In yesterday’s post, Hosting a Successful Open Studio, I shared ideas to help you host a more successful open studio event. Continuing that conversation, I reached out to Arizona artist Lucy Dickens to ask her about her participation in Hidden in the Hills, a large, local open studio event. Lucy’s experience will give you insight from an artist’s perspective.
Jason:When did you participate in your first open studio event?
Lucy: Maybe 7 years ago for my own but 4 years ago for an open studio event, Hidden in the Hills.
Jason:What was the event?
Lucy: My largest one is the Hidden in the Hills Open Studio event in Carefree, North Scottsdale, and Cave Creek. It is the Fri-Sun before and after Thanksgiving each year. Over 180 artists are spread amongst 45 or so studios. It’s a free, self-guided event and most studios are home ones with 2-5 guest artists at each one. http://sonoranartsleague.org/hith_studio_tour.php I was invited into Beth Cox’s Quail Run Studio (#32 on the tour this year) http://www.quailrunstudio.com/ about 4 years ago as a guest artist and have been there ever since. As I currently live in Glendale, in the west valley, I then also have a large holiday open studio each year in mid-December at my own home studio and gallery. I am however currently building in Carefree and will have an amazing gallery and working studio under roof and will then be my own host studio for the event at some point.
Jason: How did you learn about the event?
Lucy: I am very involved with the Sonoran Art League who puts it on. Also there is much advertising, it is the largest in the state. Honestly, I have never heard of a bigger one anywhere before. We get about 1200 people come through our studio on average.
Jason: What made you decide to participate?
Lucy:Well I wanted a large venue to show my work and knew how prestigious this event was. I also hoped and prayed for an indoor space, many guest artists are outdoors on porches, patios, garages, tents on the property etc. It’s a challenge for a new guest artist to get an indoor location. I used to do tent shows but the set up and teardown for the event and each night, etc. was so much work. I also had a lot of bad luck with the weather, even had a microburst tear through our show in Cave Creek one year! That was it for me. After that I only sought indoor shows/events and exhibitions. I am so thankful and feel very blessed to have been invited into Beth’s casita for the event. We make it as easy for them as possible. I bring my husband and other men to remove all of the furniture to store in the garage, then we hang and set up. After the event we patch the nail holes, clean and bring all the furniture back in, just like new. It is like my own little gallery in there. And Beth and her husband, Rodney, along with the other guest artists are truly amazing!!
Jason: How successful was your first event?
Lucy: Oh my gosh I was blown away! I sold 2 original paintings out of the program a week before the event opened and while setting up. I then had more success at the show as well with originals, custom framed canvas Giclee prints, loose prints, ornaments and Christmas cards, etc.
Jason: What did you learn during your first studio tour?
Lucy: Relationship building, talking with people is key. Be friendly and comfortable in your own skin. Truly want to meet people and talk with them sharing your work and for me my stories. I am a storyteller in that every painting has a story and I post it next to each painting. (Including on my website, social media, monthly newsletter, etc.) I also learned for these type of events it is important to have a variety of price points from original artwork all the way down to my $22 porcelain ornaments with my painting images reproduced on there. The “small things” end up covering the expenses of the show most often, then everything else is above that. I also strongly believe that each original is for one special person. I don’t know who that is but they do when they see it. Part of my purpose is to move people and inspire them through my work and words. There are many people who can never have an original but if they are moved by the image and story then it is important to me to have some quality way for them to take it into their home and uplift them.
At our studio we really try to create an experience for each person that comes. We also separate from many other studios in having a collector preview party the night before with heavy h’orderves and wine and music. We want to make them feel special…because they are! During the public event we still have nice snacks, music, and bring wine out at 4pm each day. Yes these raise the costs but we are creating an experience that they really want to be there and return again and again, bringing new people. It does not hurt that her husband, Rodney is an amazing chef!
I have learned with my own holiday event to do the same thing, I have a preview party the night before and work very hard to really create an experience.
