I will be open from noon to 4 this Saturday, August 3.
I think there will be other artists in my building at 33Arts at 3840 Finley AVE (aka “The Barracks”, a former naval air base recently transformed into artist studios.) “First Saturday” is a monthly event, started with Studio Santa Rosa, the art studios in the building across the parking lot from us.
So you get two buildings full of art for the price of one! Er….the event is free, of course.
I have new work in jewelry, but I’m preparing to restock five galleries in New Hampshire (part of the League of NH Craftsmen’s network).
Come tell me if I’ve managed to provide a cohesive body of work for each one! Oh, and one pair of earrings is for my sister back in Michigan, so you can’t have those. (But I can always make you a similar pair.)
p.s. If you know someone who would like this article, pass it on!
p.p.s. If someone shared this article with you, and you enjoyed it, sign up for more like this here: https://luannudell.wordpress.com/
There are polite greetings, there are annoying meaningless greetings, and then there’s true engagement. You choose!
Recently my husband and I visited a chic little town north of us. A friend had mentioned some gorgeous galleries that might be a good fit for my work, and both of us wanted a pleasant road trip.
Things started out well, but ended….well, rather badly on several issues.
First, as we crossed a street, I tripped and fell on a complicated section of curb. (Very high and uneven curb, above an equally-uneven sort of culvert-shaped road edge.) I took a serious fall, wrenching my knee, straining my back, and smashing my glasses, which also gave me quite a headache.
We found a delightful hardware store nearby, and the clerk gave me excellent customer service. She walked me over to the glue section and helped me select the right glue to repair my glasses. It didn’t work, but I have no complaints, because she “met me where I was” and did her best to help me move forward.
We continued on to a beautiful gallery. By this time, I was really starting to feel the effects of the fall. I tried to focus on the artwork, but I was suffering. My back was spasming, my shoulder and knees hurt, my head and nose hurt.
The gallery attendant was busy and didn’t look up when we entered. That’s actually a good thing, giving people a minute to “land” once they walk into your booth, studio, or gallery space.
But what happened next was a travesty of good customer service.
They said, “How are you today?”
I was struck speechless. My bad. I wanted to say, “Fine, thank you!” But the reality of that fall was kicking in, and I was momentarily confused. I didn’t want to say, “Not well.” But mostly, I didn’t want to engage in small talk.
So I hesitated. And things went downhill from there.
The person seemed to take offense. They repeated the question again, louder. This was annoying. Because of this, I admit, I was unsure how to respond, and didn’t. (I was thinking, “Really? I have to take care of YOU?!”)
And while I gathered my wits and words to defuse the situation, they grew angrier still.
They threw their hands up in the air dramatically and snapped, “Fine! I get it! You’re on vacation and you don’t want to be bothered!”
Okay, that pissed me off. What an assumption to make on their part! And how not to win over a customer, on their part!
I politely said, “I apologize, I took a terrible fall on the sidewalk a little bit ago, and I’m in a lot of pain. I’m pretty distracted right now.”
Of course, they were embarrassed, and instantly apologized. But the damage was done.
Anyone who gets offended because a visitor doesn’t want to respond to empty greetings and conversation is not going to represent me or my artwork.
Anybody who leaps to conclusions about why someone is quiet, or reluctant to engage (what if I didn’t speak English?? What if I were hard of hearing? What if I had cognitive issues?), and anyone who responds in anger within ten seconds of this interaction, is simply not someone I want to have a conversation with.
And many of us do this all the time. We pressure people to engage in meaningless conversations, thinking we are doing it right.
Consider your visitors’ journey to see you. If you are doing a show, they may have wandered into a dozen or more, maybe even 50 or 100 booths before they get to yours.
And every single booth holder has greeted them with phrases like these:
“How are you today?”
“Nice weather today, isn’t it?”
“Are you enjoying the show?”
Or we jump into asking for too much information right off the bat:
“How many years have you been coming to this show?”
“How did you hear about this event?”
“I work with stoneware fired to cone 10 with copper oxide glaze.” (I have no idea if that even makes sense, which should tell you something. I collect a lot of pottery, and I don’t know, or care, about the conage or the glazage…. I just know if I find it beautiful or not, and if I can afford it.)
