Short story: Rearrange your work and your studio from time to time.
I told you I wasn’t done with this series!
In a Zoom meeting recently, another artist said they were freaking out a little about not having a lot of new work to exhibit for an upcoming open studio event.
I told them not to worry, and shared my favorite story about that:
I was (still am!) a juried and tenured member of a well-known, highly-respected art organization back in New Hampshire, the League of New Hampshire Craftsmen. For years, I participated in their annual fair, a ten-day show at a ski resort.
Landscapes change all the time in this area, and I never knew which tent, large or small, near the entrance or far away, or what place on the mountain, I would be assigned to. We had the option to request our favorite spot, but different factors prevailed, so we never knew for sure where we’d end up.
So every year, I was in a different tent, with a different terrain, and different neighbors. The hard part was, I never knew if my booth would be on a slant (ski resort!), in the front or back of a tent, etc. That was the downside.
The upside was, I learned over time what worked best for me and my multi-media work. And hidden gift: I often had to improvise how to set up and arrange my art display. (With jewelry, wall hangings, shrines and sculpture, I had to use walls, pedestals, and display cases.)
Why was this a hidden gift? My display never looked the same way, year to year. So every time someone entered my booth, it was “new” to them.
The proof this works?
I juried into the League with my fiber collage/free-style quilting work in the spring of 1997, I think. I brought one of my handmade artifacts, a horse, with me so they could examine my “buttons” and embellishments more closely.
The jury process took about 10 minutes (woot!) as I waited outside the jury room, and when I was asked back inside, not only had I been accepted, they encouraged me to come back to the next jury session in the fall. Because they all agreed that I should make jewelry with that horse. (I did, and I got in with jewelry, too.) (Thank you, jury team!)
About ten years in, one of my repeat customers/visitors came into my booth and exclaimed, “Wow! You’re making fiber work now! Fabulous!”
Er….as I said, I’d been exhibiting my fiber work for almost a decade! But my jewelry had caught their eye at first, and when they came into my booth, year after year, that is what they paid attention to.
Until that year, for that customer, when something was different–and the fiber work caught their eye.
It could have been a more colorful piece. Or the way the lighting was set up. Or it was hanging above something else that caught their attention. Or…who knows??
The point is, we think we see “everything” when we walk into a space, a booth, a store, etc. But we don’t. We see what catches our eye, and may follow a “narrow” visual path from one item to the next.
In fact, when a customer tells me they’re ready to buy something, but can’t make up their mind which something to buy, I ask them what was the first thing they saw, or touched, in my booth. They point to a piece. I tell them they should consider that piece. They protest that it was a random piece they “just happpened to see”.
I tell them this: Every single person who was intrigued enough to come into my booth, was attracted by something different.
No two people were drawn in by the same item.
Which means something signaled to the brain, “Whoa, let’s take a closer look at that!”
Yes, I have a major piece of work at the back of my booth, and at my booth entrance. Standard booth/show set-up procedure. But even so, what pulled people in, and what kept them engaged, was something that appealed to them.
So if you’re worried that you don’t have enough new work in your studio, consider this simple solution: Rearrange your work. If you’ve arranged your work by medium, try to arrange them by color, or theme, or style. Shift groupings around. Bring out older work. (Many customers love our older work! I have a story about that, too.) (Of course.)
It can be harder in our studio/workspace, because it has to actually work as our workspace. But consider small changes that can be easily restored after the open studio event. (I’m thinking I need to do this myself, so thank you, Katie Kruzic for sharing your worries this week!)
You may be surprised who may be excited about a “new piece” you’ve had on display for years.