Monday, 10 September 2012


This week's post is in answer to a request - one of my readers has asked me to talk about my experience of doing an "Open Studio" at my home.

In the UK, many Open Studio "trails" are organised by societies in various districts.  Participating is often a question of application, and if you are accepted, then you simply open your doors to the public on the given dates.

But nothing is quite as simple as this.  If you want to attract more than your immediate family and friends, you need to put in a certain amount of effort beyond just producing paintings - or whatever it is that you specialise in.  Depending on location, visitors will come from your own invitations, from the general public who trek around to see the exhibitors they fancy from the leaflets they might pick up in various places and the publicity material they have seen, and from your own efforts.

Here are some thoughts, you may find them helpful should you ever decide to participate in such an event.

1.  Make sure your work is of a good standard and if you are a painter, make sure it is framed nicely.  Do not imagine that because you are not showing the work in a gallery, you can get away with shabby home-made frames (home-made is ok, shabby is not), poorly-cut mounts (mats to some of you) or "seconds" if you make objects.  If your presentation is poor, this will impact on the impression you make, and sales too.

2.  Try to organise as much pre-event publicity as possible.  Produce some attractive flyers  (I used Microsoft Powerpoint for the one below, and saved it as a pdf for an outside printer, it is A5 size, and was not expensive to print several hundred), and take them to as many outlets as you possibly can - restaurants, doctor and dentists' surgeries, libraries, shops, schools, local arts societies, local clubs, sports venues - the list is probably endless!   Send out information well in advance to local newspapers and magazines, and follow up nearer the time with reminders.

3. Produce attractive posters, laminate them, and put them up in your road and around your locale.  Often you will be given general banners and posters by the organisation concerned, if you join a local Open Studio group, but having your own is helpful too and could encourage people to visit you.

4. Consider carefully how you will show your work.  In my case, I did not want to hang my work on the walls, it would have meant redecorating afterwards.  So, I used screens and tables as you can see from the photo at the top of this post.  There was a lot of furniture-moving involved, so I organised help with that.

5.  Type price labels for your work - do not hand-write onto little bits of paper which are then tucked into the frame corner.  NOT professional at all.  Try to imagine you are setting up a smart little gallery or shop -handwritten price labels look tacky and cheap.
two small pics, sold...with red dots!

6.  Consider how people will pay you.  If you live in the US, you may be able to use one of the marvellous little credit-card gadgets which attach to a mobile phone.  Here in the UK, we are behind the times, and do not have access to these gadgets - annoyingly.  So - it needs to be cash or cheques.   Keep careful records of every sale, taking details of the name, telephone number and home and email addresses of every buyer - this will become the start of a useful mailing list for future events.  Make sure you have a float of cash to give out change.

7.  Make sure you have sufficient stock of wrapping material - bubble wrap, sticky tape, etc.  Carrier bags, if you are offering small items, will be appreciated.

8  Be sure to have a good stock of business cards to give out.  Not everyone who comes will buy immediately  ...some like to think about it, and they may well call you later if they have your phone number on a card.

9.  If you think you may have lots of visitors on a particular day do warn the neighbours.  It costs nothing to be polite and considerate.

10.  Think about whether you are happy for people to buy and take away on the same day.  This may be ok if the event is short, but if your Open Studio lasts for, say, a week or more, then people who come towards the end and find the majority of the work gone, will not be very pleased.  No easy answer to this I am afraid, if your customers live a long way away.  I am waiting to see what will happen for me.  Luckily my first three paintings sold before the event large and two small (above) were sold to a buyer happy to leave them on the walls and pick up after the closing day!

11.  Consider the idea of offering to do demonstrations - not everyone is confident enough to do this, I know, but people will be curious about your working methods, that's part of the fun of visiting an artist at their own home.  If you don't feel comfortable about actually working in front of people, then perhaps put out a partly- finished painting, together with some art materials, and any initial sketches you may have done, so that you can then explain a bit about how you work.  Little personal touches like this will really be appreciated by your visitors, as it makes it feel more like an "Open Studio" than simply an exhibition of work.  In my experience, people LOVE browsing through an artist's sketchbooks and are often fascinated by the process....even if they do tend to trot out the inevitable "and how long does it take you to do one of your paintings?!    (And if anyone has the perfect answer to this, do let me know!  I am always delighted to have someone interested in my work, but still struggle, after many years of exhibiting, to know how to answer this question).

12.  Consider a "private view" for family and friends and important contacts.  I did this yesterday, a Sunday; I offered wine and nibbles.  Lots of people came along, and very few went home empty-handed!  I sold lots of my enamelled bowls;  I was happy for those to be taken away but  I made the mistake of NOT organising someone to take money, I did all the packing and money-taking myself, with the result that I was unable to chat properly to anyone as there was so much to do.  Not a good plan.  Another time, I would ask a friend to help with this aspect.  Instead, they were having a great time chatting and enjoying themselves in the garden after looking at the work, while I was busy packing their purchases!  But I am not complaining, having sold quite a few of my paintings, including my two best, largest Chef pictures, and 30 of my enamelled bowls.  A good result, and yet three more weeks to go!

So there we are.  Just a few thoughts.  If anyone wants to ask me any questions about exhibiting their work on their own - just fire away, I will do my best to answer.

And if anyone would like to join in the fun, I am offering one of my small paintings on this blog.  It would be sent to you framed, with acrylic instead of glass, so no chance of glass breakages.  I intend eventually to regularly offer up images in an auction forma
This one is 6"x6" and is framed like the ones above, in a 10"x10" frame.

15th September....sold!!  


  1. Sounds to be great and amazing way to have a sound and well organised home.

  2. Those are very good tips - thanks Jackie! A friend had an open studio and she was overwhelmed by a long line of people waiting to pay her. The next year she had a friend to take the money and another (me) to wrap the items so she could interact with her customers. Congratulations on the sales of your pantings and bowls!

  3. my goodness, how lucky for your friend, Donna. Lines of people waiting to pay. These Open Studios are such an unknown quantity, you never know if you will have crowds, or just a trickle. Thanks for the congrats from both of you.

  4. Jackie, how timely to open your newsletter and see one about an Open Studio Tour. I have a group that is planning our second one for November. I will be sharing this on Facebook to the group. We have created a list of the important items ... and you have mentioned many of them. It will do them good to read about your participation. Thank you for your experience!

  5. I took part in a Open Studio (Orleans Art Studio Tour) this past summer and it was a great time and we (we'r 3 of us in one studio) had a great crowd of people coming and some good sales.... All the prep work for the tour started the year before (we were 10 studios), lots of planning and lot of work went in to get it going. Now we're planning for next summer again.

    You put up a great post about this, lots of good ideas and information for anyone who thinks about taking part in one.


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