I had never taken part in South East Open Studios before, and although in the past I considered showing my work in this way, the timing never seemed quite right. That is until I was offered the opportunity to join Ashford Visual Artists and exhibit as part of a group exhibition with them. The group is made up of talented and individual artists, and we showed in a group of 10 artists in Amaltheus Barn near High Halden. The Barn itself is a lovely building in an idyllic setting made from straw bales, covered with daube. The owner of the barn built it himself in a green and eco friendly way and as he put it made all his mistakes on it, before moving on to build a beautiful house next door. In a pen opposite the entrance to the barn were two spotted pigs and in an adjacent paddock a variety of sheep. As we sat and ate our lunch on the days we were open to the public we were greeted with a cacophony of grunts and squeals as the pigs became more and more agitated squealing to their owner to hurry up and feed them. It was funny watching them eat their slop as I imagine they found us just as amusing watching us eat ours.
Here is what I have learnt from my first experience of exhibiting in SEOS:
Guide Picture. It is really important to produce a picture for the SEOS guide that reflects your work. This may appear an obvious point, but unfortunately I did not realise this and relied on older work to make my application and produced other work for the exhibition after the application process. The picture in the guide shows potential art buyers an artist's style. Artists in the exhibition sold pieces that were their thumb nail picture in the guide. Which just goes to show that advertising does work!
Have confidence in your work. In the past I have lacked the confidence to talk about my work and was shy when it came to engaging people when talking about my work. I was fortunate to sell two pieces of work before the private view at the exhibition, and this gave me enormous confidence. As the weeks of the exhibition passed more and more people engaged me in conversation about my work and I was able to explain processes and techniques that I had used and gained confidence. For this, possibly the mantra that I use in making art that helps is.......Practice, practice, pactice.
Choosing your location. When I visit open studios I look at the guide maps and try to fit in as many studios close together with artists that I like to visit and I think that is what many visitors do as well. This was true of the Barn where I exhibited. Many visitors chose our exhibition on route to other studios. Other artists I have spoken to opened up their gardens to walk through and converted their sheds into gallery spaces and some even sold plants as a profitable sideline. Location of your open studio is not necessarily key to visitors decision to visit open studios as long as there is parking, and easy access, visitors come to enjoy the experience of looking and hopefully purchasing art.
I have to say that the experience of my first SEOS was a good one. I talked about my work and hopefully increased visitor's desire to engage with art, and I know that this experience has energised my desire to engage much more with people who have a thirst for creativity through the arts. But summing it all up and asking myself would I do it again? Well, yes I would, and I would recommend this activity to other artists to have this experience of engaging directly with people who are interested in art.
Just a few call outs to new friends and old for coming to visit - Lin Fetcher from the Fish Slab in Whitstable came to visit and Brigitta Wilson, who also took part in SEOS in Ham Street showing her wonderful colograph prints, also came to see us. Thanks to all who came to visit.
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All Artwork © 2014 Wendy Murray. Protected by The Copyright Act and the provisions thereunder.