Category: art fairs

Anatomy of an Art Fair Display Part 2

(Continuing Anatomy of an Art Fair Display Part 1, which featured the main items involved in an art display setup. Now for a closer look into the nooks and crannies of the display!)

9. Curtain Hooks – I used curtain hooks to support my framed pieces. Be sure to get the ones with the super sharp ends! I was not happy to find the first batch of hooks I bought were the blunted kind, which equaled much cursing and trying to stab a carpet with a blunt object and failing. ($2 a pack at Lowe’s)

10. Rotating Counter Rack – Great for the display of small prints or greeting cards and you can put a little sign on top. This particular rack has been with me for years now and has survived! ($35 at Displays2go)
11. Portfolios – I used an Itoya portfolio to display my large prints.  For the art cards, a simple trading card album worked well! ($5 – $11 at Hobby Lobby)

12. Print Bin – Actually a collapsible file box. Bottom comes out and it folds down, making it much easier to transport than my solid heavy print bin.  I’m thinking of replacing this with a much more rustic looking woven rectangular basket from Lowe’s (which is advertised as ‘closet storage baskets’). ($10 at Walmart)

13. Necklace Forms – I prefer the white ones as they show lint and dust less and my jewelry stands out against them. ($12 at Joanns, Hobby Lobby, and Michaels.)
14. 3 Tier Rotating Rack – These racks come with three levels of hooks which are great to display small items like bookmarks, keychains, earrings, and bracelets.  You can adjust the level of the tiers or remove them completely.  ($26 at Store Fixtures, USA)
15. Mannequin Head – This head came with pierced ears, making it great for displaying jewelry in addition to masks!  ($26 at Store Fixtures, USA).
16. Minion (aka. Mom) – Art fairs are sooo much easier if you can trick someone into working for you in exchange for food!  That way you can actually use the bathroom without having to burden your neighbors with watching your stuff while you run as fast as you can across the street to the poddy and back.  Minions also make load in and load out 200 x easier. (Priceless! I love my mum.)
17. Director’s Chairs – My family was already using these to stake out sporting events. They fold up for easy transport and are much more comfy than plain folding chairs.  The drink holder is handy as well if you don’t want to put your cup on uneven ground or on your table with your art. I think we got these chairs at Sam’s Club, but I am unsure.
18. 3 Tiered Plastic Magazine Rack – Great for books, prints, and anything roughly 8.5×11 in. shaped! ($30 from displays2go.com)

19. Visa/Mastercard Sign – A simple plastic sign used to notify customers that I take credit and debit cards. I printed it off on cardstock and slipped it into the stand. You’d be amazed at how comforted people are to know that you can accept plastic money! Many people don’t carry cash anymore, either because they prefer not to or because they’re trying to limit their budget. Accepting cards is a good way to be that evil influence prompting people towards impulse purchases. That sounds bad, but hey, it’s true! ($5 at Walmart or Staples)

20. Business Cards – Always ALWAYS have plenty of these on hand for customers (or for trading with your neighbors!) Networking is one of the biggest assets of actually venturing outside of your art cave and attending events!  I usually buy mine in 1k bulk packs from Vistaprint when they have special offers. They usually toss in a free pen or ink pad too, just watch that you don’t click to confirm any subscriptions during their lengthy checkout!  I hear redtagprintsale.com has some nice prices on biz cards, but haven’t tried them yet. (Roughly 10 cents per foil stamped card at Vistaprint.com)
21. Crushed Velvet Table  Cloth – This piece of material has been with me from the very beginning! It’s actually just an oversized piece of crushed velvet I got at the store when it went on sale. I’ve used it as a backdrop when photographing crafts, as a backdrop for hung pieces, and also as a way to cover up my table when I leave and don’t want people to be tempted by what’s left underneath. (Approx. $3 a yard on sale at Joanns Fabrics)

And that’s all for now!  I’m curious to see how my display will evolve over the next few events.
I’ll be sure to let everyone know once it has leveled up!

Back to Part 1

Anatomy of an Art Fair Display Part 1

So now for something completely different!  With the art fair season nearing and so many folks expressing their thanks for the usefulness of the Evolution of an Artist Alley Table posts, I thought it high time to post my art fair diagrams!

