Friday 3rd May
As ever, our festival began with a visit to previews at two well-established Hove Arts Open Houses, beginning with a champagne reception at Dion Salvador Lloyd . Lloyd, a self-taught artist, surrounds himself with his inspirations, the natural ephemera of skulls, antlers, shells and flints, their muted colours reflected in his home and his work. His paintings [perhaps storms, planets, oceans or heaths? – you decide] range from epic scale naturescapes to intriguing miniatures, or “smalls.” Stand-out piece: “Edgeland”
Then round to Kellie Miller’s  welcoming working Biscuit Studio tucked into Wilbury Grove mews; for cheese, wine and muffins and a private view of her latest work. We just missed the mayor’s visit. Particularly attractive were the 3D pieces, especially farm animals in tranquil porcelain fields, and “Follow your path”, an avenue of trees in oil and gesso.
Saturday 4th May
Staying with Hove Arts for now, after a rainy breakfast in Hove, our first visit was to a newcomer, 49a Hova Villas  to meet South African artist Andrew James Hofmeyr at home. A charming touch was the avenue of umbrellas suspended overhead leading us into his garden flat, which has perhaps one of the best garden features in town – the church next door.
Two very different styles to enjoy here, reminiscent of the best children’s book illustrations: first, the large scale paintings on mellowed recycled scaffolding board. Featuring domestic Brighton terraces, half-familiar landmarks and little glimpses into windows, the works are haunted by ever-present foxes and gulls. We share the city with wildlife and Hofmeyr’s work celebrates the connection.
At the other end of the scale, I also loved “Spring Fox”, an intricate black and white line drawing of a fox and ducks in the countryside.
After three individual artist showcases, next on to Collectors’ Selection , a great favourite. This effortlessly civilised and beautifully presented house is the home of some serious sculpture and a wealth of paintings.
To the conservatory and garden for the sculpture trail, where I found Olivia Ferrier’s rackety, raggedy black bronze ravens and wanted the whole flock of them. The ground floor features pleasures everywhere you look, especially Hazel Reeve’s white plaster head “Adam”. Then on and up for Diane Brandrett’s delicate window views and folding screen, and a celebration of the life and work of the late Cyril Mount. This house is consistently excellent, always a highlight.
Nearby is Polish and Pin , a house dedicated to reclaiming, re-imagining,and recreating works from re-cycled objects. The house is full to the brim with plenty to see and buy; I particularly noticed Anne French’s superhero contemporary decoupage furniture and Carola del Mes’ vintage teapots recreated as lamps and clocks.
Then to finish the Hove Arts morning, off to The Wolf at the Door , which has just had a new extension built. Destined to be the new kitchen, for the festival it’s a light airy gallery space. Highlights include owner Jill Tattersall’s handmade paper painting [I liked “Vitis Vinifera” very much] and Campoli & Nelson’s sinuous silver and bright glass pieces.
Later, over to Dyke Road Arts, kicking off at The Gloobaah House  and garden, for a wide variety of art and craft, especially Ember Vincent’s smoky raku bowls.
On to The Trojan House , hosted by artist Troy Ohlson. Her new pieces, including a quartet of bright acrylic landscapes, join her established wildlife work. I was very taken with two moonlit paintings; “Doves in Love”, a muted night time image and the striking “Midsummer Evening Hyde Park”. Guests include Howard Young, whose Maltese stone carving “Within” looked superb in the garden.
Then round to 56 Tivoli Crescent , the house on the side of a hill with two storeys invisible from the front. A room full of Chris Hill’s pastel acrylic Brighton scenes echoed the house’s fabulous views over the whole city.
Finally today to The Dog House , back after a year off. Rhoda Kay Baker’s sculptural white paperscapes, cut and folded hanging pieces catch the light and shade and Linda Calvert’s translucent white ceramic lamps inspired by wet sand on beaches caught the eye. Upstairs to the rooftop studio for cream teas [£3] before heading for home.
Sunday 5th May
A quieter day today, with a walk up to a new Dyke Road Arts house, The Holistic House . My first note was “Wow!” This house needs to be seen. Set rather further out from the main trail than the map would suggest, the whole house has a spiritual feeling and it’s worth the walk. The sculpture lawn drifts into surrounding woodland and is peopled with willowy figures by Ginger Gilmor. Then into the sitting room, a quiet haven for Hellen Morris-Clarke’s jewellery and live music. The hall hosts Gill Orsman’s photography, and bright embellished fantasy paintings by Claire Johnson. To finish, a smart kitchen complete with waitresses serves afternoon tea. [One small jam and cream scone and tea is £3. A thought … perhaps better not to serve the jam and cream on top of the paper napkin, though]
We took a leisurely long walk back, finding ourselves at The Cat House . Some serious steps and a welcome cold drink at the top, and into a mid-Victorian house [original-features and great-view hawks will appreciate this one]. Particularly liked Jill Christie’s blue -green ceramics collection, from sweet little egg separators and egg cups to big imposing vases.
And finally today to The Station Pub  virtually next door. A friendly corner of this sporty pub features Nigel Summers’ paintings, inspired by the Falmer Stadium.
Bank Holiday Monday 6th May
Firstly to established Independent The Claremont , a Victorian villa hotel and garden in Hove. Start at the top and walk down, visiting some of the bedrooms – and bathrooms – to see the work in place in attractive settings, and you’ll probably want to move in. I noted Stephanie Parker’s 3D illustrations, Carne Griffiths’ angel screen-prints plus work by established artists ceramicist Rowena Gilbert and painter Serena Sussex. The recently developed sunny garden featuring Karl Smith’s hefty driftwood bench is a great place to sit with tea and cake.
Picking up the smart little brochure on arrival for a full description of the artists and their work, I was disappointed to find quite a few of the rooms not open to view as they were occupied, and the room cleaning process was much in evidence. Not quite so sleek a presentation as usual today; perhaps a return visit to the Claremont is needed to hopefully access more of the work.
Hove Arts are all open today, so on to 2012 Best Open House-shortlisted Albert Mews Studio . A charming welcome and a cup of tea with Lizzie Lock, who is showing her vintage-look millinery. The 40s style printed hosiery, printed fashion, homewares and 3D seagulls are all created at this busy working studio.
Our last visit of the weekend was to Tessa Wolfe Murray and Guests , a very well established house. Upstairs to Tessa’s ceramics studio for her elegant galaxy-patterned vases, wall pieces and clocks, plus some tempting little gifts – I picked up one of her cards with an iridescent ceramic moon brooch today. The staircase features original work and prints by Harry Potter book cover artist Cliff Wright, including some captivating Rackham-inspired illustrations.
The end of a busy four-day weekend in May 2013. Next viewing on May 11th.
Image credit: Cliff Wright: Book cover illustration for Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets