Friday, August 16, 2013

On the road and talking (temporary) shop

One of the big challenges for any artisan/crafter who sells their work in a live marketplace is how to display their work. What's going to draw a shopper's eye to your booth? What sort of impression are you making to keep a shopper's attention? What's going to protect your work from damage, especially at outdoor events? What's going to be easy to set up/take down? Most importantly, how are you going to fit 3 folding tables, your work, and any fixtures into a 2007 Toyota Corolla and still have room for your significant other?

While there are tons of ready-made fixtures designed for crafting display purposes, I went in a slightly different direction when I started showing my work at events a few years ago. While partially for practical reasons (read: I didn't want to sink a chunk of change into buying fixtures just in case this  whole-selling-my-stuff-face-to-face was a raging flop), I also felt that using repurposed objects to display my jewelry was a better fit for my overall flavor.

 Mid-setup at my favorite market Holy Hill Art Farm Market, October 2012

The vast majority of my fixtures have been scrounged from tag sales or made by me from found objects. Among these are:
  • Thrift store wall frames with the art/glass removed and replaced with fabric covered foam board. These make excellent pinboards for jewelry.
  • Smaller thrifted frames with pricing and credit card information.
  • Plant stands used to create multiple display levels within a small footprint.
  • Wooden wire spools used to create necklace rounders with the addition of tack "pegs" at the top and salvaged lazy susan bottoms.
  • Wine crates upended, with slide-in panels added to create shelves for small items.
  • Thrift store cut glass bowls to hold little bobs.
  • Wire photo displays (great for carded items or business cards)
  • Printer's trays 
  • Small wooden drawers
  • Old bakeware (cookie sheets, tart pans, etc)
  • Vintage servingware, including a revolving brass and glass relish tray and tiered dessert tray.
  • Thrifted linens and fabric remnants as table covers.
  • "Shelves" created with boards (scrap lumber found at my local ReStore) and decopaged buckets.
  • A vanity mirror with a drawer. Found for $2.99 at Goodwill, I painted and weathered the finish, then lined the drawer with copies of beauty product ads from the 1910-20's before filling it with carded handmade hairpins.
Since so many of my items are small and not able to be seen from across a room, I rely on creating an overall environment to attract attention and bring shoppers to my booth. Once there, I have various sections for folks to explore which holds their interest. Not shown in the photo is the vintage wooden doll cradle filled with seasonally-appropriate items (Life-size Dia De Los Muertos skulls and more tissue flowers like those shown on the table) that I placed at the entrance to my booth. While not my primary medium, the skulls and flowers did fit with my esthetic and got passers-by to pause long enough to pique their interest in my jewelry.

Midwinter Gathering fundraiser at the Kemper Center, January 2013

You'll also notice in this much smaller booth at another event that I have a few fixtures that are a bit more mass-market and intended for this purpose. Sometimes reinventing the wheel isn't mandatory, but paying a lot for traditional displays isn't either. Second hand fixtures are just as good as the brand spanking new displays that are on the market, often for a fraction of the price. The velveteen necks are a salvage from a mall jewelry store that went out of business (I bought an assortment of sizes for $.50 to $2.00 each). As for the black racks at the rear, those were found at a surplus shop for a dollar each and repainted.


Looking to make the leap to vending at a craft show or thinking about adding to your existing display? Here are some ideas for doing it on the cheap:
  • Look up: Odds are that you'll have limited horizontal booth space, so you'll want to create some of you own with tiered displays (think shelving) or a mechanism to hang work at various levels (stanchions with wire drawn between them allow you to hang carded items or prints from clips). Risers for shelving can be created with a multitude of objects like books or bricks. Also consider hollow items like boxes or canisters that can be used to transport and store your stock.
  • Check out your local thrifts and rummage sales for objects that will compliment your work. Do you make awesome fabric accessories? Garage sale suitcases (relined and freshened up as appropriate) would make great bins. Mug trees and cup racks make great multi-peg displays
  • Consider building your own fixtures. As previously mentioned, the ReStore is a great source for all sorts of building materials. My local stores often seem to have a plethora of cabinet doors and hardware. Hinge a few together to form a folding "screen" and use knobs and hooks to create rack space.
  • Is mismatched and hodge-podge not your thing? Not to worry. A simple coat of the same color paint on all paintable surfaces and a remnant of fabric to cover soft surfaces can create a unified feel to your display space. Also, don't despair if a fixture isn't the right color/pattern. Inexpensive paint and Modge Podge can do wonders.
  • As regular readers know, I'm a clearance rack scrounger. I'm always looking at the deeply discounted out-of-season and scratch-and-dent treasures. Just because something was DESIGNED to hold Christmas cards or Easter eggs, doesn't limit it to that purpose alone. If you pried off the Santa head or painted over the dancing bunnies, would it work for your needs? Same thing for baby items. There are so many cool storage options for kid-related flotsam. A savings of 75-90% off can justify a bit of DIY modding. 
  • Don't rule out fixtures-designed-to-be-fixtures either. Craigslist and Ebay are great resources for finding secondhand retail fixtures and storage. Rolling racks, mannequins, and wire grid are all expensive items that depreciate rapidly and are easily found via salvage.

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