How to Set Up an Art Festival Booth

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A local or regional art festival provides an appealing opportunity to showcase your work. Staging your booth, designing a workable traffic flow and choosing fixtures that best display specific media will increase your chances of a successful show. Correctly lighting your work, and inviting visitors inside while you create a piece, will enhance your booth's appeal.

Staging Your Booth

Designing your art festival booth is similar to staging your home for potential buyers. When a visitor views your booth from the aisle, you want her to be intrigued – and you want her to step inside your space. To do that, establish a booth flavor and décor that fits with your product.

If you're selling earth-toned pottery, for example, consider a display featuring the colors of autumn. If you showcase beach-themed artwork, bring in ice cream-colored fabrics and fixtures that help the visitor visualize the art in her beach house. Equally important, don't display your product in an incongruous setting, such as putting handwoven shawls and wraps on metal racks and fixtures more appropriate to a discount clothing store.

Stage your booth on paper, sketching the structural components and bringing in fabric swatches and proposed fixtures' photos. Ask objective family and friends to critique the finished product, putting themselves in the customer's place. By using this no-cost feedback method, you learn if your display conveys the desired impression. You also want to learn about potentially distracting or unsafe elements.

Booth Traffic Flow

If you make your booth space easy to navigate, visitors will feel more welcome there. Maintain an open layout that encourages good customer flow, yet allows someone to view an intriguing piece without creating a bottleneck.

To accomplish this, position your display fixtures so browsers don't feel “hemmed in” by art exhibition panels or hanging garment displays that are too close together. By keeping large fixtures on the booth's perimeter, they won't obstruct customers' "big-picture" view of your space. You'll also minimize the potential for pottery, glass or other fragile piece breakage. Tuck your work table in a front corner, enabling you to view your booth interior without impeding traffic flow.

Warning

  • Ensure that your booth doesn't have any "trip and fall" hazards. Clearly define your displays so visitors don't stumble over protruding floor bases or bump into poorly placed tables. Prevent your tablecloths from dragging on the floor. Secure all electrical cords so browsers won't snag their feet.

Showcasing Specific Media

To reflect your booth's flavor, bring in display fixtures that complement – not distract from – your carefully created work. Consider these medium-specific display recommendations.

Two-Dimensional Artwork Displays

If you create two-dimensional art, such as paintings, photographs or mixed-media pieces, a uniform display scheme makes the best impression. For photographs and prints, ensure that your frame and mat construction is consistent for every piece. Remove potentially distracting cardboard corners from your work.

If you're bringing original pieces to the festival, hang 75 percent or more of them -- all finely matted and framed. For surplus prints, avoid plastic bins that might cheapen customers' perception of your work. Instead, create “browse boxes” that match your display panels or have similar fabric and color elements. Stand the “browse boxes” upright, as piling the prints on tables doesn't reflect their quality.

Three-Dimensional Artwork Displays

Showcase your three-dimensional art, such as ceramics, pottery, raku, wood or glass on multilevel fixtures. If you prefer pedestals, paint them a single color that gives your pieces more impact. If shelving is more your style, buy or build attractive shelves that reflect the quality of your work. Finally, covering your booth walls with carpeting or fabric will enhance the textured effects.

Table-Based Jewelry Displays

Avoid displaying your finely crafted necklaces, bracelets and other pieces on bland-looking velvet neck forms. Instead, showcase your jewelry on richly finished wood displays that may -- or may not -- be protected with glass.

Bring out your jewels' colors and textures, and contrast with your metal frames and findings, by scattering bright stones, coral or other accents among the works. During a fall season festival, for example, blend earth-toned jewelry with muted leaves or acorns. For a beach town art festival, faux (or authentic) sea glass might complement your colorful summer-themed pieces.

Booth Lighting

If you spend considerable time arranging your booth displays, but ineffective booth lighting poorly showcases your work, customers can't fully appreciate your art's colors, textures and nuances. To avoid this mistake, focus on lighting objects in your booth space, rather than lighting the space itself. This scheme will keep drawing customers to the next highlighted piece.

Most importantly, give your lighting scheme a dry run before installing it for the festival. Ideally, re-create your booth space in your home first. Use cardboard cutouts to approximate your display fixtures and merchandise. After adding your lighting, spend several days gauging the overall effect. Pay particular attention to how well the lighting system showcases your work. If changes are necessary, revamp the lights at your own pace. Avoid the last-minute panic in finding that your lighting system is inadequate.

Tip

  • Low-voltage halogen lighting can be an appealing way of illuminating your work. For example, a 50-watt bulb at 12 volts produces 125 watts of light. This setup also produces very little unwelcome heat. Or, consider increasingly popular LED lighting for your booth. With no ultraviolet or infrared light, these lighting systems won't damage your artwork or cause it to fade.

Intriguing Artwork Demonstrations

For the icing on the cake, invite visitors to watch you create your striking artwork. Position your work station so passers-by can easily see what you're doing. If you fabricate jewelry, paint, or weave shawls, this should be easy to execute. If setting up a pottery or glass blowing studio isn't feasible, bring your raw materials and explain how you design and execute your work.

Warning

  • Keep a close watch on your booth throughout the festival. If possible, bring an assistant to help customers and provide a second set of eyes. Discourage cash theft by keeping your money in a fanny pack or vendor apron containing money pockets.

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