Mind, that this display is my very first setup and will probably change down the road as I learn, improve, and add things. Let this journal act as a record of where I began and hopefully as a tool for others looking into selling at fairs!

You might recognize some of these items and descriptions from the Artist Alley diagrams because I totally believe in re-using things where possible.

My first fair on Fayetteville’s courthouse square!

1. EZ Up Tent – This tent is a great first tent for those who don’t want to spend the $1k that most of the Craft Huts cost!  It can be set up by one person, is white (as per most art fair requirements), and fairly easy to transport in its included roller bag.  Here is a video on how to set it up with one person (because I didn’t find the included instructions very helpful).  Be warned, however, as this tent is light and is known for blowing away and wreaking havoc!  I snagged some velcro weight bags which you can fill with sand or gravel and that strap to the poles so people won’t trip over them. ($200 at Sam’s Club)

2. Retractable Vertical Banner – A pricey item, to be sure, but the fact I don’t have to carry around a big pvc pipe set nor have it taking up space in my car makes this item well worth it! This vinyl banner pulls out from and retracts back into a spring loaded base that is about as big as a tabletop easel and very lightweight. I’ve lashed it to the tent pole using velcro straps so it wouldn’t blow away. Mine was printed by my brother’s sign shop. ($300 at Graphic Signs Atlanta for stand with metal base. $100 for cheaper version at Staples)


3. Propanels – After much debate over whether to get carpet panels, roll up mesh panels (which are about half the price), or to jerry-rig my own from something, I decided to go all-out with Propanels. Mesh panels, while collapsible and therefore more transportable, were still about $1k after all was said and done.  I also can’t use mesh panels without the support of the tent’s rafters, whereas Propanels can stand on their own, making them useful for any cons or shows I do without a tent. The ‘knock down’ variety of panels pictured here can be split in half and transported far more easily than the full panels, even if I’m still having trouble fitting them in my teeny hatchback. ($2k from Propanels.com for the Booth A setup with Knock Down Panels plus required hardware. I owe my family favors for the rest of my life for this one. Ouch.)

4. Tables with Table Cloths – The two small display tables on the left of the picture are actually tail gating tables bought from Big Lots for cheap which fold up and have an easy carrying handle. They were super light, however, so I had to weight them down with objects on top. The table cloths were just scrap bits of material thrown on last minute, I admit. The larger table on the right is a white plastic table bought from Sam’s Club that folds up and can also be carried. It is a bit heavier than the tail gate tables and doesn’t really need to be weighted down. ($20 – $30 at Big Lots and Sam’s Club.)
5. Easel with Signage – The stand up easel was purchased at Joanns Fabrics and is just a simple cheap wooden one without any bells and whistles. The sign was printed on foam core by my publisher and was eventually replaced in this setup with a piece of framed art instead. I’m fairly sure you can get foam core signs like this at Kinkos or other printing places. ($10 at Joann’s Fabrics)

6. Folding Canvas Print Bin – This is the medium sized print bin available from Dickblick.  Prints ranging from 11×14 in. to 18×24 in. look best in it.  I noticed most people would stop and flip through it rather than venture into the tent. Note to self – MOAR flip through bins for people! Folks looove to browse through them for some reason. Folds up for easy transport. ($25 at Dickblick.com)


Stuff I forgot to include –  The Carpet – I like the idea of a carpet in a tent. It feels so much more cozy, as if you’re walking into a little shop!  It also made the ground a little more even for customers to walk on.  We also used it to lay items on while we were setting up so they wouldn’t get muddy.  My family picked this up in a flea market in Saudi Arabia years ago so I have no idea how much it costs.

This entry is going a bit long, so I’ll be breaking up this grand monologue on art fair display into parts.

Stay tuned for a closer look at the particular display items nestled within the tent next time!

My First Art Fair!

After a day of rest and a couple of Advil, I’m pleased to report I have survived my first art fair!  All in all, I did fairly well for a first timer. Made back my booth fee, got suggestions from the crowd on what they wanted to see, and learned the secret of good transportation of random stuff — plastic tuberware!

What did I learn from this experience? Read on!

Start Early!

