Craft show tips requested

I will be exhibiting at my first craft show soon, and would
appreciate any tips, suggestions, what to avoid, etc., that anyone
is willing to share. I have watched the canopy discussion with
interest, and have gotten an EZ up for outdoor shows. This is an
indoor show, and would love to hear what you have done to provide
"walls" for your booth, and to handle the security issues involved
with jewelry. The show is not curtained, so it is up to me to come
up with “walls” and lighting.


Hello Beth

coverings. It helps to make you look more professional and serious
about your product. At some of the indoor shows I have done, I was
actually able to set up my tent indoors, or at least the tent frame.
This gives more definition of “your” space and a place to hang lights
and displays from. This is also another place to put some sort of

Make sure you have good lighting, as I have found that most places
have poor lighting, especially if you are selling jewellery or stones
(e.g. most public places use florescent or other that make people’s
skin look yellow to greenish, very bad for selling jewellery and
washing out the color of stones, especially amethyst).

Try to dress to look good. You wouldn’t believe the number of people
I meet at shows who think it appropriate to wear a clean sweatsuit or
jeans and t-shirt (with a saying of course) to sell high end items.
Later I get to hear the whining as they explain that they did not
sell much. You should always look professional. If you don’t wear a
lot of makeup, try at least a little lipstick, it is amazing what a
difference I found it to make. (Of course this is not necessary for
the men out there :))

Make sure that everything is priced, preferably on the item. Take a
little time to arrange your display attractively. Have some sort of
a business card or flyer, even if they are just printed on your
computer. Do put those cards near the back of the table so that kids
don’t collect them. Its funny how that for years I have had business
cards on my table, and now people who had picked them up 2 and even 3
years ago are now contacting me for my products. I had just assumed
that they had thrown them away, but apparently many people keep them
somewhere and actually use them later.

Hope this helps. If you have any further questions, please email me.
Good luck at selling!

Karen Bahr “the Rocklady” (@Rocklady) K.I.S. Creations
May your gems always sparkle.

 I will be exhibiting at my first craft show soon, and would
appreciate any tips, suggestions, what to avoid, etc., 

Hi Chris,

One of the best pieces of advice I got (here on Orchid) was not to
try and sell designer jewelry from flea market display cases. It
boosts the startup cost to go for better display cases, but it makes
a world of difference in the way show goers perceive your work!

Good luck,


Dave Sebaste
Sebaste Studio and
Carolina Artisans’ Gallery
Charlotte, NC (USA)

Hi Beth, I don’t do many shows but have several suggestions you might

  1. Have enough cash for change. Always put cash, checks and credit
    card receipts in a secure location as soon as possible. Do not
    place cash, etc., down thinking you will place it in the cash box
    later. Paper can easily be misplaced.

  2. Always be observant of your items placed within reach of
    customers. Do not get so attentive at one end of your table that
    someone on the other end can lift something.

  3. You should have calling cards available for anyone who wants
    them. They should specify what your specialties are, address and
    e-mail address.

  4. If you are by yourself make friends with the show people and
    your neighbors. Make arrangements to have someone watch your area
    while you take breaks.

  5. Place a price tag on all items if possible.

Most of all relax and have a good show. Good Luck Lee

I will agree with the posts so far emphasizing appearance in selling
jewelry. Normally my hands don’t look fit to wear jewelry because my
nails are nonexistant and I’ve got grinding wounds and imbedded
buffing compound. But the last two shows I did I really cleaned up
and even put real looking fake nails on (preglued stick on) right
before the first customer walked up. Then I wore multiple rings and
bracelets. Your customers are going to see your hands in your display
cases. The jewelry customers are the ones who wear lots of jewelry
themselves and really respond to the moving displays (your own hands)
as well as the jewelry in your cases. If you are observant you can
tell which items people will be interested in. The ladies with
beautifully done nails are into rings I find. Annette

