Monday, June 25, 2007

Sit Pretty

For those of you who are planning on doing art shows or horse shows or any venue where you show your art, listen up. Booth set-up is important. It can be the difference between a major sale and no sales at all. I know, I know, y'all think I'm being melodramatic. But in the few short years I've been doing shows, I've not only learned a lot by tinkering with my set up, I've also learned a lot from watching what other folks do right or wrong. Indoor shows are the most difficult, in my opinion, because people will give you a lot more leeway as far as ugliness and functionality in the great outdoors. Inside, you've got no excuses to keep you from looking pretty.

1. displaying wares flat on tables
2. leaving table legs exposed
3. mismatched table covers
4. exposed walls
5. wildly mismatched framing styles
6. wildly mismatched products in the same tent
7. no name tags for your work or for your booth
8. overcrowded
9. handwritten signs
10. clutter
11. packaging material exposed to view
12. messy dress
13. offensive, pushy selling techniques
14. mousy, lack of selling technique
15. bad lighting
16. lack of krispy kreme donuts within booth

1. nice covers for walls
2. matched frames
3. multi-level displays for small objects like jewelry
4. booklets for available prints, portfolio
5. tidy dress
6. potted plants or flowers
7. floorcloths if floor is ugly
8. good lighting
9. cohesive set up
10. good supply of krispy kreme and sweet tea

I would say, use your common sense, but it took me forever to get to my current booth set up even using my common sense. Do your research, though. Hit some fine arts and crafts shows and see which ones appeal to you. Why do they appeal to you? In my experience, the best booths are those that look like either a small store or a small living room. You forget it's a booth set up, because it looks like it's been there forever. The walls are beautifully lit with clamp lights or strip lighting, the floor has a nice rug on it, there's a floor lamp next to a potted plant, and the walls are hung tastefully with art of similar style and framing. It's as if you walked into a fine gallery - you notice nothing but the art and you're left with the feeling that this artist is professional and takes their art seriously.

Lesson number one: people are shallow. Everybody is. Including me. We're all subconsciously influenced by the way a booth looks. I saw vendors at Roanoke Valley selling similar wares. One vendor had a very professional set up and she was constantly tweaking as she sold to fill holes and keep the space looking full and tidy. The other vendor was cluttered, with items sitting on the floor and flat on a table with an old looking tablecloth. Can I tell you which one was always full? The other vendor complained that people walked right by her booth on the way from the tidy booth to mine - but I wasn't surprised. People are shallow. They want to window shop in an attractive store.

Lesson number two: be flexible. Indoor booths often have to change shapes according to support poles or other vendors. And you will have to accomodate for spaces that open up in your set up as you sell things. Have replacements.

Lesson number three: remember that you're a brand. Your booth - your storefront - should reflect the character of your brand.

Go get 'em, tiger.

Oh, and remember to check out Casey Klahn's art fair blog for more tips.


Leslie said...

Do you stand/sit inside your booth, or just outside of it while waiting for people to look?

Maggie Stiefvater said...

I always put my chair a bit outside the booth if I can - in my experience, people feel intimidated if someone is staring at them while they're looking. Imagine where you feel more comfortable shopping - Pier One or a car dealership? Nobody likes having the salesperson gauge their reactions.

Of course, sometimes booth space just doesn't allow for you to be outside of it, and in that case, I always bring a work in progress. Because I'm involved in something else, people feel comfortable just working around me. I always make sure to say "good morning" to everyone as they come in, though, wherever I'm sitting, to let them know that I'm more than happy to chat if they'd like.

Oh - and if they say something generic like "it's beautiful" or "these are just - awesome," I always ask, "Which is your favorite?" or say something like "that one's my favorite" or tell them a little bit about the thought process behind the painting. Remember, they could buy art from any gallery. If they buy from you, give them something to tell people when they show off their new purchase.

Rhonda Bartoe Tucker said...

When are you going to write our definitive artist's handbook on "How to do Everything Well and Stay Motivated While Doing It?" Oh, and laugh along the way, too. Thanks for all the great advice.

I need orange said...

I stopped in to say "welcome home" and to mention exactly the issue of feeling watched in the booth.

I have a ton of art fair experience -- as a browser/buyer, living here in Ann Arbor as I have for most of my life.

I don't care about plants or rugs (though it's nice to have rugs over wires, if there are wires on the ground, so I don't trip!). I don't mind hand-written signs if some trouble has clearly been taken to make them look nice (caligraphy marker, maybe).

I am unlikely to go into an empty booth if the artist is watching me.

Your plan for drawing, if in the booth, is excellent.

I think it is a really good idea to have either a large piece, or, for a person who doesn't do large, to have a large reproduction hanging on the most visible wall. Catch my eye from across the way, and I'm more likely to stop in than if I can't tell what you have without coming in.

I agree 100% about not having the work flat on tables. I was at a big quilt show recently, and was talking to a book vendor who had stacks of her books on the tables, and nothing on the walls. Her books were the gorgeous kind made on that heavy paper that feels so nice, but she rarely had many people in her booth. I suggested to her that some big posters hung up would get more people in.....

My most salient shallow characteristic in this context is that I love color. If I see orange, expecially if it is with purple and/or turquoise, you've got me, whether you're selling metal outdoor sculpture, tapestry, ceramics, or.......... Orange catches my eye and I am always going to take another look.

Of course I love animals, too, so I would be looking closely at your work because of the gorgeous horses.....

Maggie Stiefvater said...

Great stuff, Orange. What a shock on your favorite color . . . ;) I completely agree on the large eye-catcher. I always bring something huge - 18 x 24" for colored pencil counts as huge - and never expect to sell it. It's your billboard, though.

Rhonda, I don't think I'm qualified for much except a book called "How to Be Maggie" and I'm not sure there's much call for that . . .

Katherine said...

You haven't mentioned what colour you dress in.

I have a theory that people are more approachable if they dress in certain colours - such as blues and neutrals which are colourful rather than drab. In my opinion, people can get scared off by people dressing for example in bright red or day-glo orange.

Katherine said...

PS - I forgot to mention that 'you have been blogged' along with Casey - see my weekly round-up

Keep them coming!