Start with a 3 -6 event series - a low commitment to see how it goes, build an audience, and make it work for your community. It’s intimidating to do something forever times. But three? You got that.
Consistency breeds connection
Pick a specific day, time, and location and stick with it. The regularity will help cement your events place in people’s minds. We do Saturdays from 4 - 6.
Operationalize the RSVP process
We started doing rsvps manually and it took way too much time - we recently switched to RSVPify and it’s FANTASTIC. The free version allows for one event, and up to 100 reservations, more than enough to get started.
Diversify your strategy as you build a core group - we advertised on instagram, at our local clay supply store, and through word of mouth. We’ve now got a solid mailing list and send out invites about 2 weeks in advance.
break up the time - make sure to have 10 - 15 minutes at the beginning for conversation, try a short activity to get going (maybe show and tell, potle, or a problem solving session) then the main speaker, follow up with at least 20 or 30 minutes for socializing. It’ll go faster than you think it will.
Pots, pots, pots.
We’ve had speakers both with and without slides, both work fine, but you’re hosting potters. The more work the better.
This will of course depend on your venue and goals, but after a barnburner at over 50 people, we’ve now capped the attendees at 30, and may go even smaller. The more intimate the gathering, the more it’ll lean toward conversation rather than lecture.
We asked attendees to bring and donate an ‘ugly mug’ for the salon - the one that leans, is too heavy, has a hideous glaze, anything functional but flawed. These are what we use for drinks, and it levels the playing field from beginner to expert - we’ve all got an ugly mug!
This was a great suggestion from an attendee - we’re playing around now with asking people to make custom ceramic nametags for themselves. Will report back.
We’ve just scratched the surface of what these salons can be - there are more ideas than there are Saturday afternoons. Here are a few ideas we’ve added the list:
Diversify the speaker list
Our local clay store owner, a gallery owner, are on the schedule, integral parts of a functioning art community. We’ve also invited some out of town potters and we’re considering inviting business focused guests to address the group.
It’s hard, if not impossible to solicit and receive honest but constructive feedback in the world of likes, comments, and shares. We’ve been thinking about how to bring that essential element of an arts education into this forum.
Research and Resources
We’ve had a guest present on a local historic potter, and a few folks have brought in historic pots, books, and ideas to share - this is something we want to continue to foster.