How a Non-Techie Artist has an Amazing Sale

Despite it being artist, Susan Cawthon’s first year doing an open studio event, she nailed it. Without a website, email marketing platform, Instagram account or Facebook biz page she:

  • Sold more than 50 pieces

  • Got a commission

  • Had almost 100 visitors

  • And, she had more fun than she expected.

How’d she do so well during her very first open studio event without all the tech trappings that we’re so used to?

Susan has been visiting open studios for over 20 years and as a result she’s seen what works and what wouldn’t work for her. She made a mental note of those likes and dislikes. She also asked a lot of questions during this which equates to learning a ton.

She noticed that when she was visiting open studio-style events that the very first year she didn’t buy but the second year, she’d go back and make purchases. For a while she didn’t understand why this worked except for the fact that people buy from you if they know you. 

She put herself on the other side. She was a visitor, an art appreciator, a collector. And her learning from that paid off when it came time to do her own event.

That’s why she made sure to invite people she knew—all of her friends and neighbors. This of course began to look a lot like planning a party and some of the ways she got people out to her studio were very similar to how you’d host a birthday party or holiday open house.

  • She told friends she’d have food and coffee

  • On last day, between 4-5 pm she told friends that they’d feast on all the remaining food from the weekend

  • She made and printed invitations specific to her studio, and didn’t rely on the overall program event guide alone

  • She handed invites to all her neighbors, yarn shop and other placesin person

  • She spoke to people about itin person

  • Mailed the open studios guide and invite to people with personal notes

  • She showed parts of works in progress and finished pieces on Facebook

  • She invited people to join her through Facebook

  • She handed out cards for neighboring artists which really helped to create conversation and keep people visiting

  • She put it on her invite that she was doing demos and she got a lot of visitors at demo time

The majority of the people who came were people she knew. Those that she didn’t know bought the smaller items while those that knew her more, purchased bigger pieces.

When I asked her if she had a mailing list, she said yes. Of course I wanted to know what platform she used (MailChimp, etc.) and she said that her mailing list as just in her email. She said that she wrote more than 40 personalized emails to 40 different friends.

She snail mailed about 20 event guides and her own invitation with personal notes.

She got on the phone and called people to invite them. Then she got on the phone and called people to remind them about the event.

She even helped to arrange a ride for one friend that she knew would be hesitant to come without another friend.

Labor intensive? You betcha.

Worth it? Definitely.

Some other things that made it a success….

Range of pieces

She had pieces that ranged from cards to paintings to pillows in different mediums such as photography, watercolor, paint on silk with beading, metal and transfer to fabric.

She even made a special garden ornament that cost around $20 to buy as entry point purchase piece. She sold most of those to people she didn’t know.

Range of prices

Her prices ranged from:

  • $10-$20 entry point items

  • $100 items

  • $25-$100 prints

  • $300-$1,500 originals paintings.

  • $1,500+ Triptychs and larger pieces.

Her only event for the year

This made it more special for her friends and collectors because they hadn’t seen her or her work in a long time.

Off the wall

She had a few things on the wall but she thinks that scares people. She feels like they need to touch it so she had most of her work leaning on the wall and easier to handle.


Her husband rang up sales and a friend answered questions

She’s not a computer-person but she is a people-person who’s organized and willing to put in the promotional work to get folks to show up. She says it’s a lot of work but it’s worth it because it’s so much fun.


  • Planned it in advance like it was a party

  • Food

  • Invited people

  • Action by way of demos

  • Personalization all the way through from the invites, during the event and afterwards

  • Helpers

  • Observing what’s worked well for others and herself

Action Time!

Whether you’re super close to your event right now or if you’ve got a good lead time, I encourage you to take a page out of Susan’s notebook and personally email, text or call 3-8 people today and ask if they can come to your event. Even if it’s only so you can see a friendly face. Ask them to bring a friend or two. This momentum alone will help you generate buzz and get people to your event.

Hoping you have a party at your next sales event!



Posted on December 9, 2016 .

Artist 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 was ceramicist, Deborah Pittman’s experience last year during her Open Studio event. Read on to find out her secret sauce...

Why People Buy Art - A Lesson Inspired by Prince

Do you ever wonder, what compels people to buy and collect things made by hand? A painting, a collage, a necklace, a ceramic vase. I often think about this question.

For a long time it really bothered me. Handmade objects are usually more expensive than similar pieces that you'd see in a big box store, harder to find, less convenient to buy and the list goes on.

Admittedly, I'm from a generation who loves the artist formerly known as Prince, big time. So much that my sister was messaging me, and a childhood friend felt compelled to call me after years of losing touch when they heard he died. As evidenced by my Facebook feed, I'm not the only one mourning.

While scrolling through the Prince related posts, I was struck by one that asked why are we all so sad about the death of an artist we've never met before?

"Good question" I thought (through my tears of purple rain). The answer to that intrigued me since it applies to all artists. Now you might be thinking, I’m not Prince! I’m nowhere as big as he is. I’m not a musician.

I know, I know but this concept still applies. Click through to read how this idea might change the way you think about your sales.

Posted on April 22, 2016 .

Too Early to Promote My Event??

Have you ever wondered just how far in advance should you start telling people about an event?

What’s the appropriate amount of promotion for an upcoming opening, festival or happening?

Especially if it’s a long way off, you may wonder, “How many times should I email them about the event without getting on their nerves?”

If you’ve ever wanted to know what to do in this situation, dive in for the answers plus get a free event email promotions planner.

Rejection - Dealing Better With It

It sucks.

How can you feel good about putting your art out there when there's a chance that you might be rejected?

It feels sooooo personal when your art is turned down. Your creative endeavors are such an extension of yourself that it can feel like an arrow straight through your heart when rejection hits. What happens after you’ve been rejected? Are you stopped in your tracks? Does it spur you to keep going?

Posted on April 30, 2015 .