Dorset Art Weeks ran from 24th May - 8th June 2014. Approximately 300 venues opened their doors to visitors from around the county, country and even the world! This well organised event is the largest and the best in the country. 50,000 high quality brochures were printed for distribution and people even book their holidays around this bi-annual event. I had visitors from NZ and Canada as well as a few couples from the midlands and the north, who'd arranged to visit Dorset during this time.
There are many moments during this exhibition that were special, but probably the best two are being told by one couple that they had chosen two venues to specifically visit, mine and one other. They would then follow the Art signs on their route and see where they ended up. The other is the lovely lady pictured, who joked that she must win the award of my 'most frequent visitor'. On her fourth visit she offered to pose in the photograph with the item of jewellery she was purchasing. I took dozens of photographs during the 'open house', but this is by far the best photo.
So, within an event such as this (there are many Open Studio events around the country), how do you organise your studio/open house to make sure you get visitors?
1. Begin planning in plenty of time.
1a. Consider carefully what photograph is suitable for the clients you are hoping to attract for the brochure. Consider too your opening hours. 16 days of Dorset Art Weeks daily is a long time!
1b. Organise flyers to distribute with the brochures and to other venues/shops/pubs locally.
1c. Notify your existing clients that you are participating in this event.
1d. Obtain public liability insurance if you don't already have it.
2. Make sure your venue is welcoming to visitors and consider offering refreshments. Visitors have taken time out of their busy lives to spend time looking at your craft, so remember this!
2a. I prepared a jug of elderflower cordial every morning and afternoon and had bowls of sweets dotted around. It was easier than offering hot drinks - waiting for the kettle to boil etc and had purchased some quality plastic wine glasses, which looked just like the real thing.
2b. Be aware that if you're offering drinks, some visitors may need a visit to the rest room!
2c. If you have a quiet morning or afternoon - do not close early, stick to the times you have stated you will be open in the brochure. How irritating would you find it to visit somewhere which should be open and is actually closed? Think of it from your potential visitors point of view. If you have an emergency and just can't open your venue - make sure you put an explanation notice with an apology to any visitors who turn up and find you closed.
2d. When planning layout, make it clear where your visitors are allowed to roam (private signs / obstacles in strategic places for when they miss the private signs)
2e. Display your public liability insurance certificate.
2f. Play soft music in the background - Classic FM is a reasonable channel, even if you're switching over from your favourite radio channel as they arrive.
3. Above everything else - smile. Not every visitor is going to like what you do or even if they like it, may not have the funds to buy. But again, they have taken their time to visit you - be grateful and you will find that you have as an enjoyable time as they do.