Open Studios 2012

The deadline for applications to participate in Herts Open Studios is 31 March - thank you to all Members who have applied on-line this year.  Our 'Making a Success of Open Studios' meeting held on 29 February was well received, and the following key points were discussed.

The meeting commenced with an overview of the guidelines and key deadlines.  The importance of participants checking both their website and print proofs was stressed and the need for material to be provided at an early stage to assist the PR team in their activities.

Jenny Timms then gave a presentation on self promotion and maximising the exhibiting and selling opportunity at your own Open Studio which has been reproduced in full below for the benefit of those members unable to attend.

How to get the best from your Herts Open Studio 2012
What is it that you want to achieve by opening your studio?
Do you just want to exhibit or sell as well – both are ok. But you need to plan head to get the best of both worlds.

Things to do now
1. Start to think about the work that you want to show, and if you haven’t got enough – get creating!
2. Consider sharing a venue/studio space - HVA might be able to help you with this.  Having more than one artist at one location is a great draw. We share with a photographer and exhibit in his garden, which we find is great for us and interesting for our visitors as there is more variety.
3. Update your Gallery page on the HVA website (it is included in your membership fee!)  Update your images if you haven’t done so recently.
4. Consider your own website – is it up to date, latest work, events, event dates, bio etc.  If you haven’t got a website – consider creating one.
5. Start building your email subscription list if you don’t have one – this will be a great way to invite visitors to your Open Studio

Things to do Spring/Summer
1. Arrange printed material – business cards and/or flyers with your contact details on.  These are essential; people might want to commission something after they have seen you at your Open Studio and if they don’t have your details how will they find you? We had an incident when someone saw us at our first OS, 2 years later they contacted us to make a large commission – if they hadn’t taken our flyer, they may not have found us again!
2. Make A5 posters that you can put on to public notice boards, shop windows, door drops etc
3. Begin sending your email invites to potential visitors with your open times and directions to find your studio
4. Start compiling your press release materials and send them to HVA’s publicity officer via publicity@hvaf.org.uk (That’s me, the sooner you do this the better, I will send emails requesting information, please don’t ignore me – we can’t make this a success if we don’t SHOUT about it!!)

Things to do before OS
If you want visitors to come and see you there a few simple things you can do to help them, before you are due to open:
1. Two or three weeks before send an email to your email list (if you have one) – inviting them to join you, ensuring you include all relevant information, open dates/times, location & directions.
2. Two weeks before - Put up your posters.
3. One week before - Door drop AND reminder to email list.
4. Think about your working/display space and how best you can arrange it
Ensure you have some work-in-progress – great conversation starter
5. One week before - reminder to email list
6. Produce some posters that you can display, or some flyers that your visitors can take away with them.  A print maker friend of ours 'produces a small book with images and technique instructions that she sells for £2 – a good income stream', she tells us.
6. Identify suitable locations for your yellow signs, to help direct visitors, but not confuse traffic or obscure road signs. Set these up just before Open Studios and remember to take them down just after!!

Things to do whilst open
1. Your studio/exhibition space.  Make your studio as inviting as possible. It should look like a working/exhibition space, but not too cluttered.  Try and give people space to move around. Put out your information/posters
2. Education. Many visitors to OS not only enjoy looking at your art, but they also like to learn what skills and techniques are involved.  You should be happy to talk to them about your art – after all they have taken the time to come and see you.  Show your sketch books, working photos and or diagrams if you have them. People love to see how a piece of art work came to being.
3. Demos. One of the key things for us is to demo.  People don’t understand what is involved in creating a piece of stained glass, and they do like to see it in the making.  This also helps visitors to understand why a piece of artwork might cost what it does.  We find that demos are a great way to engage in conversation (sometimes a difficult thing to do)
4. Refreshments.  Offer refreshments if you can this will make people feel more welcome, It will also help them to stay longer, and possibly ponder on a purchase or two!
5. Guest book. Have a guest book to hand and ask your visitors to leave their comments along with their email address – this is a great way to build up a good email list for future events and newsletters
6. Visitor numbers. Keep a note of the number of guests – this can be a simple tick list, but it is essential information that HVA needs to collate.
7. Safety. 
7.1 If you have power cables for your tools, lights etc make sure these are tucked away, taped down.  If you have dangerous tools on site make sure you have a sign politely warning people not to touch – it’s amazing how many people will reach out to see how hot a soldering iron can get!!
7.2 If exhibiting alone try and have someone with you whilst your studio is open, if this isn’t possible see if someone can just drop in now and again
7.3. If you are exhibiting in your home, don’t give people the run of the house; contain them to the area where you are exhibiting – they have come to see your artwork after all, not your interior decoration!
7.4 Close doors where you don’t want visitors to go.  If they ask to use the facilities and you would rather they didn’t, guide them to the nearest pub!
8. Guest book. This is a great way to get comments/feedback from your visitors.  It’s an even better way to get their email address to build your email database.
9. Photos. – Take lots, these are great to use for publicity for later events
Most of all HAVE FUN & ENJOY YOURSELF!!
Things to do after OS
1. Complete your OS feedback form whilst it is all fresh in your mind
HVA needs all the information you can gather to ensure future events are a success.
2. Follow-up on any enquires you may have received – let’s hope they might come to a commission for you.
3. Keep promoting yourself
Send email/newsletter to all those that visited you and thank them for spending time with you.

by JENNY TIMMS

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The meeting concluded in discussion groups with Area Coordinators and facilitating introductions with members who wished to share premises.

If you would like help either with the on-line Open Studios application, or to create or change your own Gallery page do email support@hvaf.org.uk  And if you are considering participating and would like to share premises do email me openstudios@hvaf.org.uk

LINDA WARMINGER, Open Studios Project Manager

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