The Open Doors Studio Tour is a self-guided 2-day event each spring that is free and open to the public.

Creating a Successful Open Doors Studio Tour

Pointers, tips, and other suggestions

Before getting ready for the event, determine what your expectations are. Keep in mind that you are growing your business and your recognition and that you are creating future collectors. Do not use sales as the only criteria for success. Also, you will be demonstrating your process during the weekend, so consider any lull in foot traffic as studio time to work on your art.

PROMOTE THE TOUR:

Give promotional materials to existing customers, friends, and business contacts. Mention the tour a few times on your business and personal social media accounts, and on your blog or website if you have one. You could, for example, provide a peek behind the scenes and chronicle your preparations for the big day.

Be sure to promote the event through your email list. The Open Doors organizers will provide you with email ads that you can forward to your mailing list. Personalize it a bit for your specific customers with a note about what they can expect at your studio so it doesn’t seem like just another ad in their inbox.

DETERMINE WHAT YOU WILL SHOW:

Consider what items will create the best impression with customers and what your goals are for the tour. If selling lots of art is not feasible based on the type of work you do then your primary goal for the tour may be to make a first contact with customers. If that is the case, then you will need to ensure that you give people a way to contact you in the future and provide options that encourage a second contact.

This tip is particularly important if you sell higher-priced work. An artist studio tour can be about making the first contact with potential customers and letting people get to know your work. You might not make the sale the day of the tour (particularly with higher-priced items), but if someone loves your work, you have a better chance of making a future sale if you make it extremely easy for them to contact you after the tour.

Hopefully, you will make several sales during the studio tour. Consider creating some lower-priced items (prints, or smaller versions of your primary work) in the $20 to $50 impulse purchase price range. Look at your Inventory: do you have work to replace work that will be sold during the tour? Think Positively.

WAYS TO ENCOURAGE A SECOND CONTACT WITH INTERESTED VISITORS:

Have plenty of business cards and brochures on hand for visitors so they will be able to find you again after the tour. Be sure to tell your visitors about a show you have coming up at an art gallery, classes that you teach, or your website. Provide marketing materials (business cards or brochures) visitors can take away so they can find you again easily. If you offer art-related classes or other services, have brochures available describing what you offer. It’s one thing to tell an interested visitor, but if you want to increase the chances of them signing up for a class or other service, you need to make it extremely easy for them to remember you and find all of the information they need.

ENSURE YOUR STUDIO OR HOME ENTRANCE IS COMPLETELY INVITING:

It can feel a bit uncomfortable to just walk into a stranger’s home (which is what visitors do on a studio tour). Make sure the entrance to your studio or home is clearly marked with plenty of signs welcoming guests and letting them know they are welcome to come in. Open Doors will provide you with official signs to mark your location, but you may also decide to add some signs of your own, directing people to the correct entrance if it is not clear where people should enter. Tying balloons on your yard sign will also help people find you.

BEFORE THE OPEN DOORS WEEKEND:

  • Have your space clean and professional-looking. Yes, it is a working space, but make it inviting for people to enter.
  • Set up a demonstration area that is safe and effective.
  • Kidproof the studio and store away solvents, sharp tools, etc.
  • Look around your space for any trip hazards.
  • Have a substantial amount of presentable work and have it nicely displayed. The key is to offer enough in a presentable way without overwhelming. Make it look fresh: they do not know how long that piece has been sitting around.
  • Label the work in your studio with your name and price, or NFS.
  • Have bios, statements, and newspaper articles in your career book for customers to flip through.
  • Leave out an empty sketchpad, notebook, or guestbook in a prominent place and politely suggest that your guests sign in if they’d like to be notified of your upcoming events. Leave space for comments — people love to leave their two cents.
  • Have extra business cards in your studio for interested visitors to take.
  • Try to make important notes immediately regarding your visitors as soon as possible after they leave.
  • Have plenty of packing materials for your sold work.
  • Do you want to provide seating for people to relax? Sometimes visitors sitting in a studio space will spot something they didn’t see while walking around.

BE PREPARED TO TALK ABOUT YOUR WORK:

Greet everyone who comes in and introduce yourself. Talk to them if they seem uncomfortable, or leave them alone to look at the art. A few simple opening lines that you can use throughout the day will help to start conversations.

You can build conversations by:

  • Asking visitors how they are enjoying the tour.
  • Talking about your work, what inspires you, what makes your work special (especially things that might not be immediately obvious).
  • Ask if they would like to see how you make your work.
  • Talking about other shows you are participating in.

Once you get the conversation started, it will likely flow fairly naturally. Remember, your visitors made a specific trip to your studio because they were interested in your work.

FOOD: KEEP IT SIMPLE:

You don’t want dip and crumbs on your artwork. Wine? If serving wine in your space, make sure that you keep it in your control. Serving refreshments is not always practical.  And it won’t be right for everyone. But sometimes simple refreshments can help set a mood and make visitors to your studio feel welcome.

Be sure to serve simple, easy-to-eat or drink items. You don’t want people to be too distracted by the food or drink, and you don’t want to serve anything that might make a mess in your studio.

  1. Avoid anything sticky or messy that might get on your work.
  2. Avoid anything that requires concentration to eat, that would take visitors’ attention away from your work.
  3. Avoid anything difficult to serve. You want to concentrate on talking with your customers, you don’t want to spend the day focused on serving food.
  4. It is not about the expense, it is about the thought. And don’t forget a trashcan.

DURING THE OPEN DOORS WEEKEND:

You must be present at your studio during the Open Doors hours. Remember the goal of the studio tour is to invite people in to see your creative process and the work you have made.

YOU’LL NEED AN ASSISTANT:

Don’t try to do a studio tour by yourself without an assistant. If your studio gets busy or you need a quick break, you’ll be happy to have the help. Do be careful to avoid taking long or frequent breaks, though, because your visitors have come to see you (the artist) in your workspace. But if you’ve been able to have a quick break when you need one, you’ll be able to give visitors your full attention. Likewise, if your studio gets busy, your assistant will be able to speak with guests while you’re busy with others.

SAFETY, INSURANCE, AND LIABILITY:

While accidents can happen anywhere, they are more likely to happen in areas that have potentially hazardous materials, processes, or equipment. Because many studios are within personal homes, artists should refer to their homeowner’s policy to assess the coverage they have. Usually, public liability/business insurance is not included, so you will need to investigate the level of coverage that you have. While providing refreshments at your event is a great way to attract and keep patrons, liability issues can arise if items are homemade. It’s best to keep refreshments store-bought.