The complex where I have a shared studio with MA Drawing alumna, Caragh Savage, was part of a Kingston-wide open studios event over the weekends of 10/11 and 17/18 June. For some artists this is an important opportunity to sell work. I looked on it as a chance to show work in an informal environment and get some feedback from a wide range of visitors. So we set our space up as more of a working studio than a gallery.
I didn’t know how many visitors to expect but it felt quite slow. All the visitors seemed to be local people, with lots of families including children. Some said that they just like to look at what artists do. To judge from conversation with other artists, very few people buy work.
It was interesting for me to hear what ordinary people outside the art world made of my work. Generally people were drawn to the photographs, which I imagine reminded them of their own childhood family snaps. Star visitor was the lady who said: ‘I can see that your work deals with deconstructing and reconstructing these images and what they mean’! And someone else saw this small ink drawing in the brochure and scoured the studios to find who had done it.
I have some thoughts about the marketing of the event. The design of the poster/flyer positions it very much in the ‘local arts and crafts’ sector, in my view. And the studio website is similar. It’s not surprising that visitors see the event as just a chance for a look round: something to do on a pleasant afternoon. It is not positioned really as an opportunity to see but also buy contemporary art.
I know that some artists invite people from the mailing lists that they have built up over the years, especially of people who have bought work before. I would guess that this is really the only way of achieving many sales. That’s something to think about for future years.