Carla Watkins, Colchester commercial photographer, in Studio 19 | carlawatkins.com

Last weekend was my first Open Studios, with the whole building’s doors open to the public.

It only happens once a year, and it’s a wonderful chance to come and see artists at work, nose around our spaces and talk to us about our practice.

My studio, Studio 19, is home to three of my brands – both my photography businesses and also Mermaiding UK. So I was excited to pull it all together, and show people a sneak peek into the world of a multipod photographer.

It was an absolutely gorgeous weekend, with a steady stream of people through, and loads of fantastic conversations. I am exhausted but I had a blast!

Behind the scenes

If you couldn’t make it, here’s a little tour:

As you arrive you’ll see Stardust my carousel horse, and the big fine art print of Fran.

Stardust the carousel horse outside Studio 19 | carlawatkins.com

Then as you round the corner, there’s a display of all sorts of my work – left to right are some photos from Louise Rose Couture’s brand session, a selection of my pet photography (the top two are my Luna & Clover), some mermaids, some of my costume, steampunk & cosplay work, and my studio number, which is a collage of objects which are relevant to me.

The approach to Studio 19 | carlawatkins.com

Stepping inside, there’s a wall of signs & gizzets, including the Route 66 clock my Dad bought for me, permanently set to 5 o’clock – because it’s always 5 o’clock somewhere.

All three brand names are on the door.

The entrance to Studio 19 | carlawatkins.com

The prints are from my personal projects.

Mounted prints for sale | carlawatkins.com

Next to the door is a mermicorn which was a gift from Maddy, and my board of necklaces from Mermaiding UK.

Mermaiding UK necklace board in Studio 19 | carlawatkins.com

As you walk in, you can see more of my prints for sale, mermaid art (collaboration with Rhiannon Bull) on the wall, my bookshelf of props and practical bits for product photography, and mermaid things for sale – all the bits I usually take to pop up shops.

Studio 19 from the doorway | carlawatkins.com

The top of my props shelf also has some sentimental objects – a vintage camera, a shell clock which was a present from my Mum, and a helicopter which was a present from my Dad. Also an amazing scented candle and my beloved Harry Potter wand (it’s Sirius Black’s).

Props on a shelf in studio 19 | carlawatkins.com

Next up, directly opposite, is my costume wall – slightly untidy due to people looking through, but the tail wardrobe is on the left, boas & scarves and petticoats in the middle, and other costumes (pin up, fantasy, etc etc etc), on the right.

Costumes in Studio 19 | carlawatkins.com

My Finfolk tail was pinned to my dressing room divider – it was the only place big enough to hold it!

Finfolk tail in Studio 19 | carlawatkins.com

And finally, as you turn to leave, this is the view directly outside the door.

A mermaid tail and some prints of commercial photography work | carlawatkins.com

I had my props table out and my backdrop & lights all stacked away, so haven’t photographed those this time!

It was a fabulous weekend and I’m already looking forward to the next one!

Ardleigh Studios is based just outside Colchester, Essex, and is home to 34 studios and currently around 30 artists. I hope you enjoyed this peek behind the scenes of my multi-purpose working photography studio!