6th - 10th March 2018
This year, as third year students, we were lucky enough to have the opportunity to use 94-96 Walcot street as a test space, shop and exhibition. Over the three floors we split the space into different uses for what specific groups of students wanted to use it for. I was involved in the shop which took over the ground level, sitting in a very good location in Walcot with double windows looking out onto the street. This therefore, was a perfect space for the shop in order to gain as much footfall as possible. The shop was open for the week and joined forces with the exhibition for the open evening on the Thursday which was very successful.
Organising the shop was incredibly difficult in terms of logistics, not only getting work up and down from university; it was a rather large space and we, to begin with, underestimated the amount of work we'd need to fill it. In terms of hanging the show, this was left to myself, Hannah Ball and Kelsey Cruz-Martin. Everyone involved dropped off their work and gave us brief instructions as to the way in which it needed to be hung and then the three of us set up the show. Curation was difficult as the space we had was large and needed to flow as a space however we were also aware that this was a shop not an exhibition and the priorities had to adapt accordingly. This was a new experience for me as I had only previously curated exhibitions not a shop environment. This meant that the walls were filled a lot more in order to get the most out of the space in order to sell the most we could. We wanted the space to feel professional but not too unapproachable as sometimes exhibitions can be. The space needed to be eye catching and professional looking from the windows but we knew we needed more work on the walls than we would normally have. This meant we split the space in terms of how we hung, the front was reasonably sparse and used large scale works and prints that had bright colours in order to catch the eyes of passers-by. This involved using ceramics, large scale paintings and prints or small paintings in series. This left us with a lot of smaller scale paintings and prints which were able to be hung further back in the shop in order to give the space a more sellable atmosphere. Once entering the building after initially being drawn in by a sophisticated hang, the space merged slowly into a shop environment with tables with cards and prints on and the back had a bench running the width of the shop which was used as a display section for etchings and mono-prints.
The shop was also a huge learning curve in my personal experience with pricing and the actualities of selling work to customers. I had a series of seven small paintings in the shop as well as one large scale painting; all of which I under-priced looking back retrospectively. However when setting up an event like this, I was aware that the footfall would potentially not be people who would be willing to pay considerable amounts for art. This meant that I made an executive decision to under-price work in order to generate initial interest. I was hugely fortunate with my time at Walcot and managed to sell 6 paintings. I gained experience of dealing with customers who were interested in work but needed to speak to me face to face; this involved whoever was invigilating to ring the artist. I spoke to a customer about my large scale painting 'Split I' and then was able to later come down to talk to this person about the work in a way in which the language used was not too technical and I had to adapt my jargon in order to explain to the customer. This was a really crucial experience and learning how to use language in these situations is a skill I will be taking forward with me after graduation. Another experience which was important was learning to go the extra mile in order to make a sale. A lady came in enquiring about the large scale painting which unfortunately had already sold. However, the invigilator at the time knew I had another one like this back up at Uni therefore we were able to ask the customer to come back later and look at the other painting which we retrieved from studios. This experience was fortunately fruitful and the customer took the second large scale painting which I hadn't originally put in the shop.
From this experience I have learnt invaluable skills such as knowing when to potentially up prices to cover materials and time rather than keeping things low with the fear of not generating any interest. I need to know the value of my time and my experience and my skills and how to transfer this into pricing in a justifiable and succinct manner. Another skill I have learnt is how to engage with people on a level which isn't necessarily the same in which we operate in an Art School. It is important not to alienate people and make them feel like they have a way in to view and understand your work. Logistically, all these types of experiences are important as a way of learning how to work successfully in a team and delegate within this. Working in a space away from the university site without the use of our porters has also made me consider scale within my work, knowing what is and isn't transportable on my own and whether this is something to seriously consider after university.