This week’s blog is mainly aimed at those of you who will be exhibiting in some form of Open Studio event in the next few months. Hopefully those of you who love to attend will gain a better understanding of what we put ourselves through to make these exhibitions worth visiting.
So, as I prepare in the coming week for my Open Studio, with Surrey Artists Opening Studios, starting next Saturday, 1st June, I wanted to discuss here what you need to do to prepare for this event.
You will probably have marketing materials supplied by the organisers and you will have paid for this as part of the fee for opening through an organised event, so don’t leave it all in the box – give it all out.
If you don’t like asking people face-to-face if they will have your leaflets, brochures or posters in their shops, phone them first or email them. That way they don’t know who you are, and it will feel less intimidating to you. Once they have said yes, make a note of their name and when delivering the marketing materials, you can simply say that ???? is expecting the delivery. If you really can’t face it, send someone else for you.
Get the word out to your friends and family and ask them to share the event with their friends and family.
Consider doing a leaflet drop in all the houses near to you, you would be surprised how many people don’t see huge signs advertising an event down the street, but they will look at a leaflet through their door. Add a 10%-off incentive to that leaflet and more people might visit. People do love a bargain.
Whichever area you designate to display your work and however messy your process is, clean it up.
If your exhibition space is dirty, messy and uncared for, you will be sending out the message that you don’t value your work so why would anyone else value it and ultimately want to buy it? If you are using your actual studio you must make sure that there is nothing out which could potentially hurt someone. I set up in my garage so that no one gets to go inside my studio, it is too dangerous. So get out the dusters, vacuum cleaners and light a smelly candle if needs be. Make your space inviting to potential customers.
Make sure your showing area is well lit. People need to be able to see it easily as they scan the room. A decision about your work will be made in milli-seconds, so make it easy for people.
Ensure that all your frames are in good condition, the fixings on the back are all attached properly, and work hung on walls is secure. You don’t want something to fall and hurt your visitors or you.
Have appropriate wrapping for items your customers buy: bubble wrap, bags, cardboard, tape, scissors etc. – get it ready and have it there for when your first customer walks through the door. Whilst people won’t necessarily be upset by you running off to find what you need, you are missing an opportunity to engage further with your customer, which could be a loss for both of you. Just be prepared.
Payment. There are lots of hand-held devices out there these days, Sum-Up, Square or better still PayPal. Have everything powered up, make sure it is working by testing it all in advance. I lost a sale one year because I couldn’t make my machine work and they didn’t have the cash to buy. They said they would come back but they didn’t, so I learnt the lesson the hard way!
If you are selling greetings cards you will need to have cash so a secure box with some change in, is essential.
Consider getting a mini CCTV device. Last year a friend of mine had a number of pieces stolen from her Open Studio. It was her first time opening and as a result it will be her last. She was so upset by the incident. She is pretty sure she knew who had taken the work, but she had no evidence, so was stuck. Be vigilant, have someone else man your studio with you if you can or get a camera. You will need to put up a sign, warning people that they are being recorded, but if you are hit by thieves at least you have the evidence to take to the police.
Try and have someone else with you whilst you are open. My family always makes sure that one of them is at home when my studio is open. It gives me the security of knowing that if someone tries to steal, becomes abusive or is taken ill, I have backup to help me deal with it.
Have a method by which people can leave their details, write a comment and can be contacted about future exhibitions. I have a visitor’s book and have some wonderful comments left by some lovely people.
I also have a small item of my work which I put up as a free gift which can be won by filling in a form, with all the GDPR blurb about not sharing information etc. on it, but to enter they need to provide contact details. Last year I had two prizes, so two names to pull out of the hat. The winners were so delighted, and I now have them on my list of people to invite to this years Open Studio.
Each year I offer to have other artists artwork on my walls. I do this because it gives your friends a chance to see someone else’s work besides your own and has in the past facilitated sales for both me and the artist whose work I have shown.
If you offer classes, make sure you have an information sheet available to give out to people with all the information about what you offer, the cost and your contact details. People sit on this kind of information for years sometimes, but if they don’t have it in the first place, you will lose them to another more organised artist.
Consider offering people an area to sit and have a drink. A small table and a few chairs, a pot of tea, some shop bought, individually wrapped cake or biscuits is the safest option when you consider all the allergies people have these days, and an opportunity to chat. Giving this kind of hospitality is always welcomed by visitors.
Make the entrance area to your home or studio look good.
I have a number of planters which I have planted up. I have a wonderful friend who does them for me, I am no gardener. She does an amazing job, it all looks well maintained and inviting. Giving the best impression of your studio and your home will give potential customers the feel-good factor before they ever look at your work.
It is hard work; you will be exhausted at the end of each day and it is worth having your evening meals planned ahead.
I am incredibly fortunate that my husband loves to cook and will produce all the meals every evening for us. But if you are not so fortunate, plan your meals ahead of time, make them and stick them in the fridge so you don’t to spend time making meals when you could be getting ready for the next open day or relaxing!
Finally, enjoy it. Hopefully you will have lots of people come to see what you are up to, and lots of opportunities for you to engage and share with people. The vast majority of people are wonderful, interested and will engage with you. There are always the few socially awkward, see if you can find a way to talk to them, and there are also those who are just plain difficult. Remember, they are the problem, not you. Kill them with kindness and move on to the next person.