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BUSINESS: Throwing Open the Studio Doors
I have just taken part in my third Devon Open Studios Event and as always I found it an enjoyable time; though it is very strange to suddenly have lots of people looking around what is usually my domain! Most regions have some kind of art trail or open studios event for local artists and craftspeople to participate in. Some only last a weekend, others, like Devon Open Studios spans 3 weekends with 2 full weeks between. If you have been considering getting involved in your local event here are my top tips.
Work out where and how you would like to exhibit. If you have the room and it is practical it is great to host your event from this space. People like to see where artists work and they like to see works in progress/how you make your work. However, if you can’t host your event from home find a suitable local venue, cafes and bars can be great as they have a high foot fall. If you are worried about filling a space find another artist to exhibit with and then you can share the publicity and stewarding of your event.
Start publicising your event early; make posters and flyers and get them up around the local area, it is visitors from the neighbouring streets who come back year after year (and pop in for presents in between time too) so getting lots of local people to come is always beneficial. Also, you get to meet lots of your neighbours and soon know lots of people in your local community, which is always a good thing!
Try and get the press to cover you; if you are having any promotions, serving tea and cake, doing demonstrations, own a huge garden with nature trails or anything note-worthy then tell them! Think of your unique selling point, send photos and links. Most local papers cover arts events and if you give them the material they might well use it!
If it’s a long event pace yourself, can you work 7 days a week, or do you need a couple of days to do the shopping/leave the house/sort out the kids? If you do then make sure you don’t open every day so you have time to keep the rest of your life going and not get completely knackered from having your studio open all the time!
Don’t get too caught up on selling, remember all visitors can be useful word of mouth advertising and the important thing is that people know where you are. I always expect people to leave empty handed and then I am pleasantly surprised when people do buy something. It’s not all about on the day sales; people often come back to you later in the year or tell their friends, be free with your business cards and any other promotional material you use.
Make sure your space is clean, safe and uncluttered. Look around and get someone else to look for hazards (loose paving stones/wobbly railings and so on) as some people who come may have poor mobility or bring their children. People are responsible for their own safety, but you need to be aware of the health and safety issues in your workspace too.
Exhibit your best work and make sure it is all well presented. If you take commission work make sure you have photographs of previous commissions and explanations of how your craft processes work.
Be friendly and welcoming, even if it is 5 minutes before you are due to close! Give everyone a smile and engage them in conversation; I find asking who else they have visited and what they already know about your craft are good openers; as is asking if they live locally and finding other common ground. Remember you have decided to host this event and so it is your job to make visitors feel at home and like taking their time to look at your work.
Have a visitor’s book and don’t be afraid to have a box to tick for visitors to be added to a mailing list. People often like to know how your work is developing, when you are attending craft fairs or having exhibitions, so don’t be afraid to ask for info and then use it wisely.
Be clear on what parts of your studio/home are open and which are not! Cordon off or clearly label areas that our private and hopefully you won’t find anyone in your bedroom!
Finally, enjoy yourself, if you enjoy entertaining have a private view or closing party to celebrate with friends. One of the best things about open studio events is meeting interesting people so find out about your visitors, often they are experienced artists or people who are generally interested in the local art scene with things to share with you, engage with people and embrace having company in what can be a solitary space….it will all be over soon enough and you can return to just a cup of tea and the radio for company.