Ideas for hosting an Open Studio

These are my notes from a short talk I was asked to give to first-time participants in Cambridge Open Studios. The COS team do a great job of preparing everyone and advertising the event. These are some of the things I’ve found worked for me over the last 5 years to help make my open studio extra special. You don’t need to do all of them, and some might not make sense for you. For context; I am a full-time professional potter with a studio in my garden, I live on the outskirts of Cambridge (Cherry Hinton).

Weeks before your open studio

the advert I placed in ceramic review for my 2017 event.
the advert I placed in ceramic review for my 2017 event.

Optimize your COS profile – think about what potential visitors will see. If they will just see a small thumbnail of your work, make sure you choose suitable picture.

Opening all 4 weekends is a lot of work, but in my experience, there’s decent footfall on all days. If you’re trying to decide which weekend to skip – check if any clash with major sport events like Wimbledon.

Some people will visit on a whim that day, picking your name from the guide. The number will depend a lot on the weather. Ideally you want people to plan their visit in advance. To get more of these visitors you need to advertise:

  • Print postcards and distribute them locally
  • Invite neighbours
  • Form a “open studios walk” with other nearby artists
  • Use email/twitter/facebook etc to let people know
  • Put up posters in friendly shops/venues
  • Advertise in local/craft magazines

Days before your open studio

My studio cleaned, tidied and ready for visitors.
My studio cleaned, tidied and ready for visitors.

Ahead of the first weekend make you prepare your studio. You’ll probably want to tidy up and do some cleaning. Make space to display your work. People want to see how and where you work, but make an effort to display the results of your work well

Plan how you are going to help people find your studio. The yellow flag is great, but for example my studio is my back garden so I have lot of extra yellow signs bunting and arrows out front to make sure people don’t get lost. People will wander about so if there’s anywhere you don’t want them to go, make sure that’s clear.

Think about pricing your work. I think price labels work well – otherwise people have to ask you the price. Which can interrupt other conversations and feels a little awkward.

Similarly think about how you will take payment. If you are only accepting cash, you will need a float. What works very well for me is a simple card payment machine that works with my mobile. But make sure you know how to use and keep the charger for it and your phone with you just in case.

I set up a bench outside my main studio where I sell my seconds and samples at a lower price. Open studios is the only time I sell my seconds.

On the day of your open studio

My studio
My studio

If you can, it’s great to have someone nearby who can help out if you need it. I ask family to check-in on me from time to time.

Prepare your lunch in the morning in case you need to grab a quick bite between conversations.

Try to collect the email addresses of people who visit, especially anyone who buys something. Have a book laid out for people to join your mailing list. And a pile of your business cards or postcards alongside it. Put out any articles or features about your work for people to read.

You could offer drinks and snacks to people through the day. A cold drink when it’s hot is always appreciated. I have tried offering a glass of prosecco but a lot of people drive to my studio because I’m a bit out of town.

Try to welcome everyone and speak to as many people as you can.

Don’t panic if there are quiet times – it’s a great chance to do some of those jobs around your studio you’ve been putting off.

Try to enjoy yourself and good luck – I hope this has given you some ideas for your own open studio. 😊 And let me know if you have any tips of your own!