Why on earth would anyone open up their house to hundreds of random people over the summery month of May? Surely there are better things to do over peak season in glorious Brighton than locking yourself inside for consecutive weekends.
Well, after much debating - we decided to do just that...and as part of Brightons Artists Open Houses festival in May 2022 we weren't alone!
More than 160 other Open Houses across Brighton + Hove took part in what happened to be the 40th Anniversary celebrations since it's beginnings back in 1981 when Brighton artist Ned Hoskins opened his house to the public to view his work alongside a group of his creative friends.
In the following years more houses and studios opened up all over the city, cementing the AOH as a key event in the Brighton arts scene and quickly developing a loyal base, not just from artists, but in visitor numbers who return year after year for the May festival.
So what possessed us to join in this time round?
We know very well how much work goes into these artist events having opened up studios and homes in London over the years; we've participated in group and solo shows and shoe horned art into our teeny tiny flat in South London pre making the move to Brighton a few years back. We already know what you see on show during the AOH is a snippet of the work that actually goes on behind the scenes to make a space ready for exhibiting - hence quite the dragging of feet before eventually doing a last minute registration for the 2022 season.
Throwing an open invite out to strangers and prepping for an event where you don't know if you'll have 10 or 200 arriving each day is pretty stressful, especially when there are so many other houses to go to over the AOH weekends. Cue a whole lot of social anxiety and second guessing in the build up, a throwback to when you were little, holding your marbles in the school playground + wondering where your friends were at.
What helped us decide to jump back in was figuring out what we wanted from it; which ultimately was to connect with other artists and let people know Floppy Toast exists. As a creative you often work by yourself with no direct customer feedback let alone colleagues to mull things over with. It's easy to get tunnel vision with what you do, so this sort of event forces you to collate where you're at and having solid dates in the diary you can work towards helps galvanise action around things that may have dragged on for a bit.
An opportunity to showcase what you do and observe how or even if people respond is a useful part of the creative process - it's a powerful tool to see what works and what doesn't, helping inform your practice going forward.
Curating your own show and declaring yourself open to peers and strangers takes a leap of faith, in yourself and also in the fact that anyone shows up!
It's easy to gloss over the hard stuff once it's all done, the prep and organisation it takes (which is always more work than you think), the disturbance to your home and family spaces over weekends where hours drag and foot fall seems light. There are definitely moments where you're wondering if it's worth it, so knowing those moments happen and are experienced by most is good to know.
BUT, what you don't necessarily anticipate is all the incredibly good stuff and surprisingly it isn't just about art or the sales.
The conversations with people who have lived 30 years in the neighbourhood or the new ones who have moved in who had no idea these events happened. We never kid ourselves that ALL visitors are here just to view the art, let's face it people want a nosey around your place, what radiators are those....what's the colour of that wall? Oh you do art?....mmm...nice.... where did you say the radiators are from?....
Not everyone buys something and that's ok, I would say 80% of people visiting are browsing and enjoying the experience, following the AOH guide book or maybe just killing some time before going on with their day, the other 20% are the customers. Each person however, made the choice to stop by; some days you sell the smallest thing and other days something more substantial. You have to be ok in that state of flux, the show goes on regardless of numbers.
Registering as a venue in the AOH costs money, I'm not sure visitors realise that at a minimum artists are paying £350 to sign up as a house, it's a financial commitment right from the start. Will you be ok if you just break even, will you be ok if you don't? Plenty of people sell plenty of work and do really well, this could also be you - we have experienced each one of these scenarios over the years of opening our doors.
If you want to test the waters or you don't have the right sort of space to go it alone then joining as a 'Guest Artist' in a registered venue is a good way to mitigate some risk, houses with multiple artists can act as a draw to visitors due to the variety on show, your work will potentially be seen by a wider group of people there to see other artists, so it's a great first step to consider. You can sign up as an Artist seeking a House via the AOH main website linked here registration is open until February 28th.
Ultimately you really don't know what you'll get back without putting yourself out there in the first place, so if you are on the fence then think of this as a wee nudge.
The heady mix of anything goes, conversations about not just art but also where to get the best burrito from, unexpected connection and opportunity that comes from showing up, and of course having people buying and saying lovely things about your art.
It's a trip! And exhausting. AND addictive in the best possible way, so be warned.
Clearly we are suckers for punishment having registered once again for Artists Open Houses May 2023.
This year however 'The Pink House' + Floppy Toast has a few friends! A carefully curated line up of Artists who's work we personally love are showing alongside us - this time across 2 floors of our very pink home.
We'll be announcing guest artists over the coming weeks and also teasing you with new work of our own as we build towards the Summer festival so keep an eye out on updates via Instagram.
Pop us on your list of must see's in Brightons 2023 Artists Open Houses, there will be plenty to see!
'The Pink House' Floppy Toast + Friends
Brightons Artists Open Houses, May 2023 | Hanover Trail
First 3 weekends only 11-5pm | May 6th/7th, 13th/14th, 20th/21st
Image credits mix: AOH photographer Syl Ojalla | Floppy Toast
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