Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Open studios: worth it?

So I've been thinking.

I've been toying with the idea of joining the Cambridge Open Studios scheme for a while, and I wonder whether this is the year. I feel I have my studio set up to a stage where it's a possibility, without looking an amateur. There's also the chance another local weaver (who I've not yet met, but who my neighbour across the road assures me is keen to meet me) may join me.

Open studios are held on the weekends of July each year, and there's quite a bit of money the time I join and pay to for a listing in the advert, I'd be paying £170 as well as committing myself to volunteer time. I don't know whether I could recoup that money in sales. But on the other hand, it's mostly about volunteering and meeting other artists in the area, which would make it worthwhile. I do work in a bit of a vacuum aside from the interactions on my weaving blog.

If I were to do it, would I want to commit myself to being tied to the house and having strangers traipsing through my house for four weekends in a row, or would it be better to only do one or two weekends to give myself a taster? Would I be limiting myself by only doing a weekend or two? As most of the people who have open studios are painters, would that be an advantage or disadvantage to me?

I don't have to commit myself until mid-January, which coincides with a seminar which would probably answer some of those questions. There's also a man here at work who paints and has held open studios for a number of years, so I may talk to him, although he's very busy at present. I don't know what the answer is, but it's worth mulling the idea if I want to take my weaving from expensive hobby to something slightly more serious.

I'd appreciate opinions.


  1. Wow. This is interesting. We have open studio days in western North Carolina too, but they are quite different. They are usually for only one day or weekend, and as far as I know there is no fee for the artists to participate. For the group tour, the visitors are the ones who pay to go on the tour. Artisans are free to sell to visitors, so quite a few of them make money by doing it.

    I belonged to a county arts and crafts association a number of years ago. Many of us joined in the belief that this group would support us in our efforts to promote our various arts and crafts. In the end, I realized that it was the artisans who were supporting the association rather than the other way around. We were the ones they made their money off of, but we made little ourselves through their venues. My husband and I finally left as we felt we were being nickle-and-dimed to death. I'm not suggesting that this group is the same, but it came to mind as I read your post.

  2. Nickle-and-diming is a big concern, Leigh. As is the concept of the artisans supporting the organisation.

    Most of the cost of the Open Studios here almost certainly goes into the production of a lovely colour catalogue, which is widely distributed and almost certainly contributes to the scheme's success. They impose a limit of 200 studios each year (which still gives a bewildering array of choice), and the website definitely implies that they've had trouble with people using it for free advertising without giving anything back.

    I'm still consdering this. There's also the question of whether I'm ready. It may be worth trying for a weekend or two this year, just to see how I go.

  3. No productive opinion from moi. My studio is a health hazard, and I live down a treacherous driveway, so visitors and neighbors would be equally concerned.

    Having said that, if you are curious, doing one or two weekend sounds nice. I still can't believe 170 pounds for participating. Will you pay a portion of it if you don't do four weekends?

    When I did my solo exhibition, I "attended". I was there every day weaving on a small loom. I sold nothing, but it was interesting for 1) children to watch how cloths are woven, 2) some adults had never seen it, either, and 3) it reminded a lot of Kiwis of their grandmothers, so it certainly contributed to pleasant conversations.

    I've been told at least in NZ, studio visits have no correlation to selling. That may not be true in the UK. But to be on the safe side, if you are going to participate, may I suggest a small number of small, inexpensive things to sell as a memento, an equivalent of buying a greeting card from a painter, photographer or a print maker? I always buy cards if I can't afford their work.

  4. Both excellent suggestions, Meg - thanks.

    It's starting to look as though I'll probably try it for a couple of weekends. A close friend who knows me well commented that she couldn't see me being comfortable with having strangers trouping around in my house every weekend for a month, and she's right!

    The money consists of the joining fee to the association (£45), and the cost of advertising in the compendium (£130), so no discount for a couple of weekends.

    I had thought that little things would be a good thing to have on hand. I have a few scarves that are seconds that I intend selling relatively cheaply anyway, but had thought of things like bookmarks (and excellent way to start playing with ikat) and perhaps little framed art pieces as well. Cards are another, really good idea that I may try. I also always buy cards if I can't afford someone's work.

    I mentioned the idea to C, who sounded quite enthusiastic. So I'll probably try a couple of weekends as a taster, and see how we go from there.