HOW TO OPEN STUDIO #18: The Power of Connection and Community

First day of Art at the Source was so slow, I got this necklace made!











It really, really helps if money is not the only measure of your “success”.*

*Thank you forever, Alisha Vincent!

On the brink of the last weekend of our Sonoma County Art at the Source Open Studio Tour.

I posted on Facebook mentioning that my first weekend was rather slow, with a pic of a necklace I made during the lulls. Another participant shared their studio visitor numbers, which were higher than mine.

Here’s why that didn’t bother me at all:

First, numbers come and numbers go. The first two years I did an open studio in New Hampshire, no one came. (I was the only participant in my neck of the woods.) It was a little discouraging but my studio was clean, and I got a lot of new work done.

The third year, my studio was filled to the gills with visitors, and it never stopped until we left New Hampshire.

Second, an original founder and long-time AATS participant (30 years?) who’s well-known in these parts, and whose work is popular, said numbers come and go, rise and fall, over the years, and usually for no discernible reason. “I don’t worry about it,” she said. “It is what it is, and I’m comfortable with that.” Thank you, Sally Baker! (She’s a true grown-up.)

Third, though my numbers were low, those visitors were amazing, each and every one. One woman brought me a box of beautiful abalone shells!

My last point is one that just came to me today:

My visitors created their own in-house community, in my studio, during the tour!

Somehow, I ended up showing two visitors the lovely gift of abalone shells. They were so amazed, I ended up giving each of them one! It just felt like the right thing to do. They were delighted. I know they’ll be back someday.

One long-time fan came in, we had a nice chat, and she gave me an idea for one-on-one mentoring/tutoring with polymer clay. While she was still there, another long-time fan and her studio-mate came in. The three of them hit it off. I offered them comfy chairs, and they sat in a little circle and talked avidly for awhile. (It was still a slow day, people could get around them easily, and I was totally okay with that.) It was wonderful to see new friendships created, right there in front of me!

Another visitor talked about losing a sibling last year, and then the tears came. On impulse, I opened one of my storage drawers and gave them an older bear artifact.  Then I gave them a card with the bear’s story: “Be strong when things get hard. Listen more. Think slow. Love deep.”

(No, I don’t just hand out free stuff to people randomly. There’s just something inside me that says, “They need this….”)

It took me a few days to see what was happening.

These people all had at least one thing in common: They like my work. Some LOVE my work.

They felt safe enough in my sacred creative space to open their hearts, to my stories, to my work, to me. And also to others in that space.

It was amazing.

I’m still unwrapping that, figuring out why it affected me so deeply. But in the end, I can just say I’m glad this all happened.

Oh, I also made a few sales, enough to restock new supplies for my next projects.  Some weird questions got asked, some people weren’t interested and left quickly. Tomorrow’s going to be really really hot, and I don’t have any thoughts about what that will look like.

But I’m not worried.

I’ve already had my share of beautiful little miracles. And I’m grateful for them all.

It’s not always about numbers.

It’s not always about the money. 

It’s about using our creativity to bring out the best in ourselves, and in others. We are truly blessed to be able to do this with the work of our heart.





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.

7 thoughts on “HOW TO OPEN STUDIO #18: The Power of Connection and Community”

  1. At a craft fair a few years ago I sold one item, just one, all weekend; this made me the envy of neighbouring stallholders, who sold nothing despite being more experienced. Smallness to be grateful for.
    Another time a customer bought a piece that suited her perfectly, and brought her joy, although I’d only made the work to use up parts cluttering up my workbench. It feels like magic when that happens!
    And, of course, when you’re acting as a haven for strangers, the essential core of your story is working. You’re gathering your tribe.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Lee, beautifully expressed, and love the story about a single sale being a terrific measure of success. And yes, we never know what pieces of our work will speak to someone, nor why. That’s part of the mystery and wonder we experience from sharing our work with the world. Thank you for sharing your experiences and insights, they are terrific!


  2. So very pleased to see that I could reply to this email instead of the futile struggle to post a comment–I think I may have ONCE managed to navigate either my own computer fumble-fingers or else it was simply the Gods enjoying a good laugh at my expense.

    Either and/or whatever way I am grateful to be able to say to you: 

    Luann, you continually write worthy content that helps, heals, and inspires.  The key takeaway from this post was the COMMUNITY that others experienced–cherished!–you included, too, that the pandemic-isolation has illuminated vividly, about our culture…and the world’s lack-there-of, as well. sincerely,best regards,Diane Candle Firebird Diane Pool – P.O. Box 150, Dumaguete 6200, Negros Oriental, Philippines (cell: 09063187577) c/o 237 May St., Bishop, California 93514, U.S.A. 

    “Children not loved for who they are do not learn how to love themselves. Their growth is an exercise in pleasing others, not in expanding through experience.” 

    ~Marion Woodman~

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Diane, sometimes *I* can’t post comments, either! Not just you, and yes, so frustrating.
      I’m delighted you enjoyed this article, and honored you love my writing. The gifts of an open studio continue, and I’ll be sharing more insights in a few days. Today was jaw-droppingly synchronistic, too! Keep your comments and insight comin’, I love reading them, and thank you for persevering!


  3. I thoroughly agree with your observation that it is not always about the numbers of attendees, or the money we make, or the
    number of items we sell, or whatever other measure we use. Sometimes we are creating an opportunity for something magical to happen that we had no idea could or would happen! I just love that is the message.!.


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