The holidays are fast approaching, and with them comes craft fairs, booth events, and other ways to show and sell your work I call events where you bring your work out and set up a mini art gallery “Booth Events” because usually you will be selling your own work. As a rule, there are 3 types of these events Outdoor, Indoor and Tabletop. Some of these Events will be geared to sell art only; some will allow different types of vendors and you may find yourself set up next door to a food vendor. Outdoor events are usually larger than the Indoor ones and attract a larger crowd. A Tabletop can be either indoors or outdoors; the main difference between a Tabletop and the others is the space size. Most booth events allow you a 10’ x 10’ space. With a tabletop you have a space about the length and width of a table (usually 8’ long by 3’ wide) to display your work.
Your booth set up should be light and portable, easy for one person to set up in about 20 minutes, and fit into your vehicle along with the products you are planning to sell. To take part in booth events you should have the following items:
Pop-Up booth: Pop-Ups come in several price ranges and styles. Ideally, you will have help setting it up, but I would recommend the E-Z Up brand with the white top because it can be set up by one person. If you have never set up a booth, I advise a couple of practice trials setting it up in your yard before you go out to the event. The best Pop-Ups for displaying art have white tops and straight sides. The white top provides more light to see the art and the straight sides give you somewhere to fasten display racks. You can also purchase sidewalls to hang from the sides of the booth. You will need these if you are taking part in an event that lasts several days; you can use the sidewalls to enclose the booth when you go home for the night. FYI, unless the event has very good security, I wouldn’t recommend leaving your work out, but you can leave your display stands set up inside.
Display stands or racks: You can buy display set-ups from the art supply catalogs; but these can be pricey. However, it is possible to make your own. I bought 8’ wire closet shelving from the local hardware store. Turned on end, they can be fastened together with plastic tie straps or Velcro. The wire bars make ideal places to hang different sizes of art. (This portable shelving can also be made into stand-alone shapes: boxes, triangles and rectangles). For all events, I suggest that sandbags or weighted milk cartons be fastened to the corners to prevent tipping and as additional security for stand-alone shapes.
Portable easels can also be used as a part of your display. The art supply catalogs have some excellent display easels that hold multiple pieces of art and they look very professional. You can also make display easels yourself out of copper, PVC pipe or wood; just make sure they look professional. Remember you are going to be carrying them so they should be very light-weight!
Small fold up tables with a nice tablecloth to hold your cash box and give you a hard surface when making out receipts. They can also be used to display very small or 3-deminsional art, cards, etc. Just don’t make your space so crowded buyers won’t enter it. In addition, if your work is light, cardboard boxes covered by tablecloths or white sheets that reach the ground look very professional and provide a good backdrop to show off your work.
Sandbags or weights to hold down the booth in case of high winds: Weights of some kind are a must. A Pop-Up booth makes a big kite when the wind blows and it doesn’t have to be hurricane strength either. You need about 20 to 30 lbs. on each corner. Many booth events are on blacktop so you can’t use the handy stakes that come with the Pop-Ups to secure your booth against winds. Sandbags are available either from the Art Supply warehouse where you got your Pop-Up, or from the hardware store where you can also obtain clean, dry sand. You can also fill empty gallon milk cartons and use the handle to fasten to the legs of the booth.
Cash box: a locking cash box to keep change for cash sales and checks can be bought at the local office supply store.
Chair to sit in; while you will be spending a lot of time on your feet, it’s nice to have a place to sit down and relax so potential buyers don’t think you are just waiting to pounce.
Your work and any other items you plan to sell: Plastic boxes with good, snap-lock lids work really well to transport small items. They are waterproof and if you are doing a lot of events they hold up much better than cardboard. If you are going to be carrying your product in a pickup bed, make sure the lids of the boxes are fastened down and won’t blow open (bungee cords work well here). You will need either bubble wrap or some type of padding to wrap around or separate delicate items. For larger pieces of art such as framed paintings or photographs, I recommend that you carry them inside your vehicle (in which case they can be separated by large pieces of foam board or cardboard to prevent scratching the frames), or wrapped in bubble wrap. The thing you are most looking to prevent is damage caused by the items moving around when you stop, start and turn the vehicle. I also carry either a large, wide-tip marker in either brown or black to touch up frames.
A hand truck or dolly: You may have park some distance from your booth set up. While most places allow you to drive into the event area to set up your display, it might not be feasible for you to do so. A hand truck or dolly will enable you to haul your art, display stands and Pop-Up into the area without having to transport everything a piece at a time. This is a big plus because you may have a limited time in which to set up your booth.
A way to take debit or credit cards: If you want to make sales over $20, you will need either an I-Pad, I-Phone or some other brand of smart phone and the APP enabling either Square technology or PayPal. Both companies provide a small square you can order off the internet free, attach it your smart phone or tablet It’s small, portable and easy to learn to use. The company takes a small percentage of each sale as a fee (2.75% per swipe) and the money is in your account the next day. The site is https://squareup.com/ or https://paypal.com check it out. Although other companies are beginning to develop this tech these both have a proven track record.
Sales Receipts, a calculator and bags: A receipt book is a handy way for you to keep track of cash sales. Don’t spend a lot on the bags; you can get small paper bags and larger plastic ones with handles at the local Dollar Store. A small printing calculator because some customers who buy large ticket items are going to want a printed receipt, even if you are also e-mailing them one.
Requirements for an Indoor event will be slightly different. Some indoor events will allow you a 10 x 10 area, but you may find the spaces allotted aren’t exactly that size or aren’t square, so there will be difficulty fitting the Pop-Up frame into the space. In addition, the top cover will keep the overhead lighting from coming through, and the ceiling in the room may not be high enough to accommodate your booth. Even if the cover is white, poor lighting will make your booth dark and unattractive. if the canvas or vinyl cover is removable and the ceiling is tall enough, you might still be able to use only the Pop-Ups frame.
Stand-alone display racks are best for an indoor event. I use the same 8’ wire closet shelving from the local hardware store I used for the outdoor event, except that I fasten them together in a shape instead of to the booth. An indoor event is more likely to be crowded than an outdoor one, so to prevent accidents if your display is bumped, I suggest that sandbags or weighted milk cartons be fastened inside the shape to prevent tipping if someone does bump into the display. However, you can purchase this type of display from Art Supply catalogs and warehouses.
If you use portable easels to display your work, they can serve the same function indoors as they did outdoors.
You will also be able to use the small tables with a nice tablecloth used in your outdoor display
If you do a lot of Church or School sponsored Boutiques, a Tabletop Event is the most common type. At a Tabletop, you are probably going to be given just enough space to set up one 8’x2.5’ table with room for a chair behind it, so be prepared to cut your display down and bring only what you consider the most “sellable” items.
When I go to an event, especially an Indoor event, I always ask for access to electricity. Since space is usually at a premium it is difficult to display a lot of large art so I seldom take many large pieces of art to these events anymore, instead I take a plug-in digital picture frame (you can do the same with either a laptop or a tablet) loaded with photos of my work. I have a power point presentation showing my work set to music. The moving slide show and music attract a lot of attention and I can display more art.
Remember to have fun and talk about your work.