By the time our studio/booth visitors get to us, they are tired of talking about the weather, they want to wear a sign that says, “I’m fine, thank you”, and what they really want to hear about your pottery is, is it lead-free, and will it go in the oven.
What’s a better way to engage a visitor?
Don’t pressure them.
After a they take a few seconds to look around, and decide if they want to stay, you do a brief introduction of yourself, the setting, the work, etc. (“Brief” is the operative word here!)
When someone enters my booth or studio, I give them that moment to settle in, a quick hello if anything.
Then when they “collect themselves”, I say, “I’m Luann, and this is all my work, jewelry, wall hangings, sculptures. I make all the artifacts you see here that look like bone or ivory. It’s okay to touch the pieces, it’s okay to pick things up, and if you have any questions, I’m right here.”
Always. They have been acknowledged, they are not being forced into silly non-conversations, they have been given permission to relax and enjoy my space.
And so they dig in, and start looking.
Then I shut up and go back to work.
“Work” being relative term. I work on something simple I can pick up and set down at a second’s notice. I am “engaged”, but also “available”.
This is all I want to share today. There’s a lot more on how to proceed, when to talk, what to talk about, what not to talk about. There’s knowing that when people are ready to talk, they will ask a “stupid question” that may feel annoying to us, but is simply their way of saying, “It’s okay to talk to me now, and I want to know more about what you do!”
For example, if someone says, “How long does it take you to make that?” the worst answer you can give is, “It took me 30 years to make that!” (And saying it works because people laugh when you say it, is not understanding that people laugh when we embarrass them. Because you just made fun of their ignorance, and they KNOW that.)
So for today, think about a softer way to address visitors.
Something that doesn’t force a person in pain to put on a cheerful face. And doesn’t force them to apologize to YOU when you take offense, if they don’t.
Think of a simple greeting that doesn’t put them on the spot. An opening that doesn’t force them to respond, or engage. An introduction that allows them to explore your work, and to approach you confidently when they are ready to talk.
|Third Friday Open Studios (THIS Friday!) at Fulton Crossing! 5-8pm
1200 River Road, just west of the intersection of Fulton and River Roads (hence, “Fulton Crossing”. Hence!) About half a mile WEST from Exit 494 off 101, on the south side of River RD.
If you haven’t been to Fulton Crossing lately (or never), you are in for a wonderful surprise!
This large building complex has completely morphed into a spacious, light-filled art space. Three huge galleries feature the artwork of many area artists, and is also the new of of Becoming Independent. Over a dozen artists in nine studios create art ranging from paintings (landscapes, wildlife, still lifes, portraits), furniture, metal sculpture, art jewelry, art glass and ceramic work.
Fulton Crossing is a working metaphor, proof that not only does art transform lives, it transforms our exterior landscapes, too–literally!
Come visit us this Friday evening, from 5-8, for an art adventure. Bring your family! We’d love to see you! My little animal artifacts are child-friendly because, well, I have kids, too. And I know how important it is to show them what is possible in the world.
And if you miss us, the building is open to the public on weekends from 12-5, although fewer artists will be there.
So if you LOVE seeing artists in person, be there or be square! :^)
There are so many reasons why artists and other creative types should have open studios. You’d be surprised how many of them aren’t about the money.
Our big move to California last September upended a lot of things for both my husband and I. For me, I missed the League of NH Craftsmen’s Fair, which generates almost half my annual income for me. I’m also missing the FFAST open studio tour, and the Keene Art Tour, which I co-founded a few years ago.
I left without saying goodby to many lovely, loyal friends, collectors and patrons of my art.
And arrived in Santa Rosa where nobody knows my name. (OK, you folks in the back row saying, “Oh, WE know who you are, you smart aleck…”)
Today is the SOFA Art Walk, and my first really truly open studio, in my brand new space, filled to the brim with artwork, displays, and supplies.
I’ve been worried about the lack of traffic that usually happens down my little alley. I was worried about the massive construction project going on in the cafe around the corner from me, and the fact that Atlas Coffee won’t even be open this weekend. I’m worried my new visitors will suffer sticker shock. I’m worried about…..