2 weeks was not enough to make even half of the items by hand that I wanted to fill up my artisan display tables. I found myself painting into the wee hours and relying on a lot of older stock I had lying around just to make my booth look presentable. First lesson learned! Start early, DO NOT STRESS YOURSELF by procrastinating!  Know your display capacities. Practice your setup in advance.  Last thing you want is it to look empty and rushed.  Also, check your current stock! I had to reorder many prints last minute because I didn’t realize I was low till that moment. Doh!

Remember Your Traffic Flow

Probably the most important lesson I learned.  Day 1, I had a setup like this:
Heeey! Buy my stuff. Please? YOU KNOW YOU WANNA!

While this isn’t terrible, I think I did this because I’m so used to setting up at conventions where you put the table out front and people come up to you to talk.  This layout drives people right up to you, but what I noticed at the fair is most people will talk to you, but then not browse your wares, or they’re intimidated by your presence and just want to be left alone to shop.  I also had a technical issue where I couldn’t find the stiffeners for my walls, so I couldn’t line the sides of the booth with them, leaving it looking pretty empty on the left.

After walking around the fair a bit and getting some ideas from other artists (and fanagling walls with velcro), I ended up with a setup like this for Day 2:

Psst! Hay man. Need a kidney? Operating table in the back!

Much more open space and plenty of room for multiple browsers to go down the line of pretties!  Artist hidden away and only there if you need her to checkout or to ask questions.  More people came in this time round and didn’t have to peer over my head to come right up to the artwork.

Best Selling Items?

This was a huge surprise for me! I thought my crafts would do well, but I only sold a few things. Mainly I sold art cards and prints because people wanted small artwork to inspire them (but didn’t want to buy the more expensive larger pieces on the wall). I also sold a few books to people who saw my work elsewhere and liked that I offered personalized goodies for free if they bought it directly from me.  I didn’t sell a single mask.

I had a good many requests for hair brooches with chopsticks and lapel pins of the butterflies.  No doubt due to having a generally older crowd (with grandkids along) who were looking for things for their home or small gifts, of which matted/framed Fantasy art is generally not well suited for your average collector.

Next time I do an outdoor fair, I plan to carry more personal items (hair brooches and pins), more ornate masks framed in shadowboxes, and more accessible 2D art items (perhaps carved leather butterflies in framed ‘specimen’ arrangements?)  If people can see the use of an item for their home or their personal decor, I imagine they’d be more inclined to buy at these sorts of events!  I can save my fantasy art for more themed fests, like the Renaissance Faire or the cons I attend.  That’s at least one joy of being a multi-faceted artist!

Final Thoughts

I am sore and sleep-deprived far more than I ever was for a plain ol convention!  Art fairs are physically grueling work and not for those who can’t handle the hauling, unloading, and long hours.  It’s also a HUGE investment of time and money.

The fair season has only begun for me, however, so I’m not going to give up on it just yet! Being able to talk to fellow art lovers and curiosity seekers was quite enjoyable for me!  Even moreso when they would tell me they saw my work online or at the gallery next door.  Getting your face out there can be very gratifying and just as important as sales.  For my shy artist friends, however, this definitely may not be the thing for you!

If you’re a fan of my Facebook Fan Page, I’m having a sale on leftover hand-painted butterflies. Get ’em while they’re cheap because they’ll be going up on Etsy for a higher price after this week!

See one you like? Check out my sekrit sale!

Stay tuned for a post on what makes up an art fair display. Till then, I’m going to attend to the mess that is my trashed studio after an event. *cry!

Tutorial – How to Make Storage Envelopes for Your Art

There have been so many little tasks on my platter lately, from website building to registration for conventions! I’ve had to shift modes to figure out just how I’ll be transporting my art safely to those art fairs and conventions that are a little farther away from home than I’ve ever ventured for an event. Watercolor paintings in Georgia/Alabama heat and humidity for hours? Lightly bubble-wrapped frames reinforced with masking tape clanking together in my back seat? Nightmare waiting to happen!

Whilst surfing through the discussions over at Art Fair Insiders, I heard mention of a product called a Gallery Pouch, which is like SUPERPOWERED bubble wrap envelopes that keep your art safe. One thing led to another and I found myself experimenting with how to Do It Yourself by making my own pouches out of things you should easily be able to find at your local hardware store.

This time, I finally hauled out the camcorder to record my efforts! Enjoy and feel free to ask questions!

