Get a Behind-the-Scenes Look!
What does it take to bring your photography to a local audience? This year, I embarked on the journey to create an enjoyable and memorable experience for my community as I participated for the first time in the 2nd Annual Anderson Island Open Studio Tour.
If you have ever wondered what it would take to transition from “someone who takes good pictures,” to “someone who participates in artist community showcases,” I wanted to share my thoughts and planning for how I prepared for my first big show. I’ll describe in more detail some of the resources I leveraged below, but let’s start with a walkthrough:
That looks like a lot of work…
Yes, so now you know why I’ve been MIA for a few months! It is a lot to think about the first time through, though next year I think it will be much easier. Mostly, it took time and planning.
My background in visual and instructional design means that I planned this show with my professional experience bolstering my decisions. More than anything, I wanted to create an experience that would educate, engage, and explain my photography. That approach might not be for everyone, but I found that people really responded to it.
Here’s the Cliff’s Notes version of what I explained in the video:
- Plan for flow: More than 170 people walked through this space in the span of two days. When I planned how to lay out the show, I tried to put ample space between pieces to allow people to linger and enjoy without feeling rushed. I also used the art to draw people through the garden, which is a big draw for the wildlife I capture around my home.
- Plan for engagement: I made an effort to engage at every point I could – mixing different types of media, creating signs with background information, giving people things they could pick up and look at or sit and listen to, while trying it keep it all short and sweet.
- Plan for different needs: While I could have focused on big, glossy, wall-hanging art, I knew many people didn’t have the space. Instead, I kept sizes down which kept prices affordable, and added products like cards, magnets, journals, puzzles, and trivets so folks could get art in more multi-functional mediums.
- Plan ahead: By preparing ahead for what I needed, I was able to place orders when sales came up, have plenty of time to assemble pieces, and then be able to sit back and enjoy the show.
Pick Quality Partners
I’m a stickler for quality, so here are some of the vendors that I work with and love:
I produce all of my photos, mounted art, and many products with Bay Photo. Their quality is through the moon, and while it means less profit margin for me, I wouldn’t ever want to sell art that comes in at a lower bar. Here’s a few reasons I love them, aside from quality:
- Minimal shipping cost – while you can have items drop-shipped directly to customers for a reasonable fee, if you are ordering items shipped to your billing address, the cost is exceptionally low…often $1.50 for any number/size of a type of product. I love that they keep my costs low, unlike most print-it-yourself companies who charge *a lot* for shipping.
- Great customer service – the few times I’ve need some advice or to change something, they have been responsive, helpful and very professional.
- Frequent specials – while they run longer specials on their website, they have weekly 24-hour flash sales announced via their social media. If I’m prepared with my art, it’s a great way to take advantage of a 15-25% off sale, which I did to stock up for this show.
- Very, very good packaging – I have never had anything arrive damaged, and the care with which they package their items is well above any other company I’ve encountered.
My writing journals are produced through Blurb, as “trade books” with soft covers and easily writable pages (not high gloss). If I could count on selling 500, I’d work directly with a printer, but for small-run publications, I think their quality for price point is probably as good as it gets. I like that I can sell my journals via their system for less than the commissions I give to local stores, and their features, like being able to “flip through” the pages virtually is a nice touch. Take a look at what I’ve been able to produce with them.
When I shot the video, I actually mis-remembered who I bought the frames from. It turns out I picked them up from Frametory on Amazon. I’ll say again for the record, I thought these were great looking, solid, professional looking frames, and for $110 for 12 frames, you can’t go wrong.
I had thought I had bought the frames from the company I buy a lot of my supplies from – Golden State Art on Amazon. Their packaging, pricing and selection have come through for me time and time again. I’d recommend checking out anything they are selling.
What supplies did I need? For selling prints, I like to slide them into plastic sleeves and put 2mm foam backing behind them, and I add a 3″x4″ printed label on the back with a description of the piece. That foam backing came in very handy to glue descriptions onto and cut out various sized placards for the show. Having just painted my house’s exterior, I affixed everything with painter’s tape, which made for good stick, but easy removal.
I’d also say that engaging a company like Square to process credit cards on a mobile device is a big help. The convenience is worth the cost, and it probably doubles the sales I’m able to make at events. I use Intuit’s Go Payment, since I already use Quickbooks for my professional work.
Encourage the Artists in Your Life
My biggest takeaway from this experience is an overwhelming sense of gratitude to my community for being the catalyst – encouraging me every step of the way to participate in events here as an artist. I don’t think I would have ever thought to do it without their encouragement – to enter in the Art in the Park show, to present to my community about what I’ve learned about birds, to join the Studio Tour. I never envisioned this path for myself, but by the end of this show, I found myself thinking, “maybe it would be cool to try to hang my stuff in a gallery at some point…”
So here’s what I’ll leave you with:
Encourage the creative people in your life to share what they do. The feedback loop is immensely humbling and encouraging, creating a fulfilling cycle of sharing and appreciation.