HOW TO OPEN STUDIO: Introduction

When I stepped up to the plate with my art, I was an eager beaver student. I started with small local art fairs, but within a few years, I did the the wholesale fine craft show circuit (introducing my work to gallery owners, publications, etc.), then moved up to a large retail show (the League of New Hampshire Craftsmen’s Annual Fair, arguably the oldest art show in the nation), and then a few high-end shows.

I did years of shows before I did open studio events! But doing shows taught me a lot: How to display my work, how to price my work, how to greet customers, how to process sales, etc.

Within a few years of doing open studio tours, I dropped all my big shows (except for the Craftsmen’s Fair) and focused on those in-person studio visitors.

Over the years, I’ve learned a lot about this, too. This series will walk you through the basics, the fine points, what I’ve learned from other artists, what I’ve learned from seminars led by Bruce Baker, visitors, and loyal customers. (Yes, your customers can be fonts of wisdom, too!)

Now, most of us want to be “real artists”. What does that mean? Well, we need an art degree, a resume, a list of galleries that represent our work, a list of exhibitions we’ve participated in, a (e)mail list of customers, press releases and publications (books, magazines, newspapers, etc.) that have featured our work. Oh, and the awards we’ve won, and prices that reflect the popularity of our work. And a successful open studio event is one where we had a ton of sales.



Everything about those assumptions is wrong.

You do not need an art degree to be a “real artist”. (I don’t have one.) You don’t need a resume. (I had one, but I don’t maintain it anymore.) I still have some galleries back on the East Coast that carry my work, and I’m in several here in Sonoma County. (I hope to find more, but that’s not my main goal for now.) I’ve won awards, but I don’t care so much about winning anymore. I’ve been featured in newspapers, magazines, books, etc., but I don’t pursue that so much, either. The common advice I see everywhere about how to greet and engage customers has never worked for me. And the money? It’s ranged from pretty good to pretty dismal, as 9/ll, the recession of 2008, moving to the West Coast, etc. etc. have all taken their toll.

Ask me if I care. (You’re right! The answer is “nope”.)

The single most important thing a “real artist” can do is:

Make the work of their heart.

Tell their story.

Share their art with the world.

Money is great! But the truth is, not very many people make a living from their artwork/creative work. Yes, sometimes they’re not ‘doing it right’, but this is also a time in history where people in my age group (YES, BOOMERS!) are the biggest demographic in our country. (We probably outnumber our customers.)

And the research I did for a series of articles for Fine Art Views a few years ago, about why millennials don’t by our art, was truly educational for me. Tastes have changed, our collectors’ homes may be already filled with art (mine is!) younger folks may be just starting families, careers, etc. and not have the budget for our work, yadda yadda yadda ad nauseum.

So we may be competing for BUYERS.

But there is no limit on building our AUDIENCE.

And eventually, some folks in our audience will become buyers.

I tend to be wordy (ahem), but Tenae Stewart, who worked at Sebastopol Center for the Arts a few years ago, told me shared seven little words with me that summarized this entire series:

Art events aren’t about making money TODAY.

This has been my entire art career, in seven words. The reasons doing shows was hard is, my work is out of the box. (Some people even tell me to my face it’s not “real art”. Okay. But I don’t care.) It takes awhile for people to figure out what they’re looking at, why it calls to them.

Some people look, and walk away.

Others? They lean in.

And if don’t screw up my interactions with them, they will come back. They will bring a friend. They will sign up for my blog/newsletters. They will find something new and interesting every single time they come to my studio. Someday, they’ll buy a piece. And some people will keep on collecting our work, year after year.

And the biggest reason why open studios are such powerful audience-builders?

Because our studios, our sacred creative spaces, are where the magic happens.

As Bruce Baker said in a seminar years ago, “To regular people, artists are the ones who ran away to join the circus!”

We are outliers, out-of-the-box people. We took a risk to do what we do, not like taking a job where we know what we’re supposed to do, and getting a paycheck (and benefits) for it. We followed our dream, and made it real.

I believe we all have a creative force within us, but the magical myth of “real artists” still intrigues the rest of the world.

And for those people who didn’t find the encouragement to follow their heart, who don’t believe they’re ‘good enough’, who don’t think they have enough room to have a real maker space, who believe some people are simply born with talent and others (themselves!) aren’t….

Our studios can inspire them to take up their own creative journey.

If you want a head start before this series begins, check out my series on creating a successful booth environment in this series, GOOD BOOTHS GONE BAD.  Booths are harder for us than an open studio, because we have to get the parts together, schlep it across town (or, as I did, across the country), set it up, wait for people to find us, realize we left a critical thing back home, break it all down and pack it up, and schlep home again.

Open studios? It’s like getting your house ready for a party! A lot of work, but not nearly as hard as big shows.

So take a peek at that series, check in to see the latest posts, and if you have questions, send ’em to me! I’ll either let you know the anwers are coming, or I’ll write some new ones.

Either way, don’t panic. You got this. I’ve got your back

Stay tuned for my next article in this series!



Author: Luann Udell

I find it just as important to write about my art as to make it. I am fascinated by stories. You can tell when people are speaking their truth--their eyes light up, their voices become strong, their entire body posture becomes powerful and upright. I love it when people get to this place in their work, their relationships, their art. As I work from this powerful place in MY heart, I share this process with others--so they have a strong place to stand, too. Because the world needs our beautiful art. All of it we can make, as fast as we can! Whether it's a bowl, a painting, a song, a garden, a story, if it makes our world a better place, we need to do everything in our power to get it out there.

