Friday, June 9, 2017

2017 western loudoun artists studio tour recap

At this time last week, my wife Kris and I were just about finished with setting up our room at the Round Hill Arts Center, in preparation for the 2017 Western Loudoun Artists Studio Tour. I remember just how very basic (and boring) my table set-up was the first time I did the tour, in 2015. With Kris being on board for her first time on the tour, basic just wasn't gonna cut it, and rightly so. We transformed the "craft room" where I normally teach Saturday morning art classes, into an inviting and colorful little art oasis - a tiny getaway from the everyday humdrum, and hustle and bustle. With Kris being from the island country of Trinidad, and with my brand of art known as Splotch Monster Island, it only made sense to play some Steel Pan music, courtesy of our friend Kim Johnson, whose documentary on the history of the instrument and the music is phenomenal. 

It's interesting to note how different and yet incredibly similar our artwork is, and many people who stopped by our room, noticed that as well. In the end, it was a very successful weekend, with lots of visitors and sales for both of us. I feel like the studio tour, and a couple recent previous events, and some events soon to follow, really gave us the incentive to take our work, and the selling and marketing of it more seriously. Our investment in an expensive yet superb giclee printer paid off, since we decided to slowly phase out basic cardstock prints, for slightly more expensive, higher quality product. As our art evolves and improves, so must our product. We found more people than we could ever have imagined were quite willing to pay $20 for an 8" x 10" giclee, as opposed to the former $12 for a basic print on 9" x 11" cardstock paper. Folks also had no problem buying larger 11" x 14" prints for $30. The first volume of my mini-books sold out, at only ten bucks a pop, and there aren't many left of the second volume. The great thing about having your own printer, along with a good surplus of ink, paper and packing supplies is that you can make more on demand to fulfill a need from the general public. For example, a print of a pineapple done in watercolor, was a surprise hit for Kris, selling out quickly on day one of the tour. As a result, we printed out and packaged more for Sunday, again, selling them out by the day's end.  In the near future we will expand our product lines to incorporate a wider variety of choices, though it's important to never overwhelm potential customers with too many choices, keeping things simple yet varied. 

It was good to have some time here and there to work on art that was related to what we were selling, as well. We both brought some larger-scale sketchbooks to paint and draw in, but it can be a tricky balance, trying to work on art, sell your product and interact with visitors and customers, all at the same time. Us artists are used to working in silence and solitude, so being out of one's element is particularly challenging, yet it can also help to generate sells, as folks get a glimpse into your process and gain a slightly better understanding of what you do. It's all about balance - not ever ignoring visitors, always greeting them and engaging them without overdoing it, or scaring them off. That too can be tough, if a person visiting your table or studio dominates a conversation or takes up too much of your time. You can only hope most people are cognizant of this kind of thing, but that's not always the case, and for the most part, those folks mean well. That said, we had some wonderful conversations with some truly fascinating individuals, and that in itself is one of the most rewarding things about selling your work in public!

It's hard to believe the studio tour is over, and I'm so very grateful to all the folks who did their part to make it a success, from the organizers to the artists, and from friends to visitors and customers, and especially to my wife, who wouldn't settle for any form of mediocrity.  In a little over a week, we'll be selling our art at the Columbia Pike Blues Festival, and later in July, at the first ever Leesburg Arts in the Alley event. In the meantime, I'm enjoying a little bit of rest and downtime, as the last day of my sixteenth year teaching elementary art in the public schools ended today. Until next time!