Finally, my right brain kicks in. Just as reasonable as my left brain, too.
It doesn’t matter.
It doesn’t matter how many passers-by I attract to my studio today. Walk-ins were not how I grew my audience in Keene, NH.
It doesn’t matter that Atlas Coffee is closed. The owner has his own dreams, and his own audience. This is when the work had to be done (and you can already see how beautiful the improvements will be.) If anything, people will be just as interested to see the work-in-progress there, though we all miss their coffee. Depending on another small business nearby is not how I grew my audience in Keene.
It doesn’t matter that my prices may seem high. They’ve always been “high”, especially compared to big box stores and other small producers. Low prices and appealing to the masses is not how I grew my audience in Keene.
I think people grew to love my work for many reasons.
I’ve always wanted them to feel comfortable in my studio and in my booth. From the start, I’ve encouraged people to actually touch my work, pick up a little bear, or horse, or fish, and hold it.
I’ve always shared my stories, and my passion for my art. I did learn not to overwhelm people with my yakking (somewhat.) I let them browse, read, ponder. I let them really sink into the work, and wait for them to let me know they want to hear more.
I’ve (mostly) handled even rude and difficult customers (few and far between, thank, goodness!) with courtesy and patience.
I grew my customer base slowly, over the years, with these principles in mind.
And the same will happen here.
In my heart, I know it. As surely as I know, in my heart, that my work has a place in the world.
(And it helps that I also have a really great layaway plan!)
Today fellow artist Tina Siart Boylan and I put together our window for Keene Art Walk (which opens officially this Friday.) Tina is sharing my studio space for the Keene Art Tour, which also starts this weekend–Saturday and Sunday, May 3 & 4, from 10-5.
Tina’s art is different than mine. She paints lush florals, delicate treescapes and small robin’s nests with acrylics on canvas.
But the window came together beautifully.
I hope you’ll join both Tina and I at my studio at 271 Roxbury ST in Keene this Saturday and Sunday, May 3 & 4 from 10-5.
And you can enjoy our window for the entire week, through May 11.
You can read more about the process of window-sharing here.
Okay, I’m cheating a bit. This is a duplicate post from our Keene Art Tour website post for today.
Hey! I had to write
four five articles today. (Ack! I just remembered another one!) Something had to give!
Seriously, if you’re in the area, come on by. If you’re not, pass this on to someone who might like to visit. I can almost guarantee they will not be bored! :^D
Check out the little Keene Art Tour contest hosted by The Keene Sentinel–win a sweet little prize!
Also, a surprise for you… When we drew up our brochure and map, Robert Seaman had bowed out of the tour. When we found out why (he’d moved, and no longer had a public-accessible studio), why, we got him back on as fast as we could! Unfortunately, by the brochure was printed without him.
Bob is a congenial and talented artist, and we treasure his presence on our tour. So when you visit Luann Udell at Stop #7 on the tour, you’ll also see Bob Seaman and his beautiful paintings! (Inquiring minds will want to know where the heck Luann found room in her visually-dense studio for him….)
Stop in to meet both artists–both create many items well under $100 for your delight or for distinctive gifts for the holidays. Talk to Bob about his classes, browse through his prints and more affordable work, or take home an original work of art this weekend. Watch Luann make jewelry, perhaps even a piece made especially for you! (Also check out the prize mentioned above…)
And if you’re STILL not sure, take a virtual visit to Luann’s studio right now!
Oh, yeah! She has that Open Studio thing next weekend!
Yes! Yes, I do. And you’re invited!
I’m on the Fall Foliage Art Studio Tour (aka “FFAST”). Next weekend, Saturday and Sunday, October 12 and 13, from 10-5, here at 271 Roxbury ST in Keene NH. (1/2 mile east of downtown Keene, long tall white house with pillars, studio is in the big red barn at the end of the driveway.)
Come see new work: Refurbished antique box displays with art jewelry and sculpture. You can wear it, and you can display it, it looks GREAT either way.
