What does it mean to be in Portland Open Studios?

You (and 105 other local artists) open up your Studio and show your process to visitors on the second and third weekends in October!

How do people take the studio tour? The Tour Guide

The Tour Guide:

Copies of the full-color Tour Guide sell for fifteen dollars and contains the image you selected as your Tour Guide image along with maps of the metro area and neighborhood maps. Possession of the Tour Guide acts as a ticket for two adults for both weekends and anyone under 18 is free.

Smart Phone Apps:

We also offer iPhone and Android apps. This year there are two versions: a free version and a $4.99 version. The free “navigation app” is equivalent to the old map-only ticket in that it only has your address, contact info, and the medias you work in; the app is paired with Google maps to offer navigation to the studios. The $4.99 version of the app is kind of a combination of the Tour Guide and the website. It has all three of the images you submitted, as well your contact info, and media. It also lets users plan their trip by selecting favorite artist, it lets them browse by media or wheelchair accessibility, and it has a few other bells and whistles.

Tour Guides are sold primarily at all New Seasons stores, Independent art stores like Muse Art and Design, and on our website. In addition to these retail locations they can be sold to individuals by all the Portland Open Studios artists.

You will receive 5 complementary Tour Guides which you may sell for their retail value or give away to family, friends or your collectors. We consistently hear from artists that people who purchase a Tour Guide from them will visit their studio.

Although you are not required to sell the Tour Guides, we recommend that you do. If you are not natural salesperson please give away the complimentary Tour Guides to those interested in art and art making.

Depending on the size of your purse or bag the Tour Guides may not be a convenient size to have on your person all the time, but keep them in your car or studio and try to find opportunities to talk up Portland Open Studios, sell them, and show off your artwork. Engaging with people, not only lets people know about the tour but will make them remember you when going on the tour. We hear over and over from tour goers that they like buying the Tour Guides from artists, these people who go on the tour like meeting artists and they want to support artists. If you want to purchase extra tour guides talk to [Jason Kappus] or go to the Information for Participating Artists page on the website. (more on that later)

Communicating about the Portland Open Studios tour

Tell everyone you know. And anyone who will listen. In previous years we have said that you may only share your address with people you already know – this is no longer the rule. Our new rule is share your address everywhere you want, but mention Portland Open Studios in the same breath or sentence if possible. Share your address on Facebook, Twitter, tell random people you meet at street fairs, that’s all fine now as long as you also mention Portland Open Studios. Why mention Portland Open Studios? Because you want to reap the benefit of all the other 105 artists also mentioning Portland Open Studios. A rising tide lifts all boats, so please acknowledge that it’s a group event and acknowledge that it’s a ticketed event.

You do not need to feel pressured to sell Tour Guides to family or friends who are only interested in visiting you, however, please encourage people to buy a Tour Guide so that they can visit the other studios.

Please know that it’s not your responsibility to check for people to have “tickets”. Generally people leave the Tour Guide in their cars. You may have a few people who wander in off the street having seen your signs up; if they tell you as much you should try to sell them a Tour Guide by telling them where to go to get one – Your CAG Leader’s studio for example. However, it is rare for people to be in your studio and not have purchased a Tour Guide in some form, so do not keep your Tour Guides, sell them or give them away in advance of the event. Your CAG Leader will specifically be stocked with extra Tour Guides for these circumstances. Every New Seasons store should also have plenty in stock.

For those on Facebook, become a fan and please share our fan page with your friends: http://www.facebook.com/pdxopenstudios . We broadcast our blog posts, info about the October tour and our artists here.

Our Twitter page: http://twitter.com/PDXOpenStudios Any of you that are on Twitter we are already following you. Follow us back. When talking about the tour please reference our username or use the hashtag #PDXOS.

We are also on Instagram and Pinterest. All of these links are on your handout.

Never, never, NEVER refer to us as POS. Only PDXOS or Portland Open Studios. This has been part of our marketing effort for years, but starting this year we will be using PDXOS more and more as our official name.

Volunteers make this event happen!

We are a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. That means this event only happens if all of us make it happen. All of the board members and chair persons up here are dedicated enough to put in many, many hours every month year round, but that it not enough. It is vital that you make an effort to fulfill your volunteer hours. You are totally allowed to do more than 8 hours and thank you in advance to those of you that do go above and beyond the suggested hours. On the other hand if you are having trouble fulfilling your hours please contact Wendy and she will work to solve that problem.

We make every effort to be professional, but we are in essence a large group effort, so if you know someone who can help or do us a favor we need all the help and favors we can get.

Community Action Groups (CAGs)

Our artists are organized into Community Action Groups. The one hundred and six artists have been divided into eleven areas, which externally we call Communities and internally we call CAGs. Near the end of the workshop you will have a chance to meet the other artists in your CAG and discuss what you might like to do as a group.

One of the primary functions of the CAGs is to give you new artists a support system. Please consider your CAG Leader your mentor in the ways of Portland Open Studios. If we do not address all your questions, go to them for answers. Three months from now when you have forgotten most of what we talked about tonight, go to them. Barring that direct any questions or concerns you have to Jason through admin@portlandopenstudios.com.

Mission and Mentorship

Part of Portland Open Studios’ mission is to educate the public. As part of this mission we run an educational internship program that pairs high school and college students with artists. The basic function of this program is for students to interact with artists so that they better understand what it means to be a working artist. If you have not already volunteered to participate in the mentor program, we encourage you to consider it. One appeal of having a student in your studio during tour weekends is that it gives you a helper. Many of the students find the experience exciting enough that they will feel fulfilled by greeting visitors, keeping your space tidy, and generally providing you a second pair of hands. I would recommend that you develop a deeper relationship with them beyond manual labor and Kelly Williams and Tamara Hammerman will talk more about that later.


Our tag lines are ‘Watch Artists at Work’ and ‘Experience Creativity’. Demoing is what makes Portland Open Studios unique from other tours and events. It’s absolutely vital that you be demoing or providing insight into your creative process throughout the tour weekends. We are going to talk about demoing a little bit tonight, but let me say now that if you have any question about demoing, in general, because your process is complex, or not easy to demonstrate, please, please ask. Ask your CAG leader, ask a board member, Jason Kappus in particular will be very happy to problem solve with you.

Suggestions on how to have a successful open studio event.

What the Portland Open Studios tour experience is like and some advice on how to have successful tour weekends.

A lot of what I will talk about in terms of success will relate to sales, but let me say that you do not need to have anything for sale. If you are participating to expand your audience, simply to educate people about your process, or for whatever purpose that is fine, please ignore all the sales talk. Even for most of you who will be selling work, please bear in mind that not all visitors are not potential customers, some are only interested viewing artwork or learning more about art-making.

You will have between 6 and 100 visitors per day, coming in a trickle or a stampede.
It’s hard to know what any individual artist may expect on a given day or a given year. As much as possible you need to prepared and “on” for every visitor, I have had days where visitors are waiting at the door at 10am and other where no one shows up until after lunch. Please do not whine to visitors about slow traffic or anything else, be polite and upbeat. Any single visitor could lead to big opportunities. On the other hand, be prepared for it be busy, have a friend or a high school intern help out by handling some of the business – the transactions, the mailing list, etc. – so that you can focus on demoing, educating, engaging and making connections with the visitors.

When visitors fill out our survey about which artists they liked best they do talk about the quality of the artwork or an intriguing process, but the most common praising is around artists who are good hosts – who are warm, welcoming, open, kind, et cetra.

Who are your visitors? Some people will visit you because they are supremely interested in your work, based on your Tour Guide image, or occasionally they’ve gone to your website, but others will be visiting because you were nearby another studio or because they are visiting everyone working in a given media. This diversity of purpose means that some people will be in your space for thirty seconds and some for thirty minutes.

Be prepared to answer some of the same questions over and over.

Take down work by other artists,

People are invariably drawn to disparity and will ask you about the one object in the room you didn’t create because it’s so obviously different. If you have a well-composed family photo, people may try to buy it. Have nothing out that you do not want to talk about over and over.

Clearly put prices out

We do not recommend inventory sheets, put a price next to each piece. And if something is not for sale, mark it as such.

Consider having multiple price points,

Multiple types of items in addition to your main work, such as sketches, postcards, prints, etc. Multiple sizes. We absolutely have tour goers who spend big money, but most commonly they spend $100 or less. If it at all feasible for you to do so, you should have something available for less than $100.

When you are making your art, you are an artist. As soon as it is finished, you are a business person. With that in mind, consider offering some of the same amenities as traditional businesses.

Will you offer discounts? (with the purchase of multiple items for example)

Will you negotiate a price? (most people will not haggle, but if someone asks about getting a better price that means they do want to purchase it and you are already halfway to a sale)
Will you reserve artwork? If someone is vacillating over a purchase, offering them a verbal reserve, or a percentage down reserve allows them to consider it further, but also makes them feel slightly obligated. If possible send them home with a photo of the piece and encourage them to consider what room they would place it in.

Will you offer a payment plan? If so, what percentage down payment and what percentage per month thereafter? Will you ask for all the checks needed to complete the purchase at the time of the sale and have each post-dated?
Do you offer refunds, and if so within what time period?

Do you teach classes? Lots of the visitors will be other artists, professional or hobbyist, so if you teach workshops or classes, be sure to advertise that.

Have an e-mail mailing list sign-up sheet. Even if you don’t have a website, do have business cards with contact info. Show cards and other take-always are also good.

Alcohol is permissible, but inadvisable (you are legally responsible for people when they leave your event until they reach their destination).

Food and drink are not required, but nice. Consider allergies. Consider putting out something other than cookies and sweets.

Insurance is a good idea. Your home owner’s or renter’s insurance may cover this type of event or it may not. Ask for a quote from your insurance company or try theeventhelper.com which offers very specific types of event insurance for pretty cheap. To our historical knowledge no one has ever been hurt or offended and tried to sue an artists, but be aware that if someone trips in your studio they can’t easily sue PDXOS, but they can sue you.

Cordon off areas that are off limits, use signage for where is okay and where is not okay to go. Decide if you want people using your bathroom.
In the history of Portland Open Studios nothing has been stolen, so don’t leave out your Fabergé, but don’t be paranoid.

Consider having something for kids to do – like an art table with non-messy and safe things. Rarely you may have an unruly child (or adult for that matter), treat it like you might if you were the owner of a store: be polite but firm about what is and is not appropriate in your space.

What to say: You don’t need to rehearse exactly what to say to visitors ahead of time, but do consider the whys and hows of your work. This can be a more conversational version of your bio or statement. You may also want to post news articles, artists statements, or a bio, which can be very useful for people to read if you’re busy talking to someone else.

It’s important to the mission of Portland Open Studios that you have some part of your process that is accessible and you are not standing in your studio like you might at a gallery reception.

If possible, try to have materials to explain your medium to every small group with something you can complete in ten minutes – ie. How is gouache different from other paints, be prepared to show not just tell; how does layering work with encaustic, be prepared to paint a layer, let it cool and put down another layer. If you work in glass, clay, or your method is just long and complicated try to have examples (photos or video) of the work in various stages, or anything that will help to explain.

Have images that inspire you or that are your source material. Notebooks, sketches, and notes all allow people to see your ‘process’.

This is what Portland Open Studios is selling, this is what the tour is about. When people come into your studio they expect to see your process. That might mean that you are demoing in front of them, or it might be providing insight into what makes you tick as an artist. People want to make that connection with you, understand your story, what inspires you, and how you transform that inspiration into reality. What can you do to show off your process generally and to explain specific pieces. When you do this well, people connect with you and your work, and they remember you.

It’s lovely when someone walks in and buys something just because it’s wonderful art, but our experience is that people like to make a connection to the art through you, who you are, what you do, and why you do it. As such we believe that education provides a connection and connections often lead to sales.

For demoing save aside a piece that you don’t care about to work on, or if you have a stage of your process that is quicker and requires less attention save aside several of these – tour goers can and will interrupt you every five minutes, so have a piece where you can work and talk at the same time or that you can work on then walk away from to explain something then come back and pick up again twenty minutes later.

Even though tour goers know the artists are going to be demoing if it looks like you’re in the zone and don’t want to be disturbed, they won’t disturb you by asking questions – and we want them to ask questions. So work on something that is not precious and make sure your body language stays open and approachable.

Use a large-sized
receipt book so you can record all info (buyers contact info, title of work, method of payment, etc). If things are slow enough I make notes about the conversations I had with people who bought something or left their contact info on the mailing list. After each weekend I can then send people personalized thanks you e-mails. This can also be helpful for people who are vacillating about buying something. Send them an e-mail a month later letting them know it’s still available or that your have a new piece in a similar style.

Consider a money-belt to hold change/money safely and with you (find at travel store).

These days people expect you to accept credit cards, so if you don’t already have a credit card reader from Square or Paypal you should get one. If you don’t have a smartphone or don’t want to deal with credit cards you may want to have a laptop or computer readily available to accept Paypal payments. If you do have a smartphone, but don’t know what Square is, it’s a free credit card reader where each transaction costs thirty cents and and 2.9% commission. It’s easy to use, it doesn’t have a monthly fee and it puts the money directly into your bank account.