The most crucial thing is to make sure you can be found easily.
The Open Studios Directory and website contain maps to make locating your studio easier. Nevertheless some studios are still quite difficult to track down. If this is the case, or if you are going it alone, consider sending out a map with your invitations. With permission put up our posters at crucial points.
Once visitors have found the correct location they should be in no doubt about where the studio is. Imagine you are a driver looking for an address in an unfamiliar area and make sure that your flag or poster is clearly visible from a distance in all directions of approach to your studio. Consider putting up display boards as an extra to your flag, or hanging several flags. This will help people who are looking for your studio to find you and may also attract passers by. A visitors' survey showed that a sizeable number of people visited a studio just because they were passing and noticed the flag.
Make it very clear to people which door they should use by indicating it with signs and arrows.
To avoid confusing people, take flags and signs down when you are not open.
Make the outside of your studio as attractive as possible. If your work is suitable, and there is no risk of theft or damage, put a few pieces outside.
Putting a few tubs of flowers around and hiding the dustbin can do wonders.
The indoor layout
Protect your home from damage e.g. cover carpets against wet feet if the weather is poor, remove breakable objects etc.
Make it very clear where you want visitors to go and where you don't. Put up 'private' or `no entry' signs on no-go areas and keep these doors shut. If you have a loo that is accessible to visitors, put a sign on it.
People who bring children with them will stay longer if the children are enjoying themselves and don't need to be watched. Consider having a few toys and/or crayons for them to use and warn parents about any hazards that you can't remove.
Display your work to its best advantage. Try to achieve a balance when positioning pieces in relation to each other. You may have to rethink the arrangement several times as people will want to take away their purchases.
If you are a potter, sculptor, carver, glassblower or create other 3D work, arrange pieces so that they can be viewed from different angles. Display work at different heights. A good display can enhance sales.
Regardless of whether it is fine or overcast, use spotlights and anglepoise lamps to light your work. They make exhibition spaces look welcoming and professional and eliminate dark corners where work may get lost. Position lights as far as possible to counteract and avoid reflection on picture glass. Imaginative lighting can also greatly enhance 3D work.
The Studio/Workshop aspect
The fact that your home or studio is not a commercial gallery can work in your favour. Exploit the great advantage that you have over a gallery show. People like visiting studios and workshops and seeing how the work they buy is created. It makes them feel involved in a way that no gallery show ever can. Whether you are opening your actual workspace or just inviting people into your home for an exhibition, you can show visitors sketchbooks, notes, work in progress and tools of your trade. You can also put out scrapbooks and objects that have inspired your work, together with photographs or good quality colour photocopies of previous work.
While it is a good idea to clear the area you are using for display, you should resist the temptation to over tidy the actual studio. Visitors frequently express disappointment that all the 'artistic clutter' has been tidied away! Although visitors may be disappointed not to find you actually at your easel, workbench, dye-pots, loom or wheel, most artists find it impossible to actually create work during an open studio. However, if you can - and if you do not have many visitors at a time - then this would obviously be an added attraction. Be wary, though, of embarking on work that requires a lot of concentration and which will impair your ability to talk to people.
The host thing
Remember you are on your own territory and you are the host. Think of your visitors as invited guests and treat them accordingly. Welcome people as they arrive and introduce yourself to them.
Many people who buy arts and crafts enjoy getting close to the creative process: seeing the place where the work is created but, most important, having time to talk to the artist. Hence, the most important thing is for you to be there! Even if you are sharing a studio or are part of a group studio you need to be there in person.
If you are by yourself it is a good idea to get a friend or relation to help. They can serve refreshments and help with selling work. If you brief them well they can talk a bit about your work when you are busy. But remember that it is you to whom visitors will most want to speak.
Some visitors will prefer to be left alone to look at your work and let it "speak to them", The trick lies in knowing who wants to talk and when!
Serving refreshments is a personal choice but it can help to make people feel welcome and may encourage them to stay and have a thorough look at your work. If you are alone, coffee and tea are time-consuming to make and will take you away from your guests, so cold drinks (alcoholic or otherwise!) may be more sensible. Have something suitable for children to drink. Nibbles are fine unless greasy fingers might be a problem when people handle your work.
While it is fun to have friends turn up to your studio, make sure that strangers don't get the impression that they've gatecrashed a private party. This can be tricky because the friends may have come a long way and you may not have seen them for some time. You will have to tread a fine line between ruining a beautiful friendship and annoying a potential customer. Remember, however, that friends are often customers too!
Above all, you must be prepared to answer questions about your work (not all of them sensible!) and to sound as interested the twentieth time you explain something as you did the first.
Although trouble is extremely unlikely and I do not know any artists who have had any, you should take sensible precautions against theft - such as not leaving unknown visitors to wander unsupervised and hiding valuables. Don't tell strangers your holiday plans or leave the front door open while you're in the loo.
Very occasionally an artist may feel threatened by a visitor. If you cannot arrange to have a friend or relation present during your open studio, make sure that there is somebody close by that you can telephone for help if necessary. If you do feel threatened, one way of making it clear that you are on your home territory is to approach the offending party with your visitors' book and ask them to sign it.
A more commonly encountered problem is the visitor who is more interested in talking to you at length about himself or herself than in looking at your work. Try and avoid being monopolised by any one person, especially if they are not discussing your art! As the host you can always excuse yourself to go and fill glasses or offer round nibbles.
- The benefits
- Open alone or with others?
- Suitable premises
- Your entry in the Directory
- When to open
- Advanced planning
- Opening day
- The future
Click on the link to access the chapter.