Thursday, March 09, 2006

Craft Show Ideas - The Evolution of the Display

Welcome to another posting of "Craft Show ideas"..

Hopefully you'll get something good from this for your own show, or just a good laugh at some of our follies.

Show Displays

We've been doing traveling shows now for just under six years (and we are not doing it perfect by far!).. Every time is a new learning experience.

So here are a few thoughts, observations and ideas that you might find handy.

A bit of history? We started out our first shows with just a table and a few table cloths. Try not to gasp when you see the following picture..

Our very first display

It's a bit hard to look at these pictures now. This was one of our very first shows - the sales were "ok" but as you can see it was very difficult for anyone to see any one product that we had on our table.
I had one light on the left hand side of the table that didn't do any good - unless the intent was to blind my customers. And I'm not sure why I thought that half hazardly tossing pieces of tattered black shiny material all over the table would cause people to buy anything. Hmmm..
Don't stress if your table looks like this as everyone has to start from somewhere.

As time progressed our tables started to rise a bit.

(That's my Mom in the picture showing her very pretty fish jewelry).
I started switching table cloth colours and playing with lights too. Not that the dangling Christmas lights did anything but cause people to get caught and tangled up in their clothing as they stood looking over the table. (Hey! Maybe that is what I was trying to do after all?). As you see, there are no lights on the table, so most of the items just blend.
LESS IS MORE - I used to like to have everything I can on the table - I didn't want anyone to miss out on anything!! But I've learned through the years that less really is more. Sales were a bit up but folks still had to lean WAY over to actually see anything that we were selling but it was a step forward.

Steel Grid Lock Displays
While visiting a wonderful second hand store we found these fabulous steel grid lock pieces! The idea was to prop them up and display our stone pieces so that no one had to bend over.

Um.. do you see the problem? We tried everything we could with what we had at this show to make it easier to see. Grid lock is wonderful! But you have to use it correctly. We had the corners braced and locked to the table (it weighs a lot!)

Eventually we put a Celtic Sarong on the back but it was still difficult to see anything (Plus you could not see around it!). Since then I have seen some fabulous grid lock displays where this material is OVER the table (*supported by VERY STRONG LEGS) and the gems hang from the steel squares. PLUS you can attach your lights with ease!

At this point we still had much too much clutter on the table but none of us can seem to get past this point. But you can see how this display (compared to a flat table) would catch the eye from across the room. Now the next part of our problem was the insane sarong we decided would work well for our table cloth. *WEEEOWROUERU* Again.. busy busy busy... simple colours (not mish mash colours) are key for displays. We were still to confusing to really get looked at.
Height works!!
The next evolution came with great success!
We alleviated customer back aches and got some of the gems up on a black board (self supporting) and just kept a few things on the table below it.

Ahh.. now we are getting somewhere!
These are very easy and inexpensive displays to create!
Made out of scrap wood (really) and a few door brackets on the back (then material stapled to it)...

And a business name! (We had that sign since the beginning but never put it up).. what were we thinking? I don't know..

Also in this picture is the fact out main table cloth is far to short (you can see under the table and that was quite cluttered looking).. make sure you carry BIG table cloths! We didn't have enough and I had to make due with some sarong that I brought with me. It worked, sales were great but it's still very busy looking.
We also started working with our SPANISH INQUISITION lights at this point too - finally you can see what's on the table for a change! And we went with the less is more theory.


Go to your nearest dollar store and buy some table cloth weights! That's our most important comment for this section of our blog. See the table cloth? The wind kept dragging it up and blowing things off the table.

There is not much height to this table - the reason? TOO MUCH WIND that day.. arg There is something to say about having a tent over your head at times - at least I could have blocked some of the stormy winds that came in that afternoon. But I choose to stay directly in the sunshine due to the fact that sun really helps sales when it comes to gemstones. Even though I dealt with "WHOOPS! Let me get that for you" for quite a few hours, sales were excellent. Oh but yes.. see the table cloth issue? At this point I had still not learned that lesson well enough.

