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Opening Your House Guide

Before the Event

Be clear about times for setting up/taking down

Establish opening hours and invigilation. Make a rota so there will be a minimum of two artists present at all times.

Start setting up your exhibition at the beginning of the week to allow time to deal with anything unforeseen.

Spend time on the display of artwork like a shop or gallery would- group artworks by colour or theme, allow space around each piece, make professional-looking labels.

Don’t strip the whole house of furniture and fittings- people like to see art in a domestic setting- but protect carpets, remove trip hazards, hide valuables.

Are there ways of hanging work without having to redecorate later? Fit picture rails in advance, use … in solid walls etc.

Research how to price your work in advance. There are different methods used for this- by hours spent making it plus material costs, by comparison to similar artwork made by other people, even by price per squ. Inch…

Publicity, publicity, publicity – Organize some cross-promotions with other venues/artists – get in touch with venues nearby, agree that you will send visitors to each others’ venues. Provide visitors with the information needed to get to the next venue.

Invite people in your neighbourhood, including neighbours you may not have met before. Doing this in person is a good way to ensure they are happy with the increased foot/car traffic, and will encourage them to visit.

Do everything you can to advertise the Arts Trail and your venue. Tell your Facebook fans, Twitter followers, mailing list etc. As a community of artists, we all benefit from from every individual doing what they can to publicise the event (you may well sell a piece to a visitor who heard about the trail through another artist on the trail, and vice versa).

Take photos, before opening /during / upload online platforms

During the Event

Make your venue noticeable. Is the venue easy to find, welcoming and eye-catching?

Leave your front door open and put up ‘welcome’ signs to encourage people to cross the threshold.

Put up ‘Private’ signs so visitors don’t stumble into private areas.

Display a disclaimer for the public to read on entry to our homes and make sure you have public liability insurance. Disclaimer can be copied from our T&C’s page

Welcome everyone, introduce yourself and other artists.

Don’t get into a huddle with friends or have private chats- think like you’re a shop assistant making everyone feel equally comfortable. If you can, eat your lunch privately.

Have low level music playing so people are never left in silence.

Practice in advance how you will talk about your work if you are asked (and get feedback from a friend?) Make everything you say positive.

If you will be looking after other artists’ work when they are not there, ask them to talk you through what they want you to say. Make sure you have contact details so you can phone artists about queries.

Be open to talking and answering questions, but don’t inundate people with information. If asked about work, show an interest in the visitor’s ideas too- ask a question about why they like any artwork they’ve spend time looking at.

Use good timing- don’t interrupt if someone is looking intently at an artwork as this would pull them away from engaging with it. Wait until they are just turning away from the work to say something brief about that piece.

If you are surprised by someone asking you to make a commissioned work and you aren’t sure if you want to, take their contact details for further discussion rather than committing to something you’ll regret or turning them away out of hand.

Consider how you will politely curtail conversations with talkative visitors so that you don’t neglect others.

Invite people to sign your visitors book. This is a good way to start or to prolong a conversation. It is also essential if you want to grow your mailing list and follow-up after the show.

Set up a demonstration/workshop. Visitors love to meet artists and talk to them about their art and their technique.

Making Sales

Taking payments for sales – A proper cash box with lock and key is generally a good investment. Make sure you have enough change available too.

These days less and less people carry cash – therefore consider using a card reader such as SumUp or Zettle.

Set up online banking/PayPal etc if you can, so purchasers can transfer money directly to your account. Know where the nearest cash point is.

Make sure you have a Sales Log Book ready, carefully writing down all sales for each artist.

Make it easy for people to buy by clearly labelling each artwork with the price.

Decide whether purchasers can take the purchase away immediately or at the end of the exhibition. Ask for a deposit before you put a ‘sold’ sticker on anything to be collected later. If you take a cheque, make sure it has cleared before handing over goods. Consider delivering to purchasers. What will you do if a tourist needs to take the centrepiece of your exhibition away with them before the end of the trail?

Attach your business card to each art work and take contact details of purchasers so you can keep in touch – they might be repeat buyers. And put out business cards for people to take.

Don’t leave money, valuables and personal belongings lying around, keep them safe.

Have fun!

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