Marketing and advertising are crucial for either case. Yes the Sonoran Arts League does a lot of great advertising over all but to be successful you need to do whatever you can to get the word out yourself. We split a 2 page studio ad in the program, I share often through my newsletter, Facebook, Pinterest, and website. I get a couple hundred of the program maps, mark which one is our studio and put my website sticker on it and mail out over 100 to my client base I also mail actual programs to many of my collectors with preview party invites. I take these maps to leave everywhere and anywhere I can where I think people will be interested. I seek out every free event calendar and get on them for our studio. For my own December open studio, I make up great postcards from www.PrintRunner.com (business cards and Christmas cards too) which are high quality and inexpensive with images and all the details. I have these available at Hidden in the Hills and also mail and hand SO many out. I leave these everywhere too, theaters, frame shops, coffee shops, Dr. offices, etc. I/we also try to get in front of any press we can. Thankfully my image Joyful was chosen as one of the directory images this year and that helped me get a 4 page editorial in Images AZ Magazine this month along with Southwest Art. Beth Cox, my studio host artist will be featured in the Images November edition too. Because of all of this we decided for the first time to also place a studio add in there for November as well. Here we go!!! If any of you are in Arizona at this time I would love to see you!
And yes as in your blog, lighting is crucial, I bring extra professional lighting.
Jason: What has been most encouraging about these events?
Lucy: Seeing the reaction from and talking with so many great people. I love the conversations and getting to know people and deepening relationships with those that return. I love to share my stories and work, hear their stories, and also my process as we are each expected to work our craft too. Of course sales are an encourager too right!?
Jason: What do you most enjoy about these events?
Lucy:Same as above And I so enjoy showing with this great group of talented and special artists.
Jason: What is the greatest challenge during these events?
Lucy: I would have said asking for and closing the sale, I have been learning a lot from you Jason and applying what I learn. While I still do get nervous, I have come a long way and seen some results. Also just handling a flurry when there are a lot of people in there. Maybe I am ringing someone up and cannot talk to others, etc. Maybe showing too much work sometimes and learning when it is best to just be quiet.
Jason: What do you do to prepare for the event?
Lucy: Wow, so much, paint, paint, paint, decide what prints and how many to have and then prepare them all. Handling framing and packaging, what new small items like Christmas cards, ornaments, etc. Making timelines, schedules, lists to do, and working them one day at a time, baby steps, decide what advertising and marketing to do. Pray….breathe…pray…breathe some more, smile, ask for help, relax, enjoy the process.
Jason: What advice would you give to someone participating in an open studio event for the first time?
Lucy: Don’t let it stress you out, it can easily with so much to do. Take the event date and work backwards to develop a timeline of what needs to be done and when. Try to balance studio time with the business side and don’t forget to have quality smaller price points. Smile, enjoy the process. I know it’s hard, even for me, but during the event try to wash away all the money concerns and truly enjoy sharing your work and conversing with others. Enjoy being there, they can feel and sense this and will more want to be there and be drawn to you and your work. Try to create an experience in any way that your budget allows. Having written your artist bio and statement helps you greatly in talking to people about who you are as an artist. I also like to write my story for each painting and share it. You don’t have to do this but writing something about them, even if it is just for you, helps you to share about a piece of art someone shows interest in. Also follow-up is key, I would somewhat but with minimal results. I specially made a point to do it Jason’s way during this last event and then followed up at least 5 times. Some of my sales (original and Giclee)and a couple large commissions this year were from people that did not buy at the show but finally did through follow-up. Some surprised me greatly. I thought “no-way”! Oh and make sure you have a newsletter email sign-up list and get people on there. Gently of course. This list has been my greatest tool to date. I think I have about 525 on my newsletter list right now. I know many artists have much more but it is growing! My website is www.LucyDickensFineArt.com.
Jason: Is there anything else you feel artists considering open studios should consider?
Lucy: It is time consuming for sure, the preparing and planning. Be prepared for this. There is expense involved too. Determine a budget, as much as you can comfortably afford to make it special and to really get the word out. This is one of my favorite things to do now. I hope it will become that way for you too!
Leave your Thoughts and Comments Below!
Thanks to Lucy for taking the time for the interview! If you found Lucy’s insights helpful or have any questions, please leave them in the comments below.
In his Amazon.com best-selling book, Xanadu Gallery owner Jason Horejs shares insights gained over a life-time in the art business.