Hah! I TOLD you a series is rarely ever “done”!
Just before our latest county open studio event (LINK), an artist reached out with a terrific question: What if someone were to steal their work?
In this case, it was a portfolio of very small “studies”, their way of experimenting before taking on a large project. These studies could easily be pilfered. Should they be worried?
Yes. No. Maybe?
Unless we make huge stone sculptures that have to be hauled away in a wheelbarrow (or similar), yes, we are all potential victims of theft. And you know who is the MOST vulnerable creative/maker for theft? Jewelers, especially those working in precious metals/gemstones. When they do major shows, they often take down their ENTIRE INVENTORY every night. And set it up all over again the next day. OMG!)
But making that the biggest issue with opening our open studio is a sure-fire way to unconsciously let every single visitor know you do not trust them. And that will destroy the very reason open studios are so powerful:
Our visitors want to know more about our work–and US.
Treating each person as a possible thief, destroys any potential connection. Which defeats the entire purpose of inviting them into our creative space.
How do I know? This happened to me, as a studio visitor.
In this case, the person was open to my previous suggestion, ideas for having samples, tools, etc. that are okay for visitors to touch or hold. People are extremely experienced about being told NOT to touch in so many environments. Providing a display, something they CAN touch, is powerful!
Hence this person’s idea of presenting a portfolio of small studies, which they would hate to lose.
Here were my thoughts. (Be sure to add yours in the comments!)
Fears of having our work stolen cements everybody to the ground, as in, a bad way. We all worry about such things. In my lifetime, I don’t recall a single thing being taken, but I have so much stuff, I probably wouldn’t notice if it were missingIf the worry about losing your portfolio is giving you nightmares, consider a way to display it so that it’s not a small thing somebody could pocket easily.I’m not a painter, so I don’t know if you’re talking about individual sketches, first drafts, or illustrations in a notebook, etc. You can send me more details and we can figure out a way to keep your work safe.Maybe only exhibit a few of the pictures you were experimenting with, or have all of them on display in a case, or hang on the wall.But what’s more important than that is being comfortable with people in our sacred creative space.I have not had any (okay, not MANY) issues with people being rude, aggressive, sneaky, etc. and I’ve learned over the years that being afraid of these things create anxiety. And that anxiety can destroy our ability to connect with other people. Yes I have a story about that!I visited someone’s studio who was obviously afraid of me stealing something. I loved their work, but their suspicious demeanor and them trailing me around their studio made me very uncomfortable. I finally left as soon as I could.People meeting us in our studio, seeing our work in person, engaging with us, learning more about our process, our inspiration, our techniques, our story, is the single most powerful way for us to gain an audience.I don’t want to dismiss your fears as being totally unnecessary, but the chances of someone stealing something major from you are pretty slim.And your fear of having something stolen will create a barrier between you and the very people you want to connect with.So for your sake, try to set your fears aside.Consider some of the suggestions about securing your portfolio so no one can just simply walk off with it.If you can, it’s always nice to have an assistant available, someone who can take care of processing sales, wrapping and packaging, someone who can keep an eye out and help allay your fears.
Yes, they wrote back to let me know they found this helpful. Yay! In fact, it’s not something that’s been an issue in their own art career. Just something that popped up and got stuck in their head. And they already had a helper lined up, and came up with a display plan that worked for them.
And of course, after talking to them, I began to worry about MY work being stolen! (Fears are an easily-transmissible disease with no vaccine….) (Okay, there IS a vaccine: Embrace it, tell it we know it’s doing its job–keeping us safe–and say “Thank you!” Then tell it to scram until it’s time for dinner….)
Next article: How to prevent visitors from throwing cake at our artwork. (JUST KIDDING!!! I have no idea how to stop people from doing that. Apparently, neither does the Louvre….)
How have YOU secured your valuables, and still provided a comfortable place for visitors to engage with you? I’d love to hear your thoughts!