As artists prepare to welcome the world, Esther Lafferty, executive director of Oxfordshire Artweeks, says it’s a treat

It’s arrived: juicy, rich and plump and full of fresh art to explore and discover. I’m talking about the Oxfordshire Artweeks festival guides that appear each spring, as the flowers burst into life, equally enticing, colourful and full of promise!

April is a busy time for the county’s artists and designer-makers, as they spend these last few weeks preparing for Artweeks (May 2-25), when more than 400 venues across the county, from Banbury to Blewbury, Chipping Norton to Henley (including nearly 200 within the ring road) open their doors to welcome you into artists’ studios and pop-up gallery spaces in churches, homes, medieval barns and old stable blocks, and dozens of quirky interesting places.

This year, there’s even kinetic and sonic sculpture in a West Oxfordshire wind farm.

So what is it about an artist’s studio, the place where creation happens, that makes it so special and worthy of visiting? Why, 40 years after her death, does the St Ives studio, home and garden of Barbara Hepworth still draw nearly 50,000 visitors a year?

The artist’s studio is the equivalent of that fabled writer’s garret, a mythical space where great ideas and private reflection, the real and the imagined, are captured on canvas or in a design; where thought and talent, and often much meticulous activity, bring forth the marvellous, the unique or the unexpected. It is always a privilege to be allowed in, to see and understand the way an artist works, have a chance to see the tools and materials laid out.

Oxfordshire is a treasure trove of creative talent, often hidden in places with quaint names like Toot Baldon or Toker’s Green, or city loft studios and warehouse spaces you might walk past every day without any idea of the beauty and workmanship within. So, for three weeks in May, the county’s artists and designer-makers delight in opening their doors to you, to show what they make, much of which is created as commissions for far flung places which, otherwise, you’d never get the chance to see.

Enjoy a cup of tea and a slice of cake and, aside from being tempted by a striking picture for your wall, delicate silver earrings or ceramic sculpture for your garden, you can meet the maker and hear tell of their inspiration; whether travels, music, memories or more.

You can explore Venice in Sandford-on-Thames or spend a day at the races in the Chipping Norton studio of an equestrian artist; discover fossils in silverware or wooden bowls reminiscent of an ancient Greek discus; see intricate ceramic shoes, or watch sculpture emerge from a lump of rock. From oranges on the Festival Guide cover to recipe prints in Summertown, there’s something to tickle everyone’s tastebuds. So pick up a copy and ring the bell.