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Collective – Craft Show Set-Up

April 11, 2011

Tonight we have the second (of hopefully many more to come) meeting of our Bloomington Creatives Collective. The goal of tonight’s meeting is to help those that need it with their craft show set-up. Obviously, I’m writing this in preparation:)

Personally, I’ve been through the mill when it comes to craft show set-ups. Starting with a suit case and a book case on its side and going to a half dozen clear containers to what I have now- which is still nowhere near perfect.


BHM 2011

Craft show set-up is difficult. You want your set-up to reflect who YOU are, what your business is, and also be aesthetically pleasing AND draw people in to look and ultimately buy. Your set-up should be easy to navigate, easy to set-up and easy to tear down. It should be cohesive with your product (like, the clear plastic bins were SO cohesive with my recycled product!). You want levels to force the eye to travel up and down and over and below. You want variety and unity all in one set-up. Ok ok, you want a lot of things. And for each craft, the set-up is so drastically different!

In the beginning (you know, way back in 2009) I had it in my head that I could sell books, knitted scarves, hats and baby wear, photography, jewelry, etc etc. When I had my first show and had to fit all of this on one little 6 ft table I realized it just wasn’t working (for me). I couldn’t wrap my head around all of these things that clearly didn’t fit together in any make-believe situation (even in my own head). And so, I pared it down to books. Or things made with books and paper. Simple enough. Since then, my own set-up has become less of a cluster-fudge to create for sure. And I’ve been slowly learning what works best for me . . . I think. Let’s list some standards that I think all booths should have.

  • If you have a table in your set-up, which not all of you will- unless you’re dealing in children’s items (crayons or knitted playthings for example) I suggest putting your table on risers to make your items closer to your customer- it’s not fun bending over looking at intricate designs and not everyone wants to pick up what you’re selling (even if they should) so this brings your product closer to eye level and away from little hands (if you don’t want little hands to touch them). You can find cheap and easy risers at places like Bed Bath and Beyond and even Wal-Mart. (they evidently even have adjustable ones now to make your table even higher! I have the simple set and they work great for me!)
  • Again, if you’re using a table, I suggest a covering that reaches to the ground to cover not only what you might be hiding underneath the table, but also the unsightly table-legs and risers. I still use bed-sheets for my table covering, but I’ve heard tell that people actually sew their own fitted table coverings  (they’re called professional over-achievers;))
  • Barrel of Monkeys at the Detroit Urban Craft Fair - Nov. 15, 2008

  • Again, for those table-users (I’m a table-user btw) moving the eye vertically is very important. We don’t want all of our wares to simply be spread out on a table with no movement. It’s simple and easy, but not necessarily aesthetically pleasing or challenging for the eye. We want to challenge our buyers. I’ve seen many a different prop used for height: cake stands, book shelves, antique drawers, photo boxes hidden under sheets, parallel poles attached to a base and string hung between, pottery, plant stands, hinged doors, tree trunks, suit cases, etc. You name it, you can find it in your house, your garage, your attic – you can use it. My only word of advice is that they all be cohesive! I know, you’re going to hate this word by the time I’m through with this, but it’s really important. You don’t want to use a plastic bin (I will continue bringing the plastic bin up because I’m quite ashamed actually) next to an antique suitcase. It just doesn’t jive.
  • Now, for full booths- not just a single table set-up – I’m obviously still learning on all of this, but I’ve heard that people don’t want to have to ‘enter’ your booth. They don’t want to feel trapped. So, of course, I always create a booth set-up where you have to enter- so, I’ll have to work on that:)
  • For non-table users . . . I’m going to have to work on this one. I’ve been in plenty of art show booths that don’t utilize table set-ups and all I can for sure say I’ve gleaned from those shows is that you have to work with the vertical space you’re given- since you have no real horizontal space to work with. Grid walls tend to work best and are most popular, but are also sort of everywhere. Personally, I’m a fan of when I can’t SEE the grid wall behind your art and it’s sort of just floating their in mid-air. Photographers tend to use the black walls which best accentuate their work. Again, it’s something every photographer does- it’s the norm- are we the norm? I don’t know, I’m just personally a fan of handmade displays- it sets us all apart from each other and adds to your (and our) art experience, no?
  • Renegade Craft Fair SF

  • Clothing must be THE most difficult of the art and craft world to display. While clothes always live on hangers or in drawers once we purchase them, it’s hard to say they all should live on hangers in an over-crowded system during a show as well. I suppose they live on systems like this while in a store, but, we here in the DIY handmade movement don’t want to replicate what the mass-produced store is creating now do we?  Concerning this dilemma I’ve seen some great creative things done to display clothing: coat racks, mannequins, clothes lines, etc. I’m sure there are more, but my computer time is being limited right now due to my 20 month old needing my attention;)
  • And so we’ve come to the end of our little bulleted list. Did you learn anything? Do you have anything to add?

I’m always working on my display, I’m sure I’ll never perfect it and it will be ever-changing, but I think that’s the way it should be. Your display should not be this static thing that you do at every show because you’re display is as much a part of your art as your art is. Do you agree?


Need some more ideas, but work more visually;) Try out these Flickr Groups! And if you don’t user Flickr- you should!
Arts & crafts fairs & shows
my booth space


Oh, and since I’d like to document this here (sorry, I’m so bloody long-winded) – my current display issues:

  • overcrowdedness – are you dissuaded from entering a booth when there’s no clean space? I WANT to have clean modern lines and empty space in my booth, but it just never happens.
  • displaying hollow books both for their insides and their titles – my new shelf really displays my hollow books well (see above), but I failed to display any titles and thus, people weren’t nearly as entertained when they didn’t see that the flask was hiding in an AA book.
  • Book clutches – how to keep the bloody things open- currently I’m using a piece of thread hung between the two shelves to hold four books open at a time, but when you move one book they all fall and then, well, that’s not good.


follow-up entry to come after out meeting tonight;)

12 Comments leave one →
  1. April 12, 2011 2:05 am

    I wish I’d had this to read when I started, too! Talia is right on the mark! I’m moving up (?) to shows that require a more formal, gallery-like, setting. It’s not unusual for these shows to not allow tables at all. When I do use a table, like Talia suggests, I use risers. I found that 1″ PVC pipe fit over my table legs exactly and cost just a couple of dollars. I also bring a small table — I used camp tables in the beginning, now I use a tiny PVC table — that fits under your display for tissue, bags, boxes, cash box, etc. In fact I’m thinking about getting a second.

    I write a bit, from time to time, about set-up. This piece discusses my table and display.


    • admin permalink*
      April 12, 2011 5:31 pm

      Geoff- you have one of the GREATEST set-ups I’ve EVER seen!! I Love it and it suites you to the T;) Thanks for reading!

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    • admin permalink*
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