A "Stumble-Through" of My Booth Setup

8869084276?profile=originalI've sort of adapted my booth development process around the theatrical process...  

When you're rehearsing a play, you start out in a variety of different ways, but eventually you start a process called "blocking", which is where the actors and directors figure out where the actors are physically positioned and begin working on fleshing out the dialogue.  Then you move onto "working" rehearsals, and eventually you get to a "stumble-through".  From that point, you keep doing the play over and over, tweaking bits and pieces until you can start "run-throughs", and then suddenly you find yourself in technical rehearsals, dress rehearsals, previews and opening...  It's an interesting process, and I like to think that my booth is heading toward it's opening but I'm not there yet.

Today, I did my first "stumble-through".  I had a plan, I knew where everything was going to go, and I decided to give it a shot.  Wow.  Did I learn a LOT.  Even without my stuff there to display, I learned a number of different  things that I need to develop in my "working" phase so I can eventually get to a series of "run-throughs" allowing me to practice setting everything up over and over and over until it runs smoothly.  By that time, I'll be ready for a "dress rehearsal" (which I may make into an invite-only trunk show) before I hit the big time and do my first real, upscale art festival.

Depending on whether I can get juried into one.  : )

8869084870?profile=originalBut obviously, I have to work toward a goal.  I'm taking things slow, yes, but I believe that (much like a theatrical presentation) the opening night audience pays for the same tickets that the closing night audience does, so they deserve to see the same show.  I'm going to make sure I've got my booth ready for my first show.  And that's just gonna take a bit of time to ensure it's right.

So my stumble-through was incredibly productive.  As I said, I learned a lot.  I've included pictures here of my initial endeavors.  My banners arrived this week and I was excited about them, so I was very keen on doing a trial run this weekend to see if they were going to work.  Of course, I hadn't brought any of my stuff from storage, so there was only a handful of current projects in my studio that I tried to spread out as much as I could...  It makes the booth seem quite spare and empty.  But I'm workin' in baby steps here, so it was a good thing I didn't have it in my way...

Things of a general nature that I learned:

8869085068?profile=original 1) 8' walls don't measure 8' from the cross bar at the top to the stay bar at the bottom.  The walls themselves do, but the metal structure on the inside is smaller.  My 2'x4' grid wall panels were too tall, as were my banners.  Duh.  I hadn't thought that all the way through...  This caused some logistical problems I had to figure out...


2)  I need more practice putting this thing up. A lot more practice.  This was the first time doing it by myself, and I practically wiped myself out.  I have to get the "choreography" memorized in order to make it as swift as possible.  Otherwise, it will take me too long to set it up, and the shows will open around me, and I'll be a bad artist who won't be allowed back.  And wearing comfortable clothes, gloves, and sunglasses is a must.  Being in southern California, sunblock is a no-brainer.


3)  Marking the tent poles with permanent marker where the grid wall should go is a good idea.  I tried guesstimating, but soon whipped out the ol' tape measure to do it right. 


4)  Having a plan is a must.  I wouldn't have been able to progress this far unless I had already drawn out what I wanted over and over, asking for opinions and imagining how it would all go together.  A good director plans (generally) what he wants the audience to feel and understand when they see his show.  He knows the high points and the low.  Likewise, a person doesn't build a house without a set of approved architectural plans.  Don't "wing it" when it comes to your booth.  You'll think it's fun to organically develop things, but in the end you'll be frantically trying to get things done, and lose any sense of salesmanship you might have had because you're too tired from setup.  I learned this the hard way as my neighbors came over to see what was up, and suddenly I found myself explaining my work with the few pieces I had on hand in my studio...  I was tired, and it took a lot of energy to be "on".  Don't let this happen to you.

Things of a specific nature that I learned:

 1)  I need to make my banners a smidge shorter than they are by taking 2" off the top and the bottom.  They're just a wee bit too long.  Good thing I have the technology to do that...


2)  I may be horribly particular, but I don't like how my gridwall overlaps.  I plan on shaving off three rows on the bottom pieces so they actually hang correctly without overlapping each other.  And maybe that's just an accepted industry standard.  But it drives. me. nuts.  Looks sloppy to my eye.


