Preparing for a Show
Once I get confirmation on an event, the wheels really start rolling. There’s a lot more that goes into a successful event booth than just tossing some books on a table and hoping for the best. Below is an in-depth look into some of the many things I do behind the scenes to prepare for an event.
For most shows I need some assistance, if only to cover the occasional privy break, or to give me time to duck behind the booth and scarf down some lunch. Up until now I have been reaching out to friends and family for volunteers to give me breaks and to help with setup and tear down when possible. Starting with the upcoming PA Faire, I can actually afford to pay a part time helper for the shows, which makes me a much happier Talyn. I appreciate everyone who has been generous enough to donate their time to helping me, but I am so glad to be able to actually compensate them moving forward. Now the biggest challenge is finding someone who I know and trust that has the time available to work with me on those event weekends.
In order to have a booth at all, I need to have something to sell. For each event I try to tailor my stock to match the event. I might make a specific sticker that I think will do well at the event, such as my “lavender heart” sticker for the Maryland Lavender Festival, or the “Faire Tidings” sticker set for my renaissance festivals. Other times it means adjusting the quantity of materials I bring. I bring a larger quantity of children’s books for family themed events, and a larger quantity of adult coloring books for events that cater to adults. Celtic festivals see my knotwork and ogham pieces placed in the forefront, while Fairy festivals see my elves, mermaids, and other fantasy creatures take center stage.
Booth Layout and Displays
Every show is different, so my booth layout varies from event to event. Some shows I am on a corner, so I can have two open sides. Some shows I have a larger space so I use a borrowed canvas tent instead of my popup. Some shows I have space behind the booth, so I set up my awning and have a little “backstage” area for me to sit in, allowing me more floorspace under the tent for customers. Oftentimes, I do not know exactly what the layout will be until I actually get to the event to set up.
I have designed my displays to be able to be easily rearranged to suit whatever configuration I may need for a specific show, and before the spring event season, tested and tweaked my displays and layouts in my basement and driveway. When I have a good solid setup, I then take pictures or videos, which I can reference once I get on site to make my setup a bit easier. All I have to do is look at the picture and re-create it.
I currently rely pretty heavily on the advertising that the event itself does to draw in customers. To let my own audience know where they can find me and when, I make sure to put upcoming events into my quarterly update blog, as well as to post them on facebook and instagram. It is my goal for next year to have a constantly maintained upcoming events listing on my website as well.
Travel, Room and Board Plans
Most of my events are multi-day affairs, with many of them being too far away from home to drive to and from each night. In those cases I have to find somewhere to stay nearby. If the event allows camping, and is for more than one weekend, I prefer to camp on-site. However if it is only for a weekend, it is just too much work to set up the tent for just one night, so I either find a friend that lives nearby and has a spare couch, or I find an Air BnB to rent for the weekend. If I have a booth helper with me who will also need lodging I take this into account and make sure they also have a place to stay the night.
About two weeks before a show I create a packing checklist, listing out every item I need to remember to bring - all my displays, tables, chairs, stock, pens and sharpies, first-aid kit, etc. I include the clothing and toiletries and bedding I will need to bring if it is a multi-day event that is too far to drive home from at night. I include the cooler and snacks and drinks to keep me hydrated and fed while I’m working. I have a checkbox for when each item is packed into its appropriate bin, and one for when it is loaded into the car.
If, during the show, I think of something that would be helpful to have for future events I make a note to include it in the list for the next show. Truthfully I usually end up overpacking and having items I don’t need with me, but it means I rarely forget the things I actually need.
With this list in hand, I carefully pack everything I need into heavy duty storage totes, and then tetris it into my car as best I can.
Finally Setup day arrives. I really enjoy long drives, so often getting to the events is a relaxing and recharging experience for me. I get my coffee(s), turn on my audiobook, and hit the road!
Once I get on-site however, it is all hustle - all bustle - in a mad dash to get the booth set up before the event opens. This means first unloading the entire vehicle and moving it to the vendor parking area. Then I can actually start setting up. Tent goes up first, and gets staked down and weighted. Once the tent is up I set up all the tables, pegboards, and other large infrastructure. Tablecloths go down and shelving goes up. Pegs go into the pegboards, baskets go on the shelves, and its time to put out the products!
Setup usually takes at least 3 hours if I am doing it by myself, but no matter how much time I allow myself to get set up, it always ends up taking just a few minutes longer.
And that, gentle friends, is your look behind the curtain at the life of a working artist. If you'd like to show your support for my art, hop on over to my patreon page!
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