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Articles

Indoor vs. Outdoor Craft Shows

February 2011

Photo: Andreas Praefcke from Wikimedia CommonsPhoto: Andreas Praefcke from Wikimedia Commons

As an artist or vendor, you will find that you need to attend craft shows and festivals of all types. If you are just beginning your career as an artist and a craft show vendor, you may be wondering which is better to take part in, the indoor or the outdoor craft show. To answer that question, we will need to compare each. Take a moment to consider each type of show and think of both the positives and the negatives of each. Once you have done this comparison, then you will be able to see your answer. Read on to learn more about both the indoor and the outdoor festival, fair or craft show.

Let us start with the outdoor show. You may see these quite often, so you will need to think of both positives and negatives of being a vendor at one.

The best part of the outdoor craft show is that you will be able to show off your artwork in the best light possible: natural light. It seems that everything looks better when the sun makes it gleam. Additionally, people are more likely to stay longer and browse longer if they can enjoy the beautiful outdoor weather and not feel cooped up in a conference center or other facility.

However, the negatives of the outdoor show include the weather as well. When the sunshine goes away, you may have to deal with wind and rain. This can make it harder for you to protect your artwork, and you will need to be prepared with something that will cover your art. You may even want to consider something with walls or pull down flaps to protect from the wind.

Next, consider the indoor show.

Of course, you will not have to deal with the weather. This is quite possibly the biggest advantage. You will also have easier access to electricity, which will make it much more simple for you to highlight your artwork. The indoor environment will offer controlled temperatures as well.

The downside of the indoor craft show is that spacing can feel limited. People who do not like feeling crowded may avoid the show and you may lose customers overall.

As you can see, there are positives and negatives to indoor and outdoor craft shows. As an artist, you may be wondering which you should participate in. The simple answer is both. This will get the most business for you. All you need to do is prepare properly before each type of festival.

Comments

Great comments.  I do both but I have to be careful of the sun and how many hours I will be in it.  The humidity is bad for me and it gives me a headache if I am out too long.  Sometimes you have to do outside shows if you want to get the exposure for your product.  so it depends on the event and you gage your products accordingly to sell more of your products as well.

I always try to have some children things so you can get the parents to shop at your tables and also, I always have some FREE stuff to draw their attention as well.  IT WORKS GREAT!  Presentation of the booth space is important as well.  You should always have a nice tablecloth and the whole front & sides should be covered to cover all the boxes, etc. if at all possible.

By Lynda Umbarger on February 22, 2011

Great advice for the newcomer, especially the tip about some customers not liking the crowded atmosphere of an indoor show.  I will say, however, that on rare occasions an indoor show may be canceled or rescheduled because of weather.  I just had a show rescheduled because of an ice storm that would not allow customers to get there.  I think it probably affected the attendance even at the rescheduled date.  Just something to think about anytime you are entering a winter show.

By Sheryl on February 22, 2011

Good comments.  After 200+ craft shows, both inside and outside, I have several things that I always tell new crafters.

1.  Always practice putting up your tent and display BEFORE the day of the show.  There is nothing worse than seeing someone show up with the tent in the box and asking other crafters (whhile we are in the process of putting up our displays) for help on how to put up the tent..  I always help, but it usually shows how unprepared the new crafter is for the show.  By practicing ahead, you can find out any “gotchas” and prepare or eliminate them.

2.  Always tie down the tent against the wind.  You would be surprised now easy it is for the wind speed to suddenly pick up and for the tent to take off.  We use weights that we have made.  I can provide instructions for the weights for anyone that wants them.

3.  Put your materials for the tent, etc. in a cat litter bucket with a lid.  Everything is kept in the bucket and I only have one thing to pick up. I have a bucket with tie-downs for the weights, duct tape, spring type clamps or clips(a variety of sizes to clamp anything together), tools like screw drivers, plyers, and a hammer, etc.  I bought a dozen at Home Depot for 99 cents each.  They can use used to hold down tablecloths, secure tent sides, secure signs, etc. I also bought a package of wood shims.  The wood shims are good for leveling tables on uneven ground.

4.  Transport your crafts in plastic tubs.  Don’t use cardboard.  If cardboard boxes get wet, they will fall apart.  Plastic tubs will stack and are easy to pack.

5. Different shows have different size booth spaces.  I’ve seen spaces as small as 6x8 ft and as large as 10x20.  Decide how you will display your crafts ahead of time, but remain flexible.  I always try to take an extra table and crafts so that I can expand my space if the vendor next to me doesn’t show.  There is nothing worse than having an open space between vendors.  Ask first, but by expanding, you can reduce the blank space while adding on to your display space.

6. Use signs.  Make sure that your customers can understand your product - especially if you are talking to another customer.  Use short phrases e.g., lasts 3-4 months, all products are handmade by me, etc to try to answer most of the questions I receive. I also include the price ($5+tax). 

7. Arrive early.  If setup starts at 7am, try to arrive at 7.  Don’t plan on showing up15-30 minutes before the start of the show.  If there are any problems, you don’t have time to take care of them.  Also, if there are early bird shoppers, you are ready to sell.  Sometimes, I’ve made by booth fee back in sales before the show officially opens.

8.  Be considerate of other crafters.  Unload your vehicle and place your supplies in booth spot. Then move your vehicle.  This makes it easier for others.  At the end of the show, pack up your supplies before you begin loading your vehicle.  Also try not to block sidewalks, cross walks, etc.

9. Be nice to the vendors around you.  A few kind words can go along ways.  Besides, you can learn about other shows, and they may even become good friends.

10.  Have fun.  I’m always asked if i get tired of 35-40 shows a year.  My answer:  I get physically tired, but I still enjoy the shows and selling our crafts.  If I ever get tired of selling, I’ll quit.

