Belinda's Bash

by Belinda Naylor-Stables MA Design

Begin with the end – end with a new start

The great thing about Open Studios is that HVA do a lot of the marketing groundwork for you. Brochures, bunting, press releases and publicity at a range of events all appear in the run-up. But I think every artist wants something different from the experience. So surely it’s a good idea to add your own marketing flair to support your personal goals. This approach might help…

Plan the end first…

If you know what you want after Open Studios that gives you a BIG clue for actions before and during. If for example you want more income from your art, more people in your art network, more exhibitions, a higher profile, feedback on your work, quotes and pictures for your blog or website, more local recognition and other sales opportunities then those goals are your starting point. Make a list of your personal goals – and then link groups of people to each one. Who are the people that can make those goals happen for you? Your ‘People List’ might include friends, family, neighbours, local cafes and restaurants, interior designers, galleries and so on. This list is key.

Then plan the middle…

The middle is your actual Open Studios exhibition. Open Studios is something very different for visitors because unlike viewing in a gallery they can actually see where your work is created. You can simply open your doors and say ‘This is where it all happens folks!’ Alternatively you could take the People List you created above, and think about what each group would like from your exhibition. There’s the fun of designing a great experience for them which primarily involves moving your furniture round a bit. (At the same time, keep safety in mind, think ‘childproof’ – and also consider the security of your personal belongings.)

Say, for example, that interior designers are high on your People List. Focus on ambience. Generally, group furniture and artworks according to colour scheme and add lighting to show your works off a treat. For pictures, think about hanging them lower than usual grouped with complementary furniture. For 3-D works you could display them alongside relevant objects – flowers and fruit, rocks and stones, cogs and chains, spoons and bowls, bats and balls, dinosaurs and action men – you get the idea. For textiles create contexts where they look at home.

If you want to attract people to your new art class then set up a good display area alongside activities that visitors can take part in. Perhaps group your works according to ideas or techniques. Create information boards that can be read at least 3 metres away. You’ll need plenty of fliers. Get a friend to take lots of photos during your demos to support future marketing for your courses. After activities ask visitors to write a comment about their experience on pre-prepared cards. Remember to include that tick box where they can indicate permission to quote their words in future publicity.

If you aim to interest gallery owners create professional and artful, possibly themed, displays. Provide clear labels and good supporting information about your art background and inspiration.

Many visitors are intent on buying. Generally they will visit more than one venue then make their choice. They are more likely to come back if your exhibition quality, originality, quirkiness, ingenuity or fun made it all the more memorable.

Finally plan the beginning…

The beginning is the run-up to Open Studios. Having planned for after and during the event you should be clear on what information to provide in your publicity beforehand. So now, for each group on your People List plan how and when you are going to tell them about your Open Studios event. (There are some legal restrictions on the ways you can contact individuals and businesses for sales purposes. If you’re unsure, check out details on the web or at your local library.)

If you hold a preview event it’s a good idea to give your exhibition an eye-catching inviting title and design your invitation around this theme.

Refer back to your People List and think how best to supply information to them during the preview and the Open Studios event itself. Display boards? Resumes? Business cards? Fliers? DVDs? If you use any of these they should reflect your brand or theme. Before you spend money and time on them be really clear on why you need to create them. Developing these in June and July will take the pressure off you in August and September.

Finally, to stay in people’s minds, is there a little parting gift you can give away free or in return for an email address or recommendation? Maybe a handwritten saying on handmade paper, a bookmark, a pressed flower, a stone with a symbol painted on it... Can you link the gift to your brand or the theme of your exhibition? What would make visitors feel appreciated and remind them to come back to YOU?

Opening the doors to your home or studio can be enough. But if you want Open Studios to be a gateway to more opportunity afterwards then I hope the above tips help. Whatever your approach it would be great to hear what you like to get out of Open Studios and your marketing approach. Also, if you have any good advice for first time exhibitors I’m sure they’d appreciate it…

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