Last week I published my first article on holding an Open Studio. I have been doing open studios for about 10 years and I always enjoy them. They are a lot of work, but so much fun! I can only recommend to try it yourself. But to get the most out of your event, do keep some things in mind.
In part 1 of the Open Studio Tips I wrote about preparation, signage and how to set up your space. This time we’ll discuss selling and visitors.
Open Studio Tips
Keep them coming back
- Put a piece of paper and a pen down for people to sign up to your mailing list
- Have a guestbook to collect friendly comments, names and email addresses (make it clear to them they will be added to your mailing list if they leave an email address).
- Put out info about things you cannot show: exhibitions coming up, workshops, online courses, ebooks, etc.
- Have free postcards or business cards available.
- Have something for visitors to take home: postcards, little envelopes with something in it, favours.
- Use clear signage to say work is for sale.
- Decide whether to price each work individually or have a price list in a clear and obvious location, or perhaps let people ask for prices (they might not dare!)
- Do not undercut your galleries: don't sell your work for less than gallery prices, unless you (and your gallery) are happy with a special event discount offer.
- Make sure your galleries are happy with you doing this and discuss it with them if you think it necessary. Use the even to promote your gallery too!
- Consider having a special discount for the duration of the event only, or a special series of work at special prices.
- Decide whether you accept cheques, cards (card reader) etc.
- Have change ready and count it before you start. Count it afterwards to know how much you've earned.
- Decide whether to allow buyers to take their paintings with them there and then, or whether they can collect it after the Open Studio event (and you'll put a red dot on it). If they can take it there and then, have some wrapping available if needed. If they can collect afterwards, make it simple and easy for the customer: give them a few days and times that they can come in.
What to show: Pieces
- Show a fair range of your work: Not just your highest priced pieces or your lowest priced pieces.
- Guestimate what type of customer will visit your open studio: are they people who enjoy an art trail and go home with a postcard from each artist? Are they your loyal customers who might well buy one of your more expensive pieces? For me, art trails are about locals coming for a nose and I usually sell a lot of greeting cards or lower priced pieces. But I also have some people who will travel a long way just to come and see me. Make it worthwhile for them by showing some of your best work.
- Make a bargain corner?
- Expect your nosey neighbour to come but also that famous gallery owner or that enthusiastic collector. Make it look welcoming and professional.
- Think about whether you want the 'salon' effect with pieces from wall to ceiling showing a lot of your work, or whether your want the 'gallery' effect with each piece getting plenty of space to breathe.
Other things to show
- Print out the stories around projects - people will be interested and you might not always be available to tell them in person as you might be busy with another customer.
- Make it fun: hold a raffle, provide colouring-in plates for the children, bake some brownies.
Other things to think about
- Take photos of your setup so you can remember in future years what worked and what did not.
- Have a place where you can sit, where you can keep your notes, money etc. A little sales desk.
- Keep count of visitor numbers.
- Consider having some quiet music play in the background.
- Have third party liability insurance if required (if someone hurts themselves on your property and holds you responsible for the bill....).
- Be alert whether people want to chat or just look around. Don't sit in a corner and read a book as you'll come across as 'not to be disturbed'. Also, some people will be fascinated if you are painting in a corner as they would love to see you at work, but others will be reluctant to ask a question or buy something as they might not want to bother you.
- If you are expecting a lot of visitors, have an assistant to deal with sales.
- If you have a home studio, weigh up whether to advertise your home address on the internet, email and printed advertising.
- Expect visitors that know very little about art and might ask 'stupid' questions: remember to always be kind and patient. Some people will make unfriendly comments, just ignore it and keep going.
- If you don't feel safe by yourself, make sure you have a partner/assistant with you.
- Consider providing drinks and nibbles and some place to sit. If you do offer refreshments do realise you'll have dirty cups that will need washing/clearing. Make sure visitors can help themselves.
- Make sure you are available to be talked to. Don't let a single friendly visitor take up all your time and let other visitors wait.
- Don't run a space so big that you cannot oversee or control it by yourself. Keep it doable.
- Expect children, elderly or disabled people and keep their needs in mind.
- Highlight any uneven grounds, or unexpected steps up or down. Have chairs available for those who need them.
- Be yourself.
- Have some stories ready about your art work. Visitors will love to hear what the work is about, how it came about etc. But only share if they ask or show a genuine interest.
Have fun! It's your chance to set up your own little exhibition exactly the way you like it. You can create the whole experience for visitors, from the first moment they see your flyer or ad, to the moment they walk through the door. Think about how you want them to experience your art and your environment. It is your chance to talk to interested visitors, instead of letting gallery people doing it all for you. Many people will love the chance to be able to have a peek in an art studio - a most magical place to some!
Share your own Open Studio experiences and tips below!