Esther Lafferty looks ahead to May’s Oxfordshire Artweeks, when artists throw open their doors and invite us to look in

Ever wondered what the man next door gets up to in the old pig pen at the bottom of the garden? Or thought that he might be creating a Persian lustre of gold on ceramic jugs or chiselling wood into beautiful inlaid mirrors? Would it surprise you if the lady with the little dog and red wellies who walks past you at the bus stop each morning was a talented painter in disguise? How would you ever know?

Much of the visual art created in Oxfordshire is made to commission and goes to a life less ordinary further afield, whether that’s London, Canada or Australia, or even on to super-yachts (yes, really). It would be a shame if such creative talent was never on view to people in the local communities — and this is exactly why Oxfordshire Artweeks came into being more than 30 years ago. Artweeks is a countywide event where artists throw open their doors and invite everyone in to their homes and artist studios to show them the fruits of their labour.

Although Artweeks takes place in May, work behind the scenes is getting under way: the kilns are hotting up, the brushes are poised, and in the Artweeks office we’re already excited because, just as we export Oxfordshire art to far-flung places, so the world comes to us for Artweeks. Did you resolve to see the world but find your bank balance doesn’t match your ambition? You can do it all through the eyes of our artists who travel to exotic corners of the globe and bring them home — in oils, pastel, textiles….

This year we will all be able to travel America’s iconic Route 66 through the eyes of a Jericho photographer, navigate the waterlilies of the Botswanan Delta in Chadlington through a series of etchings, and explore Arctic waters with Burcot’s Frances Brann, who travels and paints aboard her 49-foot sailboat. It’s not only inspiration that floods in from abroad. We recently awarded the Mary Moser Award to a sculptor, Martin Smith, who creates human forms and organic shapes from rocks shipped in from Europe and Asia. Laughingly, he tells how he once had 10 tonnes of Rajasthan marble delivered to Headington by a lorry without a lifting arm, which he only realised was a problem when it pulled up on the driveway.

And I discovered, too, that stone carving isn’t an artistic pursuit for the faint-hearted: Martin’s sculptures vary widely in size and form, and can weigh as much as 120kg or more, so he’s a regular at the gym just to be able to move some of them! I bet you never imagined that as you waited for a turn at the bench press? To see Martin’s work visit or during Oxfordshire Artweeks at St Michael’s Church in Summertown.

If you’d like an exotic trip this weekend without leaving the county, Oxford’s Sarah Wiseman Gallery is currently showing abstract landscapes as diverse as the rain and cloud forests of Central America, and the California Big Sur.

And there’s no need to pack a passport!