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An artist’s experience of Swindon Open Studios.

Thoughts on opening a home studio or shared space and how to bring in the crowds.

Swindon Open Studios 2022 was one of the highlights of my creative year. It was the first time that I had opened my home studio to the public and I was nervous that anyone would come because I live in a village location outside Swindon. I had taken part in two Open Studios previously in shared spaces, more centrally located.

Shared spaces are brilliant if it is your first-time taking part, or if your home space is not suitable. In previous years I was painting in an upstairs bedroom! Shared spaces can mean support from other artists and a bigger audience as usually the venue will attract visitors too. There may however be additional costs, venues may charge a fee, or take a commission.

I converted our lounge into my painting studio three years ago, with bespoke painting walls, so it made sense to open the space last year to the public. I welcomed visitors for the second weekend of the event and my first guest arrived an hour into the Saturday. She was a friend and she bought a card. I sat and sketched and I waited nervously. To my delight about 10 visitors came over the day and almost everyone bought something, including two original paintings. I was happy and relieved.

In the quiet moments that Saturday I messaged friends and neighbours to remind them about the event and Sunday was a different story. I lost count of the visitors (probably about 40), and it was very exciting. Interestingly, I sold a similar amount of work to the previous day, lots of cards and two paintings. I also had some great conversations, caught up with some old friends, met some new neighbours and there was a real buzz over the day.

So how did I find these visitors? Well directly messaging and inviting friends and neighbours definitely brings in a crowd. I had bunting and a BIG sign saying ‘Artists Studio Open’ outside which also helped. I distributed posters and brochures locally, but much of the work in attracting buyers I think comes from the effort all year-round gathering people who like what you do. Most of those who invested in my paintings follow me on social media, or have attended my art classes. I have a small email list of those who are genuinely interested in my art journey, which I have built over the last few years and so I messaged them about the event as well.

Opening your studio can be so much more than selling work though. It gives me a focus, a deadline and made me clean my studio! It gave me something to talk about on social media and posts to share. I had some lovely feedback about my work and insight into what people see and like. Swindon Open Studios has helped in my journey of finding new people to connect with online and face to face, both artists and art lovers, some of whom may become future customers, great friends, or both. Being an artist can be quite isolating, so being brave and opening your doors can be a really healthy part of your art practice.

Most of all, I feel proud to be part of a creative, cultural event which offers free access to art to the community of Swindon. Now back to the studio to make more work for this year’s event!

Sheryll K Fox

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