Tuesday, July 26, 2011

More Booth Considerations/Conversation With Ron

Ron asked:

Hey John, Will you also talk about the vertical panels in the previous post? The ones flanking your checkout with the hanging pieces.

Sure. Back when I designed this booth there was no "Propanels" company outfitting art fair artists so that we could all look alike. Even if there had been, I've never been fond of their color choices for backdrops. Nor have I ever thought it was a very good idea for the artist's booths to take on such a homogenized look, beyond the ubiquitous white canopies.

Little canopies on the streetside,
Little canopies made of ticky tacky,
Little canopies on the streetside,
Little canopies all the same.
There's a white one and a white one
And a white one and a white one,
And they're all made out of ticky tacky
And they all look just the same.

And the artists in the canopies
All paid enormous booth fees,
And they were put in canopies
And they came out all the same,
And there's potters and painters,
And landscape photographers,
And they're all made out of ticky tacky
And they all look just the same.

So, finding myself in need of backdrops for indoor shows, I devised a system whereby I could hang carpet from my crafthut frame -- carpet with a subtle corduroy pattern that I picked to match my display color. I cut the carpet to size and then had the edges bound. Then I put grommets in with a regular spacing that allows me to hang and stretch the carpet on the frame using cable ties.

RON: "I really like what you've got going on here. I do wonder if it ever gets a bit cramped between the two side units. Seems narrow in there for more than a few people."

It does get a bit cramped at times. But, listen....do you want to know a secret? ....do you promise not to tell? o-o-o-o-o-o...closer, let me whisper in your ear, say the words you want to hear....

People, even average pottery buyers, do not go to an art fair and scan from booth to booth looking for the pottery they want to buy. No, the average pottery buyer is like everyone else who attends an art fair --- They go to an art fair and scan from crowd to crowd to see what everyone else is interested in. Empty booths don't draw crowds. It's the art fairs' manifestation of "The Matthew Effect"...

"For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away."
Matthew 25:29,

In the vernacular: The rich get richer and the poor get poorer.

But, yeah, sometimes it bothers me that I don't have easy ingress and egress from the booth. And if I have room at a show I will set the booth up in such a manner as to allow entrance in front and exit in the back to ease the crowding. But lots of people is good.

Another of my displaying rules of thumb (a thumb that still gets smashed by the errant hammer of laziness from time to time) is: If ease of set-up eclipses considerations of appearance, then the artist has his booth set-up priorities wrong.

That said, I'm all for ease of set-up and breakdown. Toward that end, I should point out that my basic shelves are four folding units that, when joined together by sliding a hinge pin into hinges mounted on each of the four, mutually reinforce each others standing (as they fold in opposite directions).

I also have six standing units that I can use to create a different look. I have the original four units that consist of three levels of shelves mounted by way of threaded rod to four 2X2.5 cherry uprights (legs). Additionally, I have two units that are two shelves instead of three, and don't stand as tall as the original four units do.

For the sake of weight and ease of construction, the shelves are hollow core doors cut to length.


  1. Thanks for the closer look at the shelves and their construction.

  2. That is well thought out. The cherry wood goes with the pots too.

    Pete Seeger's song does well!
    (pity the original words still ring true)

  3. Great stuff John! I realized I had forgotten to ask about the 'coasters' but the shots in this post clear that up. Pretty cool!

    I like how the "Mathew effect" sums up so much in such a distressing way. Sometimes I think we need carney hawkers, balloons, and fireworks to get folks to step inside our booths. As you say, attention attracts more attention, and that seems especially true where we are selling our work. Buzz and hype become their own self fulfilling prophecy, almost....

    Thanks for sharing! Happy Summer to ya!

  4. you, my man, have been thinking once again.
    Great booth- we made hinged background for our booth and use under counter lights to silp in above.
    But color now to convince Mister that color is good.

  5. Hi John, Thank you so much for the details! I like knowing that you have threaded rods running through those hollow core doors. And the hinges to connect it all up.

    Good point about the Matthew Effect too. I think the key is getting them to stick around long enough to see what the fuss is about. I love it when I'm talking to a couple of potential customers about the pots and have 2 or 3 folks in the background listening in. Eye contact, ease them in, hand them a pot, nod, be positive, excited about the work...fun stuff.

    Right now I'm thinking how I can work out my display to show off more of my pots that have decoration on the interiors. My plates, platters and dishes need to be sitting up, like in a stand or on a special display (which I sort of have a prototype).

    My deeper bowls and such need to be seen from the top, and my hollow ware, cups, pitchers etc can sit on shelves. Still working it out and trying to make it as simple as I can but still be a really nice display.

    Thanks again!