Monday, November 12, 2012

Studio Tour a Success!

Guests try on handwoven scarves and purses
The studio tour was great! We had perfect weather, lots of guests and made many new friends as well as reconnected with those we haven't seen in a long time. One of the most unexpected and delightful surprises for me was having my very first art instructor and a mutual friend, neither of whom I had seen in several years, walk through the door. Talk about a happy reunion! They had driven many miles to get there and I could scarcely believe my eyes when I saw them. It really made my day.

Guests making their selection from original works
Colorful art and fashions filled the halls
Dinah answers questions during a spinning demo
Now that the tour is over with, I've gathered a few tips other artists may find helpful in planning similar events. First, I strongly suggest you accept credit cards. It's easy if you have a smart phone with a data plan. By signing up with Square you can accept credit cards without having to establish an expensive merchant account. By accepting credit cards our sales more than doubled.

One word of caution, though: Square's device comes with woefully inadequate instructions so it helps to have someone who's familiar with it show you the ropes beforehand. Or go online for pointers on how to use it. It's easy once you figure it out, but when a buyer's standing there waiting (thank you, Mary, for being so patient!) it's high anxiety time if you're having difficulties using it. I believe Intuit offers a similar device. Maybe theirs comes with better instructions.

What sold best? We found smaller, affordable items sold more readily than big, expensive pieces. No surprise there. Typical of the season, most of our guests were shopping for holiday gifts although a number of original paintings were acquired for buyers' own homes. Jewelry was very popular, as were handwoven fashion accessories and fine art prints. Combined, our sales enabled us to raise a sizeable donation for the Cobb County Humane Society.

For refreshments, we kept things simple. We served goo-free shortbread cookies and ginger snaps, pretzels, and candy along with non-alcoholic apple cider and bottled water. The paper cups, napkins and paper plates were yellow and orange to reflect the season, and we used a simple fall leaf garland to decorate the refreshment table, which was covered with a yellow tablecloth. Everyone served themselves and cleanup afterwards was minimal. I was surprised how little there was to clean up, considering the amount of traffic we had coming through all day.

To draw attention to our location Karen had created signage that was placed along the street in front of the building. We also had professionally printed banners next to the parking lot entrance, and balloons tied to the handrail outside the front door. Dinah and Betty filled two planters at the entry with pots of bright yellow mums to draw further attention. So the atmosphere was festive both inside and outside. Municipal regulations required us to be mindful of the size and placement of our signs, so we were careful to comply as well as to remove them promptly when the event was over.

Since we were one of 13 studios participating in the tour, we cross-promoted the others by printing up a list of all the participating artists and their locations as a handout for guests. We also checked on the locations of nearby ATM machines so we could direct people to them if need be.

Holding an open studio is a lot of work and takes a lot of preparation. We worked really hard to prepare the space, hang the art, tag it, purchase refreshments, and a hundred other tasks in advance of welcoming our guests. Preparing for it was exhausting, but the day itself was great fun and wonderfully gratifying. A heartfelt thank you to all those who attended, and to my fellow artists who worked so hard to make the day so successful!