In addition to the my usual work, I will have work for sale I don’t have at the League of NH Craftsmen’s Fair (aka “Sunapee Fair”)–monoprints, gemstone jewelry, vintage button jewelry.
I will demonstrate simple jewelry-making techniques. In fact, if you have a favorite piece of jewelry that’s broken or you’ve lost a favorite earring, bring in the survivor. Maybe I can turn it into a pendant or a bracelet for you.
I always have interesting snacks (rarely healthy, but I may have some carrots & stuff for you more disciplined folks.) And I always have coffee, hot cider, tea and W*I*N*E.
We are moving to California, hopefully before next winter. I can’t possibly move my entire studio. So there will also be some sale items, giveaways, odds and ends for sale. If we drink enough wine, who knows what I’ll be selling?? :^)
Come browse, hang out, chat while I work, eat, drink, the merry-making thing. Bring your friends! Bring your co-workers! Bring your family! Bring your dogs! (Wait. Don’t bring dogs.)
See…All my scissors in one place!
See….More beads and buttons that you’ve ever seen! See…A clean studio! (No fair peeking behind stuff or underneath stuff.)
Yes, Bunster is still with us. She’s not loose in the studio too more–she kept running into things. But you can still visit her in her big comfy cage and feed her Cheerios.
Hope you can come!
Last year, a fellow artist and I put on Keene’s very first open studio tour, the Keene Art Tour.
Few things in life are harder than getting a couple dozen artists together (figuratively), collecting checks (Paypal button next year!), gathering images and artist statements for the brochure (“Just take it from my website!”) and everything else entailed in creating a city-wide event. Fortunately, it was hugely successful, for visitors and artists alike.
The only thing harder?
Doing it again.
Artists forget how good the crowds were, how much they sold and how much fun they had. That’s normal. Artists, being human beings, are sort of hard-wired to only remember the hard work, the studio cleaning, and how much we hassled them for said images, statements and money.
I’m learning that as a show organizer, “getting an early start” this year really means, “Let’s spend longer trying to get the same components together as last year.” That’s a good lesson to learn.
Some of the cold feet-itis is understandable, too. The last few years have been hard for creative folks. Some have hunkered down, some have moved on, some have diversified, and others are in that awful stage known as “transition”–moving on from what we’ve done while not quite knowing what’s next. Change is hard, and rarely fun.
“I don’t have anything to sell!” says one artist. Another says, “The kind of work I do, I don’t have ‘things’ to sell. So why would I want to have an open studio??” “I don’t have any new work!” says another. “I might be busy that weekend. When do I have to let you know?” (The answer to this question, by the way, is “Two months ago.”)
So here’s my response to all these questions:
An Open Studio isn’t just about selling your work. It’s about telling your story.
It’s the strongest way to form a powerful connection not only with new customers, but also with current customers, your community, and with future artists. And it’s a way to revitalize your own connection with your art.
There’s one artist who does murals for public places. No ‘things’ to sell in their studio, so they don’t want to participate.
What a lost opportunity! Now, I have no desire to buy a mural. But I’ve always wondered what’s entailed. How did they get started doing this? How do they find out about proposals for public art, especially internationally? What is the design process like? Do they hire other people to help? How long does it take to paint a mural? What kind of paint do they use? How long does a mural last? Where is their work displayed? Do you get to travel a lot? What are the fun parts? What are the downsides? What the heck does their life LOOK like???
There’s a couple who are working on a graphic novel. No ‘art’ to show in their studio. People would be bored.
Really? I can think of a few dozen young artists who would give anything to know that that process looks like. How do you get started? Are you self-published or are you working with a publisher? What does that look like? Do you do the writing and the drawing, or do you collaborate? Is it possible to make a living doing this? Do you teach classes?
There’s an artist in transition who needs to sell their old work before they can can make new work. And they’re not very far along in the new work.
Artists go through transitions? Just like other people?? Is it hard? What made you stop making your old work? What would you like to do next? What do you think will stay the same, and what will change? What inspires you and sustains you through this difficult time?
There’s someone who has new galleries, and may not have any work available for sale.
