I do each year. I’ve been opening my studio up for studio tours for years.
Like everything else in the art world, some tours have been profitable
and others have been dismal. The beauty of it all is that the cost of putting on the show is minimal except all the time it takes and the rewards can be well worth your time...you never really know the outcome of a show at the time. Some seeds can be dormant for years-but one thing is certain: when a
person falls in love with a piece of art, they don’t soon forget it. I’ve had people come back years later to finally make their purchase.
I’ve done studio tours primarily with some success, but I’ve always done better when it is a collaboration with as much larger tour. I happen to live on a peninsula on a small island in the Pacific. The Community Arts Council of the Saanich Peninsula, or CACSP, facilitates this self-guided tour. There are approximately 26 studios that participate in the area. For a reasonable fee, the CACSP takes care of putting together brochures, signs, and marketing the event. The rest is up to us.
What you do from there really can make a difference to the success of the show. The “extras” that you offer on a studio tour can make all the difference.
I always like to offer demonstrations. People are always interested in the creative process, whether they themselves are creative or not. This latest tour that I just finished had demonstrations of clay being sculpted, a painting being painted, and even a rock carver chipping away. People are always interested in seeing the different tools and how they are used. They enjoy following the progress of a piece of art. A big bonus for my studio is that I have my own foundry on site and people enjoy walking through the whole process, seeing different pieces at each stage. It’s all about holding a person’s interest for longer, and helping them appreciate the amount of work and steps that go into creating a bronze sculpture
or other piece of art that can often generate sales. When they see the process, people understand the value of a hand-crafted, quality piece of artwork, and people will pay for what they appreciate and love.
A Variety of Different Artists:
You might have noticed that I’m not alone when I put on a studio tour. It’s not that I have a low self- esteem and can’t put on a show by myself! There are several reasons to show with a variety of different artists. I try to have a mixture of some of the same and some new artists at each studio tour I do. I think it makes for a more pleasant experience for the client if there is more to appeal to their senses. I’ve also come to the realization that it’s not all about me and not everybody likes my style of art! I also like promoting other artists. This last show, I asked a guy to join us who had never shown his work publically. I told him to put prices on all his pieces. He was a bit reluctant, but before the show was over, WHAMO! His first art sale: $5400.00! Not bad for a first time out! “Way to go, Oly!”
I’ll usually have other sculptors join my studio tour, but I always include painters as well because they brighten up the room, draw people in and bring out colour in different sculptures as well.
Plus, with other artists on site, it sure makes preparing, cleaning, and tearing the show down a lot easier. That may be the main reason I include them!!
Perhaps the biggest bonus of collaborating is that each artist benefits from the other’s client base. Some artists are really funny about this and I believe it’s short sighted on their behalf. They try to keep their client base exclusively to themselves, thinking they can somehow control their client’s spending taste and habits. I remember once inviting a client to a show; he came, looked around, and then promptly went over to the booth across the aisle and bought a $2000 painting from the guy across from me. I was quite devastated at this, but did my best to put on a congratulating face at the painter had been having a much worse time of it than I was. It was his first sale of the whole show. But you know, the next day, that same client showed up with his sister and bought a sculpture for himself and for her! What was I worried about? Generally, if people buy art, they will buy several pieces from the same artist because they like that artist’s style. People who appreciate art also tend not to collect art from one artist exclusively. If you’re afraid your client will see someone else’s art and buy it instead of yours, you’re not very confident in your own art. That’s a far bigger
block in the sale of your art than the fact that your client might enjoy another artist’s work. Show your work with
confidence! If having your art around others intimidates you because you believe your work is inferior-take the
opportunity to learn and improve.
An Interesting Lesson:
Here’s a bit of a bunny trail: it was at the Sculpture Invitational in Loveland, Colorado a few years back. Some clients were looking at sculptures of elk. They hummed and hawed, asking questions and talking about pricing with the artist.
They then went off to see another artist that also specialized in elk at the same show. The clients then
came back again to the first elk and engaged in some more conversation with the artist. They then moved off a bit
to distance themselves from the artist and discuss more amongst themselves. This turned out to be too much for the
artist and he lost it! He marched over to them with his 5 point sermon and explained that his sculptures were way
better, the price was lower and the terms of installation and delivery were better and demanded to know why they were going to buy from this other guy, who, to bring up another point, was Canadian, while he himself was homegrown! After his rant settled down, the potential clients calmly told him that the decision they were now discussing was
not whom to buy from, because they had already decided to buy from him-they were only discussing how many to buy!
He got the sale… but he sure felt foolish!
To bring it back to studio tours: they are not expensive to put on, they can be fun to do with others when there’s a lull in the crowd (a bit of wine doesn’t hurt here) and the people or perspective clients love to see the creative process and meet the artists themselves. All in all, I have found them to be very worth my while. I meet the most interesting people!