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How I set-up and organize for Shows

"There is a method to my madness

for without method there is only madness."

Hi, this is April, and today I'm going to write about my show set-up and displays. Many people have been interested and some fascinated by my organization and displays, and some have expressed interest in learning how I do what I do.

Some of this started in a live stream of Yvonne Williams, on her YouTube channel, talking about her show set-up and displays. Her work is fantastic, and I have learned a number of amazing things from her, but her displays are on tables, all up front, and my set-up is vertical. However, there is much to be learned from watching others do their thing, things you can adapt to your own space.

This is my current set-up. I'm already starting to make changes. I've made many significant improvements since I started doing craft shows about 6 years ago. I have a trailer, but I'm not using it for anything but storage between events right now. Currently, I'm packing it all into my mom's 2003 Ford Escape.

I'll start with the front. This is an outdoor set-up and therefore a tent with canopy. I have an ABC Canopy. It's commercial grade, steel frame. Came with sandbags that I don't use, 3 solid walls, 1 mesh wall (shade but air flow), and 1 door wall. The door wall has straps used to tie up the door section, but most of the time I just use them to tie up the entire wall. My attempt I made to convince the manufacturer to put these straps on all the walls ended with their requests that I send more pictures to explain how their product works, oh well. I find it easier to put the walls up when the tent is only half-up, and it takes twice as long to put them up if you want to zip up the corners, which I'll usually do only for expectations of inclement weather, otherwise I just put them up. I then roll up the walls and clip them onto the canopy with jumbo sized binder clips, so I can drop the walls when the day is over (for security) or when the weather turns.

For weights and tie downs, I have two options. Tie downs, I bought some of those screw stakes, the kind people to use for dogs in the yard. Much increased stability, bungee to the tent frame, golden! I keep an old screwdriver with a long handle, probably about a foot long, as an easier leverage point screwing these into the ground that the 3" long triangular top. For weights, I followed this tutorial for making weights out of PVC and filling them with concrete, and they weigh about 25-30 pounds each. I changed it by inserting the eye hooks first and then suspending them upside down to fill them. I attach them to the legs of the tent with ball bungees.

I did find one single online company that makes banners down to a single foot in height. This works great when you want a banner that just sits across the front of the canopy. If I did this over again, I would get one to be 9.5' long instead of 10', it's just a smidge too long. It came with enough sticky Velcro to do the entire front, but I simply attached a series of 2" pieces and then took some twine and a yarn needle to tack the pieces into place on both the canopy and the banner itself. The heat outside can melt the adhesive off the Velcro, so this is just better security.

The only differences between the outdoor space and the indoor space is the canopy and its accoutrements, including the banner. Indoors, I have a wooden sign I painted.

My set-up is a series of gridwall panels, these are 6' x 2'. I use the gridwall connectors. I have seen people use zip-ties, and that bothers me as they are single use plastics that you toss at each show and seems like a waste of plastic and money. I don't lose any space between my panels. When I decided on this style of set-up, I bought a battery powered screwdriver, it's great. I have 13 panels, bought from Barr Displays. While they are based in Orlando Florida, they do have warehouses in many places they ship to and you can pick up from there, which is what I did, so no freight or shipping charges. I buy the rest of the supplies, like connectors, hooks, and shelf brackets, from a local store supply shop. They weigh about 10 pounds each, and they are so much easier to set up in pairs, so I have 6 pairs and a single. When setting them into place, or just standing them, setting them at a 90º angle gives them stability until you get them into place. Once I get the front corners set, the back is just an arc, and gives itself it's own stability. A strong wind can tilt them, but I also anchor the tops to the tent frame with more bungees.

I have the entire display backed in fabric. I chose green, yay, and this choice is actually two different fabrics that look so similar to each other that they just go together. I attach this onto the gridwall with cliphooks [insert link here]. For events where I have power, I have large bulb lights I'll start hanging around, and I have a set of shop lights to hang off the tent frame.

First on the right side is the he "angels and fairies" display needs more room, less clutter, and I have an idea in the works involving nuts, washers, threaded rods, and chain. For now, it's on dowels with small binder clips upside down cradling the dowel and then hooked onto the wall. They hang on split rings that stay as the display.

Above that are signs and my trees. I make the trees with wire and stone or glass chips on large rings, the kind you might find for dream catchers.

This panel is open so that I might interact with customers through. I have a 4'x2' table, the only one I use most of the time, as a space to sit, a checkout stand, and a workspace. I do a lot of adjustments and conversions in the space, custom make rings (that I just started making a few months ago!) For now I have my ring box on the table so I can talk about it. I'm having a new tablecloth made that will be open in the back and have a measuring tape attached.

I made the ring box myself, and used the same technique with other supplies for the bookmark box. I wanted to put the lids on them, but it tears off the paint, so I just have an extra piece of foam core and a strap for transit and storage. I followed this tutorial but made them from cookie tins I found at a thrift store.

