Exhibiting after Covid

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I have just taken part in another post-Covid exhibition and here in 2022 I wanted to share what I learned from the event. I hope this will in turn help you for any events you have coming up.

I did write a post-Covid piece back in June 2020 (blog number 132), but I felt it was worth exploring the subject again now. I realised that at my recent exhibition I was still scared of being with other people but felt pressured into not wearing a mask simply because no one else was. That was my problem and not theirs. I have continued to see a few people in recent months, mostly my family and close friends, and I am now comfortable going to the supermarket, but I still struggle with ‘Joe Public’. Even though I have done a few art exhibitions this year, I am still feeling uneasy.

However, I hope even if you find yourself having similar feelings, you will, like me, pull up your socks and just do it. I am slightly surprised that I am still feeling like this so don’t be surprised if you too feel uneasy, but equally don’t let it stop you. I have met some amazingly lovely people over the past few months; most people are very considerate of each other, and social distancing rules are still semi in place with people being sensible, so just be beware you could find yourself feeling uncomfortable, too.

The events I have taken part in so far this year are The Contemporary Art Fair at Sandown Park, The Dorking Group of Artists at Betchworth and for the next 16 days (I’m drafting this on Day Two), I have opened my home for the annual Surrey Artists Open Studio (SAOS) event, which I haven’t taken part in for the past three years.

For SAOS I have a marquee in the garden, which I am sharing with three artist friends, with people coming into my home and using the facilities. So, I am just being cautious. For many years now I have had white face flannels rolled up in a basket for people to use as hand towels when using our bathroom facilities. I have never liked drying my hands on a wet towel and face flannels are cheap, easily cleaned so green and all round just good.

For the private view we held last Sunday I provided paper plates, paper napkins, real glasses and mugs but I recycled everything I could, the crockery was washed in the dishwasher and when handling food in the kitchen we wore gloves. I spent a lot of time outside the marquee when it became busy and, as usual, I kept my distance from others.

I didn’t provide hand sanitizer, which maybe I should consider for this weekend, but all sales transactions are straight transfers or “tap and go”. It makes life so much easier in these strange times.

Whilst many people are venturing out, Covid the war in Ukraine and now the financial crisis the UK is heading into has meant that sales have not been great this year and I suspect they are likely to get worse before they get better. With SAOS this year I am in a new location, but I am part of a local artists trail. Sadly, we are all finding footfall is low as people must put food on the table and fuel in their cars before thinking about buying art.

I am still setting up my studio and would like to get back to teaching but this year is probably not the best time to be thinking about that, however I will start to advertise for classes next year. Meanwhile, here are a few important things to remember when exhibiting:

Make sure everything is clearly priced. People don’t like to ask how much, probably because of that saying: “If you have to ask you probably can’t afford it.”

Change. Even in these days of “tap and go” card payments, some people wanted to buy greeting cards with cash. If everyone turns up with £20 notes for £2.50 cards your change will run out quickly. This happened just the other day, lol. Raid your piggy banks and gather together lots of change, just in case it happens to you too.  

Take something to do with you, such as a good book, crossword puzzles, painting materials or your journal to write in. For SAOS this year I know things will be slow. I am fortunate that I can continue to work in my studio but if you are at an outside show, with things being so slow, you might find the time goes more quickly if you are doing something you enjoy whist waiting for the next customer.

It is really important to share your story as an artist so that your visitors can get a feel for who you are. At an event a few years ago, I stuck some of my information leaflets on the walls so that people could read what I had to say before deciding if they wanted to take one. The number of conversations this stimulated back then made me realise how important it is for many people to know about you before deciding to purchase your work.  

When learning about marketing any product, one is always told how important the story about the maker and his/her product is. Having my leaflet so easily accessible encouraged people to have a conversation with me, laugh and joke about my opening line – “I don’t like boring beige” – and probably have a deeper interaction with me than they normally would. If you don’t have a good bio document to share, get one. It will likely pay dividends.

One final word of advice. If you are doing an outside show, don’t forget the sunscreen and take lots of water. Being outside all day when you are not used to it can have a dehydrating effect on you. We need to look after ourselves outside as, if you are anything like me, you spend hours shut away in your studio. My skin really isn’t used to seeing the sun.

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