Actually, this is one of the best problems to have. Do you have earlier work that you’ve kept? Do you have works in progress? And the finished pieces you’re ready to ship–can we just LOOK at them? If I want one, can I commission you to make one? There’s a waiting list?? Oh my gosh, I better get my order in NOW!
Meanwhile, in your horde of visitors (and everyone had hordes of visitors), there are people who wish they could do what you do. They want to meet the people who ran away to join the circus. You are actually in your studio, making incredible stuff every day–how fabulous! Be their art hero.
There are people in transition who need to know there’s a ‘there’ after ‘here right now.’ That perseverance and vision and hard work will get us through. Be their art hero.
There are people who hope someday to be in your shoes. There are artists-in-waiting who need to know that it’s possible to have that life, to make their own work, to carve out a place in the world for themselves. You are living proof that it can happen. Be their life hero.
There are all kinds of creative folks in a community, artists of all sorts who make this town a better, richer, more beautiful place to live. We do more than just fill art galleries or people’s homes with our work. We teach, inspire, enrich, model our values to our community. Be that community hero.
Open your work space, that incredible place where the magic happens, where your vision for your art becomes a reality. Let people see what your life looks like, for two precious days in November. Be that art hero.
Give yourself the gift of seeing yourself through other people’s eyes–the people who see you as creative, gifted, exciting, interesting, fortunate, blessed. Because we are. It’s easy to forget that in the slog of making our way in the world. Let our community help you remember.
Be your own hero.
And boy, is her studio clean!
Well, not clean, but neat. Yes, I’m finally ready for my Open Studio today (because I just looked at the clock and it’s after midnight!) Saturday and Sunday, October 6 & 7 from 10-5.
If you haven’t been to my open studios in the past, I hope you’ll stop by. It’s pretty informal here. I sit around making stuff for people, or showing them how to make something, while other people poke around in all my drawers, admire all the bones, shells, stones, antlers, dolls, fabric and sticks.
If you’ve been here before, you know the drill. Wander, peek, open drawers, touch, talk, eat, drink, be merry, talk, laugh, talk some more.
I have work for sale, of course, but it’s okay to just hang out and have a nice time. Have some cider, or coffee or tea, and munchies. Ask for the secret chocolate drawer! (Carrying on a proud tradition–KRISTEN!!) Oh, and the wine comes out when it’s 5:00 somewhere in the world! :^D
My artist friend Nicole is in her camper, parked on my lawn, with her work on display, too. And she's making cookies!!!
I have plenty of brochures if you're doing the entire Fall Foliage Art Studio Tour, so come grab your copy and git goin’!
P.S. THANK YOU for the people who pointed out my revisions added up to a lot of stuff being repeated. This is why we should not do brainy stuff at 3 a.m. !!!
“Ancient stories retold in modern artifacts:
Jewelry, sculpture, fiber works inspired by ancient and tribal art.”
271 Roxbury ST
Keene NH 03431
Just a quick announcement about the next opportunity for you to see my work…..
I’m part of the Fall Foliage Open Studio Tour (affectionately known as the FFAST tour), aptly named because it takes place during some of the most beautiful days here in New England. On Saturday and Sunday, October 6 & 7, I will open my studio to the public–YOU, dear reader.
There are two preview shows for this tour. One just finished up at the Jaffrey Civic Center in Jaffrey NH.
The other will run through the month of October at The Works Bakery on Main Street in Keene, NH.
And now I have to find my vacuum cleaner and dust cloths. And find a place to stash my 250 old wood boxes for my new series I’m working on. And make it look like I actually did use the dust cloths in here…!!!
So….Why should you visit an artist’s open studio?
Well….Years ago, it was how I found out I was an actual artist.
I stuck my head inside the door to ask a new housemate something. To my amazement, he had the same vast collection of beach pebbles, small animal bones, acorns, interesting sticks, sea shells, sea glass, bird’s nests, squashed rusty metal objects and other little doodads as I did.
He was a “real artist”–enrolled in art school, making cool stuff, etc. It slowly dawned on me…. maybe I wasn’t “crazy acorn-hoarding squirrel person”. Maybe….I was an artist, too! An artist-in-waiting, perhaps. An artist who hadn’t actually honored and made room for her creative spirit–yet. But an artist all the same.
It was the beginning of an incredible journey. And I’ve never forgotten that first moment, that shock of recognition, that foreshadowing of what I was supposed to do in this world.
Other reasons to visit an artist’s studio:
A chance to talk with someone who makes stuff.
A chance to snoop through drawers and bins and shelves. (You cannot believe all the drawers, bins and shelves I have in here, and what they hold.)
The opportunity to see work I can’t display or sell at the League of NH Craftsmen shops and Fair. (Hint: It involves PEARLS and semi-precious stones!)
The opportunity to watch me make stuff.
The chance to buy really cool stuff. Like jewelry, and wall art, and sculptures, maybe even a handmade print or two.
Wine and crackers and cheese. And maybe chocolate. Oh, and more wine. Cold cider. Or hot cider, depends on the day’s weather. Did I mention the wine?
And who knows? Maybe, as you exclaim (with astonishment, or dismay) at my immense collection of pebbles, sea glass, driftwood, elk antlers, moose antlers and deer antlers, buttons, bird’s nests and such, you, too, will have that same flash of insight….
Maybe I can be an artist, too!
This weekend is my last official Open Studio (unless people twist my arm about having one closer to Christmas.)
I’m part of the NH OPEN DOORS, a trail of sights, sites, bites and sound across New Hampshire.
I’ll be here Saturday and Sunder, November 5 & 6, from 10 to 5ish. If the lights are on in my studio, so am I.
If you haven’t seen them yet, I’ve posted new pics of my studio on Facebook, I’ve made an announcement on my website under ‘Events’ and I’ll be sending an email blast tonight or tomorrow.
And guess what I’m doing tonight?
Yep, you guessed it….
Cleaning the effin’ studio!!!
Sorry for the strong language, folks, but my gosh, how did it get so messy in here so quickly again?? Gremlins? Dust bunnies? No kids at home anymore, so I can’t blame them….
I know! I’ll blame the latest foster potcake puppy, Inca! He looks like butter wouldn’t melt in his mouth, but you can just see how mischievous he looks. And best of all, he can’t type to refute me if I pass the blame onto him.
The birds are back in my studio for the winter, so in addition to Bunster, a cat or two, and maybe the puppy and/or Tuck, you can listen to little birds screaming like tiny 2-year-old chimpanzees. Unless you feed them a cookie or two.
As always, light refreshments and beverages, good company, lots of interesting stuff to look at and pretty things to purchase. Start a wish list for Christmas, or treat yourself to your own present. Come by and hang out and tell me how you’re doing.
And if you see some dust or some beads on the floor, please just don’t say anything, okay?
People have been asking for pictures of my last Open Studio, so I published an album today. You can see it here
The next sunny day we have in Keene, NH, I’ll take more pics and add another album.
My next Open Studio is Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 6 & 7, 2011, as part of the statewide NH Open Doors event. Hope you can come, and til then….
Hey, it’s that time of year again!
Yes!! Time for me to clean my studio, because…..
October 8 & 9, Saturday and Sunday, is the
Fall Foliage Artist Studio Tour! (Affectionately known as FFAST)
10a.m. to 5p.m. daily
271 Roxbury ST in Keene NH
1/2 mile east from the downtown Central Square in Keene.
(It’s West ST to the west, Roxbury ST to the east)
Big tall skinny long white house with a great big red barn in back. Come on down to the barn, that’s where we’ll be.
I’ll be here with my good friend and talented colored pencil artist Nicole Caulfield. Below, you can see one of the drawings she was working on at last year’s event. Did I say she was talented? She is talented! She’ll be back with more of her beautiful work.
Yep, Nicole bakes cookies and draws and I…..I clean the studio. In fact, I may still be cleaning when you get here. (But don’t worry, I won’t ask you to help.)
We’ll have light refreshments (see cookies above). You can hang out, peek in drawers, watch Nicole work, watch me make earrings, eat, drink, and oh yes, buy stuff!
