My cooper came to visit at a local show!
I'm writing this post in hopes it will reach someone who wants to dive in headfirst and put their cherished artwork out in the world. One shopper at a time at a local art or craft show. Over the last 10 years of selling my work, I've given the art show thing a go twice. Once about 3 years in and again this year. This comprehensive list will be composed of encouragement, advice, links for supplies, and answered Q&A from Instagram (in Part 2)
Just do it
Like Nike says just do it. Cheesy but true. The only way to know if putting your work out there will result in sales, and widen your local audience is to simply just do it. Easier said than done, but you must take the leap! If you find yourself anxious for many valid reasons to branch out there and present mobile pop-ups. YOU'VE GOT THIS! I promise. No matter the reasons we give ourselves not to do something we desire to do, don't let it stop you from evolving and growing your passion. Our hesitation and lack of faith in ourselves usually and rightfully so is fear-based. One thing for sure is when once we conquer our fears we always feel better
So get your train chugging and let's leave the station. I wasted many precious years not pursuing art shows, from failed attempts at an early stage to not knowing and feeling confident in my story. Fast forward to now, I got sick of making excuses and started to look at my company and it's goal in a different lense. How can I achieve a well-balanced story? stand out from competitors? and deliver quality products all while setting up a beautiful display for others to enjoy and understand? I hope the following tips and advice will provide some encouragement and guidance if that is what you are after!
In order for you to have a success booth, you need to understand your market, brand, products, and story. Having these things will allow you to complete the sections below with ease. Who is your customer, what are your products, who does it appeal to, what age groups, locations, and what do you offer that stands out from your competition? Let's assume you have a logo, and you know the style of your craft. From here what are the color schemes you want to work with? Ex: Neutral browns, beige, and whites. Clean, airy, simple. Write down all your keywords so throughout the buying and sourcing process for your booth and displays you can stay on track for your vision to become a reality. If you are bohemian style maybe adding a funky patterned rug to your booth with a rich brown table cloth and pops of turquoise throughout your display, Maybe having a dream catcher, faux fur table runner, and raw crystal specimens throughout will catch your buyer's eye. Narrowing down your color scheme and style will help you make a cohesive display for your booth!
10x10 Tent (I purchased two one from Uline and one from Costco) I love my Uline Tent it comes in black or white and I purchased the additional side walls. You can find comparable tents all over the internet. Amazon has a great selection with reviews to back it up! I highly recommend getting a tent with walls, If you have inclement weather, or multiple days show you can zip up the entire tent and leave it there with more security that your displays aren't showing for the world to see. Make sure to buy sand bags, 5 gallon jugs, or tent weights in case of wind and to secure your set up.
I purchased my Liftetime folding tables one 6 foot, and one 4 foot at Costco over 6 years ago, they are still in great condition and holding up well. I will be adding one more for future shows. You can always use actual furniture you built or thrift, just be sure you are keeping traveling, set up, and break down in mind. You need room to transport, lady power to set up and break down, you want to keep your trips to and from the car to a minimum. If you choose to have real furniture or wood tables make sure you have room to transport. Another option is building custom pieces that fold up. For instance, this blogger made a foldable craft fair checkout stand. Mindful planning will result in maximizing your transportation space, and allow you to expedite the setup and break down the process!
You can choose from fitted table covers, to regular dining table cloths or in my case I went the screen printed route. I purchased my faux wooden table covers from Stack Display. These are really high-quality screen printed wood covers that fit perfectly over folding tables. You can wash them and they are eye-catching, I promise you will get tons of compliments on them. The only drawback is they are becoming very popular so expect to see them at most shows.
At the least have one main logo banner for your booth. That can include your logo, tagline, website, or description of what you do on there. It's professional, inviting and sets the tone for your booth. You can get your banner printed online at Vista Print or use a local print shop. I opted for a local print shop because of time constraints.
I also recommend having photos of your workspace, and creative process shots. This will really set the tone for your booth, that you offer handcrafted, artisanal goods. That you are not just another craft fair booth, but an artist. Although you can saturate your space with information, people will still wonder into your booth and not know you are an artist with handmade goods. What I can tell you is the people that appreciate artisanal goods will appreciate your thoughtfulness and message.
