Thursday , 27 February 2020

Lessons Learned From MY First Craft Show

art show tips

Submitted by: Do Cats Eat Bats

This past weekend, I vended at an outdoor show for the first time. I’ve done craft fairs before, but setting up in a field presents many challenges that I didn’t have to deal with in an art gallery or indoor communal space. As I suspected, I learned a lot about what works, what doesn’t, and what’s just plain out of your control when you’re showing your work outside!

Your displays probably aren’t secure enough. Most outdoor vendors know the importance of staking and weighting down tents so that they don’t become airborne in a strong wind (and if you didn’t know that — yes, it really is THAT important.) I’d heard horror stories about flying tents taking out a fellow crafter’s entire stock, so was extra paranoid about securing mine, and the tent did just fine. The added bonus of a good secure tent is, you can tie things like easels and table legs to the tent’s supports for extra stability.

It was the other parts of my display, which I really wasn’t worried about, that succumbed to Mother Nature. (more on that in a bit.) Free hint: If the back supports of your necklace busts are cardboard, they will turn to mush if heavily rained upon. Duh. That didn’t even occur to me, and those are now in the trash and will need to be replaced with something more impervious. If you can easily knock a display over with your hand, the wind can knock it over too. Are you planning on reusing your empty boxes by draping them in some nice fabric and placing them on your table to create height? Don’t leave them empty — a bad wind will send them flying even if they’re duct taped to your table. I stuck a couple of hardcover books in each one and that helped weigh them down against wind.

Art show tips

Next time I’m going to vend outdoors, I’ll take my displays outside on a windy day, throw some earrings or necklaces on them, and see how they behave. I don’t want any more surprises!

But even if you do everything right, the weather may still defeat you. As the show was opening Sunday, a freak storm with strong winds blew up out of nowhere. I was horrified when I actually saw one of my weights — a big bin full of kitty litter — become airborne. I’m sorry, but if the wind is strong enough to take out something that heavy, nothing short of Super Glue is going to hold down little sparkly pieces of jewelry! The most terrifying moment came when we were struggling to take down the tent walls — yes, they kept out the rain, but made the wind worse — and an entire folding table upended, spewing earrings and bracelets all over the ground.

I’m still working on solutions for serious storms going forward — if you’ve got a great tip for windproof jewelry displays that also create height and visual interest, I’d love to hear it! At this point, the best advice I can offer is to have a well-staffed table. I had a friend helping me but we needed more than two people to hold everything down during the worst of the storm. I really regretted sending my boyfriend home after he was finished helping me haul everything — a third pair of hands probably would’ve saved the table when my friend and I were racing to get the walls down.

Be flexible regarding your setup. I did a test run, in my living room, of my tent’s layout, finally settling on an L-shaped configuration of tables and easels with the entrance at the front and me at the back. When I arrived at the park at oh-my-god-o’clock Saturday morning to set up, I was shown to my spot and the person in charge casually mentioned, “oh, and people will be coming into your tent from both sides so you’ll want people to be able to pass through the tent.” Uh, OK then! So, on the fly I rearranged my setup so that the tables were on either side of the tent, and people could walk right through. It worked out OK, but next time I’ll arrive armed with a few different setup ideas just in case of unexpected layout requirements.

For even more art show tips from Do Cats Etsy Bats, check out the remainder of the post HERE

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  1. Great tips! Another thing I learned which you cannot do much about is…it is usually cool & damp early in the morning at set up time & by midday or the afternoon hot. This is true where I live in NY at least. What it means is that any plastic will form condensation nearly all day!

  2. Dobats I have had similar horrifying expiriences when I did shows in upstate NY. We even used a nail gun to anchor the tent to the concrete to no avail.I found that it was best to forgo the tent unless the forecast called for no wind and lots of sun! Anything less and I didn’t bother going to the event in some instances. Selling jewelry outside is not an easy thing to do.

  3. Great tips…THANKS for sharing them! And, you have a great story that will make you laugh in the future even if you were not laughing at the time!

  4. Sorry to say I will never do another outdoor show. At my last I almost passed out despite drinking all day. The actual temps were mid 90s and the heat index was off the charts. Inside only!

  5. you guys arent giving this show newbie much confidence! I have one show coming up outside… one inside. Guess which one I’m terrified about now?!?!

    great tips though and I’ll definitely take them to heart !

  6. I enjoyed reading your post and it also inspired me as well. Thank You!

  7. I do at least 20 outdoor shows a year – I had a friend make me weights from pvc pipe. Mine are 35 pounds a piece – they are filled with lead shot and fiberglass epoxy. They are capped on each end and have an eye bolt on one end. I have 4 of them – each is attached to the frame of my canopy with a long bungee cord. The bungees are taught.

    These work great on cement as well as grass setups.

    My canopy has not moved since I started to use these.

    I think the key is to have the weights attached to the canopy frame and not to the legs.

  8. Holy Moly…not gonna do any outdoor shows with my handmade greeting cards! Wind + paper = disaster! thanks for the info about setting up in the livingroom ahead of time, though. That I will definitely do!

  9. If it rains and you need to cover your tent opening, you can use clear vinyl to make a flap, so people can still see in and enter, but it keeps the wind and rain from coming in. Like a shower curtain.

  10. I’ve had problems with wind too! I haven’t had any real disasters, thanks to my husband holding down the canopy! But I have had my tent broadsided by someone else’s tent, and heard vintage glass shattering at another vendor’s booth behind me. :( It could have been worse, though.

    I like the PVC pipe weights idea. We had weights, but they weren’t quite heavy enough. And indoor shows are good too. :D

  11. Yes my first craft show was similar to this. I didn’t have tent as I was in a large barn. When that wind started to blow though my entire display became a box kit. I spend an hour looking like a peeking chicken picking up earrings and other jewelry.
    Hints. I found louver doors and painted them. You can hang earrings to them and necklaces plus they make a great wind and water break. I found mine in the trash. Someone was going the throw them away.
    Since I have them the wind is no longer a problem.
    We also use a very good tarp instead of the panels that come with the tent. They are heavier and keep the wind at bay.

  12. I am just starting to get into the crafty business but have a great idea that will no only help keep your little/light jewerly from flying all over…BUT will add height.
    Wooden Arch (the same kind you put in a garden and grow roses over it (or bendable lattice). Just make sure it it secure to the ground (ties or pounded in), then clasp or twisty tie your jewerly onto it. Not only will it show it nicely when people are looking at it, it will help prevent theft and keep them in one spot. PLUS you can set it up BEFORE you go to the craft show and just fold it down and take it with you! Saves time packing and unpacking!

  13. The wind can be a big problem. I utilize 40 pound weights on the legs of my tent. I use clear crystal paper weights to hold down earring and necklace displays that are not weighty enough. The paper weights add to the display. I learned the hard way when a couple of my glass pieces broke after being blown down. However, I find that using risers and laying items flat works best in extremely windy situations. Also, “T” bars that are filled with jewelry rarely topple over.

  14. Good tip on being flexible to change your layout plans. That being said, having A plan is still a good idea.

  15. We use the large plastic kitty litter containers for weights. Bring them empty, then fill them with water when we arrive. Easy to transport, and provide 40 pounds of weight when filled. When time to go, just wat some flowers, and go!

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