Belinda's Bash

by Belinda Naylor-Stables, MA Design

Curtain Closes on another Open Studios

The drama that is Open Studios has come to a close. In this article I look at the aftermath, life after the show and lessons learned…

Before

Way back in January and February I looked at materials and planning – the plan changed. I had an exotic theme mapped out – the theme changed. I had a load of series to develop – the series changed. Then as the deadline loomed realism set in. I regrouped existing works. Then in the whirlwind run-up there were other things to produce and find: preview invites, leaflets, labels, and props to help the display. On the night before it all came together and we were able to open with flair on time. We got through the first hurdle which was to get the show on the road. We’ve all experienced the buzz and anticipation…

During

We managed the second hurdle too– to get feet through the door. Feedback told us that visitors had chosen our location because of the images in the brochure. But what was it about our works that drew people to the door and made people buy?

The answer came during my night time reading. At the end of each evening I read a few pages of “The Quantum Self” by Donah Zohar. Then as I closed my eyes to sleep I tried to work out why some things sell and others don’t. No wonder Open Studios led to sleepless nights! Surprisingly this author revealed the answer on page 190. Here she talks about ‘Quantum aesthetics’. By applying the laws of physics to what people find appealing she concludes that natural subjects would probably underpin all our aesthetic needs. She also says that things which are ‘poised delicately at a very critical dividing line between the static and the chaotic’ will grab attention. People find things without enough movement boring. They also want to see some structure or pattern in the work. Too much order dehumanises – the opposite is chaos which is, apparently, too hard for us to humans to handle. I find this bears out in reality. Visitors bought representations they could recognise and that they could impose their own meaning on, mostly natural objects or scenes, often created with speed or flowing movement providing the necessary sense of energy and with a structure or pattern. Another observation – which may only work for paintings – is that those with good contrast of dark and light were snapped up quickly – and those with similar tones and little contrast did not sell well. I wonder if you found the same thing?

After

The end it is a bit of an anticlimax. When the house or studio is back to normal, and you put your feet up, perhaps you wonder what to do with all the left overs? I can think of 3 answers for myself. a) If they represent a phase I needed to work through and have moved through then I could paint over them or rework them. b) If they are good solid works that I’m pleased with then perhaps they are begging to be shown at the next Christmas gift fair. c) If they verge on the quirky or are too precious to me to throw out, then I will live with them or store them to be shown again in a couple of years – and visitors might be ready for them then. That worked for me this year. Meanwhile, the lessons are now stored in my head ready for next time…

So what has your experience been? What lessons could you share? Do you draw the same conclusions about how to get footfall, what sells well and what to do with remaining works? Let us know your thoughts by adding your comments below…

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