Get creative! Now that you have your basics such as tents, tables, and covers, keep your color scheme and style in mind, start looking for pieces to display your artistic wares. Keep within your color palette or theme to be sure to end up with a cohesive look. I recommend visiting local thrift stores and garage/estate sales to obtain unique pieces of furniture/displays for your booth. I found an awesome vintage jewelry box, wood crates, a 3 tiered shelf, a broken slab of quartz from a local stone shop and much much more. I collected all of these pieces throughout a one month period to complete my dream set up. I recommend not overdoing it in the first show. You don’t need a jam-packed booth to make sales. Just because you have space doesn't mean you have to use every corner. You can always add to your display as time goes on and the money rolls in. I plan on adding one more area with merchandise but not until I find the right pieces. Another thing to keep in mind is picking pieces that have a little weight to them. Just enough so they won't blow over at a gust of wind. I have also found great accent pieces at Michales, Target, and Marshalls. You never know what piece you may find whilst out. Always keep your booth in mind while your out shopping!
I found people did not feel overwhelmed when walking into my booth, they were able to see the sections I laid out clearly for the customer. Browse and buy without being overwhelmed. Although I would love one more table, I wanted to focus on making the space I do have the best it can be for now.
Etsy is a great spot for finding unique displays for your items. Although I thrifted a lot of pieces, I still needed some traditional earring cardholders, necklace stands and so on. Some of my favorite Etsy displays came from Majic1976, Megan has a good selection of stained wood items custom-built to hold all sorts of items for your show. You can choose from all sorts of wood stains to match your booth set up. Another fan favorite is Thee Letter Q Handmade, Quinn makes gorgeous repurposed displays from salvaged antiques, and reclaimed woods. Everything she offers is super unique and she only makes so many of certain items so you will be sure to find one of a kind displays.
All the displays I did source from the antique stores I stained if they did not match the color scheme I was going for. A great easy wood stain that I used for all my pieces is from General Finishes these are oil-based gel stains. You can use foam brushes to apply and then simply wipe with a Blue Shop Towels. Then seal if you want the coating to last.
Height!!! Make sure you have plenty of various heights throughout your booth. Mainly for maximizing your table space, and secondly for customer visuals. Some booths look nice with all flat display pieces if you have a very minimalist vibe, I promise you more than likely you will feel very naked once you look at your booth as a whole if everything is flat.
I also really enjoy these ring cones for ring displays, you can do so much with them, I stained each one with the General Finishes coating, but you can also leave unfinished if that is the look you are going for. As you can see there are so many places you can purchase amazing displays and ways to create your own.
These are a lifesaver I keep all of my finished jewelry in one, displays in another, and extra bags, tags, business cards, pliers, extra chain, jump rings etc in the top. They are stackable and on wheels.
Folding Cart: truck all your other displays, coolers, and what not when you unload
Ring Trays for Storage: Great for storing all your rings and backups at the show
Necklace trays: They have a nice clip to keep the necklaces in place
Extra Chain/ Jumprings / Clasps
Square/Paypal/Shopify payment processor
Packaging for purchases
Zip Ties (For Banner)
Notebook (one for an email list, one for writing down purchases or you can make notes in square)
Extra Battery Pack for your phone
Trial Set up
Make sure before your first show you do a mock set up in your backyard or driveway. Tent, display and all. This way you can visualize your display going into the show. It will also show you what you need to add or take away. It helps you expedite the setup and breakdown process as you will have a clear plan of action.
Setting up your booth, you will start with the tent, then tables and banners. Followed by putting all your display items out and filling it in with your merchandise. I can set up everything in about 1 hour with one person helping. Sometimes a bit less, breakdown takes me even less time. Make sure if you're doing a show alone to ask for help, neighbors tend to be very friendly and are willing to help get your tent set up with you.
Another set up without using the sidewalls
I hope this helps for the first steps in preparing for a craft/art show. In the next segment, we are going to address: How to find shows, inventory, prepping, price points, merchandise, expectations vs. reality. And a Q&A from Instagram!
Thanks for taking the time to read this blog post, I hope it was of some help to anyone looking to branch out and sell your art in person!