Good Luck.

By Mark Cato on February 22, 2011

Great comments on a very important article.  I have done quite a few indoor shows but no out door shows yet.  This will be my first one and I am a bit nervous for the tent and all the prep work.

By Dita on February 22, 2011

Thank you Mr. Cato for all you information, im just starting to do my crafts and I need all the information I can get. Also, you said that you could tell me about how to make weights for tent.  If you don’t mind I would really appreciate it. And thank you.

By Jeanette Salazar on March 3, 2011

Jeanette,

Here are the instructions for the weights. All of supplies are available at Home Depot.

Get 10” of Schedule 40 plastic pipe in the plumbing section.It should be about 6” across. It is white pipe used for plumbing purposes and stands up well to abuse and use. While you can get shorter pieces of the pipe, the 10’ is the cheapest. Also get 4 rounded caps that fit the end of the schedule 40 pipe.

Also get 4 threaded eye-bolts, 10-12” long.  Get 8 nuts that fit the eye-bolts (2 for each bolt).  Also get 8 large washers.  The washers do not have to fit snug on the bolts, just so they don’t slide past the nuts.  Get 4 large washers that are even larger than the smaller washers.  The large washers should be as large as possible, but not so big that the smaller washers slip through the larger washer’s hole.

Get two bags of quick dry cement.

Get a package of 4 tie-down straps.  The one’s I use are about 15’ long and orange or red.  Get the ones with hooks on both ends

Cut the 10’ piece of pipe into 4 30” pieces.  Use a hacksaw or a reciprocating saw.

Put a cap on the worst cut end of each piece.  There is no need to glue it to the end. Just bang it onto the end of the pipe.

Take an eye-bolt, 2 nuts, 2 small washers, and one large washer..  Put a nut onto the bolt and thread it until it is about 1” from the bottom of the eye-bolt.  This will place it at the end away from the eye. (Sorry to make it sound like you don’t know what you are doing, but I’m trying to make it so that there aren’t many questions.) One the nut is on the bolt, place a small washer next the nut.  Follow this up with the large washer, the other small washer and finally the other nut.  Tighten down the nuts so that all of the washers are tight.  The purpose of using the washers is to keep the eye-bolt from coming out of the concrete.

Repeat for the other eye-bolts.

Mix the cement and pour into each pipe.  The cement should be a little watery to make it easy to pour into the pipe.  Once the pipe is full of cement, place an eye-bolt into the cement until it is level with the top of the cement and centered in the pipe.

Stand the pipe up straight and let dry for about 24 hours.  The longer the concrete cures, the stronger it will be. 

When you use the weights, use a bungee cord to hold them close to the leg of the tent.  I loop the tie-down straps over the side bars at the top of the tent and hook both ends onto the eye-bolt.  I then rachet them down until the strap is tight and the weight is just about to come off the ground.

If you have any questions, please contact me at mark.cato954 at gmail.com.  Please replace at with @.

Mark Cato

By Mark Cato on March 9, 2011

why not just use sand bags?

By cosyjo44 on March 19, 2011

Not heavy enough.  Especially on pavement, get a good wind and a sandbag is just not heavy enough.

By Mark on March 21, 2011

Great advice! This information is really helpful for all artists - new and old! :)

Jeanette, you can add sand for your weights and for weights I higly recommend E- ZUP weight bags from http://www.splashtents.com. These are long lasting and can hold sand for upto 40-50 lbs.

Have you already purchased your tent for the shows?
http://www.splashtents.com sells E-Z UP tents for really good prices. They have their Eclipse II, 10x10 with bolt-on tops for only $429. I got mine from them. If you don’t want to spend so much, you could buy their Expres II, 10x10 and get it customized with letters. They have lettering for $6.95/letter - this way you can stand out in the crowd with your company name or craft store name or website, unlike, other crafters that only have white tents. I’d recommend this easy and cost effective marketing tool to every crafter.

Splash Tents is fairly new and they are based in TX. Their service is really good and they also have a price match guarantee!

I’d suggest you check them out….www.splashtents.com

By Splash Tents, Inc. on March 29, 2011

I have read all the wonderful information here with great interest.  We are new to the business and just looking for our tent.  Do you recommend a 10 x 10?  I know most of the spaces are that size but wondered if you ever ran into not having a large enought space available for the 10 x 10.  Also, do most people use the sidewalls?  Any and all information I can gather is so appreciated.  Thanks.

By Crazy Raisins on April 2, 2011

Hi Crazy Raisins

A 10x10 is the required booth size for almost all events. You could get a smaller tent but then again, you might not be able to get in at a show if the tent is too small. Jury shows have a lot of rules and regulations.

I would suggest you go with an Eclipse 10x10 for your show. Are you planning on doing many shows? If you are looking for a less cumbersome and very easy to use tent - this is the tent for you. These are really easy to set up and are the best value for your hard earned $$$. You can’t go wrong with the Eclipse II.

Sidewalls are used by most artists. It all depends on why you need the sidewalls. If you need it to enclose the booth if you take a break or step away from your store or for overnight shows—Yes! they are very handy.

I myself have an Eclipse II 10x10 with my website on the flap/panel of the tent. The Eclipse II is definitely the most appealing tent as it makes you look very professional and serious about your business. I assume your business is raisins “crazy raisins”—you do want to stand out in the crowd and make sure that your booth looks clean, classy and inviting to the viewers or buyers. The more attractive your booth and presentation, cleanliness and overall set-up the more sales you’ll have!

Hope this helps Crazy Raisin.

By Zena on April 5, 2011

Thank you Zena, yes it did help and we have our tent.

By Crazy Raisins on May 5, 2011

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