Business · Northern Neck Artisan Trail · Productivity

Northern Neck Artisan Trail

Kauffman Studios has been on the Northern Neck Artisan Trail for nearly a year. In the coming year I hope to become a juried member of the Trail System.

I learned yesterday evening during a meet and greet of the Northern Neck (NNK) Artisan Trail members at Good Luck Winery, that it is possible for a fine artist to become a juried member. Previously, I had thought one had to be a crafts person. 

I learned that the NNK Oyster Trail and the NNK Wine Trail are, while parallel to the Artisan Trail, also key sister partners to the entire NN Artisan Trail program. 

The Second Saturdays Event that ran last year and continues, was designed to encourage artists in their home studios to have a consistent day each month when we are open to the public interested in traveling the trail. It’s a good idea, but apparently the word has not gotten out to the public yet. The reason Second Saturday is a boon for the art loving public is that for most of us with studios on the trail, our studio times are sort of haphazard and folks are advised to call to schedule an appointment to tour the studios of interest. I know of artists who work away from home to support themselves and their families and work in their studios on weekends only. Others, like me, work in our studios most days but they may be early mornings, late at night or just whenever we can get away. With Second Saturdays, the art seeking public would not need to call ahead but just show up and knock on the door and find us working away on something.

The reason we are not glued to our studios may seem odd to folks who are used to a commercial business having regular open hours, but for artists, it can be a really challenging thing. For one, visitors to our studios are pretty irregular (even when the trail is fully functional) and we need to be away from our studios for various reasons. In my case, I help out at least once a month at the RAL Art Center. I may be delivering paintings to galleries (hoping to have more of that in the coming year, actually). I may be attending a class or art association meeting. There could be a family issue that has come up or I may be out plein air painting or gathering reference photos for more paintings. As a lone entrepreneur, there normally isn’t someone else who can stand in my stead and explain my work and why I do it.  

At the meeting last night I also learned that our Trail Map brochure is now almost two years old and will cost about $5000 to produce again. And while we have some money in our account from our dues, we will need to raise about half the cost via fund raisers or grants in order to have it updated and reprinted. So, the question, of course is, do we go to the expense of doing this big map/brochure again or invest in smaller brochures that simply direct interested people to the NNK Artisan Trail Website which has the most up to date information including the newest members, more information about their studios and shops, and currently locations (as sometimes, even artists move). 

The Website is paid for by our annual dues. And we keep our information up to date ourselves, which is kind of nice because we would otherwise have to a wait on another person to do it. Here is a link to the NNK Artisan Trail. 

So, another goal for the coming year is to come up with a series of things I can offer the curious public at my studio. We have been told repeatedly that visitors to the Artisan Trail want to actually see artists working on their art. I get that. I would want to see that as well.  So, I’m thinking about scheduling and offering the following demonstrations in the coming year and putting them up on the NNK Artisan Trail calendar:

  1. Taking reference photos and processing them in Photoshop.
  2. Plein Air Painting (set up somewhere on the property)
  3. Preparing your own panels or canvases for painting
  4. Bird or Cat Painting from start to finish
  5. Framing a Pastel painting with spacers
  6. A Pastel painting from start to finish
  7. Framing an oil painting

Most of these (other than the framing ones) would be two to three hour demonstrations. I’m pretty sure most folks won’t want to hang around for that long and will probably want to watch for a few minutes and move on. Which means I would need to stop what I’m doing and help them do that. Unless I find a helper who can help them. 

The challenge for me, with doing demonstrations, is that the traveling public can arrive at any time and may pop in at various times during the day and may arrive alone but normally in groups of people. How do I start a demonstration, stop a demonstration to gather the next arriving group, continue with the demonstration, maybe finish the demo then stop and give folks a tour of the house where my paintings are on display? Sounds like I need a helper on Second Saturdays to be a greeter, tour guide and hopefully a cashier. And I could probably find someone, but if no one comes at all, while I may have accomplished something by completing a painting, I will have hired a helper for no reason at all. It’s sort of a dilemma. 

Curious to know how other artists who have visitors to their home studios work through this challenge?

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