I recently participated in a local show, Bainbridge Bluegrass Festival, which included music, food, entertainment, and artisan booths. Since the entry fee was minimal, it was only 6 miles from my home, and promised a good turnout at the gate it was a given to be in it. So I sent in my money and began creating product. Previous posts show some of the products I made. This posting is about the booth itself and what it takes to prepare for a show.
My cottage industry has changed names a few times and my product line has changed along with it. It is obviously a natural progression of maturing into your craft, developing a better sense of one’s style, increasing one’s confidence, and paying attention to the current design trends. Appearing at a show displaying your wares (hence yourself) is a great growing experience in that you are exposed and open for comment (good and bad). I decided long ago that shows were more about experience, exposure, and expertise than great sales. Don’t get me wrong, however. The first time someone spent money on something I MADE was definitely a high. But over the years I have come to realize it is more about the experience of meeting people, getting their feedback, enjoying their delight in your work, and having FUN. Somehow the money follows but it is not my main thrust of doing shows.
Getting ready for this show, I had a first-time opportunity to stage the booth having both a little extra time and good weather. So in the driveway I was able to work with the props and fabric drapes to plan the overall lay-out. I am an avid collector of drapes, fabric panels, shower curtains (yes they work great!), and tablecloths. I scour the thrift stores and usually stay with a neutral color palette. As the fabric provides a frame for my product I don’t want the color to overshadow the creations. This show had soft shell pink with cream and mocha shades. I like to layer colors and textures on the table top to add interest and depth.
The side panels consisted of 4 drapery panels, all different (I rarely go for the matchy-matchy look….eclectic is more my style). The two opposite sides coordinated with the back panel featuring my impromptu banner. I truly mean impromptu. I found copyright-free images of a crown and fleur-di-lis and printed them onto heat-sensitive paper. The images were ironed onto thin muslin which I sewed onto a larger muslin panel. I have been enjoying the look of burlap so I fabric-glued the muslin onto a larger rectangle of burlap and that became my banner. My architect son did the hand-lettering of my website name. Nothing fancy, nothing professional…just a home-spun, organic banner which worked for me.
I also go for height in my booth. Having everything displayed flat on one plane is not only boring, but doesn’t attract attention. I have found that using cut lengths of PVC pipe extends the legs of the banquet tables which raises the table. That way people are looking more “at” the work than “down” on it, i.e., it’s eye-level. I used a large vintage suitcase with the lid open to hold several items inside and used the lid to drape and hang other items. I covered two oatmeal canisters with black velvet to use for the fascinator headbands. I have also used a paint roller (just the fluffy part, not the armature) to display bracelets on. This time I featured the necklaces and bracelets on black velvet boards (foam core) cut -to- fit into thrift store frames. I used a birdcage to display the glitter- edged butterflies on. An old metal mattress frame was hung on the side to hang other product on. That received lots of great comments. The mannequins I covered in dress maker tissue displayed necklaces. A cupcake tiered stand is used effectively with vertical display.
Packing everything takes time and thought as everything must fit into my SUV. Whenever possible, I use lidded boxes and take a small wheeled cart. It’s rare when you can park close to where the booth is so boxes must be stacked in order to facilitate a quick carry time (hand trucks work too). Schlepping, tent/tables setting up then placing the product usually takes 2-3 hours so I have to have a game-plan in my head and work efficiently and quickly. I put out some product and keep extra stock under the tables. I always allow some room for tissue wrapping and sales transactions. Then at the end of the day, everything gets packed away, schlepped to the car, unloaded at home, then I ramp up for the next show….exhilarated from success and encouraged to do it again.