3)  I have a series of things I still need to purchase--a long mirror for above the display table, a rug, weights, more display heads, a marine battery, a tool box, clear crates for my product storage that will fit under my tables...


4)  I have a lot of things I need to make, too: an informational banner that I'm going to create that reminds people of custom ordering possibilities and the one-of a kind nature of my pieces, a fanny pack/apron for my "bank"that I can wear, and pennants for the poles above my business banner in front.


5)  I need to order more zip ties.  I'm gonna run out of the 1000 I already bought at the rate I'm using them... I think I will be clipping away zip tie ends in my dreams tonight.  It looks terribly sloppy if I don't...


8869085491?profile=original6)  I forgot to put much time into my table display--a sorely needed aspect that I can't neglect.  I have to seriously ponder what I'm going to do there...  While it's the "fun" part for some people, it's frustrating for me--I was so concerned with the layout of the tent I hadn't really thought about what my table top was going to look like...


7)  I didn't even get around to setting up any electrical stuff, as I still need to get a marine battery and all the accouterments...  But I did realize that my Christmas tree lights that I purchased last year probably will run the battery down too much, so I need to get LED lights instead...  ...  That was disappointing...


8)  I made my sheer striped panels too long, and need to shorten them so they don't pool on the bottom stay bar in such an ugly fashion.


9)  I need a support rod for the top of my business banner above my entrance--I thought I could get away without it, but obviously I can't as the banner itself just isn't capable of being pulled taught.


10)  I need lights to show off the rhinestones of my neck lace items which will be on my table top.  The natural sunlight is too diffused by the transparent panel in the ceiling of the tent to be effective.  And I've read that "sparkle sells"...  If I'm going to use rhinestones in my items, I might as well show them off--I mean, seriously, I work in show business!  I gotta have my spotlights!!  : )  So I'll be investing in some lighting once I get my marine battery mechanism.  I have the stay bar for them (which I am also planning on hanging some of my recycled tin can mobiles from) it's just a matter of buying the fixtures and the lights themselves.

8869086053?profile=originalThis was a very educational day.  I learned a LOT.  I put the fourth wall up on my tent and left is standing tonight, just to see if it would make it through the night and what it would be like tomorrow morning.  I don't want to go to my first festival and try that for the first time...  That sounds like a potential disaster in the making...

Anyway, it's done for now.  Time to turn my attention to the new mountain of work I need to accomplish to be ready!  Haha!!  If you see anything in my pics that stands out as something I might need to address (o ye sages of Artus Festivi) please let me know!  I'd appreciate the feedback now while I can still do something about it!  : )

And remember to Live Life with Relish.  After all, isn't that what it's all about?

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  • Wow! Your display is so inviting! I, also, am amazed at the amount of thought, care and effort that has gone into your display. All I was thinking, though, was, "how does she have time for that?" Your work, from what i can see on your banners, is so unique and eye-catching. When I do arts and craft shows, I always walk the show to check out the booths. My display is very simple, as I want my work to be what draws people in. Sometimes, if the booth display is so visually stunning, it's hard to understand what is for sale. I agree with the well-thought-out feedback you have received here, to spotlight your wraps and costumes rather than putting quite so much effort into the display. I get that you are a set designer, but you are trying, ultimately, to make money. If you end up doing shows every weekend, as I do in the fall, you will want to set up as quickly as possible, especially if you have to travel each morning and evening. I have 3 kids to get home to, so my time is always limited. 

    All this to say... I agree with the positive feedback you have received. Jump in with both feet! I think your work shows you are a creative individual and I can tell from the way you write that your personality will leap out and grab people in! Make your work the focus, I can just tell you will be successful!

