by Carolyn Edlund
Ready to open your studio to the public? Use these steps to connect with fans and sell more of your work.
Whether you’ve participated in open studio events in the past, or this is a new activity for marketing your work, it’s a good idea to plan carefully for the best possible outcome. Here’s your checklist for a successful open studio event.
Prepare ahead to spread the word
Throughout the year, stay in touch with friends and fans on your list. Let them know well ahead of time when you have a studio sale planned. Ask them to mark the event on their calendars, to build anticipation. Share the news about your open studio through direct mailings like postcards and invitations, as well as social media posts, starting well in advance. Send and post reminders as your open studio date nears.
Get found by using clear signage
Don’t allow visitors to miss your studio entrance, or get off course. Directional and welcome signs leading to your studio door are helpful. An easel or display right outside the door will invite guests in, showing that you are open for business. Baskets of flowers, or even a decorative awning have been used by some artists to create an attractive entrance to their studio.
Serve food and beverages
Prepare for the occasion by arranging to have food and beverages available. Stick with basic appetizers unless you plan to have a longer event that actually includes a meal and celebration for your collector base. Avoid messy foods or the need to provide more than basic utensils. A platter of cookies might be a better idea than a frosted cake, for example. It’s customary at this type of event to offer some alcoholic beverages such as wine, which is conducive to socializing and relaxing your guests, but have soft drinks and water available too.
Speak with visitors
Get help to keep your event going if you need to be free to focus on greeting and interacting with your visitors. People love to meet artists. They will often be excited to speak with you about what you do, and how they feel about your art. While it’s important to introduce visitors to your work, technique and inspiration, also listen carefully. Who are these prospective customers? What are they looking for? Why are they attracted to your work? What else would they like to see?
Display your work effectively
Hang your work gallery-style, or use display equipment like pedestals, tables and easels to make your art accessible and easy to see. Show jewelry and smaller items in an open-case display to make it easy for guests to handle your work (unless you have high-end work and need to keep a locked case for security.) Increase the impact of your art by making your open studio space look like a gallery.
Mark items clearly with title, information and prices
Make it easy for shoppers to understand your work by labeling with the title, medium, relevant information, and price. Unpriced merchandise doesn’t sell well. It is unlikely visitors will ask the price, or they may believe that the item is not for sale at all. The more information you share, the better.
Show your process
What makes your work amazing? It might be the technique you use. A live demonstration may make sense, unless it gets in the way of interacting with visitors. In that case, use a video in your space to show how you make your work. Or, post a series of photos or work in progress, with explanations that share the complexities of your process.
Gather contact names and addresses
A simple guestbook can work well for this. Invite visitors to leave their name, address and email to be placed on your email list. Offer an incentive for them to stay in touch, such as exclusive previews of your newest work, or a discount on a future purchase. Be sure to ask your visitors to sign the guestbook.
Have marketing materials available
Brochures, postcards, a free notecard with a work of your art on the front, or other items that remind visitors of your work should be available. Make sure everyone who attends has access to takeaways that show your art or handmade items, and contain other information such as your website URL, address, email and phone number. Make it easy to remember you and to get in touch after the occasion has ended.
Send thank you notes
A handwritten thank you note for attending your open studio is a great way to be remembered. Not only does the note go the extra mile, but it opens the door for further communication to your prospects.
Stay in touch
Build your email list with the contact information of studio visitors who are new to your work. Then, reach out monthly through campaigns to keep your audience apprised of new work, special offers and other events where they can see your art, such as festivals and fairs. Quite often, sales are not made on the first contact. It takes time for potential collectors to get to know you. And, it has to be the right time for them to buy. Stay top of mind through these regular reminders, and you will be the person they go to when they are ready to make a purchase.
A yearly open studio often becomes an annual tradition for art lovers. It’s exciting to get an insider’s look at a working studio and get first pick of work available. Plan ahead thoughtfully to create a fascinating experience for your guests. As you become known for holding a studio sale, you will grow your list and attendance.