Getting Organized

Without fail I get things tangled… necklaces to thread… anything. I took a fabulous class from Rebecca Ringquest several weeks ago at Teahouse Studio and one of the students Penny Mast McCall had wrapped her embroidery thread around slides in a slide box. It was beautiful and inspiring. I brought my tangled up plastic Ziplock bag of embroidery thread and was inspired by her vision to do something different with my mess. I always enjoy artists that make their surroundings beautiful as well as their art.

My in-laws brought us some great findings from Oakland Museum’s White Elephant annual sale including this great metal box that I appropriated for my embroidery thread. I cut card stock, folded it in half to make it thicker and with scissors made little cuts in the card stock to secure each end of the thread as I wrapped it around. We’ll see how it works in real life. I’ve already dropped the whole thing and yes, the cards were strewn across the floor … hey, but at least they’re not tangled. 🙂

Marketing Tips for Artist Open Studios

A Series of English Texts
©2012 Leah Virsik A Series of English Texts found paper, fabric, thread on paper 4 x 6 inches

Pro Arts East Bay Open Studios is coming up the first two weekends in June. I participate because of my own exciting memories of touring artist studios. It’s a chance for me to give back, be an example to others, meet people, get feedback, clean my studio and continue to show up for my art.

I’ve found it invaluable to have art at a wide range of prices to appeal to a broader audience. Visitors who may not want to spend a lot of money find that they can spend $5, $10 or $25 on a small item. Another tip I’ve found is that it’s not all about sales and visitors. If I can create a piece of art during my Open Studio that can make me happy. If I can talk about my process or encourage another artist to participate the following year that is helpful as well.  These are some things that have worked for me. Have some additional thoughts or want to share what has worked for you? Please leave a comment.

Keeping a Notebook
I keep on notebook during Open Studios and document info that people give me. Some things I’ve written down include:

  •  How many people come to my studio. I’ve participated three years from 2009–2011. In the latter two years, I had a high of 47 visitors, a low of 13 and an average of 23 visitors per day. The high number I attribute to two other artists participating in Open Studios on my block. I live in a residential neighborhood and have found that lots of neighbors come as well as friends and my students.
  • Where visitors heard of me
  • What people like about my work
  • Notes from visitors including other ways to promote my work
  • How I feel about the day


  • I promote online on neighborhood yahoo groups. I live in Oakland, CA in the Laurel and send messages to the Laurel Village and Redwood Heights listserv. I got this great tip from a neighbor.
  • Craigslist is also a great way to advertise your Open Studio.
  • I send out e-mail newsletters to my contact list via MailChimp
  • I’ve left my postcards at restaurants like Cock-a-Doodle Cafe, grocery stores and art stores and mail them to my contact list.
  • I also exchange postcards with other artists.
  • My husband is my biggest supporter. Who is yours? It really helps to find someone who will help you market your work.
  • What else can you promote? Do you teach or have consulting services for sale? Be sure to offer those as well. I teach and have write ups or brochures to promote my future classes as well as have class samples.
  • Perhaps, have something simple for kids to create. I had a young child come with her mom and she wanted to visit because she thought she would be making art. That time, I didn’t have anything for her to do. The following year, I had projects for kids and adults alike and kept people in my studio longer. This can get tricky if you’re also there to handle sales at the same time. I repurposed my postcards and taught visitors how to make mini pamphlet books. It was memorable and I received teaching requests.
  • I put up a fair amount of signage, about 10 signs including three sandwich boards. One sandwich board I purchased from Urban Ore and two I made with the help of my husband and a neighbors saw.

Clear Directions

  •  I hold Open Studios in my garage studio which is separate from my home. One has to go through a gate to get to the door. I’ve drawn a chalk line arrow to help people to find my entrance more easily. One year it was yellow and I’ve heard comments from visitors about liking to “follow the yellow brick road”.
  •  People might call you for directions. Can you give directions over the phone to your studio? If not, write them down to make it easy.
  •  Visitors will come at 11 a.m. or even earlier. Make sure you’re ready.

