I love being part of Cambridge Open Studios – I love see all my work up together, I love talking to visitors about my process, my printing press, even my garden! I usually share with another artist and it is great to hang out with them.
But mentioning to someone outside of the Open Studios that it was a lot of work got the reply ‘Why?’
So I thought you might be interested in what goes into having a successful Open Studio.
First of all, there is making the work. I work quite slowly so I am planning from January what I will need to do. I also like to have at least one new piece for loyal friends who have gone to every other exhibition I have ever done!
This work all needs to made in time to go to the framers. All the framers in the area will be up to their eye teeth in work for Open Studio. I got mine in at the very beginning of June and that wasn’t really early enough – they were ready one day before our ‘hang’ on 12th July!
Meanwhile, there is advertising – collecting Guides and posters and distributing them to other artists, plus taking my own allocation to venues where people may pick them up – libraries, coffee shops, dentists etc. It is important to do lots of promotion on social media too – plenty of people want to see Open Studios but forget to check which weekends their favourite artists are open.
A couple of weeks before, I make sure that I have other things to sell as well as the artwork – cards, gifts etc, and that all the unframed prints I will need are wrapped up and ready to go.
About a week before, we start the Big Tidy (and clean). More houseproud artists won’t need to do so much cleaning, but before the pictures can go up we need to rearrange furniture, tidy away clutter (and valuable items), move the artwork we normally have on the walls.
A few days before is The Hang. This takes several hours of moving pictures around and adjusting their positions. Our house is so old and wonky that it isn’t possible to have all the pictures at the same level, but we do try to level up ones that are on a flat bit of wall. But positioning is also about flow – what pictures enhance each other if hung side by side, what pictures look good or bad in particular lights. As I share with another artist who makes very different work, that becomes an even more interesting puzzle.
The day before I need to complete all the paperwork tasks, and find everything I will need. Nicely presented labels for the pictures take a LONG time, then there is a catalogue and artist’s statements to do. Flags and a banner for outside, red dots, other labels, gift bags, all the cards and so on to go on the ‘merchandise’ table, receipts, signs that say things like ‘welcome’ and ‘private’, drinks and snacks to offer people … and more tidying and cleaning up too!
On the big day the dogs need to be taken to kennels for the weekend, and there will be a supermarket delivery arriving too. Then we have a couple of hours to do all the final touches – put out the card rack and gifts, arrange some flowers, put up the signage outside and inside, put some soft drinks in the fridge to chill, remember to put clean clothes on. I set up demos of some aspect of my process – this year I talked about ‘rainbow rolls’, and my partner Allison Henderson did a portrait of her daughter.
And then it’s 11am, and I can breathe!
Next time: new work featuring an owl!