Friday, April 11, 2008

Gallery debrief

Well I think I am almost back in the real world now. I seem to have somewhat caught up on my sleep and my brain is starting to work again. I think now is a good time to consider how the show went.

I suppose I should start by saying I feel it was a success. People left inspired and educated, and I think for me that was the most important thing. Also a lot of the people I most wanted to see the show made it, despite the pretty appalling weather. As a bonus it looks like I have sold enough work to cover my costs. So the success factors were achieved for no monetary cost, which is even better. I also has an article printed in one of the local paper, which didn't produce any visitors but may have introduced some more members of the public to the idea of textiles as art, which was one of my main goals.

So having said all that what have I learned for next time? Possibly the most important thing is to get a contract laying out what the gallery provide and what the artist needs to do. Trying to deal with conflicting information, and problems is really tiring. Not what you need during a show. I did feel that in some respects the gallery could have asked more of the artist, I felt I should learn a certain amount about the venue as many people asked me questions. If you are manning a gallery people assume that you own it and at the very least have a lot of local knowledge. The other reason for the cotract, is to define what you should be expecting, what is a genuine problem and what to do about it.

I loved manning the show, but when I organise my next show I will try to have someone to help me at all times. When you are on your own it is very hard to even go to the loo let alone eat lunch or nip out for more milk. There is also the safety considerations. Most of the time I was fairly comfortable there on my own, but there were moments. Perhaps the most scary was when my phone suddenly ran out of battery. From there on in I couldn't have called for help if I needed too, although given how hard the gallery is too find I don't think help could have got there in a timely manner anyway. I also felt that visitors seemed more comfortable coming in if there was more than one person in the gallery to start with, and it was nice to be able to talk to guests while someone else made the tea.

Which brings me on to something I will definately do again. Offer refreshments. Over the 5 weeks we got through a whole jar of instant coffee, about 70 tea bags, 10 pints of mik, 32 packs of biscuits and a large tin of sweets. It does cost to do, but offering a hot drink instantly gives people permission to linger. They know you are not trying to hurry them out and many obviously relax as soon as you make the offer. It is also a very clear way of showing how welcome the visitors are, and frankly with the weather we had, they deserved (and sometimes needed) a hot drink. Of course from a more cynical marketing point of view you have longer totalk to them as they wait for the drink to be cool enough to consume.

I would also suggest you stock up on hand soap and toilet paper if you are offering drinks, the toilet proved very popular at my show. We decided that as well as making sure we had the basics we would try and get slightly nicer products. It's hard to judge what if any effect that had, but I still feel that a few pence spent making the whole experience more positive is worthwhile.

The next show I run myself will have at least 9 months planning time. Many publications want 6 months notice of events, and I need my own planning time before that. Really I think a full year would be better, but 9 months would be my minimum. That gives time to prepare press releases, mail lists, posters, flyers and invitations. I would also like to try and work out a better way of sending the press pictures. I can't find email addresses for everyone I would like to contact and even when I can they often have mail box limits. So this time I sent everthin in the post including a link to electonic content, but very few actually looked at it. Maybe I have to consider taking paid advertising in the magazines I think are most likely to hit my target audience, but that is very costly. One small advert would have been more than I spent on all the advertising I did this time. On the other hand maybe it would have brought in more people and in turn more work. Who knows, I may have to experiment to find out.

Another thing I need to work on is getting posters put up. A few local businesses did advertise my show for me and I am very grateful to them but to have an impact I would really like to get more up next time. I am especially keen to improve awareness of any special events I put on. I tried to get information to as many local quilt and sewing groups as possible and I kept the prices very low but I still had a poor turn out. If anyone has any suggestions for improving this area I would love to hear them.

Now I have to get on with the follow up work. I have leads for new venues, I need to go and have a look at them and see which are suitable. I also need to follow up potential sales and comissions, and just thank some of the people who made the show work. All in all it was a great experience and no where near as scary as I expected. I am very glad to have my weekends back but I am alredy missing being able to show people my work. I hope one day I can get a huge studio with enough space for a permanant attached gallery. Until then I will just have to try and fill my diary with exhibitions in rented spaces.


Penny said...

It sounds like it was mainly a very positive experience.

Nellie's Needles said...

It's pleasing to know the show went so well for both you and your attendees. Congratulations!

With your enthusiasm and willingness for hard work, your next shows should be extraordinarily successful.

Kristin L said...

Congratulations on a successful show and lots of sales. Your online tour was very nice for those of us unable to see your work in person, and I particularly like your tip about the tea and biscuits. I think that giving "people permission to linger" is a fantastic marketing tool.