Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Ten Tips For Hosting a Successful Open Studio

1. Two months out: Give yourself plenty of time to plan and prepare, select a date for your Open Studio. (I suggest at least two months preparation time.) The fairly moderate temperatures of Autumn and Spring make these two seasons great for Open Studios. Decide whether you want to hold the event on an evening during the week or during the day on the weekend (Sunday’s work best.) Decide what time you want people to arrive – and how long you want the event to last. Arrange to have a “helper” available on that day. Arrange to have someone baby sit the dog.

2.) Take a look at your studio – is it big enough to hold the event in the studio itself, or will you be opening up your home as well (assuming your studio is in your home)? Do you have enough wall space and good lighting to best show off your work? If not, can you bring in some display easels and purchase or borrow picture lights? 

3.) Six weeks out: Design and order postcards to send to your mailing list*. The image on the front of the card should be one that is available for purchase. If you want people to RSVP, an incentive such as “10% off any purchase if you RSVP before ____” can help motivate and plant the seed of purchasing. Let people know whether or not it is appropriate to bring children. 

 4.) Five weeks out: Design and order or print brochures or sell sheets to have available for people to pick up at the studio. Check your stock of business cards – order more if needed. Check your supply of prints – you may want to have some on hand, especially if your Open Studio date is before the Christmas holidays. Small prints make great gifts – and you can even offer to personalize them! 

5.) Four weeks out: Take stock and start organizing your originals and prints. Create labels with titles and prices. Do any of your prints or originals need frames? Order now (try Colorado Frames for wholesale custom frames at artist friendly prices!)

6.) Two weeks out: Mail your postcards. If you send out an e-newsletter, send out an electronic invitation – use the same design as your postcard. 

7.) Two weeks out: Decide on what type of appetizers and drinks you want to have available. Opt for finger-type foods that people can munch on as they walk around and view the artwork. Drinks can be as simple as a club soda and fruit juice punch to wines to mixed drinks. 

8.) One week out: Clean your studio! Stash as much clutter as you can. If you have print bins, you can fill them with unframed prints or originals. No print bin? Baskets work wonderfully! Send a reminder email to your list. 

9.) A few days before: Make sure you have the food and drinks you need. Decide what music you will want to have playing in the background and gather up those CD’s (hint: you might play the music you like to listen to while creating.) Hang paintings that are for sale clearly marked with labels. Take down any artwork not for sale – there is nothing more disconcerting to have someone fall in love with a painting on the wall – and have it not be one of yours! 

Make sure you have cash on hand for making change (yes, some people still pay with cash!) Make sure you have a Sales Receipt book (you can pick up a generic sales receipt book at any store that sells office supplies.) If you have a credit card machine, make sure you have enough receipts. If not, remember you can use your PayPal account for credit card transactions. Decide where you are going to set up your “cashier” stand/table. You want it easy to access with everything there, but you don’t want to hit people over the head when they first walk in the door. Gather up some packing materials – newspaper, bubble wrap, etc. and stash in an easy-to-access place. 

10.) An hour before: Have something to eat before guests arrive. It is difficult to talk about your art with your mouth full. Start setting out food and drinks, make sure paintings on the walls are lit, turn on the music (low at first, you can turn it up when there are lots of bodies!), take a deep breath and …relax! Enjoy the day! 

Open Studio Checklist:

  •  Sales Receipt book 
  •  Cash/credit card machine 
  •  Labels for artwork 
  •  Brochures or sell sheets 
  •  Business cards 
  •  Packing material 
  •  Sign up sheet to get emails (for your e-newsletter ;-) 


  •  Finger foods – salty/crunchy and sweet 
  •  Wine or punch, coffee or tea 
  •  Water in pitcher or bottled water
  •  Glasses (recyclable plastic or “real”) 
  •  Plates (recyclable paper or “real”) 
  •  Napkins 


  •  CD player/ CDs (or Pandora, etc.)
  •  Lighting 
  •  Candles/Diffusers (very light scent, not overpowering) 

 *Only have three people on your mailing list? Make one up. Add: your neighbors (you can get names and addresses online in “City Records”), your friends, your doctor, accountant, insurance agent, dentist, co-workers, church members, club members, etc. 

Kate Dardine has been helping photographers and artists market their prints for over 20 years. She is currently Marketing Director at Fine Print Imaging, as well as a professional artist selling original paintings and prints.Her website is www.katedardine.com