Craft Show: ARTillery Earth Day 2011

When it comes to having a booth at a craft show, there is one monster of a challenge that is easy to forget during the planning of your setup: the weather. In your happy mind-space, where all of your art is hanging perfectly and all of your tables are level, there is no wind, or rain, or soggy ground. But weather, especially wind, can make or break your display and the show entirely. Weather threatened and finally overcame the 2011 Earth Day event planned by local arts group ARTillery, but not before we had several hours of browsers, enjoyed live local music, and ate some delicious crepes.

I often share a booth at shows with two of my artist friends. My table is along the left, in the middle is the jewelry of Adornments by Karla, and the right-side paintings are by Arteest.
If you're an artist who does shows, you've probably done research on setting up booths so this information may not be new to you, but the reality is definitely different from reading about it online (trust me, personal experience talking). And if you're just a visitor to my blog, you many not have to worry about this, but maybe didn't realize the things we have to battle when we set up at these shows you love so much. Here are a few things I try to keep in mind when planning my outdoor booth:

  1. Rain. Light rain can be an annoyance, but heavy rain will kill the traffic at any show. No traffic means no sales, so vendors often pack up when the skys pour down.
  2. Speaking of rain, think about what types of products you have.
    Anything paper, fabric, wood or canvas can be ruined, and there goes your hard work. I had my windows hanging up and thought, "Oh, they'll be okay, they are glass and weathered wood, a little more rain won't change the look." Yeah, I had forgotten the maps and paper scraps I had mounted on the backs of the glass for the dimension... in the same direction the rain was coming. Luckily nothing was hurt, and I only felt silly for forgetting.
  3. Don't forget the WIND!
    Even a show with a sunny forecast can be impossible if there is a strong wind. Last year I showed at the North Market, and the way my booth was situated between the buildings and the other booths created a wind tunnel of ferociousnessity (made-up word). I simply could not keep up any of my display panels, hanging clothes, or artwork propped on easels. In fact, it was such a hassle that I largely stopped bringing those things to shows, sadly. At that same show, a vendor a few booths down had a gorgeous stained glass art piece with the name of their shop worked into the design, and it was blown over and shattered on the sidewalk. During this show, we were constantly putting a few of my pieces back on their displays, the person next to us had his entire set of panels blow down, and the guy behind us had his tent blow entirely over. It was crazy. It will be crazy. Don't let this happen to you.
  4. Get a good tent.
    Higher-end art shows require you to get the steel-framed, white-roofed 10x10 tent like we have in the pictures here, mostly because they are uniform and look more professional. But when it comes to weather, they make even more sense. These tents come with walls that can be zipped up against the rain, and are heavier so that they don't blow away as easily as the light, aluminum type ones. They are seriously worth the investment if you can afford one.

    *Side note: one thing I learned from personal experience is that using the walls does not necessarily help against the wind. They can billow inside and up against your items, and knock over things that might have stayed up and been passed over by the wind itself. You can try skipping the walls, or putting your display on the opposite side of the tent as the direction of the wind. That might not always be possible depending on how your booth lines up with the flow of traffic and the direction of the wind, but at times it can help.
  5. Bring weights.
    Before that storm gets all over-the-rainbow on your tent, and the next thing you know it's laying three spots down on someone else's wicked sister tent. Easy ways to avoid this tragedy:
    - Stakes and tie downs
    - Bricks
    - Buckets filled with quick-set concrete
    - Winning eco-idea: re-usable 5 gallon jugs filled with water (bonus: fill them up and empty them at the show if possible, and they become super light and portable for packing up and travel)

ARTillery Earth Day 2011 booth
Yay for art!

The forecast for the Earth Day show had called for rain all day, but it actually held off until around 4 in the afternoon. Some of the sellers and shoppers had their smart phones out and were watching the dopler radar tracking the storm coming in, which was pretty neat. We held out as long as we could before packing up, and incidentally ended up loading our vans during the worst of the downpour, only to have it let up as soon as we finished. Such is life. But my boothmates and I had help packing up and had a fun time hanging out with each other, and that always makes any show better, even the wet ones.

Don't let your booth fly away.

You can see the rest of my pictures from the show in my Flickr set: