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Open Studios By Helen Trevisiol Duff

September 01, 2023

Open Studios By Helen Trevisiol Duff

Open Studios by artist Helen Trevisiol Duff

“Creativity takes courage” ~ Henri Matisse

Open studios have become more and more popular over the years and at Skylark Galleries many of our artists exhibit their work not only online, in our gallery but also by opening their homes or studios over a couple of weekends where their work can be viewed and bought by the public.

Groups of artists often show together in venues such as community halls and many give demos of their practice, whether it's printmaking, painting, photography, sculpture or ceramics. This gives an added insight into what it takes to be an artist. It's great to look around and have the opportunity to buy local art.

There's a wealth and variety of talent to see and if you're a west London local or want to hop on the tube to Ealing, BEAT, which is the Borough of Ealing Art Trail is coming up this September. There are 72 venues showing the work of hundreds of artists. www.ealingbeat.org.uk

Checkout their website to access the BEAT brochure with artists’ details, maps and venue locations. Two weekends to discover, browse and buy local art - 9-10 and 16-17 September!

It can be a wonderful experience for artists and visitors to meet up and talk about the creativity behind the work and you may find an artwork that resonates with you. Buying direct from the artist is always special and you are supporting the artist's practice and livelihood. You'll certainly get your steps in and have a great day out!

“Creativity is contagious, pass it on” ~ Albert Einstein

Here at Skylark Galleries I asked Stella Tooth https://stellatooth.co.uk/ Sarah Knight https://sarahknightart.com/ Vivien Phelan https://skylarkgalleries.com/collections/profile-vivien-phelan all of whom are Ealing artists showing in open studios with BEAT about their experience of past events and any tips they'd like to pass on

 

Stella Tooth artist with her performer and bather artworks
Stella Tooth with her performer and bather artworks

Stella Tooth

Stella Tooth says, “I’ve taken part in BEAT each year from its start. It’s a way of connecting and building relationships with art loving neighbours and those who live further afield in the borough and beyond. Before BEAT I thought I was one of the only artists in Ealing. How wrong I was and how many art friends I’ve made with whom to compare notes. This year I’m exhibiting with fellow Skylark member Sarah Knight who creates beautiful seascapes providing contrast for my performer portraits. Our work will “touch” in my bather series. We are calling our collaboration ‘From rolling waves to rock n roll - Art that brings blues to your walls.’

“Learning about our art and processes may find you falling in love with a piece that brings joy to your walls. Do come. You’ll find our work at Venue 50+.”

Stella is also taking part in the neighbouring borough of Brentford’s Art Trail this coming weekend, also known as the Creative Mile.  She will be exhibiting at the Musical Museum with Getty rock photographer Sol N’Jie, whose photos of iconic ‘80s rock stars she has reinterpreted into stunning digital paintings.  To discover the Creative Mile map https://www.creativemile.org/

 

Sarah Knight artist
Artist Sarah Knight

Sarah Knight

Sarah Knight has exhibited with BEAT since its inception. She is one of the team organising BEAT and works hard to coordinate all the artists, meetings, brochure and venues as well as being an exhibiting artist herself. She is both a painter and a printmaker.

Sarah creates oil paintings which are loosely based on land and, as Stella mentioned, beautiful seascapes inspired by her travels, and from imagination. She rollers thin layers of colour as a base and then paints the surface using palette knives. These paintings can take a long time to dry so getting organised early for open studios is key.

She says, “making sure I have a good display of work which is labelled neatly is important. I like to present my work in an uncluttered way and work mainly on a blue colour palette. I am looking forward to exhibiting with Stella in her beautiful home over two weekends where people can chat, browse and buy our art.”

 

Ceramicist Vivien Phelan
Ceramicist Vivien Phelan

Vivien Phelan

Vivien Phelan is a ceramicist who creates unique and quirky sculptures. This year she is showing at OPEN Ealing studio with other artists, Venue 28 in the BEAT brochure which you can find at www.ealingbeat.org.uk You can also download the BEAT app.

Vivien was one of the artists who instigated Ealing's open studios in 2015, She has loved seeing how it has grown. In the past she has used her grand house with a bespoke garden studio to exhibit her ceramics and says, “I've loved showing at home and, in the past, I've invited other creatives to exhibit with me. It's always nice to be with other artists as sometimes it can be quiet and other times busy. My amazing husband is well trained in sandwich making which is an added bonus!“

“This year I'm looking forward to exhibiting alongside others in OPEN Ealing's large studio which has fantastic light. I will be launching my new ceramics.”

Vivien plans well for the event. She is hands-on behind the scenes. “My dog likes being my companion when delivering brochures as she gets extra walks. I am helping a young artist at present whose concern is public liability insurance, which many artists are unaware of. I'm helping her get organised.”

 

Artist Helen Trevisiol Duff

Helen Trevisiol Duff’s tips and checklist for artists opening their studio.

As I've participated in many open studios and visited heaps, I thought I’d share my top tips and checklist to help artists who may not have shown in open studios before.

Some of these tips may seem obvious but there may be a few that come in handy. Above all, enjoy yourselves!

Plan early

  • Start planning early and if you are represented by a gallery don’t forget to tell them you are part of an art trail. You need to follow any contractual agreements re sales from your studio.
  • Finish making your art early so there is time to frame it, organise labels etc. leave time for oil paintings to dry and select the best of your work to show. If you sell out you can then replenish with works not on display.
  • Remember to price work correctly. Selling at wholesale prices undermines a retail price if you are selling elsewhere.
  • Create a welcoming environment with great signage to show where you are. Imagine the space with a lot of people. Is there room for them to move around?
  • Wear a name badge or something that identifies you as the artist as many new customers don't know who you are.
  • Greet everyone with a smile and introduce yourself as the artist / business owner. If you're busy, make sure one of your helpers is on door duty.
  • When a visitor wants to buy your work, express your gratitude and ask if they would also like a card, or even better gift them a card.
  • Remember that the art trail map will guide the public to your venue but you may need to Place Balloons outside and signs or an A board.
  • Recruit friends and family to help you on the day and brief them about your work. In busy venues it's a good idea to have someone looking after refreshments, someone to act as a welcome at the door, someone to look after till/ wrapping to leave you able to speak to customers. I have been lucky to have family and friends on a rota system. I've also had willing students from colleges who want work placement and a reference for their CV.
  • Have a private view before the publicised PV for close family and friends so that they are welcomed and you can give them your full attention before new buyers and existing customers arrive.
  • Send invitations out well in advance and show preview work by email.
  • Be ready at least a week before so you have time to refine and think things through. Adjust prices if needed etc., maybe display a few sketchbooks or a portfolio of work with past work.
  • Make your customers feel valued with a drink brought to them, perhaps a gift of a token card as a thank you for buying your work.
  • Invite press, local MP, celebrities etc and contact them as soon as possible so that their diary can be arranged to include your venue.
  • Make videos of your set up for local facebook groups and any social media.

 Plan your space

  • Plan your space carefully. Use the room wisely, providing enough space for a variety of work and so that the viewer doesn't feel squashed in.
  • A comfy sofa is a good idea so your guests can relax and if you have space for a chair.
  • Have a time slot for a demo showing your skill if you feel you would like to show your practice.
  • A copy of your artist statement / CV is always good to have available.
  • Before the event go over your history of what customers have bought before so that you can refer to this when engaging with the customer on their repeat visit.
  • Repeat customers are very special, they are committed and have started collecting your work already and referring you to others. Treat them with absolute reverence and gratitude.
  • Get public liability insurance for the event.
  • Have a cash till and izettle/ credit card till so that multiple sales are easy and flow.
  • Make sure you have a cash float. There's nothing worse than not having enough change. Obviously keep this float safe.
  • Display your cv or a resume with a photo on the wall in large enough writing to be easily read. Put out free postcards with contact details or your business cards.
  • If showing different themes in various rooms, have a resume of the theme of the work etc on the wall. Not too long.
  • On price labels include a bit about the work if there is space and have continuity in your format.
  • Display your opening times and mention that you are always open to appointments at other times if this is the case.
  • Make sure your price points are consistent.
  • I don’t show a sales rack as it distracts from main work and I feel devalues the work.
  • Make sure the work is well lit.
  • Provide a good array of gift cards within eye level if possible.

Publicity

  • Be prepared for questions such as: “How long did it take”; “Can I have a discount”; “Do you take commissions”; “Can I take a photo?”.
  • Make a flyer with a map for your venue and pop into the local friendly newsagent. Maybe you can put them into all the newspapers etc.
  • Visit all your local shops, pubs, cafes etc with leaflets and make sure they are regularly stocked up. Have a chat about the event and the news will spread.
  • Ask if you can put posters or flyers on shop windows etc.
  • Make sure you have a beautiful display which isn't too cluttered.
  • Clear away all trinkets, non necessary items and family photos.
  • Place a red dot on work that has sold. Some customers don't understand the red dot system.
  • Keep a ledger of what's sold, safely stored.
  • Have one of your helpers on visitor book duty. Respect GDPR regulations using one page for each guest, protecting the other guests anonymity.
  • At the end of each day use your reconciliation sheet to make sure you know what's been paid for by cash and card. Easy to pass onto your accountant at year end.
  • Rehang in between weekends with new work which makes the display look fresh.
  • I always offer to deliver locally for free as a lot of customers don't want to carry the work around with them to another venue.
  • Look at providing a wall of art at affordable prices so that newbies can buy “a bit of the artist” and start collecting.
  • Make sure you have an array of price points.
  • Create a wrapping station with tissue, bubble wrap, brown paper etc all laid out. It's good to provide a reusable craft bag and a sticker. I use Morplan for supplies and have hooks for my bags at the side of my wrapping station.
  • Write details on the back of the artwork. I use a small stamp or a sticker.

Customer care

  • Write to all your customers who have bought within a day or two to thank them for their purchase and suggest that they could come back again. I also ask if they would like to send me a photo in situ. When this arrives I politely ask if I can show it on social media.
  • Social media. Try and get a photo of you with the customer and the artwork to share if it feels appropriate. Some customers really don't want this so it needs a careful approach Between the two weekends take stock from your inventory.
  • Make sure you have an inventory which is a list of everything you have on offer with prices. You can't achieve good sales without a variety of price points or enough work.
  • You should know at retail how much your entire collection is worth.
  • For your accountant make sure you keep a list of what you have spent on materials etc and a list of sales.
  • Sales don't just magically happen, well sometimes they do, however the customer needs to feel relaxed and in buying your art is buying a tiny part of you. They are drawn to an artwork for all sorts of emotional reasons. Don't crowd them but be on hand to engage with them.
  • Reflection after the event is always a good thing. Make notes for next year and follow up on any enquiries.

Enjoy yourself, relax and smile. Don't worry if you don't think of everything. It's great to meet new people and share your creativity.

Have a really happy open studio.

“Creative work is a gift to the world and every being in it. Don’t cheat us of your contribution. Give us what you've got.” ~ Steven Pressfield




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