Here in San Francisco we are just a few days away from open studios. (Mine is on Oct. 12, 13, 14….oh man) ArtSpan’s SF Open Studios is largest and longest running Open Studios program in the country. This week I am frantically making lists of the things I need to do, and fighting off the panic. As the co-chair of ArtSpan’s Open Studios committee I get asked a lot of questions on how to prepare for the event. Over the last 6 years of doing it I have a good amount to share. Here are some key incites that will help you to have a some victories with Open Studios.
First Stop – The Toolkit – Did you know that ArtSpan volunteers have comprised a toolkit to help you succeed at Open Studios? It has a wealth of information in it. Anything from postcard designing, to sales receipts and what food to set out in your studio. If you have questions….hopefully its in the toolkit. So stop there first. One of my personal favs in the toolkit is the timeline….showing you when you should be ordering postcards and getting ready. I find that super helpful. Check it out here…
Check The Variables… – Look…there are things you can control about Open Studios and things you cannot control. You can say to yourself I wanna sell all of my work and make ‘X’ amount of dollars during my Open Studios. But that is not something you can control. There are things on your list that are NOT variables. Like, you can invite 50 people by phone. You can go door to door and tell all ten of your neighbors about your Open Studio. You can give out 100 postcards to people. You can make sure that the coffee shop down the street has SF Open Studios Guides. Do you see where I am going with this? You can do action items that are attainable and if you do that to the best of your ability you will have a successful open studios. Which brings me to the next piece…Victory.
Defining Victory – What does it mean to be successful at Open Studios? Is Open Studios a good place to sell your work? Can I pay my bills with this event?
Certainly for each of us the answers vary greatly. I have always approached Open Studios as a ‘get to know me’ event. Since I can’t control if people buy my work or not, I tend to not look at it as a SALES event. My mission is to show people my work and studio and get them acquainted with my story. I work to get names and emails onto my mailing list. I give out commission information. I talk and tell stories all weekend. I work really hard to invite a lot of people to my event. And I curate and present my work in the best light I can so that people can enjoy it and start to follow what I do. And if that is your goal and you put in the time and work….you win. Even if no one buys a single painting, you nail all the things that you can control and have a victory in that. THEN when someone does buy a piece of work its like a bonus round.
Approaching the event this way has really helped me on the days that there were no sales. It has helped me see that maybe I didn’t make much money one day, but I did get 46 new people on my mailing list….and as I have managed that list over the years, some of those people have followed me and come out to shows…and even now collect my work. So for me, Open Studios is about playing long-ball. It’s nice to sell stuff…and I usually do well with prints and things, but its really great to meet new collectors and get people excited about what I do.
Now I know this approach may not work for all of us. Some folks are in this event to pay their bills. More power to them and I hope they kill it. Even still….look at the things that you do have control over and make sure that you do that work. Then you will have a victory either way.
I hope to make it out to all of your open studios this year. Its a huge event. Go kick buns.
See you soon.
SF Open Studios – Check out over 800 participating artists over 5 weekends of SF Open Studios. Its a huge part of the SF art community. Artists are happily welcoming YOU to their studios…so please check it out.