Now that you are a BOSCO member, it's time to start thinking about the main event — the Boise Open Studios Tour! Are you ready? Or not sure where to start? Here are some ideas for preparing for the weekend, getting your studio ready and making the most of the experience.
Getting the word out
BOSCO volunteers will do their best to get the word out about the event in general, but invite your own peeps! Use your own mailing list, blog, Facebook page, Twitter, Instagram accounts (et cetera...) to invite people to *your* studio.
Contact your insurance agent to discuss the appropriate liability insurance for the general public visiting on Tour days. Your home owner’s policy may not cover a special event like this, best to double check in advance.
If you have your work in a gallery, double check your contract about sales outside of that gallery, and let your gallery know that you will be participating in a studio tour. It’s a good time to assure your gallery rep that you view the open studio tour as a time to promote both yourself and the gallery. Ask for promotional material from the gallery that you can distribute in your studio during tour and confirm that potential buyers will be referred to the gallery for sales if that’s what your contract specifies. It’s a really bad idea to undermine your gallery with private sales.
Planning Your Studio Set-Up
Set the stage for a welcoming experience by considering these tips.
Have a welcome sign that invites visitors to come in -- don’t let your guests feel like unwelcome invaders
Imagine your space with a lot of people in it. Is there really room to move around? If not, clear the clutter.
Remove personal items that may distract attention from your art. People are interested in what inspires you, but don’t let those inspirations and souvenirs become the focus of the day.
Create distinct zones for viewing work, watching demos, resting a bit and oh yes, completing paper work and packaging any sold items. Clearly mark areas that are off-limits with ropes/tapes and/or signs.
Present your work thoughtfully and respectfully, leave plenty of room between piece so that each can be appreciated. Prepare professional looking labels including title, date, medium and price (if they are available for sale). Often people are too shy to ask for prices, so you’re creating a barrier to sales if you don’t let folks know up front what’s what and how much.
People love to see how things are made, but actually demonstrating technique may infringe on your time chatting with guests. Consider displaying in-process work with an information card describing the various stages in the creation of a piece. Another option is to run a slide show on a monitor showing various phases of production.
Put out your own promotional materials
Postcards, business cards, brochures and any other materials should be easy for visitors to see and pick up to take with them.
Display your portfolio with photos and information about you and your work that people may read -- keep it open at all times.
Put out your guest book and encourage people to add their name to your mailing list (follow up with a “thank you for visiting” note).
People, especially older people, are much more likely to stay longer if they can rest and regroup.
Designate a sales area
Have a desk to write receipts, take notes, etc. Perhaps a friend or family member can take care of processing sales so that you may concentrate on speaking with guests about your art and nurture relationships. Put plenty of change in your cash box. If possible accept credit cards. Give everyone a sales receipt, as well as your return policy, copyright notice and care instructions for the art. Have packing material/bags on hand for sold items. Bags or wrapping paper with your name on them (a good DIY project with a stack of labels and your computer/printer) will make the sale more professional and complete. Sales tax -- yup, fact of life, plan for it and have your sales tax certificate displayed accordingly.
Ask a friend or family member to be on site at all times to help you and for security’s sake. Though we’ve never heard of problems during BOSCO, it’s probably a good idea to have one person be in charge of money, and keep it on their person so that those hard earned dollars don’t “walk away”.
If you are willing to let visitors use your bathroom, that’s kind and generous. If not, that’s understandable and ok too - but, please know where the closest public restroom is so that you can direct your guest to it. Again, put yourself in your guests’ place.
We all love our own pets, but your guests may not. Or they may be allergic. For Tours days, consider confining pets to a separate area away from guests.
Background music can be lovely and sets the stage for a pleasant experience. Be aware that music which energizes you may prove distracting to a guest who is already stimulated by the visual feast you have prepared for them.
Let your neighbors know that the area will be busier than usual on Tour days, and be sure to invite them too!
You’re A Great Host: Nurture Relationships
Put your guests first. It’s your party, be gracious, grateful and model good manners. Stay focused.
You should be at your open studio at all times — people are coming to meet and chat with you. You’re the star!
Wear a name tag and greet each person. Ask friends or family to help with this, most important of tasks, so that no guest feels neglected. Dress the part of the fabulous artist that you are, but be professional and comfortable in your attire.
Welcome your guests, every person who enters is a potential buyer! Remember names, people love that (the trick is to use their name right away in conversation). Introduce your guests to each other, particularly when one arrives alone — this goes a long way to making guests feel at home and want to stay. Generate those warm fuzzy feeling about you and your work!
Be prepared for awkward questions like:
“How long does it take to make a piece?”
“Why does this cost so much?”
“What’s your schtick?”
“Do you take time payments?”
“What’s the discount?”
“Do you take special orders?”
Food and drink
Offering a little something to your guests is basic hospitality, but don’t worry about providing a meal. A nibble and some bottled water may be all one needs to set out. In fact a party atmosphere may distract from your work. Studio Tour is a visual feast of your art, not a culinary competition.
Wouldn’t you be delighted to receive a little gift when you visit a studio? It’s certainly not required. But, some little something might make you and your art stand out in your guest’s memory and whet their appetite for more of your art.
When your guests are ready to leave, refer them to a nearby BOSCO artist’s studio, and make sure they have one of our great tour maps and "Passport" cards. Your fellow BOSCO artists will appreciate the referral, as you will appreciate theirs.
Help us plan for next year now
Keep record of attendance, BOSCO will provide you a form with day/time parts on which you just tick off the number of people through your door during Tour. This information will be used to help plan tour hours next year; for privacy’s sake your name need not be on the form. We’re just concerned with traffic flow and numbers in general.
After the Tour
Generate more warm fuzzies for you and your art — write thank you notes to the folks who stopped by!
To recap it all: In general, what will make your guests feel comfortable and make them want to stay longer? (Longer stays often equate with more sales and certainly a stronger artist/patron relationship.) What can you do that will pleasantly surprise guests and inspire them to tell their friends about you and your art? How can you be different from all the other studios that are open?
— LA Fraley, BOSCO Secretary 2013
Want to print this out? Here's a PDF --