  • Thank-you all for your very heartfelt comments and ideas--I will have to consider them all very strongly and ponder how it's going to work with what I had planned.  I'm not going to make any changes right away--I need to experience things as I had planned first, and over time edit things as I make discoveries once I've actually participated in a couple shows first...  I may be shooting myself in the foot, but I want to first experience a show with what I had envisioned, and then simplify things as I move forward.  I will, however, consider very carefully what you've suggested, and once I get a few experiences under my belt I'll be able to refer back to these ideas and incorporate them with a bit more perspective and real life practice...  Thank-you all, again, for what pointed out and for the many many options you've given me--that's why I posted all of this!!  : )

  • Corey -- Perhaps right about now you're sorry you asked for feedback.  But I have to say that I know of many, many artists who started out with "atmosphere" props (including me) and when they reluctantly simplified -- usually in stages, taking more out each time -- they found their sales increased.  Sad, but true.  So as disheartened as you may be right now, based on my experience the advice you're getting is sound.

    Toward that end.... consider placing your table along the back wall, where your nice table dressing can ground the space on first sight and impart some of the flavor you're going after.  Shorten the table (more sewing) to allow a 2' access in the back wall so you can get to additional inventory, supplies, etc that you've stored in plastic bins behind your tent (and maybe a pay station).  Use the side walls for most of your long garments, some hanging on waterfalls (sorry, I missed your waterfalls earlier during a previous comment), which allows customers to see the strips of color from the side.  Where you're leaving access on the back wall, hang place a gridwall panel perpendicular to the side walls, 8' back from the front, and place a knock-out garment on it for special attention and also to hide your 2' access corner from the front view.

    Chin up.  All masterpieces get better with editing.

  • As nice as all your display materials are, I would absolutely echo what Larry Berman wrote.

    Simplify and make your work the star, particularly for your jury image. Jurors have relative seconds to digest the image. If it looks too cluttered, it will count against you.

  • Don't forget some ground cover.

  • I would be remiss in not saying this before you start trying to jury with your display the way it's currently set up.

    Your art should be the focus of what's in the booth. Please don't use the circus type flags across the top. You'll severely limit the shows that will accept you. And as Karen just posted, also take the banner off for the picture.

    If you want to hang something to draw people in, hang large photos of your items in the empty spaces on the walls. Make them want to enter based on what you're selling, not because of the display.

    Larry Berman

  • WOW!! Corey you are a work-a-holic!!! I think this is beautiful!!This is the PERFECT stage for your wearables!! Load that booth up with your product, correct the banner fold, or since you need a jury photo and can't include the banner anyway, take it down, and get some photos to start applying with. I truly think your ready. 

  • Don't forget to show us your final booth shot!

  • Hi Corey, As I prepare for my first outdoor show with a booth I really appreciate you posting this process and all the things you've thought about!  I admire your playful and yet subtle-enough decor.  From what I see on your products banners, your work will show very well in this color scheme.  I can't wait to see the final production!

  • Corey, I learned in my marketing classes that when you do a test it has to replicate the eventual full roll-out as closely as possible or else it isn't a valid test.  So "starting small" at dinky shows/farmer's markets isn't really a valid test  of how you'd do at the big shows because the attendees are a drastically different crowd.  A farmer's market might actually make you uber discouraged -- unnecessarily -- because you probably wouldn't sell as well there as at a big show.

    Instead, look into the shows near San Diego that are the A-minus or B tier shows.  Two reasons for this: you'll have a better chance of getting in (because even the really experienced people have trouble getting into the best A shows), and they're close to home so you won't be racking up additional gas and lodging expenses.

    BTW I just looked at your page again and love your product photos.  They're very dramatic and make your garments look like luscious works of art.  Idea: in your booth, what about literally putting spotlights on a few of your best pieces, sort of like an actor is in the spotlight on the stage, or how people put a light shining down on an important painting.  You could clip a black gooseneck lamp right to the top of your grid wall and direct it out and down toward your garment.  Just a thought.

    Finally, I think you're far enough along on your booth design to load it up with product and use it as your initial booth shot.  It'll be close enough for jury purposes and you'll have time to continue tweaking while waiting for those first jury results.  When you load that table, remember to use risers under some of the busts so you have a variety of levels and everything isn't just flat against the table.  Try to get your product into the area that's 4'-6' foot off the ground so people can look straight at it instead of down on it (except for those pieces in which the top is the most fascinating part and looking down on it is preferred, so therefore a place on the table itself might be preferred).

    Hope something here sparks a thought -- my advice is worth exactly what you're paying for it.  :)

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