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The Booth Monster Rears its Ugly Head Again

This was sent to me today from an artist who participated in the jury review this morning at the St Louis Art Fair. I did a twenty minute interview with the artist which will go up on my web site when I have time to transcribe it.

"I just viewed my first webinar with the St Louis Art Fair. They had a streaming video with jurors reviewing slides submitted by 190 artists. Most of us need better booth shots. It was interesting to see the competition. A few, and only a few, get the whole package of images and booth shots right. Some of us need work still. I did pick up that the jurors do not like grid walls in the booth, they would rather see them covered. They like an open airy space with color to bring the "eye" into the space. They do not like seeing a booth full of inventory, mirrors, chairs, or floor mats that might distract from the work. It's hard to balance that with the reality of being in the booth at a show."

It was the same at Cherry Creek jury review in November:

 I'll speculate that these two directors might have been at the NAIA conference last May where the directors all agreed that the booth picture can be taken at a show. Maybe it's more about the instructions that they give or not give the jurors prior to jurying.

Larry Berman

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I was there in the audience. While I knew booth shots were important, these jurors stressed that it could kill your chances to get into the second round. Then they gave conflicting suggestions for booth improvement. The basics were pretty clear, though. Crop out the ceiling. Move in. Less is more (declutter). Work in booth should include or be similar to work in jury slides. Jewelry or small object artists should have large photos at back. Close off the back of the tent. Don't show your cash out table. I had to chuckle at the grid wall comments. One judge said to "pay a little more" for the Propanels. Really? A grid wall section is about $20 and a Propanel is hundreds.

Overall, it was a good experience. I found it very interesting and helpful.

Robin Ragsdale

Thanks Robin,

I suspect I know who the juror was and he says all the things I've been saying for the past half dozen years. The problem is that the shows are saying that you can shoot a booth picture at a show, and artists who do just that are at a disadvantage in the jury room.

The comment about the grid walls struck home with the artist I spoke to because she's a clothing designer and needs the grid walls to support the hanging apparatus she uses. I can see them criticizing jewelers for using grid walls, but not fiber artists. I will agree that grid walls look better covered but that's another issue at this point.

Larry Berman


As with all situations where the "Code of Conduct" is not general and widespread knowledge, an elitist group arises, whether by accident or purpose. It seems that only the few are in the complete know.....or are they?

 I believe in the ethics of my fellowman. Therefore, why is "Booths:101" a constant, complex, compounding and compelling Blog Post?????

Larry, are the rules listed somewhere? Am I being "naive" again?

There have been many posts that the booth image can be taken at a show, or even take one each show you do. I've been saying that since other artists are setting their booth up for the picture, they will have the advantage.

Take a show like Main Street Fort Worth where the jurors are specifically told to not let the booth picture effect their scoring. But a jurors from Fort Worth specifically told me that it was difficult to ignore the quality of the really bad booth pictures when scoring the artists.

My position is no distractions within the few seconds your images are in front of the jurors. The booth needs to read well and be dismissed so the jurors can concentrate on the art images.

This issue has been brought upon by the artists because for years they wanted to know how the shows used the booth pictures. So now that the shows are telling us what they want in a booth picture, it's becoming a nightmare for artists who now need more than one booth picture to keep everyone satisfied. And it's going to get worse as the shows start banning the pop up canopies that most artists use. Two major shows already have this year and more will follow.

Larry Berman

Warren, the issue brought up was that the booths should look professional and inviting to the fair goers. That gives tremendous leeway to the artists. Like it or not from your standpoint, it is the way the industry is going and the booth slide is is a major component of getting into higher echelon shows.

Oh yes! The shows are really rocking and there's no buy/sell slipping in and people aren't walking past the consistent white booths in a hypnotic daze while they walk their dogs and their kids drip ice cream all over themselves and bitch about being tired and wanting to go home.

Let's do what needs to be done:

The juries have no business looking at the booth shot. The promoters should be doing that just to make sure it's not a buy/sell booth that just fell off the latest boat from China. The jurors should be looking at the artwork not the damned booth. Just have them look at the artwork and do the task they have been given. The booth shot should be just a cursory glance at how the package is put together and is outside the job description of a art juror.  Who made the decision that a jury was qualified in 5 seconds to determine if a booth shot warrants inclusion into a show? That's up to the promoter or director who knows the business, not some college professor or jewelry store owner! 