Oh and should you join up over at Art Fair Insiders, tell them that AngelaRSasser sent you in the referral field!

EDIT: I should also note that I have weather tested these envelopes by leaving them in a car parked in the sun from dawn till dusk and they showed no signs of melting tape or other adverse effects. Time will tell how well they stand up to weathering usage, but I am optimistic about their survivability thus far.

Tutorial – How to Make Storage Envelopes for Your Art – Part 1

Tutorial – How to Make Storage Envelopes for Your Art – Part 2

The Evolution of an Artist’s Alley Table

(My display has since leveled up! See the new display.)


After the last couple of conventions, it seems my artist’s alley table is growing and evolving into something grand! I am always seeking ways to improve and welcome any suggestions you might have.

It started out at an Anime Weekend Atlanta of years ago where I just tossed unmatted and unbagged prints on the table and sold them for $5-$10 with a banner hung out front. Then we had the Dragon Con display this year with an elevated banner and slightly more offerings of necklaces and matted prints.

Now, we have the Anime Weekend Atlanta display where we pulled out a few more stops to make our display the best it could be. Here’s a run-down of what we did.

The Elements of an Artist’s Alley Table

1. One Sleep Deprived Artist – Complete with circles under the eyes and friendly smile. Customers like to see the artist at the table so they can talk to you personally and maybe watch you while you’re working on a project. People like to be close to that creative flow and are generally curious about ‘the life’. ($100,000,000 or 100 steak dinners)

2. Professionaly Printed Vinyl Banner – Printed at my local sign shop by my wonderful brother over at Graphic Signs Atlanta. I chose vinyl because it can take abuse and weather the elements. It’s guaranteed to last longer than a paper sign. (FREE, generally $6 per square foot)

3. Backdrop Display – This is actually a piece of photography equipment called a backdrop kit. The poles break down and it comes with a handy carrying case to store it all in. It is relatively lightweight. I generally use this set for my stock photography needs. Bought from eBay. ($85)

4. Jewelry Stand – My dad made this wood stand ages ago and I stole it from my parents’ bedroom. You can buy cute tree style stands from eBay for pretty low prices. Having a stand for necklaces helps draw in the crowd with more visibility for your shinies. (FREE, generally $25 for a nice one, less for a wire one)

5. Small Prints – I like to have these out for folks who don’t have a large budget for buying the larger pieces. At only $5 a pop, they’re a colorful way to help fill up empty space on the table and provide a low end price option.

6. 3 Tiered Magazine Display – Purchased from displays2go.com. Instead of magazines, I put in matted prints. People enjoyed rifling through it, but I want to invest in one with deeper compartments with more room for people to flip through. ($30)

7. Greeting Card Rotating Rack – Purchased from displays2go.com. I used this to display matted 4×6 prints and unmatted 5x7s which fit snuggly in the slots. It’s amazing how a rack like this can give your work a more professional feel. This is pretty lightweight for transport, if a bit bulky. ($35)

8. Canvas Bin – Purchased at Big Lots. I used this to display more large prints to rifle through for those who wanted something a little more beefy than the 5×7’s. ($15)

9. Cube Grid Walls – Another item that was donated to me. These grid walls were a lifesaver for making my display project upwards more. They stack easily when broken down and give you plenty of space to play with as far as hanging art. I had only 6 cubes, but imagine what you could do with more! (FREE, generally $16 for 6 cube set)

What am I missing?

Display Portfolio – I didn’t have it out in this photo, but I had a portfolio of my best work laying out on the table housed in an Itoya notebook with a custom printed spine. ($8)

All in All…

I feel the weakness of this display setup is that it is slightly bulky, but the ability to project upwards I feel is a necessary one for my tastes. I’ve also been told carrying primarily more expensive items forces people to buy those instead and that a lighter setup is easier to do. My experiences have shown this does not work for my particular set of items and audience, though this lighter setup with more expensive items may work at conventions where customers are more willing to pay for top dollar items. At smaller cons, customers seem to like an option for smaller budgets.

The next big step in my display campaign is to figure out what I need for a large 10 x 10 foot space, the standard floor plot for art fair space. I sense canvas panels, tents, and god knows what else in my future!

Questions? Comments? Suggestions? Feel free to drop ’em here!