As you may know already, Bogdan and I gave up the day jobs back in 2015 to be closer to Mom and Dad, to get Bogdan his US Citizenship, and to become famous and wealthy creative entrepreneurs. We live just across the street from my parents, Bogdan’s citizenship interview is scheduled for January of next year, but somehow fame and fortune haven’t caught up with us yet. Though that’s not been for want of trying.
For the first year, we each established working studios in our guestrooms at home, and we still do a lot of work in those studios. I do most of my painting at home, and most of my writing as well. Bogdan does a fair amount of editing here at home, as well as some visual artwork as well. We love working from home, but realized soon enough that if we ever wanted to have collectors, attend networking events, and get to know the movers and shakers in the area art scene, we were going to have to spend time away from our home studios.
One of the things we did about a year in, was to rent an artist studio in Houston, about an hour’s drive from where we live. We started out in an efficiency apartment downtown, where we could be close to everything, and yet be able to sleep over if there were evening events. After a year, we realized that wasn’t working, so we moved into a special artist community building that housed some 60 artists, and we absolutely loved the experience. Today we’ve moved to another building, and recently rented a second studio space. Unlike some artists I’ve spoken to, the Coronavirus pandemic has not been a time of great sales for us, so you know that we must really value having a studio a lot to spend that kind of money during a financial crisis.
I’ve come up with 5 great reasons why having a studio away from home is a great idea.
#1 Being around other artists is essential.
Once we moved into the city, and were available pretty much any time, we instantly started meeting people that could be helpful to our careers. We were able to show up at networking meetings, gallery opening and museums. We quickly realized that being central was crucial to our success. Being at the center of the art scene in Houston made a huge difference. My advice would always get to the center of the buzz as soon as possible. You’ll not only meet loads of interesting and helpful people, they will see you as a serious player in the art world too. When creative people get together for any reason, amazing things start to happen. Make sure part of your tribe includes relationships to other creative types. Then don’t need particularly in your specific field, but include them into you studio practice, and watch how you will grow.
#2 Participate in Everything
Now that you have a studio away from the everyday chores and distractions at home, and you’re at the white-hot center of the art world in your community, and you’re hanging out and getting inspired by other creatives, you need to participate in everything that makes sense, and several things that don’t. People need to start to notice you, when you show up at big art events, you’ll start running into your artist friends, and people start to notice that too. Remember that you’re building a business here, and though your art is your product, you are your product too. You need to be marketing yourself as well as your art. Take advantage of all the opportunities your new studio and friends offer, and be excited and interested in everything.
#3 Create a space that works for your collectors
Your studio away from home is your shop, your gallery, treat it as such. I’ve been in galleries that are bohemian, artsy, and filthy. While that may give off a vibe of the starving artist, it doesn’t mean the studio is appropriate for buyers to enter. How are your customers going to find you? Where can they park? Is it clear in your studio what is for sale, does it look like they’re welcome, and that you’ve expected and are delighted by their visit. I’ve seen open studios where artist don’t make eye contact, or get up from what they’re doing online. When we had the lovely downtown apartment, it was great, but we quickly realized that no one could really come up to the apartment to “see our etchings.” It looked creepy asking women to come
#4 Look professional
It’s super important to make a great first impression. People looking to spend serious money on quality art want to feel like they’re in the right spot. Make sure your studio is clean, that items for sale are well displayed, and that you have packing materials if a purchase is made. Make sure you have a system for taking money, we use Square, that makes them feel the purchase is safe. And make sure too that you allow them to pay with credit cards, cash (have change on hand). You should have a card, or a bio sheet to put in the bag as well. The important thing to remember is that if you look like a cheap, starving artist, you’re likely going to be treated as such.
#5 Create experiences for your collectors
Finally, I think it is essential that you create meaningful experiences for your collectors. If you studio is just a corner shop filled with lovely things, that may not be enough to build a following of collectors who are committed to you, your creative output, and who will return again and again to see what you’re up to. Certainly have a studio that is inviting, well stocked with merchandise at various price points, but don’t just open the door and hope for the best. Create special VIP, invitation only events, special happy hour or pizza party nights. Tie your events to other destinations around you. May be a pre-game toast on Sunday afternoon, or stop by the studio on your way to the Opera night. Allow your collectors to view your studio as a destination, as well as a shop, and get to know them through a variety of experiences that will keep them interested, and keep you top-of-mind.