Waltham Mills Open Studios is just a week away, so I am starting to prepare for the event. Last year I wrote a blog post, titled “12 ways to prepare for open studios” that makes concrete suggestions for artists getting ready for an open studios event. I revisited my list to be sure that I am on top of every detail.
I’m always thinking about ways that I can improve the open studios experience, both for myself and my visitors, so this past week I’ve been brainstorming some potential strategies. There is one aspect of open studios that I’ve always found to be at times awkward for both the artist and the visitors. Inevitably, there are moments when your studio is empty, and then you get one or two visitors who walk into your empty studio and you’re just standing there by yourself, watching them as they enter. This can awkward for the artist, because you don’t want to come on too strong and force a conversation your visitor doesn’t necessarily want to have. On the other hand, ignoring your visitors doesn’t seem polite either. From the visitor’s point of view, this situation can be uncomfortable because you can feel pressured to make conversation with the artist. When the studio is empty, and it’s just you and the artist, you can’t just wander at your own pace the way you can when the studio is full of other people. In the past, when I’ve visited other artists’ studios at other open studios events and this happens, it feels like the artist is watching me and I feel pressured to linger longer so I don’t offend them by leaving too quickly. I’ll admit that there have been times when I’ve visited an artist’s studio, and realized within minutes that I’m not interested in staying. If the studio is crowded, it’s really easy to slip out quickly without feeling like you’re going to offend the artist with your very brief visit.
So I’ve been trying to think about what activity I could be actively engaged in during the event that wouldn’t require too much concentration on my part, that visitors might be interested in seeing, but that would also keep me accessible to my visitors. Then it occurred to me that I could demonstrate printing some mezzotints throughout the event. I have yet to edition these mezzotints, so it’s something I need to be working on anyway. This would allow my visitors to watch me in action, and provide some insight into how the work is made. Printing the mezzotints is a purely technical process; I don’t have to concentrate very hard to do it and I know I will be able to talk to people and answer questions at the same time. I can also stop and easily pick up from where I left off. (by comparison, I could never do this while I was drawing) It’s an experiment, I’ll try it the first day and see if it works!