I have been doing art and craft shows for over 8 years now - wow I can't believe it's actually been that long! But I have been making things and selling them since I was in high school. I guess I've just had an entrepreneurial spirit ever since then. When I started out I was sewing diaper bags and selling them on Etsy and Ebay. I can't even remember exactly what my first show was but I do remember that it was light years different from what I do now. It's evolved oh so much - and for the good! At first I was selling a variety of things from screenprinted dragons to ceramics to hand sewn purses. My display was also all over the place. I cringe looking back to all the different iderations of displays that I had. Some were way to busy, some I spent way to much money on and some were very impractival and too difficult to set up.
Here are just a few of the different displays I've set up over the years. Please don't judge - keep in mind I was only a teenager at the start of this 😅
2014 - It was hard to remember but after seeing this picture I'm pretty positive this was my first first show ever. The blue tent that I borrowed from my church youth group was a dead giveaway. This was a little art and craft show in my then-boyfriend's hometown.
2015 - I've progressed to having my own tent and I'm now selling at the local farmers market - which was actually a really great place to start. Look at all those clashing colors - I'm cringing a little guys.
2017 - It tried to utilize height by stacking but it just ended up being precarious and it looked pretty bad with how everything overlapped.
2017 or 2018 I'm not quite sure
2020 - I slimmed down my display a lot here.
2021 - this is almost to where I am no but I just added a couple displays and got rid of the bright blue tablecloths - they were a new purchase but a bad color choice!
And here's the total refresh!
Since going through all of those displays and learning the hard way what works and what doesn't I'm going to give you some tips and questions to ask yourself as you're designing your booth.
Questions to ask yourself before you start designing your booth
What kind of shows do you want to be in? This will define your budget as you'll understand when you read below.
What's your budget? This is a hugely defining factor. You would not believe how much you can spend on a booth. And this will affect which shows you can apply to. Many fine art shows have an extremely high standard for what the booth display must look like. No matter how good your art is, if you apply to a high end show with a crappy booth display you won't get in. I debated for several years whether I should take the leap into higher end art shows which would mean dropping $3,000-$5,000 on a booth. I ended up deciding against it because I don't want to be doing shows that much longer and I don't want to fill up all my weekends with shows in the meantime. Some people are ok with doing shows every weekend - or more - and their case that would be a worthwhile investment.
What do you have to fit it into? My car is a Ford Escape - it's a small SUV with a hatch back. It's done the job for me but I always have to keep the space in mind when I'm considering new displays. Fitting it into my car is a bit of a jigsaw puzzle. As you can see here.
How to make a great display and have a good show
Arrange your booth so that people can come in and look around. I used to put my table at the end of my space so that it's right there as people walk by. But that arrangement doesn't encourage people to come closer and engage. Now I have my booth set up in a U shape with the table set back a couple feet so that people can wander in and take their time and not get pushed along by the crowd. I have a couple of small things right at the edge of my booth to get their attention though.
Make prices clearly visible. Don't be shy about putting your prices out there - people want to know what your product is going to cost them so that they know if it's worth it.
Tell them about your products! You have such a great opportunity to have a person right in front of you with your products. Tell them a story, explain your process, get them engaged and interested in your work! I always end a conversation by offering a business card or my email list so they have a way of keeping in touch. That way I'm not pressuring them to buy something but I'm making sure that have something to remember me by.
Don't sell too many different things. You have a very small space in which to sell. You need to simplify in order for people to be able to focus and understand what you are selling them. You can have a lot of variety within a certain subject - for example I sell mainly art prints but I have a lot to choose from. A bad example would be me at the beginning when I was selling t-shirts, pottery and purses.
Don't bring anything you don't need. When you're hauling things up and down a flight of stairs or a wet grassy hill 10 times you start to consider what you can leave behind next time. Believe me I'm always thinking of how I can eliminate things while still having everything I need.
Give people a way to contact you later an incentive to do it. I always have my email sign up sheet and the people who sign up get 15% off their first online order.
Engage with people! People remember when they connect with people and they will remember you if you connect with them. Find some common ground with the customer and have a chat! It's actually quite fun, I love getting to know people at shows, even if it's just for a couple minutes. I usually end up talking about hiking and backpacking because of the subject of my work.
Have fun and smile! I know you may have just cringed that I told you to smile but seriously, smiles are contagious and if you give off a positive attitude your customer is going to walk away with a positive feeling from your booth. In the same way they may walk away with a negative feeling if you were short with them or looking down at your phone the whole time they were there. And you do not want someone walking away with a negative feeling. Even if I'm having a bad sales day I try to think of happy things and positive thoughts, not just to put on a happy face for my customer, but so that I myself have a good time while I'm there. I used to come home sad and depressed if a show was bad. But now I just remember that I'm blessed to make any sales and to still be doing what I love.
Here are a few more tips that are just little things, but they can still have a good affect.
- Have tablecloths that go to the ground - you can hide things underneath and it looks nicer to not see the legs of the table
- Have a sign that clearly tells people who you are - I didn't do good on this one for the longest time
- Give away fliers like a business card that also have a code for free shipping so they have an incentive to go to your website.
- Be consistent with your color palette. For some people that means lots of bright colors and shapes, for me that means mainly neutrals and more natural-looking colors.
- Lastly don't overthink it. Just get into it if you keep these things in mind you'll have your own awesome booth together after a few shows!
If you'd like to know how I made my wood displays let me know and maybe I'll put together a guide for those. If you'd like a complete list of what I pack for a show read this blog.
You may have noticed I didn't have any product links in this post and that's actually how I support my blogging. Since I didn't have any of those I'm just gonna throw in this link to my webshop. So if you really liked this post and if it provided valuable information to you, please consider supporting me by purchasing a small print or sticker from my shop! I really hope this was insightful and helpful to you in some way.
Whether you are doing local, smaller markets or bigger fine art fairs I hope that you start out very successful and don't go through as many rough booth displays as I did! Here's a few more pictures of my current booth - if you can't tell I'm just super excited about how it turned out!! Let me know in the comments how long you've been doing shows - are you a beginner or have you been doing them for a few years? Did these tips help you? Do you have any tips you'd like to add? Hope you have a great day!!!