Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Getting the best of an Open Studios

This article was first published in "Frequency Magazine" – July 2009.

The Swindon Open Studios 2009 will be held over the weekend of September 12th and 13th (see and I am going to take part this year. Here are some ideas to get ready for the event and to make the most of it.

Open Studios are all about bringing the public and artists together. You have a unique opportunity to get immediate feedback on your work, to see what people like and don’t like. You can learn a lot just by watching how people react and by listening to their comments. People are curious about the way artists work, what technique, material and the process they use, and the story behind a particular work. One way to make their visit memorable is to give some demonstrations throughout the day.

Bea Menier's studio

Make your own promotion. Send an announcement to your mailing list early enough for people out of town. Send as many invitations as possible. Use your website, your blog or your newsletter to spread the word in advance. You should not rely only on the promotion done by the organisers.

On the day, before your first visitors arrive, take some photographs of your final set-up for use in your future promotion. Have at hand a few copies of your resume, artist statement, some business cards as well as copies of your newsletter if you publish one. Advertise your coming events (shows, workshops). You should also have a copy of your portfolio with the media coverage you received and photographs of your works.

Encourage visitors to leave comments and their contact details in your visitors’ book. Remember that, in accordance with privacy law, you need to ask for their permission in order to contact them later on, so make sure there is a clear notice to that effect. Another way to do this is to create in the visitors’ book a column headed “Address or email Address to keep me informed of further works / exhibitions”

Safety considerations: The first rule is to have at least one person with you at all time, so ask your friends or family to help you on the day. This way, you will be more relaxed when talking to your visitors and you will be able to take breaks from time to time. Areas off-limits should be clearly marked and valuables put away. Carry out a safety assessment in your studio: tape down any loose electrical lead; mark low doorways, steps and uneven pavement; lock away dangerous chemicals; etc.

Make it easy for your visitors: Your studio should be easy to find and visitors guided by the event signs. Is there sufficient parking space for your visitors? (it is a good idea to let your neighbours know… and to invite them at the same time). Wear a name tag with the word “Artist” underneath, so that visitors can find you. It is another way to encourage a dialogue.

If you wish to sell, label all your works with their title, medium and price. Visitors may be shy and won’t ask for the price of your work. Have some blank sales receipts ready, plenty of small change and a supply of “red dot” stickers for works that you have sold. If possible, have someone to handle the sales for you and carry money and checks around (avoid leaving cash in a box ready to be stolen). Make sure you get complete details from your buyers on the invoice in case of a problem and to keep your inventory of works up-to-date. It is best to mark the work that has been sold with a red dot and arrange for its delivery after the end of the Open Studios event, because this will keep your display intact and will show other visitors that your have sold some works.

Refreshment and simple snacks are optional, but a good way to keep visitors longer in your studio.

After the event, follow-up with your visitors, send some “Thank you” notes and update your mailing list with the new contacts you have collected. Take note of what went well and what did not and make some checklists for next time.

Open Studios are also a networking opportunity and it is good to visit other studios if you can. But above all: Have fun!

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