Make Your Work Easy and Fun to Purchase

  •  I make labels with prices next to my artwork. I don’t want people to have to ask about a price.
    Often, I price my artwork with tax included to make it easier on the buyer.
  • I accept credit card payments using Square on my iPhone. Also available for Android. I’ve also used PayPal.
  •  People buy my books as gifts. I offer complimentary gift wrapping either wrapping the item in colorful tissue paper and ribbon or putting them in tissue and a paper bag. Plain brown paper bags with handles can be purchased from Michaels or Uline. Clear plastic bags for cards can be purchased online at ClearBags. One can also create stickers to place on paper bags or screen print them with your logo or contact information. I also have large plastic bags and purchase bubble wrap to wrap paintings.
  • I design my own tags and will have them printed at I also recommend using PSPrint for printing business cards and postcards.
  • I’ve found it’s also helpful and appreciated to send thank you notes to buyers.
  • I offer food and drinks. One year my husband barbequed we offered food to people who stayed longer. It’s helpful to not put all your food out at once but bring it out in stages like a good caterer.

Some websites geared to artists/creative types
Cargo Collective


Other People’s Pixels

Square Space
Wordpress themes: Graph Paper PressWpfolio Two  (what I use)
Lunar Pages

Web Hosting
The Present Group
An Art Subscription and Web Hosting Service
HostGator I appreciated their great customer service

Other Artist Open Studios links
Self Promotion ideas for Artists by Leah Virsik
Art Marketing Secret’s: How to Stage a Successful Artist Open Studio
Harriete Estel Berman’s Professional Guidelines includes Open Studio links
Joanne Mattera’s Marketing Mondays Open Studios

Upcoming Workshop at Mastick Senior Center

Showoff Revisited

©2009 Leah Virsik Showoff Revisited acrylic, paper, ink, wax crayon, fabric on watercolor paper 4 x 6 inches

Fabric Collage Postcards
Saturday, May 19, 2012  |  10:00 a.m.–12 noon  |  $12 (includes $4 materials fee)
Mastick Senior Center 1155 Santa Clara Avenue, Alameda, CA 94501
Pre-registration and free Mastick membership is required to attend.
Details online at or by calling Jackie Krause at (510) 747-7510.

Oh, what to do with all those lovely scraps that are hard to throw away? In this two-hour workshop, participants will use paper and fabric scraps to create a small collage or two. We’ll discuss what makes a pleasing composition and explore ways to incorporate sewing and embroidery into our finished work.

Please bring your own:

  • scissors and/or craft knife (i.e X-Acto knife with blades
  • self-healing cutting mat if using a craft knife
  • light-weight bookbinding awl for piercing holes into paper for hand-sewing or T-pins will be provided

You may bring these optional items:

  • sewing machine with jeans needle and thread
  • favorite collage materials and fabric scraps

$4 materials fee includes use of:
matte medium for adhesive, glue brush, collage materials and some fabric scraps, T-pins, sewing needles for hand-sewing or embroidery, embroidery thread, mixed-media paper or interfacing for postcards and iron
About the instructor:
As an artist, Leah Virsik, works in lots of layers, primarily using paper, paint, fabric and stitching. She recalls that, “as a child I would sew with my mom and what I most remember is the guilt I’d feel as I jammed up her machine. Now, when the threads and material bunch up they become useful fodder for my work.” Optimistic and with a love for learning she looks for what works when her creative explorations don’t always go as planned. Leah exhibits her work and teaches book arts and collage classes locally. She sees herself in her students, especially the messy ones.  View her work online at

Richard Serra

Richard Serra’s Verb List Compilation: Actions to Relate to Oneself,” (1967–1968)

I’ve seen Richard Serra’s work on Art21. Tom and I saw a piece of his at the LACMA years ago. We were at SFMOMA for my birthday and I wanted to see his work but I wasn’t totally compelled. So I was surprised when his work left such an impression on me. I was touched. I really understood where his sculptures came from when I experienced the substantial weight of his black textural paint stick drawings.

Here’s a John Tusa interview of Richard Serra that I have yet to listen to. Thanks to Victoria May for Kara Pecknold’s link of her Design One project using Richard Serra’s verb list.

