I'm a bit of a voyeur... in a good way. I love seeing people in their own element, especially artists in their studios. So when Portland artists banded together 17 years ago I jumped at the chance to visit other artists' studios to see where they work and learn how they do what they do. Portland Open Studios is an annual event that takes place the second and third weekend every fall. This year there are 105 studios open to the public and you can visit every one of them if you have the stamina.
I usually tour with two or three other women. We buy a guidebook or a phone app which describes each artist's work, complete with pictures, and has maps to get us there. We choose 12-20 studios we want to see and often see them all in a single, very full day. We find it's easiest to tour by area to avoid backtracking. Printed guide books are available at New Seasons, Muse Art & Design, or from individual artists. Both the free phone app and the $4.99 app have GPS coordinates to help you plan your route. (The apps haven't been released yet. Don't make a mistake and buy last years app.)
We usually start at a studio in our neighborhood, often that of a friend, and branch out from there. Bright yellow signs with arrows are placed at intersections pointing you to the closest studio. Park, leave your shoes at the front door if that's requested, and walk right in. It will be clear where to go. Poke around, ask questions, watch the artist at work, leave your contact information if you want notification of his/her future events, and move on the the next studio. Many of the studios are in the artist's home but some are in commercial spaces, all interesting, all worth seeing.
Each tour artist sells their work so if you see something that fits in your home or place of work buy it directly from the source. I've purchased some of my favorite pieces this way, complete with the story about how and why it was created. Some artists have greeting cards, calendars, or books for sale. Art makes a grand gift for a loved one.
Don't count on finding work that's ready to hang, not when you're buying directly from the maker. You can take the work to a professional framer and have it framed the way you want it done, saving money and ensuring that you get frames that go well in your home. This year I'm making an effort to have most of my work ready to hang, but don't count on it. I'd rather make art than prepare it to hang.
I'm also participating in the Washington County Open Studios Tour which coincides with the Portland Tour, the third weekend of October. These are artists who live farther away from Portland and include artists in Cedar Mill, Beaverton, Hillsboro, Banks, Sherwood, Tigard, North Plains. Guidebooks are available at Art on Broadway, Village Gallery, and from individual artists. There is no cost for this tour guide. Start touring at my house and get a guidebook from me. There are two other artists in Cedar Mill who are participating in both tours, Annie Salness and Gretha Lindwood. Click on their names to see their amazing artwork.
Which Way Up was chosen as cover art for the Washington County Studio Tour Guidebook.
So, how and why am I a participant in the tours this year? It's all because friends egged me on with assurances that people would be delighted to see my studio and learn something useful from me. So I decided that there's no better time than now. Participating isn't automatic; these are juried for admission so I feel especially honored to be part of both tours. So last spring I filled out a form, send images of recent work, crossed my fingers and said a prayer and waited to find out if I made the cut... and I did.. and the work began.
Putting on the tour is a cooperative event with each artist paying a fee to cover publicity, printing the guides and designing the apps and signage, as well as putting in volunteer hours to see that the behind the scenes work is done. All this on top of continuing making art. This year my extra hours were spent working in the Portland Open Studios booth at Art in the Pearl and helping with the beta testing of the iPhone app.
Click these links to learn more:
Portland Open Studios October 10-11, 17-18. 10am-5pm.
Washington County Open Studios October 17-18. 11am-5pm