Open Studios are great fun and run all over the world. Almost every town or region will have its own open studio event. Why not join one of the groups that organise them and meet some of your fans?
Is an Open Studio for you?
Holding an open studio event can be a fantastic experience. You are able to chat to people about your work, finally meet that person who's been emailing you about a piece, or find out what those social media friends really look like. You'll be able to show and tell about your work in person and cut out the gallery middle-man sales talk. People will enjoy talking to you, the artist, and ask you questions about how you created your pieces and what your inspiration was.
But it can also be a bit awkward: are you ok with people wandering into your private work area? Are you happy to answer strange questions and will you be alright to say no now and then?
To avoid disappointments, think about what you want out of your event. Are you after exposure, sales, or do you just want to share what you do with the locals? If you figure out first what you hope to gain from your Open Studio, you will avoid dissappointsments. And you will be able to adjust your display based on your goals.
Most open studios events are for a couple of days only. Some events run for longer and others are just for one day. Some cover a small urban area, allowing visitors to simply walk from venue to venue. In more rural areas visitors will drive from one place to the next. If you are very remote, consider joining forces with a fellow artist so visitors have even more reason to come.
Do realise that although it is great fun to do an open studio event, it is also a lot of work! There is a lot of preparation to do and hosting your event for multiple days can be very tiring.
Consider whether your studio space lends itself to visitors. If your studio is in the attic room of your family home and visitors will have to climb two flights of stairs to get there, it might not be very suitable. Consider whether your visitors will have to walk through private spaces to get to your studio. Have a think how an open studio will impact on your family and pets. Can they help out? Can they continue doing their own thing undisturbed? Will the dog bark at every visitor? Will the cat run off if the door is left open?
If you would like to do an open studio but your studio space is not suitable, then think about joining forces with a fellow artist who does have a suitable studio or hiring a venue like a village hall, library, cafe etc. Many organised events will have arrangements already in place with various local venues.
Some tips for setting up for your Open Studio Event
- Join a local Art Trail or Open Studio event as you can piggy back off their traffic and advertising. Do note that you will have to sign up, and probably pay a fee, 6-12 months beforehand.
- If you are considering going solo, without the support and network of an existing event, consider how many contacts you have that might come. Will you be able to get enough people to make it worthwhile?
- Once you have decided to go for it, start emailing your mailing list about it. Start early, 6 months beforehand, and tell them to save the date. Start telling them about what you will be showing, how much fun it will be, etc.
- Print flyers and posters and hand them out, hang them up in as many places as possible.
- Make regular posts on social media mentioning your event. Write to local press with a press release.
- Support the other artists in the event - their success will increase yours: together you can make the event as successful as possible.
- Put a self printed poster in your street side window
- Use photoshop or Canva to design your flyers and posters. Use the logo of the local event you have joined so it is clear for visitors what you are part of.
- Use a lot of signage - make it clear where people need to go. Especially if your studio is at home or feels 'private', make it overly clear visitors are welcome and it is ok to come in. Make a sign near the entrance door, next to an adjoining room; people will feel naturally shy.
- Make it clear from the roadside where you are. If you are allowed (check with organisers), even put some signs out around the corner of your street or some distance away from your studio. Point them to your studio and remember people might never have been in this area before.
- Make it clear whether visitors can walk through the front door, whether they need to ring the door bell, go round the back or open the gate.
- Make it a special event: use bunting, balloons, signage, posters, and whatever else you can think of to make it loud and clear that this is the place to be. Think about whether you want a festive party atmosphere, or a stylish arty white wall mood and adjust your decorations and signage.
- If you have neighbours do not play music that can be heard outside. Nobody should feel annoyed by your Open Studio.
- Put a looping slideshow of your work on a computer screen.
- Make a scrapbook memoboard from a recent event, like an exhibition
- Artist statement and CV: consider putting it on wall, using a arger print so multiple people can read it at the same time. It will also give visitors something to do while they visit and spend some more time in your space, or while they wait for you to finish talking to another visitor.
- Hang up some info on the wall about some of your projects, or anything else interesting. Make the visitor's visit as interesting as possible for them.
- Put private stuff away. I have had visitors pull books out of my book case. Others will assume it is all a shop and everything is up for grabs. There is always the risk of thieves.
- Others might feel they are in your private space and feel reluctant to even come in or touch anything. So make it clear and put away private or valuable things.
- Use fabrics, tablecloths to hang on walls, or over cubbpoards to hide mess, or to create a mood.
- Use easels, table easels, wall space, cupboards, shelves, whatever you can think of to show your art.
- Build simple tripod easels from pieces of wood if you don't have enough easels.
- Use an old door and hammer in some picture hooks
- Use old boxes or picturesque crates for prints or unframed stuff.
- Put out greeting cards in stylish boxes and drawers, use Pinterest for inspiration search for craft fair, greeting cards display etc.
Next week I'll write Open Studio Tips Part 2 with tips on selling, pricing, how to get visitors to come back and more! See you then!
Share your own Open Studio experiences and tips below!