The other front panel has a darker fabric, my backing panels are not long enough to double up on that front, and the dark blue has a nice pop. The display there is one of my adapted pendant displays that I learned from Yvonne Williams with my variation I'll get into later. These are my spiral hangers, for the angels and fairies. Mostly for Christmas ornaments, but I've had customers want these for other reasons so I bring them.

Inside to the right is earrings on cards. This display is about to change, but for now it is what it is. Paper earring cards that fly in the wind, and this is Oklahoma, there's always wind. I used to hang them with the plastic earring card adapters from Rio Grande , but they don't fit on the gridwalls. If you do use these, you can buy wire shelving from the hardware store and use those as walls, the earring card backs fit on those. I now just use the clip-hooks. All of the earring cards go into a file box. You can choose whether you want to use letter or legal size hanging folders, this box is legal just because I had some from a previous iteration of necklace/earring storage. The hooks hang on the hanging folders, usually no more than 8 cards per side, so 16 earring cards per legal size hanging folder. Usually can't put much more into the box, but I do use one of the folders in this box for all my signs.

My signs are laminated and hung up with binder clips.

Below the earrings is my bracelet shelf. I make all my bracelets with memory wire. No sizing, no clasps, fit everyone. Little girls can grow older and the bracelets will still fit! I make them fun with polymer clay beads or adult and classy with other beads.

Next to the bracelet shelf is my bookmark box shelf. The shelf is made of a 14" gridsquare (leftover supplies from the pendant displays), two 6" gridwall pegs, and a dozen zip-ties. I made two of these, the other is for the ring box when I decide I don't want it on my table anymore.

Above the bookmarks are headbands. I buy these with the teeth already on them, and just make them pretty. I use a cliphook to attach onto the grid.

Next are the pendant displays. I did use Yvonne Williams' tutorial on making these, with a notable exception. I cant afford leather, and I didn't think it would be good in the sun and rain and other typical Oklahoma weather, so I did some research and found marine vinyl that I liked. Now, I couldn't use all the tools she recommended for use on these, I ended up poking the holes with my x-acto knife. I attached D rings, and hang these from the D's on hooks. I bought enough supplies to make a dozen, I made 8 and I'm currently using 7 in my displays and one at home as a photography display. I had made some fabric pockets that these fit into, two pendant displays per pocket, and set them diagonally in a box, as vertical as possible.

Next is my necklace and earring set display area, the weirdest funnest ones. I don't like the velveteen ones, and the standard size silhouettes come in black or burlap, boring! I made these myself following a tutorial I'll explain in a minute. Those standard size ones only fit into legal size hanging file folders, so you would have more boxes to fit these all into. I made mine to be 8" square, they fit in letter size hanging file folders, and I can fit 22 in a single file box. Each set fits in one folder. The information about the set is on the tag, I poke holes in the bottom to put the earrings on, and clip this on the board with a cliphook. The necklace goes over the cut outs. It comes out of a folder, it goes back into the folder, away it goes. No extra hooks or nonsense.

The tutorial for these is just an adaptation of a design by Jen Yates. She found a way to mat and frame art prints with matte board and fabric, using spray adhesive, and this is perfect for these displays. You can cut it to what size you want, you can use whatever fabric you want, you don't have to worry about it collecting every dog and cat hair in a 20 mile radius.

Next around is my organizer. This is another idea from Jen Yates. Pencil cases from the dollar tree fit in the pockets, and I use that to organize my overflow earrings (I have duplicates of many, instead of selling the one on the card off the wall I have them in baggies ready to rumble!). I have a pocket with bubble wrap, a pocket with tissue paper, pockets with paper bags, a pocket with plastic zip-top bags for sales. I have three pockets for my spools of chain, as I measure the chain custom per customer when they purchase a pendant. I also have a pocket for trash, yay!

I keep a cooler under the table. If you bring your own water and snacks, you don't have to waste money buying more. I was at a show once where they were charging $2 for a small bottle of water. I can buy a case of those for $4, so, no. Also, if you freeze a half dozen of those bottles and put them in the bottom of the cooler, you'll have ice at the beginning of the day to keep things cool and at the end of the day have cold water to drink.

I keep a binder clip in the box just for my business card display. Sometimes I know it's just going to be a crazy windy day and I keep the clip on the cards so they don't fly off. I can remove it to take a card off for a customer, but it keeps them tidy, and then it goes into the tool box.

The tool box also has my screwdriver and its bit set, my extra gridwall connectors, the cliphook container, the hook container, and a smattering of small to medium binder clips. These clips are folded flat and strung on a shower curtain ring, a lot less everywhere.

In the fall/winter months of shows, I set up a small Christmas tree, with battery operated lights, on the front of the panel that has the spirals on it. On this I display the ornaments I make for sale. The only significant thing about this organization is the tags I make for them. Each tag says what ornament it goes with, what the price is, and what ball, if any, it goes on. I used to keep a master list of what ornament goes on what ball, but its so much easier now with that info on the cards.

So, that's about all I have for now. Feel free to ask me any questions about this page.


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