See Nicole’s wonderful art! See my award-winning mixed media necklace! See pearl jewelry, button jewelry, horse and bear and bird and otter and dog jewelry! See artistic mess! (It’s sooooo much more interesting than boring old house mess.)
We hope you can join us, but if not, would you please pass this on to a friend you think might enjoy this? After all–Autumn in New England, nice people, great art, wonderful jewelry, cookies and a bunny–what more could you ask for?!
Call, email or Facebook me with questions.
Making the Most of Your Open Studio
by Luann Udell on 10/14/2010 10:08:54 AM
With permission from Fine Art Views, the art blog I write for, I’m reprinting today’s blog post here on MY blog! :^)
This post is by Luann Udell, regular contributing author for FineArtViews. Luann also writes a column (“Craft Matters”) for The Crafts Report magazine (a monthly business resource for the crafts professional) where she explores the funnier side of her life in craft. She’s a double-juried member of the prestigious League of New Hampshire Craftsmen (fiber & art jewelry). Her work has appeared in books, magazines and newspapers across the country and she is a published writer. She’s blogged since 2002 about the business side–and the spiritual inside–of art. She says, “I share my experiences so you won’t have to make ALL the same mistakes I did.” You should submit an article and share your views as a guest author by clicking here.
I just finished a two-day open studio event, as part of a group that began a few years ago here in New Hampshire. I’ve done other open studios, on my own and as part of larger groups. This particular one is a good one to consider for what works and what doesn’t; we’re a small group (25 artists) and we’ve built it from scratch. It was our third tour and we finally started to see the results of all our hard work.
In the past two years, I felt fortunate if I made enough sales to meet expenses. I had to find other ways to value the experience beyond sales.
Of course, there’s the reward of having a clean studio. In the two weeks I deep-cleaned my space, I finally found all my scissors. And discovered I have not one, not two, but FOUR paper cutters. (Yes, I gave one away.)
I’ve come to appreciate the emotional rewards of hosting such an event. It can be a great way to thank current customers—they love an invitation to see you in your little world!
I discovered the joy of sharing my space with a compatible artist and friend. We tag-teamed the set-up, food and demonstrations. The good energy we created was palpable.
I found new collectors, and met more people who support what I’m doing. I reconnected with long-lost friends and made new ones. A small get-together is planned for like-minded stamp carvers. A defunct artist support group now plans to get back together.
There’s no single right way to have an open studio, of course, and some people prefer not to do them at all. Sometimes our galleries encourage these events, knowing that creating that relationship between artist and collector will benefit all concerned. And sometimes our galleries don’t like it at all.
Here are some thoughts on what worked for us and how to keep everybody happy. It’s not comprehensive, but it may give you insights on aspects of planning that are often overlooked.
Feel free to add your thoughts and share your experiences, too!
It takes time.
You might get lucky and have a stellar event your first time out. I did in years when money was flowing more freely. Nowadays, it can take time. Sometimes you just have to keep doing an event until it gains momentum. That seemed to be the case with our tour.
Piggy-back on another tour/event/holiday.
There’s another more established art tour in our area that runs on the same weekend. Some of their members were miffed we did ours the same time. Others were thrilled. They knew that more options generates more opportunities. Yes, some of their “frequent fliers” tried our tour this year—some of these visitors said they simply wanted to try something new. Next year, our “regulars” will surely try theirs. It’s win/win for everyone.
We also picked a popular regional holiday weekend (Columbus Day) which is perfect for enjoying the fall foliage in New England. People are out and about and looking for things to do. “What a beautiful vista…. Hey! There’s a sign for an art studio tour. Let’s go see some artists!”
Which brings us to…
Marketing is important.
Our signs brought a lot of people in. We had great advertising, too, and snagged some good publicity (free!) in the form of newspaper articles, too. But signs hammer the point home. My husband drove around the area that weekend for a rock climbing venture. He commented that he saw our signs everywhere!
We tried to save money by making our own signs. They are eclectic and fun. But they’re not holding up well and a good wind knocks them off their pinnings. We may end up having signs made commercially—more money, but also more durable. If local politicians running for office can have decent signs, we can, too!
Create a great brochure and an excellent map.
