Designing Displays for a Craft Show – Display Tables – Part 1

A very important part of most craft show displays is your table. Some art displays do not use tables at all, relying instead in free-standing pedestals, but most beginning artists use tables for at least a part of their display. Tables are relatively inexpensive, and very available. But isn’t a table, just a table? Not really.

Consider the options that you have for your table: height, length, width, weight, and breakdown size. Tables really do come in an amazing selection of sizes and options. I have some old eight foot tables that are made of some sort of chipboard with a steel substructure and weigh almost as much as I do. I took those to a show once – just once. I was just starting up and I really needed to make do with what I owned. Aside from weighing way too much the old chip board tables will not survive any major contact with water – remember those discussions about protecting your products? Well, if you are doing outside shows you also need to consider whether rain, or even high humidity, will damage your displays, too. The large tables were also hard to pack because of their size.

So what do I use now? Folding plastic tables. They are impervious to water, relatively light, easy to carry and pack, and they come in a variety of styles. Most of them have a carrying handle to make moving them easier, and some of them even allow you to adjust how tall they are.

Many years ago I was fortunate enough to take a class on booth design from a very experienced business man. He understood how important the customer’s comfort was to keeping them interested in your booth; and a big part of comfort is table height. My original heavy tables were 28 1/2 inches tall, my card table is 28 inches tall, and my kitchen counter is almost 36 inches tall. Most tables were originally designed to sit at, but will your customers be sitting? Not usually. At most craft and art fairs the customers simply walk through your booth. So what height should your tables be? Generally between 32 and 38 inches tall. This makes it easy for the average person to view your items that are on the table without bending over. An added benefit is that the smallest children will have more difficulty reaching your items. While I would like to think that all parents are carefully monitoring their children, I know from experience that this is not the case. Taller tables keep the toddlers from getting into trouble quite as easily. Having to “instruct” someone’s child usually means that they will leave your booth in a huff, and taller tables help.

So what do we do if our tables do not have height adjustments? We raise them on risers! Whether you choose to use the furniture risers that are available at discount stores or something of your own construction, the tables need to be higher.

What do I use? Pipes! My original teacher did only indoor shows, so he recommended the use of pvc pipe risers to lift your tables. But exactly how do we do that? We’ll discuss that next time!

Designing Displays for a Craft Show – Display Boards Part 1

Last time we talked about some of the challenges that we can face running a craft booth at an outdoor event. One of the very important issues outside, is how to build display boards that will not blow over in a gusty breeze. Clumsy or careless customers knocking over displays can be an issue at indoor events, too. One of the things that I learned quickly was that if one display board falls over most customers will run for the hills, whether it was their fault or not.

When I started selling jewelry at outdoor craft fairs, I used the small necklace display boards that are often used in mall jewelry shops. But it didn’t take long for me to realize that I needed to make better use of vertical space. “Going up” lets you show more items in the space. From that first outdoor event I learned that my display boards needed to be very sturdy to withstand whatever the weather could throw at me.

Before you build your display boards you need to consider what size they should be, how you will hang your items on the boards, and whether you want to always hang the same things on the same boards. Alternately, you could have more flexibility in terms of board layout. Once you think you understand these facts, then you need to choose the display board materials and what it will be covered with.

Whenever I think of display design, I remember a very wise teacher that I had once in a class on booth design. He basically said “Ladies, don’t ask a male friend to build your displays. We will build it. We will use two by fours and 1″ plywood, it will weigh a ton, and require a large team of sturdy men to set it up.” He then recounted a story where he and some friends used recycled solid antique doors to create a display space for a friend’s paintings. It looked awesome and worked very well. BUT, with each door weighing 80 to 100 pounds and eight doors in the display, it took a small army of sturdy men to set it up and a truck to haul all of pieces.

Consider whether you’ll set up the display by yourself, how far you may need to transport it, and what sort of vehicle you will need to hold all of the pieces and any tools needed to set it up. Most convention center environments have strict regulations about what you are allowed to bring in yourself and what you have to pay someone to haul for you. These contractors are often hired by the convention center and can be quite expensive. Make sure that you investigate what the rules are about you bringing in displays. How far away will you have to park? Will you be allowed to use a dolly or wagon to bring in your displays and products? Most, but not all, outside venues allow you to drive to your booth to do set-up. When you are considering applying for a show, READ the rules first. Most will tell you when you are allowed to set up, and how you can do it. If you have questions, contact someone at the show to make sure that you understand the rules. Violating the terms for set up, especially at large convention centers (even if it’s a small show) can delay your setup significantly.

Next time: More on building display boards and other display issues.