Fall is the season of artists' Studio Tours. It gives each artist an opportunity to show his/her artistic productivity for the first three quarters of the year. (Yes, some artists do have quarterly action plans!) This is your opportunity to see them in their own creative environment where "the action" happens. Studio Tours are a special event for both the artists and their visitors!

There are a few things you, as a potential customer, need to know before starting out. Here's my twenty tips for approaching (and enjoying) an Artist Studio Tour:

1) Ask a friend or partner (if they like art) to join you. NEVER ask someone to go with you that doesn't enjoy or appreciate art. You'll end up back home before you know it and you won't enjoy yourself. Make it a special event with a kindred spirit.

2) Usually Studio Tours have maps printed so that you can pick and choose the studios that peak your curiosity. Review the list and choose those that reflect your interest. Try to visit as many of these as possible.

3) Don't limit yourself from the full experience. If it's a two day affair, try to go both days. If a studio has an art medium you are not familiar with, check it out! You will learn something!

4) Start in the morning, break for lunch at a local restaurant to get a feel of the "local color". Try to imagine being an artist in this area. What would be the artist's local inspiration? After lunch, keep going. Visit more studios.

5) Most studio stops will have some sort of beverage to keep you hydrated but it's a good idea to bring water and a snack item.

6) Some private art studios have bathrooms but don't count on them being available to the public. When in need, it's best to ask the artist where the nearest "public" restroom is and they will either offer you their private bathroom or direct you to a nearby public location.

7) Wear layered clothes so you can be comfortable if the weather changes quickly. However, do not lay down purses or clothing in the studios. The artists will not be responsible for the theft of your personal belongings.

8) Studio Tours are designed for adults. Responsible teens are welcome but parents "beware"! Teens like to buy! Bring extra funds.

9) Toddlers are an artist' worst nightmare when they want to "touch everything"! Art and creative products take many hours to make and are typically not designed for children. So, if you plan to bring a child, keep "the little ones" in a stroller or under your strict control. The artists will thank you.

10) Stay in the central area of the studio. Don't wander around looking inside other rooms or walking around the artist's property. If they are comfortable with you, they may ask to take you on a tour of other areas. Be aware that some art studios are a part of the artist's actual home. It's their private space or sanctuary. Don't invade their privacy.

11) Bring cash for impulse shopping but be aware that most artists accept credit cards as well for more expensive items. However, they may ask for your name, address, telephone number, etc. to complete the transaction. Don't expect debit card sales. Do ask, "Do you accept credit cards?"

12) Don't rush in and out. Ask each artist to describe their art-making process. Don't feel like you will be offending them by questioning their process. Ask how they got started making art and their motivations. Most artists love to demonstrate and talk about their art.

13) If you like the artist's work, get his/her business card and any literature for potential later commission work. Artists make most of their money from commissions of private works. Don't be afraid to ask.

14) If you love a piece of art but think it's a bit too pricey, ask if the artist will reduce the asking price by 10%. Requesting more of a discount typically is an awkward situation. Most artists have already reduced their prices since there is no overhead when they are selling the item themselves and in their own studio. Further reductions could be interpreted as an insult. It's not cool. Just don't do it.

15) Ask if the artist has a "lay-a-way plan". Some artists will allow a buyer to make monthly payments with a limited term and contract. However, should the buyer not be able to meet the deadline, all prior payments are lost. Remember, artists make their money by having their works available for sale. Lay-a-ways take the art off the market and interfere with potential sales and gallery or exhibit events.

16) Expect to pay taxes on all sales (cash, personal checks, and credit cards). Sales taxes vary by city, county and state. Some artists will forgo charging customer's taxes. This is your discount! But the professional artist still has to pay taxes.

17) The artist may have a visitor/customer sign-in sheet. If you feel comfortable with the artist and their environment, don't hesitate to share your address and email. Most artists use this information strictly for the future marketing of their own art and private sales/gallery events. If you like their art, sign up! By doing this, you may also get significant future discounts. (On the other hand, if you do not feel comfortable with the artist, don't hesitate to say "I don't share my personal information" and walk away.)

18) Think holiday-shopping!!! Buy now for Christmas and Hannukah! Art makes great presents. It allows the receiving person to reflect on the piece and see it through their own eyes. It's a gift that keeps on giving too. Compliments are forever.

19) If you get home after visiting several studios and you can't stop thinking about a specific artist or item that you bypassed because you wanted to "hit" other studios before buying, give the artist a call to request a private sale or "re-look". Typically, the artist will be happy to invite you back. However, it's usually not cool to "drop in" at an artist's private studio unless they have regular business hours.

20) Most importantly, have fun! Take your time. And tell your friends about the sale if it's a two-day event! Encourage them to visit the tour too.

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