5 actions for a successful open studio

feather drawings

In mid-December I hosted a successful🎄 Christmas Open Studio 🎄. (A bit more about that success below)

So what did I do that worked? And what would I have done differently?

But first some background.

I woke up one morning in early November with a flash of inspiration ~ I was going to host an open studio/sale, with a fun, festive feel. The idea was to hold it at my place, with guests coming down the side path into the back two rooms.

I decided on a date in December and contacted two artistic friends. Ruth makes cards at Pink Sarong Cards and Melanie is an abstract painter, photographer and maker of wonderful cushions. And that was the probably the most successful thing I did!

  1. Ask other friends to sell their work with you

The most obvious reason is that they have friends to invite too. The more the merrier, of course! More people help to create a bustling atmosphere, and one person buying encourages others to buy.

With Ruth’s stand of cards, Melanie’s cushions and photos spread out, my drawings in baskets, the place looked fuller than if I had just had my own work. As well people had a range of things to buy.

2. Invite a wide range of people

What did we do?

  • Set up a Facebook event. We had be careful with this, as I wanted to contain how widely my address was known (more on this in no. 3). So Ruth set up a private event and we invited our Melbourne friends. We posted our preparation photos to this in the weeks up to the event.
  • I used Instagram and my Facebook page to spread the word. Again, I was cautious about the actual address, so asked interested people to message me.
  • I sent email invitations to friends and relations.
  • I invited my neighbours.
  • I sent the word out with my newsletter. (Like to receive this each fortnight? Sign up.)

Don’t assume that someone won’t be interested. And ask them to bring a friend. Maybe have a door prize for a friend who brings a friend….I think I might try that next time.

3. Be aware of security 

As I have said, it was being held in my house, so there was a need for a certain amount of caution. I have mentioned that I limited the address on social media.

Happily, my house is well designed for this sort of event. It’s a long house, with two open-plan rooms at the back that can be accessed down the side path. The house plan also meant that I could block off the hall to the rest of the house but leave access to the bathroom.

I made bunting to string up along the veranda, to indicate that the entrance was not the front door.

4. Create a festive atmosphere 

The three of us decided we wanted to have a mini-party feel to the afternoon, like a market, but more relaxed. These are our ideas, but you may have others. I would love to hear any suggestions in the comments.

  • Balloons and bunting at the front of the house and down the side way. I hope they made people feel that something a little special was happening.
  • A welcoming glass of bubbly, or sparkling mineral water. We also had nibbles, but nothing greasy!
  • A raffle with prizes donated by the three of us. We donated $75.00 to the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre.
  • Having lots of things to look at and buy
  • Like any good party it is important to help people make connections with each other, especially if they have come alone.
  • It helped that there were three of us there right from the time we opened. That first twenty minutes or so can be awkward for the first comers. If you are not having other people selling with you, ask a couple of friends to come early.

5. Lists, lists and more lists!

It was important that I was organised and was keeping track of what needed to be done. What did I do before hand?

  • I made lots of lists! There were general brainstorming ones ~ who to ask, what needed to be cleaned, what needed to be made and/or bought and so on. Then there was a timetable, what needed to be done by what day. It is always so satisfying to cross things off a list!
  • The Fella and I spruced up the house and the garden. It was a great opportunity to do those things that I put off, such as washing the windows and cleaning away all the things that had been lurking in the side way. How fortunate that it was also our council’s annual hard rubbish collection.
  • We moved stuff from the back rooms. You know that stuff that just seems to accumulate.
  • I sewed the flags/bunting that I tied to the front of the house.
  • I organised all my art work ~ packed all the art works into cellophane bags; put price stickers on; put them into baskets for display on the table; made signs for the baskets; and printed out photos of the drawings, so that I could keep track of what I sold. I knew I would not be able to remember which ones sold without keeping a record.
  • I built up a float for change. All my sales were cash, although Ruth, who sells at markets, uses a wireless credit card reader.

As I said, it was a success, certainly financially ~ and no commissions to anyone else. Bonus! Instead I donated a percentage of what I took to ‘Bird Australia’. The birds have supported me through my feather drawings, so I like to do something that supports them.

It was a success in less obvious ways too.

Firstly it gave my family and friends a chance to see my work in reality. So much of my presence is online and photos don’t give a full picture. As well they could see how one piece sits alongside another. That’s difficult to do when you have to flick from one image to another on a site such as my Etsy shop.

Secondly, it gave me a feel for what appealed to people. I sold across the range of my work, but now I know that tea pots, oil pastel trees and my ink feathers, especially guinea fowl feathers are popular. I could have sold the sewn pumpkin a few times, so I am creating a couple more. Keep an eye out for those.

Another spin off was the stocktake I did afterwards. I had to delete listings on Etsy of paintings sold, and it was a great opportunity to make sure that all the listings and paintings on the site match. They did, of course, but it’s always good to check!

Now, the paintings and drawings on the site are all in their cellophane bags with the foam core backing, ready to ship.

What would I do differently to make it even better?

  1. Not have it in December!

Given that I hadn’t given myself much lead-in time, I chose the best possible date. However, there were lots of people who said “Sorry, but I have a Christmas concert….people for lunch…..family Christmas…..away that weekend….many other reasons”. It is such a busy time of the year. Some people were just plum tuckered out!

Obviously selling art works and cards and cushions are perfect Christmas gifts and we were right to market it that way. (Although, I think that many of my customers bought my art for themselves!) A much better date would have been in November. It is less hectic but people are starting to think about Christmas. I would stay with Sunday, and the time, 1 to 4, was right too.

2. Give myself and other sellers more planning time 

A longer lead-in time would allow us to plan the publicity better and activate our networks. We can send out ‘Save the Date’ invitations so people would have it in their diaries. The publicity should be building a ‘hum’ around the event.

And speaking of ‘other sellers’….

3. Have one more seller

Another arty friend who came was interested in being involved, and I am sure we can fit her into the space. Another network of friends to invite along.

4. Give ourselves more time to organise some lovely extras

We thought a young busking musician would have been a great addition, but didn’t leave ourselves time to organise it.

And as I mentioned above, I would consider encouraging friends to bring a friend, with some sort of prize, a gift card maybe?

5. Been a little more up-front about my newsletter list

I had a couple of sign-up forms, but really should have been more proactive about asking people if they would like to go on the email list. (If you would like to receive my fortnightly Letter from the Studio, sign up here, or mention it in the comments and I will add your address to the list.)

6. Think up a different name

It wasn’t really an open studio, so it seemed a bit misleading. Any alternative names are welcome in the comments.

Have you tried something similar? I would love to hear your thoughts and suggestions in the comments.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *