On New Year’s Eve 2016 at 4pm, just 8 hours before the online application deadline, and with a dinner party for 6 starting in a few hours, Nik and I decided that we were going to do the Oxfordshire Artweeks event in 2017 for the very first time. Within 45 minutes we had found the all-important image that would go in the catalogue and written the accompanying text. We congratulated ourselves and then got on with seeing the New Year in.
During January we both agreed that we had a lot to do and that leaving it to the last minute would be a big mistake. We wrote a long ‘to do’ list, with tasks for the Artweeks exhibition, and many more to do with getting the house and garden ‘exhibition ready’. All good stuff, we smugly congratulated ourselves once again on being so organised. I remember saying that even if we didn’t sell anything during Artweeks that at least we’d have got some long outstanding DIY done.
Suddenly it was April. Artweeks was starting in 6 weeks, where was that list of ‘things to do’?! Obviously, there was way more on the list than we had time for… In the next 6 weeks, we finished painting the kitchen/dining room, cleared out the porch, painted it white and turned it into an additional exhibition space. And then arranged for our very overgrown garden hedges to be cut (on the day of our opening preview but beggars can’t be choosers)! We also made time to take up old carpet from the garden which had been down nearly 4 years suppressing the weeds and replaced with wood bark. A good tip here – it had worked brilliantly. The grass was growing through and on the top of it, but the carpet just rolled up to reveal weed free soil.
On top of all that we were frantically creating all the artwork for the exhibition, mounting, framing, labelling, pricing, etc. etc. Just 2 weeks before the opening, we also decided that having greeting cards to sell was a good idea and we even managed to get physical proofs and then 500 cards sorted in 8 working days! By the time our opening preview arrived, it is safe to say we were pretty exhausted. I should mention here that Nik was selling fine art photography and he would describe his subject matter as challenging! Have a look for yourself www.nikstanbridge.com
Was it worth it?
Yes. I had the most amazing time. Real people, people I didn’t know, took the time to come and see my work and many of them took it home too!). For 9 days we had an open house from 11am to 6pm and during that time 250 people choose to come and see us. And all this despite the weather which, for many of the days, was really very horrid. Oxfordshire Artweeks is a long standing event and is now one of the largest Open Studio Festivals of visual arts in the country. As a result, it has a good following. The very first visitor came through the door 4 minutes after opening on our first day. During the conversation it transpired that she had marked 80 venues to visit during the 3 weeks of Artweeks. That morning she had already been to Witney, visited several venues and had bought several items including furniture. Within 15 minutes she was on her way having left a red dot on one of my framed items and carrying a postage stamp art kit. During the week I lost count of the groups of 3 or 4 friends enjoying a day out together, saying “we do this every year!”.
What did I learn?
- The image and words that you choose for the catalogue is very important. I am so grateful that completely by accident I got that right in just 45 minutes on New Year’s Eve.
- Leaving all the prep so late is a very bad idea (ok I knew that already).
- Don’t be afraid to be different and stand out.
- Have lots of ‘pick-up’ items for sale. Plan food for the week ahead of time. As we were using our kitchen/dining room, we couldn’t cook ‘smelly food’ for 10 days.
We are already planning for next year!
You’ll find some photos from Oxfordshire Artweeks here.