FALL FOLIAGE ART STUDIO TOUR! (And why you should visit an artist studio…)

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.

My big big framed piece on display, with two horse sculptures.

The other will run through the month of October at The Works Bakery on Main Street in Keene, NH.

You can see peeks of my studio here. And see more details about the FFAST tour here.

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.
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!

Vintage buttons plus antique glass trade beads equals very cool jewelry!

Antique mother-of-pearl earrings.

These symmetrical antique keys remind me of ancient ankhs and other mysterious metal artifacts.

NH OPEN DOORS AND LUANN’S OPEN STUDIO

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.

Potcake puppy Inca and yes, those ears are HUGE!!

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?

OPEN STUDIO

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….

Enjoy!

Little clown bank.

Dolls

Vintage button jewelry.

IF IT’S COLUMBUS DAY, IT MUST BE…..

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
4th Annual
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.

Open Studio

Nicole's work

The Studio

Oh, the fabric!

MAKING THE MOST OF YOUR OPEN STUDIO

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…..

Offer variety.

….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 was astonished how well that worked! The times they are a-changin’…..

Be family-friendly.

Me and my buddy Nicole (Nicole's the petite one on the left!)

A display of my artifacts

Nicole worked on a drawing.

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.

Yep, that's my work on the cover!

We Interrupt Our Program….OPEN STUDIO!!

Yes, you’re invited, and you, and you, and you!

Just in case you’re my mom (which you aren’t, because my parents have never been online. NEVER.) DO NOT call me and ask me if I’m lying dead in a ditch somewhere. A call which always came at 7 a.m. on Saturday mornings when I was in college, following a period where I had been incommunicado too long, and which always baffled me, because this was way, way before cell phones and so if I actually ANSWERED the phone, how could I be dead in a ditch somewhere??

I digress…. Because I HAVE been incommunicado. I have a good reason:

I’m getting ready for another open studio this weekend. And you’re invited!

In some ways, I’m on top of this one. The studio didn’t get too, too messy since my last one, there was a lot of publicity because it’s part of the NH Open Doors Tour, and I’m not driving myself crazy about preparations. For example, I’m not going to vacuum again unless the dog barfs. (Keeping my fingers crossed here….)

But in other ways, I’m behind–as always. I didn’t do any personal promotion–no postcards mailed out to my customers. (I’m kicking myself here.) I decided to redo all my signage. Even though there’s not a year’s mess in here, there’s still a mess.

And I’m adding my usual personal anxiety to the mix. I once had a party where only one person showed up. It was traumatic. She was a very nice person, and we did do damage to a bottle of tequila (which promptly did damage to me, which is why I never drink tequila anymore, but that’s a story for another day.) But I still enter each entertainment venture with a sinking feeling that says, “And what if nobody comes this time, either??”

So help me not support my therapist single-handedly. Come to my Open Studio this Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 7 & 8, from 10-5, or pass the word on to someone you think would enjoy it. Tell them what you want for Christmas (if I happen to make something you’d want for Christmas) and tell them it’s only available here. This weekend.

And we will be BFF. Especially if you are the only person who comes.

P.S. Full disclosure: To be fair, at the time of that party, I was living in a 10’x10′ room in a rooming house. I think everyone was afraid we were going to stay there.

P.P.S. And I kinda forgot to tell everybody til the last minute. Which is why I probably deserve to have slow open studios, since history is repeating itself here…..