16 thoughts on “HOW TO OPEN STUDIO: Introduction”

  1. I can’t wait! Everything you said, I needed to hear today and it made want to go into my space and work on a piece in progress.
    Thank you for sharing your wisdom.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This is very cool even though I don’t have a studio, per se. It’s my living room. But what have you written here helps me focus, helps me too feel the possibility. I just got well kind of pushed into early semi retirement. You can tell how accepting I am! But actually it’s been a good thing. I’m really into art and music and now my life consists of art and music. I just attended a class yesterday through Berkelee School of music and I just started working on an ongoing art project in watercolor, my medium of choice. So even though I haven’t replied very often I do appreciate your experience, words and insights! Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Garry, I started a detailed reply to your wonderful comment, and then the Monday to-do-list kicked in. 🥴 Rest assured that a living room display can work, and I got distracted trying to find the article that actually mentioned me mentoring someone who had to set up in THEIR living room! In fact, it might appear this week, so check back soon. My goal is to get these out asap, so people don’t have to wait with ‘bated breath to get the insights and encouragement they might need. Thank you for following me, and I’m honored by your readership, and words. 🤗❤️


    2. Sorry to intrude, but I wanted to tell you about Devon Open Studios, which is a local Art / Craft ‘tour’ our local artists run every year. Some artists/craftspeople open their studios, some their homes, some show some of their work as a collective. Many have their work displayed in their home, and some only open by appointment.
      One day I want to participate myself 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you. There were a few phrases that spoke of a higher Truth here that literally made me choke up. In a good way. There are so many assumptions out there about what makes a “Real Artist” and we all get sooooo weary of the stereotypes. What works for one person; does not work for all. Funny how the effort of everyone telling everyone else how Art should be, is confining artists to the same boxes we are all trying so hard to climb out of. Your work and your boxes, in both a quiet and a loud good way, speak of this climbing, but with a spirit of contentedness within the effort. Thank you for your heart and your words.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Christi, your comment choke ME up a little! I’m so glad you shared this today, and I’m glad this article resonated with you. Thank for pointing out the irony of ‘artists having to fit into boxes”. I have a story about that! 😁 Lots more to come, and feel free to let others know about this series, too! ❤️❤️❤️


    1. Maria, I love that you love this, thank you! Yeah, I have a lot of out-of-the-box viewpoints, but they come from a place of encouraging others not to judge themselves by “fit in the box” standards. And hoping they know they are already doing it right. 🙂


  4. Thank you for this–and for all you write. I hope people considering AATS &/or AT will come upon this series. Your values, your voice, your welcome to each person’s creative spirit and art journey add so much to this vital story! Gratefully, Nicole Ours

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Nicole, I plan on sharing it with my mentor team and with mentees. And you are welcome to help spread the word, too. You have a lot of people who respect you and your ethics, and your encouraging them to explore this series will help a LOT! 🙂


  5. I’m excited for this series. I would love to have an open studio myself and I have a studio in my home. However, I have a basement studio and it’s very basementy… add to that it’s not very large and the space is packed to the gills with stuff. I’m like a rat in a maze myself and bordering on the edge of hoarding… sigh. So I’m looking forward to hearing the living room post, etc. from some of the comments.

    Also, I had to add that I’ve been accused just last month of not looking enough like an artist by a fellow artist! So the feeling of being a “real” artist is even questioned by our own. He didn’t mean it in a bad way, but I was kinda shocked by his statement. And yes, I did ask him what he thought a real artist looked like!

    I’ve been a silent lurker of your writings for a very long time but wanted to mention how much I get from your blog. Thank you for sharing all of your experiences.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Jaime, thank you for being a fan, and for sharing your concerns about your basement studio. I had a basement studio where the ceiling was so low, sometimes I banged my head, and I’m 5’5″ ! So I literally feel your pain. 🥴 Let me know if this series helps you get clarity, and how I can help. As for guy? OMG. I even checked your “about” page to see what was so “not an artist” and I’m still baffled. But I have thoughts. I’ll post some links to other posts that might help you frame this in a positive light. OH, and what did he say when you asked? 🤔

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The series has been great and I’ve gotten so many ideas for when I’m ready to take the leap and have an open studio, so thank you for that! As far as the “guy”… when I asked what he thought an artist should look like he kinda stammered, embarrassed probably that he had made the comment. But he did say well you don’t dress crazy or look wild. Hmmm… I still would like to see the picture he has in his head, ha ha. He’s a gentleman in his 70’s so there’s probably a lot of stereo-typing going on. He’s a woodcarver and didn’t consider himself an artist (and his pricing reflected that) which is sad really because his work was wonderful and he’s very much an artist.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Jaime, thanks for circling back, and that comment was hysterical. (Ironically, here’s the source of hysteria: And yes, also full of assumptions and also all the myths about who is a REAL artist. I did a whole series on those assumptions that only get in our way when we pursue our creative work. And how sad that he applies those same assumptions and myths to his own work. If/when you’re up for it, you can search for more articles like this one that ran in 2009.


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