I’ve been asked by a few people now for advice on doing some of the larger outdoor art shows, so I thought I’d post about my booth setup and tips for making the most of your setup. I plan to post a bit later on how to apply to these types of shows.
I’ve been on the show circuit for two years now, and have attended some pretty big shows- Des Moines Arts Festival, Cherry Creek in Denver, Plaza Arts Festival in KC to name a few, so I’ve had lots of chances for practice, trial and error, and to perfect my setup.
1. The first thing you need is a tent. You can get away without one if you have to, but I highly recommend one. EZUP is a good starting point, they’re quite simple to put up by yourself and very lightweight. Removable sides can protect from wind and rain, or be rolled up to let in a breeze. An absolute MUST are tent weights. I’ve been to places with some VERY strong winds, and have seen artists lose their entire setup due to inadequate weighting. My weights are made of Quickrete 3500 in gallon buckets, with handles improvised out of hardware found at Lowe’s. Always strap to the cloth part of your tent, not the frame.
2. Displays. It’s all about presentation, and height is key. Get your wares up to the customer’s level. Make sure everything matches- unity is important. Contrast is important- you don’t want your work to disappear into your display. I use dark colored furniture and tablecloths (black, dk grey, maroon and brown) to make my porcelain pieces really pop.
I get my furniture from various sources. Some key pieces are:
- 6’ folding banquet table & 5’ folding table- Target
- Wire frame folding shelf- Hobby Lobby
- Black blocks- wall shelves from Target
- wire baskets- Hobby Lobby
- tiered baskets- restaurant supply website
- black & red tablecloths, red napkins for contrast- Target
- bed risers- Target (move the table up for easier viewing!)
3. Presentation. Don’t just lay your work out on the table. Use tiered or raised displays, plate stands, frames, baskets, shelves. Create a DYNAMIC display!
Group similar items- by theme, style, whatever.
Don’t overcrowd your booth- it will overwhelm your customers. Keep your extra merchandise under the table where you can easily access it.
4. Prices- make sure you have a wide range of prices, from cheap and affordable to your most expensive. People see the large price, and are more apt to buy a cheaper item than if they had seen only the lower priced piece. It’s all relative.
MAKE YOUR PRICES EASY TO FIND AND SEE. Even then, you will be asked over and over how much things cost.
5. SIGNS. You must have them. Do you take credit? Is your work food/dishwasher safe (mine are)? What’s your shop name? What’s your name? Website? Etsy?
I have a 4’x2’ vinyl banner that runs across the back of my booth that I had a graphic designer friend create for me. It has imagery of my work, my shop name, my name, and my website. They’re cheap, get one.
6. IMPORTANT THINGS TO BRING:
- CASH. OMG BRING CASH. For a 2-day show I bring $100 in singles and $50 in fives and even then sometimes I run out
- secure place to keep your cash- lockbox, apron… don’t lose it!
- more business cards than you think you’ll need. I’ve run out, it’s NOT a good thing (BTW, having good, well made cards is very important. Again, I had a designer friend make mine, and they’re awesome. I print mine through MOO, they’re good, solid cards and I get lots of compliments.)
- receipt/log book- for your record, for taxes- record ALL SALES
- credit card reader- if you have a smartphone, get SQUARE. It’s cheap, it’s easy, it’s awesome.
- spare phone battery- since I use my phone for credit cards, this has saved me more than once, electricity is not always available to charge
- extra merchandise
- packaging- I use white tissue paper I buy in large quantities around Christmas at Hobby Lobby. Half price! For larger pieces I use bubble wrap.
- bags- if your work is heavier, like mine, sturdy is a must. I use paper bags WITH HANDLES from ULINE. You can even get your logo printed on them!
- signs and price tags- bring extra. Payment method, custom orders, any pertinent information should be displayed.
- sticky tak- comes in handy
- safety pins
- art supplies- I always bring extra sandpaper in case I find a piece with rough edges or something.
- camera- document!
- notebook- I find I get a lot of ideas when I’m at shows, which I forget if I don’t write them down
- sunscreen, antibac, hand wipes (often there are no real bathrooms), kleenex
- food & drink (PLEASE DRINK WATER, these shows can be really hot. Cherry Creek was over 100° all three days this year.)
- weather supplies- if your work is damageable by wet, bring tarps. Umbrellas and ponchos can be handy.
- wear appropriate clothing- check the weather.
7. How to pack- I bubble wrap all my pieces (they are breakable) and pack them into hard plastic Rubbermaid bins that I can stack into the back of my truck with all my furniture. I always bring a handy little foldable dolly cart-thing in case I need to haul them any distance (each usually weighs about 75 lbs). Think about things like this when packing up- make sure your work is secure before packing it in a vehicle. Stuff happens.
8. PRACTICE. Many art festivals require a booth shot to get in, so you might have to get your setup together and get some (PROFESSIONAL is best) shots before you can even apply to some of the bigger shows. Either way, I highly recommend you practice setting up your booth both so you can know how to set everything up, and you can see the display and change/tweak/add anything before you’re 100 miles away from home.