A Perspective on Dorset Art Weeks - Caro Lester

A Perspective on Dorset Art Weeks - Caro Lester

Dorset Visual Arts Member Caro Lester has shared her experience of taking part in Dorset Art Weeks over the last 10 years and the benefits it brings her. If you are thinking about participating in Dorset Art Weeks for the first time she has shared some useful tips on what to expect and how you can best prepare. 

Dorset Art Weeks is always a high point of my creative calendar. I first took part in a group show in 2014, so DAW ‘24 is a ten-year milestone for me! My work involves outdoor sketchbook drawing on beaches and in gardens, printmaking in the studio and creating digital illustrations on the Mac. It’s quite a solitary practice, as it can be for a lot of artists. So, DAW provides a very rewarding opportunity to show your art on your own terms and talk to visitors in person. Getting your studio shipshape, getting work framed and thinking about how you want to present your supporting materials is always a good process. It makes you assess what you’ve been doing and where you’re going in your practice.


Caro Lester - Dorset Art Weeks


Arranging to get greetings cards and things like tea towels printed is also part of my prep, as visitors often want a small memento to take away. My DAW open studio at St George’s Studios on Portland is usually held alongside my studio neighbours, so we are lucky to support each other and share the socials and press marketing. We were part of the ‘Portland Trail’ for DAW 2022, where visitors could collect stamps on a trail postcard and win an art voucher prize to spend on the island. It really made a difference in footfall.

Overall (apart from a welcome boost in income!) DAW allows you to make connections, meet lots of interesting people (who often have their own creative jobs or passions), and build your customer base. Talking about your work to others can allow you to see things in a different light, plus it’s always illuminating to hear what visitors enjoy in your art. My six top tips for first-time participants (with particular relevance to those working in a 2D art form!)

1) Be prepared! Think well ahead if you want to have work framed, buy mounts or get things like giclée prints and greetings cards produced. Having a smaller collection of related work that is presented well can look better than having loads crammed in.

2) Promote yourself! Use social media to your advantage. Contact local press with some print-ready copy and images: make it easy for them. Get business cards or flyers printed. Work with your geographical neighbours to promote each other. Use local online listings and message community radio. 

3) Keep your energy up and take a rest - make sure you have plenty of good food and drinks on the go, as it can be very demanding. Pencil in a couple of rest days each week to keep yourself on an even keel.

4) Show your prices and payment methods - people can be reluctant to ask how much things are, so it is helpful to have neat signage, or professional labels to show your artwork details and cost. Also, a card payment machine is super useful: make it very obvious that you have one and also keep a good cash float, because cash can be king!


Caro Lester

5) Enjoy yourself, be patient - it can feel strange to be doing lots of talking, especially about yourself. But people are usually keen to learn about your work and process, plus you can always ask them if they have a creative interest themselves, or whereabouts they are visiting from. It’s good to talk! Some days you will feel you haven’t made a lot of sales, but often people contact you at a much later date because they want a piece of your art, or other opportunities arise. It’s a slow burn.

6) Finally, have a visitors’ book on display - people can add their comments about your work and you can ask them for their email addresses…to promote your next DAW or show!

The closing date for venue registrations is midnight Sunday 7th January 2024. See the Dorset Art Weeks website for further information and to read the guidelines/FAQs for artists and venues.

For any specific Dorset Art Weeks enquiries please contact our Dorset Art Weeks producer Polly Hobbs at [email protected]


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