Reminiscing, I wanted to share a bit about how I turned my little front room and garden into a gallery; with great success - a few years ago - and offer thoughts for us visitors or for artists
Ten Tippety-Top Tips
1.The Big PushOpen Studios happens in several venues at the same time across the whole county.
My friend and I were lucky enough to live across the Green from each other, so there were two studios to check out in the same village.
You could check the Open Studios booklet and contact other artists nearby; suggesting that you could send visitors to each other’s studio.
Preparing little maps with the details people need to get to each venue can be very effective.
When planning studio visits, I definitely look for clusters on the maps or plan a round trip that takes in three or four venues.
2. ListmaniaUse your contacts list – and your hard copy address book (if you’re old fashioned and still use one, like me!) This is so obvious now, but takes a bit of thinking ahead – and an email address… Sounds daft, doesn’t it?
But the first time I did Open Studios I didn’t have a computer; never mind an email! Second time round, I did and it proved useful.
With FB, Twitter etc, etc. there’s no stopping you!
You could aim to send a simple, visual email one month before the event to alert everyone; then send more of a personal invitation again one week before and a reminder after the first weekend but before the last event – to those who may not have realised it happens more than once (you have to be open at least two weekends out of the four). There’s no harm in asking your contacts to forward your email invitation to their interested friends.Don’t forget to put all the relevant details into the message – and maybe a map or image of your house / studio. Also, a link to the Open Studios website could be good.
3. Hello – Do I ExistYou used to be sent a package with A3 posters and arrows and things. Later it was emailed for you to print out. It was good as it meant that there was a coherent ‘branding’ to the official Open Studios thing. I’m not sure if that still happens, but you could put some balloons out, make posters with arrows – or even have banners printed – as a friend is doing!
If your studio is down a long lane, hidden away – signs from the nearest ‘main’ road will be really helpful too.
4. Make It GreatIf you are lucky enough to live in a beautiful little village – as I did when doing open studios – then the venue sells itself in a way. People’s innate curiosity will draw them to you. You can serve tea and cake at certain times – or ‘Pimms and nibbles on the terrace at six o’clock – darling!’ Or hold a party over one of the weekends – as we did, guaranteeing lots of visitors!! Be sure to share - this information needs to get to your visitors. This way, they could take a break and stay longer – pondering your lovely artwork – picturing it on their walls at home! I made sales this way.
5. Space Man
My studio was my bedroom in those days – not really a good space to sell from! – So I cleared all but one of the sofas from the living room and even took the curtains down to give as much light and space to the walls. I hung textiles on the back of the door through to the rest of the house. I also utilised the outside as my garden was lovely and happily, so was the weather. I hung textile pieces from the washing line and made bamboo ‘frames’ up the path so that the artwork greeted you as you approached the cottage
6. Mmm Sweeties
Lots of families will probably come to visit. Keep the children happy… Bowls of sweeties strategically placed on high-ish works miracles. High-ish because you don’t want them ALL eaten in a flash! Little ones are engaged – leaving space and time for you to engage the parents with your artwork.
Oh, I find this SO hard to do! Well, not the chatting bit – but getting the ‘sell’ right. Do people want to hear all about how you make the work? Do they want to look in peace? I usually tried to welcome people and introduce myself and say a bit about my work and then say “If you have any queries at all, please do ask; meanwhile I shall leave you to have a look around” and back off a little. I made sure I had stuff to do – like put cards into cello bags or stitch up notebooks or clean glass and frames… Some music in the background was good too.
8. DetailsGet a visitors’ book and get people to write in it! It is useful to add to the contacts list and a good way to start or to prolong or even finish (!) a conversation. Plus - reassuring to read all those positive comments.
9. Onwards and UpwardsIt’s easy to let out a big sigh and flop after two, three or four full-on weekends – BUT – very important to have the next thing lined up and to be telling all those people who came to support you and like your work that there’s more to be had!
My friend Nikkie built up about fifteen or twenty loyal supporters and buyers of her work over several years of diligent promotion. If just ten or twelve of them turned up to each show and two or three bought; she was doing fine.
10. Have Fun
It is really hard work but – like everything - more fun gained for more effort put in. Everyone was really positive about my work; I sold work each weekend I was open. The locals from the village popped in as well as those from further afield. I found it useful to ask where visitors had come from and how easily they found me
Sorry about the funny white background bits in this post - can't get rid of them...