Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Booth Ideas

This is kind of random, and also long and rambling: one of those processing-out-loud posts I sometimes do. I have been thinking once again about a future art fair booth. We have all seen those booths that compel you to enter: I want to go to there, à la Liz Lemon. At the same time a booth has to be highly portable, and collapse into as little space as possible: every square inch that the booth takes up in your vehicle is space that could be carrying inventory. It needs to be lightweight, because who knows how far you'll have to lug it? And for me at least, it needs to function indoors and out, so, waterproof, more or less, and able to withstand wind. It will also have to conceal wear and tear, because all that wind, rain, lugging and packing can take its toll. Add in the necessity of frugality, and designing this booth starts to sound like a daunting task.

The photo above is of my long-ago booth set up; I think that shot was taken at the ACC fair in St. Paul in maybe 1998? It works in some ways: The pedestals nested for travel, and the textured paint hid chips and dings. But it has long since been repurposed, bit by bit. And I would like to do better in a few ways:
  • The old booth does not take advantage of wall space, either visually or for the display of work. If I used painted hollow-care doors, I could attach short shelves at varying heights, to highlight special pieces. Those doors aren't heavy, but they are awkward in that they don't get any smaller, so I'd be lugging this 7-foot slab of wood, sometimes a whole city block. Hard to transport on a hand truck, too. But what if I alternated with panels of wooden lattice?
  • Or, hey, how about this: if I reinforced the lattice on the back with a frame of 2x4s, and if it was only a couple or maybe 3 feet wide, it would be sturdy enough to hold hooks for mugs, making use of the space for display. The lattice would let the wind through, making it Omaha, Nebraska-proof.
  • Panels of painted canvas would diminish the weight and the packing space consumption. I could alternate them with the lattice panels or hollow cores doors. Not both, as the whole will start to look like a mishmash. Or - making it complicated now- maybe hollow core doors for indoor shows, and lattice panels for outdoor shows? I'd have to get the expensive spray-on stuff to fireproof the canvas, but it's a one-time pain in the ass. Not that ACC ever carried out the threat to fire-test the rugs or wall panels, but they could; and also, it's just safer, with so many booths in the hall, if they are flame retardant.
  • Okay, the floor: ugh. I had that rug because I didn't want to pay $80 to rent a 10 x 10 square of grey or beige carpet for three days, a couple times a year. That shit adds up! (That goes for the curtains, too. Lesson learned long ago: always bring your own.) At outdoor shows, the floor will probably just be the grass or pavement...for indoor shows, maybe I could do a pattern, with colored duct tape? Or would that look cheesy? Hmm.
  • My old booth was somewhat lacking in storage pace for extra inventory, shopping bags, packing materials, price stickers, pens, sunscreen, a cooler, just all the stuff you need during the day at the event. Two of the pedestals were open at the back with shelves for such things, the circular ones had lids so I could store things inside, and the back curtain was two feet forward from the perimeter or the booth, but it was clumsy and inconvenient. When I plan the new layout, I will take those things into account.
  • Pedestals: I think I can build them, cheap and light, from foam insulating board. I plan to make a small one, to discover how best to cut the board and smooth the edges. There are hot wire tools for this, as cheap as $7 or over $100; it might be worth seven bucks to make this big job easier.
There's more, I can feel it rattling around in my skull like marbles in a coffee can. I haven't even touched on creating the "I want to go to there" feeling. But that's what I've got for now. I've been thinking about a new booth for years, but suddenly the mode has changed form "thinking" to "planning," and that's all to the good.

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