We’re lucky–one of our members had these skills. He designed a lovely brochure using the theme and the rich colors of autumn to tie us all together. It’s bold, bright and professional-looking. He found an extremely affordable online printer and we placed them in key locations all over the area. I heard many compliments about our brochure. It just made us look like we really knew what we were doing! (I’ve included images of it. Forgive my lack of photography skills with glossy paper…) (I forgot to show the map. Trust me, it’s there!)
Tip: Targeting your audience gives you the most bang for your buck. I do a big retail show a month before the tour. I gave every customer a brochure with their purchase and offered them to anyone who expressed a wish to see my studio. Each and every one was delighted with this “personal invitation”. And a lot of them came, too. (I was touched by the collectors who couldn’t come and called to let me know—just as if they’d been invited to a party!)
Work with your galleries.
Some artists have a local gallery that represents them. One particular gallery is not happy when artists sell directly to customers. They believe all sales should go through them. If this happens, try to work out a compromise that keeps everyone happy. One artist only shows and sells work for the open studio that is not in the gallery. This can be work from a different series that’s not compatible with the gallery’s client base, or smaller, lower-priced work (the gallery doesn’t carry her miniatures, for example) or even unframed pieces. They are also more willing to let her sell for very short term events, like our local Art Walk.
You’ll also be wise to never undersell your gallery. That’s almost guaranteed to lose you your place with them. Instead, try the different series/smaller pieces/work-they-don’t-want-to-carry approach.
If your protesting gallery is a major account for you, you might even consider offering them a commission on the work you sell during this event.
Create groups within each location.
Your current customers may feel fine coming to your studio already. New visitors will feel much more comfortable if you have more than one artists in your location. It’s just human nature—multiple options make people feel they’re sure to find something/someone they like! Artists who double up (or even three or four) in a studio consistently report more visitors and more sales than lone artists.
I shared my studio with my friend and fellow artist, Nicole Caulfield. Her work is excellent and appealing, and her personality is, too. We love each other’s work and that showed in the energy level here all weekend. People commented on how wonderful it felt in our space, over and over.
Grouping artists together also allows you to grow your artist list without expanding your tour. We wanted people to visit “all 25 artists” on our tour and created a contest to encourage that. In reality, it would be impossible for someone to do that in two days.
Some folks in our group are talking about limiting the number of artists for that reason. But you want new faces on the tour because…..
….People love the new. They want to see new artists, new work, new studios. I’m going to suggest to our group that we allow new artists to join a current participating artist in their studio for a year or two. That will allow us to grow our artist list slowly, without adding more stops for a few years. (We’ll be able to reuse our “studio number” signs for a couple years, too!)
Jury your artists (or at least know the quality of their work) for a consistent tour. But don’t worry about having only “proven sellers” on your tour. We have both big names and emerging artists on our tour. People love to see artists at all stages of their careers.
Create variety in your stable of artists, too. Some people get picky about what is “art” and what’s not. By adding a few woodworkers, a potter and a jewelry artist to the tour, we created more buzz for the tour and offered something for everyone. (Why do you think fine art museums have gift shops?)
Let your friends and current customers know. And use social media, too.
I used to do a full postcard mailing for these events. Last year, I finally created an email group for my customers, supporters and friends. A few weeks before the event, I did an email blast and a couple Facebook announcements. I added photos of my studio and images of new work.
I’m always astonished at the folks who can barely tolerate children in their booths or studio. It’s true, usually people with kids are too busy with the kids to actively shop. But it allows people to come who otherwise would have to hire a sitter. We found little things for kids to do and enjoy. Not only were parents and grandparents grateful, I think my friend lined up a few portrait commissions. (She captures children beautifully in her work.)
And tell yourself you are laying the groundwork for a future generation’s appreciation of art and craft.
Remember to have fun.
In our culture, where money is often the measure of our success, it’s good to remember that an open studio doesn’t have to be just about the sales. Yes, I want my work to sell. But I also value the relationships I have with my collectors. At my open studio, they are my guests. Treat your open studio as a way to thank your loyal supporters, consider sales the gravy, and you will never be disappointed.