes by Martha Mitchell Design, Lizzielock’s 1920s cloche hats, Kysam’s witty little silver gifts including plectrums and chip forks and Anna Collete Hunt’s ceramic stag beetles with golden horns are just a few of the highlights.
Just noticed – a chance conversation with one of the  artists saved us from missing the New England House Christmas Open Show – unlike everywhere else they are not open at a weekend, but on Thursday 13th and Friday 14th December 12 – 8pm instead. Looking forward to this one, but can’t help thinking it’s likely some people will assume the only two days they are opening will be a weekend, and so will miss out.
Sunday December 9th
We began today at Olive Street Artists , a pristine house of ceramics, prints and textiles. Especially taken with Adam Regester’s one-man Artyadz studio producing small original paintings, bunting, ceramic buttons and hand knits, and the work of two very different jewellery designers – Annie McCabe’s Italianate flamework glass bead bracelets, earring and necklaces and Annette Street’s delicate Silvessence pieces.
Then to Bonnie and Clyde and Friends , a light, airy pastel pink and white house, for collage and print, scarves and jewellery displayed attractively over vintage books and screen prints with a strong Carmen Miranda vibe.
Be prepared for stairs, says Ed Kluz , and it’s up to a top floor 200-year old flat with bow windows overlooking the sea and Norfolk Square. This is a fascinating exhibition of Ed’s Brighton-inspired paintings, prints and collages, and especially his miniature scraperboard images. Particularly liked the Long Man of Wilmington and Vandalian Tower pictures. Ed is also currently exhibiting in London Past and Present at Potterton Books, 93 Lower Sloane Street [until 24th December 2012].
To Christmas Boutique  at Cross Street Workshop; a room where Jane Austen might have felt at home – wood panelled walls and marble fireplace a harmonious background for bunting, embroidery, mosaics, printed textiles and silver jewellery; just a few of the great selection of gifts to browse.
Then to Chapel Mews for two open studios, beginning with Borderline Studios , home to ceramicists and painters. Noticed Fay Green’s blue celadon bowl, Kathy Laird’s pretty ceramic Christmas tree stars and Mike Topham’s clever canvases using wire ‘drawings’ instead of pen.