I’ve come across lots of wisdom in my decades of making and selling my creative work. I still try to look at the advice given by other people, because you never know where a great insight or tip can come from.
Last week, I ordered a highly-tooted book called OPEN YOUR STUDIO: Nine Steps to A Successful Art Event by Melinda Cootsona. I was curious to explore what other artists thought was a terrific guide to staging our first open studio.
My opinion? 50/50 I give it a C+.
Here are the parts I thought were useful:
- Do NOT have a ‘sale’ section or a ‘bargain bin’. It detracts from the perceived value of our current work, and there are better ways to move older work on. (I agree!)
- Be consistent in your pricing. (YES!!) She offers some good pricing strategies, too. (But ONLY for 2D work.)
- She offers good suggestions for pricing 2D work with or without frames, a common conundrum in the 2D artworld.
- Let there be a little ‘mess’ in your studio. People will find it interesting, like a peek behind the curtain. (I totally agree.)
- If you intend to demo during your open studio, have a sales assistant on hand. (Yes!) Otherwise, you can share your process with photos of your production process, or a slide show on a laptop.
- It’s good to raise our prices as the demand for our work grows. But have a private reception for your collectors to give them the option to buy your work BEFORE you actually raise your prices. (I love this idea!)
- If you are brand-new and need to start a mailing list, she has some good suggestions for that, too, including some I’d never thought of. (Of course, once your reputation and audience is grounded, we can be more selective, if we choose. (This wasn’t mentioned, but either ASK those people if you can sign them up, and/or always give them the option to unsubscribe. It’s really important no one can call you “spam”.)
What was not useful or just plain head-smacking:
- Most of the suggestions revolve around 2D artwork. She mentions ceramics and jewelry in passing, but no real insights about pricing, etc. There’s ONE picture of a box maker’s display, but it’s one of the worst I’ve ever seen. Something that looks like a newbie at their very first show. (Yes, I made a similar mistake at my first show, but now that I know better, I DO better, AND I tell OTHERS how to do better.)
- She actively negotiates her prices if a visitor askes for a discount. No. No. NO. First, the person who deserves a discount is a loyal customer, not a newbie who just walked in the door. (Doesn’t it annoy you when your favorite magazine/newspaper consistently offers great rates to a NEW subscriber? And not to people (YOU) who have subscribed for years? Rethink this, please!) Also, there are ways to sweeten the deal without compromising the stated value of our work.
- There is absolutely nothing about how to engage visitors, how to make them comfortable in our space, how to talk with them, etc.
- There’s nothing about the power of a good artist statement. A great artist statement has the power of engaging someone who isn’t even that interested in our work, if it makes them go back and look at our work a second time…
- We’re encouraged to post our event on social media, but no suggestions on how to make that engaging for our audience there. Same with press releases, etc.
After I read the book, I went back to read the reviews on Amazon. As expected, this is a great little book if you have never sold your work or held an open studio before. and IF you are a 2D artist.
But the insights about credit cards, promoting our event, the encouragement to actively discount our work, and the total lack of anything useful for selling work that isn’t 2D, was massively disappointing.
It’s definitely worth a read for the good stuff. I found a copy on Bookfinder.com at a great price. So check it out, then let me know what YOU think!