Mixed Media Display
I was building displays with no budget (not meaning I had a lot to spend.. meaning I had ZERO to spend).. I found all these materials in the garage and hiding in the basement (Thanks to a good friend Wanda News).. The idea is super! BUT the mix of black material.. wood and natural vines?... does it look a bit off to you? IT works tho.. and we got a LOT of sales from the fact folks could see this and were very attracted to the stones.
We also stated getting the table cloth issue under control - still working on it though.

Time ticked on and my partner (Rob) came back from working out of town. He'd been seeing pictures of my displays for over a years away and cringing.. so he came home with a few ideas of his own!

A trip to Canadian Tire for copper pipe, propane and solder and we had the start of a new display for UNDER $15!!!
(That's our back deck by the way.)
This is the base for the newest display (2005) made out of copper pipe. Once this was done we sprayed the entire stand with a Faux Granite paint (*HINT HINT!*) Make SURE you seal this type of paint - it WILL scratch off the copper pipe if you don't! Oh that's Rob by the way..
Yes for our next show we opted to be in the sun...
You can see that we have shifted to WHITE displays instead of the black material. The pieces really POP now!! Rob's display is set up (a bit hard to see in this shot) but sales SOARED! Having pieces up at eye level really makes a huge difference. Another rule of thumb for outdoor shows is "always pack sun block!" I was burnt to a crisp after this show.
Time marched on and we evolved into a new display tent from a bargain tool store. This one was really great and it opened like an umbrella! Between Rob and I, it only took about five minutes to set up.
It brought a new level of lighting needs to mind - this one the most important:

This is an actual photograph of my feet during an outdoor show in 2005. I spent HOURS bailing under my feet (that's my bailing bucket in the picture). It rained all day! The lesson here is: Make sure that your lights are outdoor lights! And not indoor Christmas lights! We had a few of them and had to remove them from our display and rush to the hardware store to get the proper lights. Safety is a key issue!
Also, outdoor shows require a big stick! Not to thump your customers who leave your tent without buying anything (or use your tent to stay dry and then leave) but to gently lift the roof of your tent when needed to remove excess pooling water before you get drowned out by a flood.
Also if you are doing outdoor shows and have big lights? BRING A FLY SWATTER! Wasps and Bees like the lights at night! We had dozens of them scooting around our customers at night and were desperately seeking way of smacking the bugs.
Well folks, that's it for this issue of Craft Show Ideas 101. I hope you have learned something or at least enjoyed the adventures of our traveling Gems show!!


Anonymous said...

I enjoyed your pictoral....Im doing my first craft show in November and you gave me lots to think about. thanks

Senora Muertos said...

Thanks for the tips! I am doing my second non-department style craft show at the end of this month and I am struggling with inexpensive ideas for tablecloths, displays, what colors to use, etc.

Courtney said...

Amazingly helpful! Thank you so much for sharing! My first craft event is in 4 weeks, and I am VERY grateful to find this!

cathy mckean said...

I really enjoyed your "ideas" - I could relate to many of your dilemnas including wind, rain etc. I have a split craft personality and can't decide if I'm a jewelry designer or a soapmaker so it's a little of both on the table. I came across your blog in my random search for more "artistic and professional booth display"! I will carry on. p.s. have you thought of writing comedy? Cathy

Vikki said...

Oh drats! I am late at some replies to this posting.. (I'm such a bad toad!)

I'm glad that some of these ideas have helped folks out. I'm curious as to how your shows ended up going? I'd love to know :-)

As for writing comedy? That sounds interesting indeed!

Nancy said...

Great ideas and very cleverly written. I make quirky luggage tags and have a booth at a local festival soon. I got some great pointers from you but I am still struggling with an idea to display them. Thanks again for the tips!

Anonymous said...

It is my first message here, so I would like to say hallo to all of you! It is really comfort to go your community!