Aimee Mullins

“When we can celebrate and truly own what it is that makes us different, we’re able to find the source of our greatest creative power,” spoken by Aimee Mullins with such touching emotion in her Moth talk. Subscribe and hear true stories told live every week.

Come to find out, Aimee Mullins film debut was a starring role in the highly acclaimed film Cremaster 3 by contemporary artist Matthew Barney. His work is unforgettable, powerfully different and odd but will leave a lasting impression on me always.

Kathleen Henderson

We found ourselves at Pizzaiolo recently based on a friend’s recommendation. Awesome pizza (and other great food too) in Oakland. It’s a hip happening place so maybe best to have reservations or expect to wait. One of the highlights of this night besides the food was discovering the artwork of Kathleen Henderson. I loved her simple drawing style, her composition and thought-provoking work…as well as her sense of humor.

Frances Stark lecture at Mills

“Brazenly emerging from the delusion of her desired metamorphosis she contemplates the impossible fact of being herself at the same time she is herself.”
~Anonymous (referring to Frances Stark)

I had the great opportunity to hear Frances Stark lecture tonight at Mills College. I’m super lucky to be so close to Mills. It’s such a different experience not knowing of an artist’s work and then getting to hear about their process. I almost prefer it to seeing someone who’s work I’m more familiar with. I tend to go with some preconceived expectations. Having no expectations helps to open my eyes.

Frances Stark broached the question, if no one asked her to do art, would she do it?  I gasped. (Or what does it mean to do something that someone isn’t asking you?) Her whole talk felt honest and real and vulnerable. It was beautiful. She has a lot of writing that I’m interested in reading. She spoke warmly of Dennis Cooper, who she took a writing workshop from, and who helped her to see herself as an artist.

She shared Lydia Davis’ poem A Position at the University. It helped to make sense of what goes into her creative process.

She mentioned Sylvia Sleigh, George LaGrady, Cindy Sherman, Mike Kelley, Steve Prina and Silke Otto-Knapp who has a show at the Berkeley Art Museum until January 15.

I connected with her work Why should you not be able to assemble yourself and write? and appreciated her self-reflection.

These were my notes from her lecture. I realize now that I’ve written them down digitally I’ll find them more readily. Much easier than trying to remember in what notebook I scribbled them.

I’m teaching at Art and Soul Portland September 2012!


Art and Soul Inspirational Mixed Media Retreats

I’m teaching how to make my Scrap Fabric Book and Multi Dimensional Book (images below) at Art and Soul Portland in September! I couldn’t be more excited. Traveling to teach has been on my list of things I really want to do… a dream come true. View more of the other fabulous artist workshops here. I’m especially grateful to have been asked.

Scrap Fabric Rectangles

©2010 Leah Virsik, Scrap Fabric Rectangles multi-section pamphlet stitch, paper, thread, hand screened cover, eyelets, button, elastic 5 5/8 x 5 5/8 x 1/2 inches

Snack: Hungry for Growth Series by Leah Virsik

©2010 Leah Virsik, Snack: Hungry for Growth Series paper and thread, running stitch binding 2 x 5 x 1 1/2 inches

On that note, I was browsing through the Cal State East Bay magazine tonight and ran across an article stating that students who blog get jobs. Having an online presence has definitely made a difference in my career. It has broadened my world and put me in touch with people I wouldn’t normally come into contact. It’s a valuable source of connection.

Meanwhile, I’m getting ready for Teahouse Studio’s Holiday Art Fair in Berkeley on Saturday, December 10, 2011 • 10am – 5pm. Come and support local artists and crafters.

Crafting Table!
From 12-3pm a crafting table will be set up where you can make your very own fingerless gloves! All materials will be on hand to get your craft on!

Refreshments & Drawing!
Food, drinks + a drawing to win a free spot in a future Teahouse Studio workshop.

Mati Rose McDonough • Tiffany Moore • Stefanie Renee • Liz Kalloch • Jen Hewitt • Steph Cortes of Nerd Jerk • Stacy Newman of Hello Cupcake • Blue Chair Fruit • Jennifer Parker • Leah Virsik • Yueh-Wen Chang (Wen) of Sora Designs • Rachel Cole • Amelia Strader of GoGo Craft

**More details here