Evolution of an Art Fair Booth and Design Tips


by Donna Sauers March 15, 2017

There was so much I didn't know when I started doing art fairs and one was where to start when creating a booth. It was overwhelming. I needed a tent, displays, weights - the list went on and on! I called a friend for advise (we used to do trade shows together) and she made the comment "you were responsible for a 20x120 foot booth and you can't do a 10x10?!" Yes.. I used to be involved with trade shows for a major collectible company, but somehow creating a booth for "me" was daunting!  
I ordered a tent and started to build my booth and I am sharing some photos of how my booth has changed over the years. I was really happy with my first booth however it took manpower to assemble since I was using heavy tables and lots of props. I quickly learned it was not the way to go. Then I had an "ah-ha" moment when I attended a seminar and we could submit slides of our work and booth for a critique and how a jury may score us. I anxiously waited for my turn. Then the slides went up. My work looked great, however even I shuttered looking at the photo of my booth. The person running the seminar struggled to find some positive things to say. I was crushed to say the least.
My first booth.. Yikes!       
The second on the left. Not much better!
After the workshop I approached the instructor and said "is there anything I can salvage from my booth?" and I got some great advise. She said my booth looked like I should be selling leather. My work is light and delicate and the booth was heavy and dark. The work and the booth were disconnected and it was so obvious but I didn't see it. Sometimes we get too close to our own work and can't see the flaws.  So... with 3 weeks until my first show applications were due I had to rebuild an entire booth! It was the holidays and the Christmas tree stayed outside because my living room became my "workshop" while I built my booth. I tossed everything out and started from scratch.
I bought folding bookcases for "cases" and used mirrors as the top. The mirror works well with glass jewelry. Yep, they are heavy but worth it. I lightened it up and made neck forms that went with the color scheme (however, they were lightweight and "flew" in the wind). I liked the etegere that I thought highlighted my best sellers as people walked by, but after watching how people shopped I realized no one ever bought anything from it! It was a pain to put together and I had to zip tie it to the poles for stability so I used it for a year and then ditched it. I set up my display in the traditional "L" shape where I stood behind the counter, but in the last couple of years I have changed that too. It is hard to tell from the photo below, but I bought glass shelving that I use to create levels and interest. It was an improvement, but there were more changes to come.
Getting there... but far from done!
This is my current booth (below). I decided to open it up so I could work with customers. I felt that I was putting a barrier between me and my clients when I stood behind the counter. It has several "stations" and ways to draw people into the booth. The best sellers are on the aisle to catch their attention and then they are drawn into the booth and  the pieces in the back. This gets customers off the aisle and a cozy place to shop. There is also an area with a mirror above where I can work with customers but others still have access to me. It has a nice flow and seems to work well. I have a poster on the wall that shows the process of how to make the beads. Having it large on the wall works well visually, but also when I am describing and pointing to the photos others in the booth stop to listen. I love interacting with customers and educating them on the process so I have found this to work well!

So I have come along way since that first attempt at a booth. It is a process and I continually watch how people shop, listen to comments, make sure my best sellers are moving, etc. I am constantly re-merchandising at a show by how items are moving.. or not. It is my "store" for the weekend and I love it! I also learned merchandising and enhanced my sales skills by working at a boutique part time. The experience has been priceless!

 

10 Tips for Designing your Booth:

  • Purchase the best tent you can afford
  • Make sure your booth enhances your work and is appropriate for your target customer
  • Display on multiple levels to keep the eye moving and add interest
  • Make sure your display pieces don't overpower your work - less is more!
  • Floor covering goes a long way - if it is "cushy" people tend to shop longer
  • Use your walls and corners
  • Wall coverings can make your booth cozy and also blocks out the beating sun!
  • Merchandise your pieces based on how customers shop (I display by color palette)
  • Lighting - if you sell jewelry it is beneficial to invest in lighting - especially on those cloudy days
  • Watch your customers and improve as you go. It's a process.

 

Yes, It all fits in here!

 And I close with one final comment... weights, weights, weights! You need to have the appropriate weights to be safe in storms (and there WILL be storms!). Even if it is a sunny day, put your weights on. You never know when the wind will pick up and a storm will suddenly come out of nowhere! It is as much for your safety as your neighbors. You don't want your tent blowing into your neighbor and damaging work! I learned this lesson and fortunately it was not at a show. I was taking a booth shot in my backyard and a little breeze came by. I watched my tent levitate and topple into the house. I built new heavy weights that week.

I'd love to hear from you if you have any additional tips! Just leave me a comment.



Donna Sauers
Donna Sauers

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