Artist Nearly Sells Out During Open Studio Sale

How Artist Deborah Pittman Nearly Sells Out - During Open Studio Sale

What if during your next open studio event you got:

  • Too many visitors to keep count
  • A live spot on your local TV morning show
  • Another TV interview at a different event
  • 51 new mailing list subscribers
  • A press mention
  • A commission
  • And nearly sold all your inventory

That would be pretty darn cool, right? This was ceramicist, Deborah Pittman’s experience last year during her Open Studio event.

How’d she do it?

What’s her secret sauce?

Deborah put several key elements into action to make sure she had a good two days during this annual, county-wide open studio event in Sacramento, California. Here are the ones that floated to the top. Take note, these are all ideas you can use, too.

She has a mailing list. 

And, she used it. Yep, she invited people to her event a month in advance and sent a reminder email.

Deborah Pittman, Ceramics


She (VERY) reluctantly decided after much research that she needed to be on Facebook to share her work. She really didn’t want to do Facebook, wasn’t sure if it was for her at nearly 64 years old but she had to admit that it really paid off and helped her to get people to her studio. She now spends about 10 minutes a day on Facebook.

Did you know the average US consumer spends 40 minutes on Facebook per day*

Laptop for Opt-ins.

Deborah used her laptop to add 51 new subscribers to her mailing list. She had her friend and “wing man” ask people to sign up. They gave candies to those that signed up and her friend made sure to ask everyone if they’d like to be on her list.

The take-away here is that a friend isn’t afraid or hesitant to ask someone if they’d like to join your mailing list because they’re already a fan of you and your work, and their enthusiasm gets others excited, too and happily subscribing to your email list.  

Deborah is also a professional clarinetist and generally reminds people that they will receive notices of her pottery shows as well as her concerts, and that they can disengage at any time.

Deborah Pittman, Ceramics

Wing Man.

Deborah asked a friend to come and assist her during the event. Her friend helped ring up purchases, add people to her mailing list and was there so she could take a break to eat lunch. He also made it possible for her to do live demonstrations with the 1,300 degree hot kiln which requires a great degree of attention because it’s too dangerous otherwise.

She was READY.

When approached by a writer for more information on her work and a photo, she had it ready and got a media mention as a result of it.

And if she hadn’t had her work and studio 95% ready for the big weekend, she would never have been able to squeeze in the 8am, next day TV spot. Yep, she was asked to do a live spot on TV in less than 24hrs. This is how morning shows work; they often call on short notice because someone on their team found out about a cool event. Luckily, Deborah was prepared enough for the weekend’s open studio that she could say yes to next day interview and demonstration.

Even though it was stressful to make sure the kiln was at just the right 1,300 degree temperature so the demonstration would be successful, it was well worth it because it got people to come out to her studio, and learn about all the studios that were open that weekend. It shared what she does with so many people who wouldn’t have otherwise seen it.  


She let the TV host pick which piece to use for the demo and had her decorate a piece by adding horse hair to it as the finishing technique, something Deborah is known for. Then she gave the finished piece to the host after it was finished later in the kiln. When the TV host picked up the piece, she asked if her colleague could do another TV interview with Deborah during her next event at the Crocker Holiday Artisan Market. Hey there, that’s generosity and fun coming back ‘atcha in the best way!

Deborah Pittman, Ceramics


Inspired by the success she had with demo she did on TV that morning, Deborah decided to do demonstrations with her visitors where they got to try their hand at applying horsehair to a piece after it was fired, or a fireworks smoke bomb to create a certain smoky finish on the clay instead of a glaze. As a result, many visitors got to have a very special experience creating one element of what goes into making something from clay. By offering a direct, hands-on experience like this, visitors could only increase their level of appreciation for Deborah’s work. She learned from this how to make doing demonstrations easier and more enjoyable for this year’s open studios.

Repeat Artist.

This is Deborah’s fifth year doing this annual event. By participating over multiple years, she has developed a group of collectors and appreciators that love visiting her open studio every year. They’ve gotten to know her and have a level of trust that makes them feel comfortable to buy from her. After the first day, she was nearly sold out of work and she had to bring more work in for the second day from her home studio. Deborah sold 19 pieces and cites return visitors as one of the reasons for her good sales.

They’ve look forward to seeing her work every year and sharing that experience with their friends. Some of her guests had visited three out of the four years she’s been doing Sac Open Studios. And some of them also came to her next events that fall and spring.

What from this list of things do you think you can incorporate into your next studio sale? Leave a note in the comments to let me know. I'd love to hear what you're doing to make your sales events a success.

Deborah Pittman, Ceramicist and Professional Clarinetist

Deborah Pittman has been doing ceramic work for over 14 years with a focus on raku finishing techniques, she's also a professional clarinetist and writer as well as a Sacramento State Professor Emeritus. She works from her Sacramento, California studio and you can see more of her work online here or here. Stop by to see her work in person during Sac Open Studios on Saturday 9/17/16 and Sunday 9/18/16 from 10am to 5pm at her studio in the Brickhouse Gallery located at 2837 36th St, Sacramento, CA 95817.

* From the Business Insider, Here's how much time people spend on Facebook per day.

All photographs courtesy of the artist.

Posted on June 16, 2016 .