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

Promotion

  • 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 Moo.com. 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
Icompedium

Indexhibit

Other People’s Pixels

Virb
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

2 thoughts on “Marketing Tips for Artist Open Studios

  1. Great tips, Leah! I love this idea of doing an artist studio tour with a group. My challenge is my location. I’m kinda “way out there” to most people. I try to do an open house once a year near the holidays but I’m lucky if I get five visitors, so I think your location is very important. I do better when I just let all my local mailing list know that I’ll be down at the arts market. Hoping to make it down there once a month this year rotating between photography and jewelry. Did pretty well on opening day with my photography! Good luck with your upcoming open studio!

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