If you're headed to a show, here's what you need!
When you're first starting out with shows, it can be overwhelming to remember everything you think you need, and to find out when you get there you need things you hadn't even thought of. I had the good fortune to be part of a Guild and have a ton of help and guidance from veteran artists who knew what they were doing and came prepared. They mentored me and watched over me and corrected my mistakes. They answered my questions with patience and grace, no matter how silly I was. I know how fortunate I was to have that kind of support system. I have found over the years that show artists stick together, for the most part, and operate as an extended family. It's rare to be in a bad spot and not find someone standing by to help you. But I've put a list together to help you be better prepared to handle problems on your own. Some of the items on this list will be self explanatory. Others you might wonder about, and those I'll explain in this article. Feel free to print off the list and use it as you like. Obviously certain items apply only to indoor or outdoor shows, so you can cross off any items you don't need. My suggestion is to pack things in bins that, when empty, will fit inside each other. I've gone to using the style with hinged lids so that they can't get lost or blow away, and won't get lost when I nest bins together. I use a smaller bin for all of my "clerical" items, making it a bit easier to keep things organized. Pick bins that will fit under the tables or display stands you're using, bins look terrible sticking out from under displays. Measure smaller bins if you need to fit them inside of larger ones to make sure everything works together. Keep in mind when you are deciding how to set up your booth, you do need a clear space for ladies to set their purses down and for items to be bagged and transactions completed. Over the years I've always felt that about two feet works best. Also, if you're using tables, check to make sure that your table coverings go all the way to the ground. You want to give a polished, finished look to your booth, just like you do to your jewelry. A banner will let people know who you are and what you do. They are affordable and they are important. Make your name clearly readable from a distance, and use a good photo of your work to show what you're about. I use a tagline on my banners and more information is printed in a smaller font, legible to the shoppers in my booth. I have had great success with banners from vistaprint.com, though I'm sure other options exist, because they have always had the best quality for the price as far as I've seen. I order business cards from them as well, and they match, basically, what my banner looks like. If you are doing an outdoor show, you need considerably more equipment, Since all of my shows but one this year were outdoors, my list covers a lot of items needed for such. There are tons of ideas on how to do things, but the list I'm giving you covers what works for me. It is not meant to be all inclusive, you will add your own touches as time goes on, but this gives you a starting point if you've never done a show and are anxious. "What the heck are you doing with shower curtains?" you ask. It's one item that I know will spawn questions. I'm talking about cheap old dollar store clear plastic curtains. Along with cheap old dollar store clamps. We use them along the front of the booth if it rains, to keep the rain from blowing in and still have visibility. Another thing they are handy for is covering displays at night to keep the dampness off. I use some linen displays and the dew and condensation can really be detrimental to them overnight. Covering things with a clear sheet of plastic keeps them dry. On the off chance your tent might leak if it rains overnight, they will also prevent the rain from soaking into your displays. Hopefully you've painted your tent seams with waterproofing treatment, but just in case! The clamps will allow you to clip the shower curtains across the front of your tent. Another option is string, which you can run through the eyelets on the curtain, but this is more time consuming to set up and needs to be done in advance. "What about the tool kit?" I can tell you that a very basic set of tools, hammer, screwdrivers, pliers, etc. have saved me many times. I don't carry them into the show most of the time but I always keep them in my truck for emergencies. It saves time wandering from tent to tent asking other artists who's got a hammer you can borrow. I've found that having a rubber mallet in my show bin has also been very convenient, I use mine a lot.
"Ok but why Gorilla Tape?" Because not every tent is perfect and not every accident can be prevented. When I started I was using hand me down equipment, some of it was old and kind of tired, and the walls of the tent were worn in places. If you see a small hole beginning, putting a piece of white duct tape or gorilla tape over it, both inside and outside, can get you through for a long while. If you have a leak in your roof, you may be able to manage it with tape until you get home and can make legitimate repairs. I also use it for sticking up signs and hiding cords where I need to. The stuff is just handy. "I know about weights but what are screws?" By screws I mean the kind that you twist into the ground to attach a dog's leash to. They will also hold down a tent very well. They are more convenient to carry than weights because of the... weight. However, not all shows allow them and not all shows are on grass. If you're using them, twist them into the ground (best done at an angle if possible, ask a neighbor for advice if you're not sure) and then attach your ratchet straps and tighten them down. I also use ratchet straps for my weights, and then secure the weight to the leg of the tent with bungee cords. That will keep the weights from moving which helps keep the tent from walking. If you are using weights, let the bottom of the weight touch the ground. The wind will have a lot more work to do to move it. "Lifts and levels? What are those?" I won't give away my age by telling you who used to say this or what show it was on, but the concept is important. When you're setting up a display of any kind, having a variety of heights can help move the eye all around the display area. Using boxes or other props to achieve this, you can get a high end downtown window display effect. Not setting everything flat on the table creates visual interest that can entice viewers to slow down and spend a little more time looking over your wares. Just be careful to consider what you use to lift things and make sure that all pieces of the puzzle are steady if there will be a chance of wind. Don't forget that if you have an extra table covering, you can use something as simple as cardboard boxes to get your different levels, just make sure you cover them well so they don't look yucky. There are things on this list that I've reminded you to take along because it's better to have and not need than to need and not have. Most of the rest is self explanatory, and you may find there are things you would include that I didn't. It's meant to be a jumping off point. At worst, it will help get you planning ahead. If you have questions, as always, feel free to reach out, and happy showing! Show list Tent, top, sides Weights or screws Ratchet straps Chair Step ladder Display cases and skirting Sign or banner Bungee cords Displays Jewelry busts and stands Earring rack Mirror Tables and table covers (check for coverage) Lifts and levels Chains, cords, clasps, rings pliers Ear wires and rubber stoppers Supplies to repair or make changes in sizes of things Price tags Paper and pens Receipt book Portable charger Credit card reader and back up Alcohol and paper towels (for cleaning glass and surfaces) Boxes Bags Polish cloths Care instructions Business cards Zip ties Tape - clear and gorilla white Calculator Business cards Credit card signs Schedule of shows Hand sanitizer Cash box and change Scissors Clear shower curtains
Clamps Basic tool kit
Lights and extension cords (indoor shows)
Adapter (3 prong to 2 prong)
Food and drink - especially WATER
Ibuprofen, tums, etc
Small first aid kit