Ditch the booth shot, make beautiful art, photograph it and submit it for a jury to evaluate it and send back a score with comments and a yea or nay. If the director feels it's best to negate the jury decision because the booth sucks and wants to tell the artist that, then great. We'll have better shows as a result.

The current system is flawed, ditch the booth shot for the jury.

This argument certainly has merit. However, one of the artists at the workshop had a photo of a glass wall sculpture that appeared to be a brooch when not seen in context. The judges were surprised to see how big it was in real life when they saw a similar piece in the booth shot. This alone could have stopped the artist from making it into the next round. The dimensions of each piece are included on the application, but the judges didn't see that information.

Robin Ragsdale

I didn't say the system wasn't flawed. Their reasoning is that all things being equal, the booth shots add one more piece to decide which of those equally talented and proficient artists makes the cut.

Well I have to say that my "store" takes a long time to set up and transport. I'm always amazed at how many artists seem to care more about a quick in and out set up, than taking the time to make your "gallery" look inviting. I also firmly believe that the better presentation you have translates into better sales at better prices. Look at retailing 101, high end retailers have an inviting stores. Just because we are artists, gypsies as you might say, packing up and unloading on the street, up to 30 shows a year, from coast to coast- as I do, I want the buyer to have confidence in what they are looking at that I put effort into the art, and take pride in how I display it.  I have a 8' double trimline,  have a 1995 camper van, that i bought cheap, sleep in it, pull a space hogging 14' pain in the ass trailer, but need it to carry my work and assortment of propanels, etc. I may take 8 hours to set it all up, but it looks good, it gets attention, customers comment on it, judges like it, and I feel it all helps in the end. I'm one of the last ones pulling out after the show, can't be in a hurry, and feel like I gave it my best. My booth slide was taken at a show, it is uncluttered, just how it usually looks unless I have a single booth... I have a ton of boxes behind my booth, and it's a mess trying to bring it all in between days at the show, or cover it up if it rains.. this is a job, a good one I might add, and I continue to look for better ways to show the work to the public so that they want to come in. I don't always count on sales the first time a customer sees my work, but they come back, see me the next year, see me at another show in another part of the country, it all works.. and it most likely does help with the booth slide for juries.. I might add it's not just your booth itself- but how you display your work, is it all over the place, with every price point, to attract as many people as possible, or do you have a target market and appeal to them. You will have a hard time appealing to everyone. I understand you can only do what you can do, but it's not a lot of expense to make the store look presentable. It may take more thought and effort, but in the end it pays off.. IMO.. :)

I'll be giving a report on the workshop later on today. It was a valuable experience amd more than worthwhile to attend. The booth issue was covered and consistency of submitted work was another. I'll be doing this as a blog as soon as I return home. We finished up after 8:30PM after almost 12 hours, so my wife and I decided to stay overnight rather than drive home very late.

I was at the workshop and thought it hugely beneficial for all of us artists. It was like getting a peak behind the curtain. Thank you!


The thing that I find confusing in all of this is that it appears that the booth shot we submit should represent something that is a little (or a lot) different from what we will set up at the show.  Larry gave me a lot of help a few months ago with offline suggestions that a friend helped me implement.  So now, my booth shot looks more sterile than my real booth - and frankly my show booth will never quite look like that.   Still didn't get into Krasl, and I have completely new, different shelves on order so it isn't even accurate that way, but at least it shows that I strive for a booth that is professional and inviting.  Before and after shots are show below.(and darnit, I just realized I didn't crop out the basket in lower left that I won't be using this year for lawn pieces!).  

The real changes that will be made before our first show this year:  
1) natural wood color shelves of two heights (higher and lower than these shelves),
2) curtains will be shortened appropriately and hung differently so that they have cleaner lines top and bottom.
3) some sort of mesh wall in one ore two places to allow hanging of wall pieces that I have been working on this spring (thus some of the lower shelves)
4) NO TABLE in back.  No more white table cloth, everything on a shelf or the wall. 

Why wouldn't the jury rather see a real booth, with maybe a place for me to list my planned upgrades?  I have been buying the new pieces - but I live in Chicago and there is just no where to set up my "new booth" until the weather gets better - just after the last application is due.

One other interesting comment is that the decisions to make most of those upgrades came from looking closely at this booth shot - not at the sanitized one that I sent in, but at the real one that was the best of the ones we took during shows.



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