You can rent high quality jewelry display cases at ACE shows and
some other shows. You might consider doing this at first and spending
some time checking out other peoples cases before sinking a lot of
money into having them made. Factors such as portability, ease of
shipping ( if you intend to fly to some shows) ease and time of
setting up and breaking down, storage behind the cases for sales
tools, etc. all need to be considered. Good luck, Jan

Hi All,

I have read some of the tips offered for doing shows, but there
hasn’t been much mention of security and that is vital if you want to
avoid being a target of some low life scum. As a jeweler doing
shows, especially if you work in precious metal and you
must be aware of the fact that there are preditors who make their
living by artfully stealing the entire inventory of targeted
jewelers. Sometimes it is by distraction or carelessness, ie.
leaving your work in your vehicle while you go somewhere, and
sometimes it is by force or at gun point. In any case you must take
certain precautions to keep yourself from being successfully
targetted. Be aware of your surroundings at all times, especially
when coming to or leaving a show. Watch for suspicious characters
who may be casing you. Never leave your work unattended and be
especially cautious at breakdown when you are the most vulnerable. I
know of one artist who set his case down for a moment during
breakdown only to discover it gone a few minutes later. Don’t leave
your work in your car, locked or not. Use the safety deposit boxes
at any hotel you stay at and don’t leave your work in your room. Try
to make sure you are not being followed when leaving a show. And by
all means, if you feel you are being targeted, enlist the help of
your fellow artists, the promoter, or law enforcement. It is better
to seem like some paranoid jeweler than the poor fool who got ripped

I think some of you can offer other tips that we can all use when
doing shows (I hope I don’t seem too paranoid!) and perhaps one day
we can put all the thieves out of business.

Best regards,

I have read some of the tips offered for doing shows, but there
hasn't been much mention of security and that is vital.... 

A while back I wrote an article for Lapidary Journal on security at
(as well as going to and from) shows. You can access it on line at


John: What do you do DURING a show to prevent theft? This has been
my experience. I STILL feel violated & angry in spite of trying to
be careful. I keep my more expensive pieces close to me & am
always watching the entire area but most often have to work alone
which is when it happens, while I’m doing a sale. It seems to be
happening more all the time.

Also, can you claim a business loss for stolen items? Probably not
but I had to ask…

Regards, Audie’s Images-
Audie Beller-

Security was mentioned regarding show tips. I’ve used two Allstate
cases (the glass lid is propped up leaving the sides open). I had
glass triangles cut that i put in the side openings. A couple of
times I’ve had an person try to stealthily reach into my case not
seeing the glass and I hear a “thunk” when their hand hits the
glass. They look startled and then quickly walk away. When I hand
people jewelry to look at I’ve never been concerned that they’ll
walk away with it. I think if you’re interacting with people they
aren’t the ones who are apt to steal. But if that ever occured would
I go running after them and wrestle them to the ground and grab my
jewelry or yell “stop, thief!” ? Annette

I would really like to second John’s security tips. And add another
one. When you travel, travel “incognito” meaning, don’t wear a lot
of jewelry, fancy clothes or other things that scream “I HAVE MONEY,
COME GET ME!!” I know it sounds basic, but it is easy to forget, if
you do wear a lot of jewelry, suits, etc. Also, I never keep all
the money, etc in 1 place. Nor do I drive a fancy car. (And I
refused the suggestion one person made to put my company, etc on the
van. Seemed like a “hi, come rob & kill me sign”…) I keep a
limited amount of cash with me, and get a money order to send home or
your bank. Make sure the cc are run. And keep the slips in a secure
place. For eating/etc on the road, I only take out $40 or so, and
keep it in separate pockets, in the front of my jeans. There is no
need to have a wad of cash to attract attention to yourself. Also,
as a woman, who often travels alone, I almost never divulge my
business. I may say I am a artist, but don’t go into details. You
don’t know who may be listening. On the road, I am “non descript
hippy chick in patched jeans and a tie dye shirt”. I’d rather they
laugh at my clothes, then figure me for a mark…


Hi Audie, I have heavy, locking display cases which are only
accessable from inside the booth (where I am) and would be difficult
or impossible for someone to get into without my noticing. Of
course, you have to keep an eye on your whole set up, especially when
working with customers, because when you are distracted is when a
thief is likely to strike. I guess the best you can do is to have a
display set up which makes shoplifting very difficult, keep track of
what you are showing and to whom, and be vigilant. I also do shows
by myself and I have never had a theft (I have had a few attempts
with credit cards, but that is a different issue). But depending on
what you are selling taking security precautions can cut into your
ability to adequately market your stuff to the buying public. If
locking cases or a display that severely limits customer access to
your merchandise will not work for you, then consider getting a
second salesperson to assist you, especially at shows that are very

That being said, the issue of shoplifting during a show, to me at
any rate, does not rank any where near the concern of a larger theft
in transit. I can afford to loose one or two pieces, but loosing
your entire inventory would be devastating, which is why I had to
bring that issue up.

Best regards,

Beth, I usually rent drape and pipe for my booth but will be doing
some outdoor shows this year where I’ll need a tent. No matter what
you choose to do with the walls make sure you have a good sized sign
with your name on it and important you want people to
remember. Those little cardboard signs most shows give you are just
plain inadequate.

Design something permanent and lightweight that you can take from
show to show. Also, it is imperative that you have some large sized
posters that clearly show your best work that you can hang on the
walls of you booth. Not only does this provide more decoration but
it also gives customers a glimpse of what you do. Most people don’t
go to every booth. So if a booth doesn’t look interesting or if
they come thinking that they aren’t looking for jewelry, they may
just pass by. Posters can snag a shoppers attention better than
anything. Caution! Posters can also make a customer avoid your
booth so take care what image you use and how well it is made.

Other hints – make sure you have something to hand out to people
with all your on it. Something with your signature
product on it is great, but in a pinch even a business card will do.
Make sure you always write you booth number on it so they can
easily find their way back to you.

Keep a book out for those who are interested to sign. People may
not be willing to buy now, but will be interested in hearing more
about you. This book will be invaluable to you in the future. I
guard mine with the same care I guard my product.

As far as security goes, you must take all the same steps to protect
yourself as any jewelry store and traveling sales reps do. There is
some advise about security at the Jeweler’s Security Alliance’s
website. Check it out:

Check out the Crafts Report online discussion group. There’s lots
of and experienced crafters at all levels who post
there. The address is

Hope this helps,

Reading Larry Hancock’s suggestions referring to a Tent for outside
shows, well we are an artistic group, rather then hanging a sign on
the tent, treat the tent as a canvas. If doing it yourself is a
problem, hire an art student. Use all sides of the tent and
imagination. Your name of course, but other attention getting designs
also. Make the passerby curious enough to enter your tent/booth with
a smile of their face. Imagination flowing like the rain outside at
1:15 in the morning. Teresa

Something to consider…some of the high end outdoor shows are very
picky about what the tents look like and specify “solid white” tents.
I can think of a promoter or two that would be fine with a sign but
not happy with a tent covered with a mural…despite how beautiful it
might be. Just one more of those ways that each show and promoter
keeps us on our toes with their differences.


rather then hanging a sign on the tent, treat the tent as a
canvas. <SNIP> Use all sides of the tent... 

Hi Teresa, I love the creativity and originality of the idea. In a
practical sense though, I’m not sure about it. When doing outdoor
shows, I end up reconfiguring my wall panels many times, even in one
day, to adapt to varying weather and traffic conditions, and my
neighboring artists. My back wall remains most consistent, but I’ll
sometimes even drop the top half down, as a flap, to help circulation
on hot days.

My side walls are always in a state of flux. If there’s a “big art”
in the next booth, the neighbor’s patrons will often step back to
look at the larger pieces, right into my booth, even to the point of
preventing my patrons from accessing my display cases. I don’t
generally mind someone standing in my booth admiring my neighbor’s
work, except when it prevents other people seeing mine. In this case,
and with encroaching or the rare “incompatible” neighbor, I’ll put up
the whole side.

Most often, and most ideally, I have the side walls configured as
half walls, from the rear of the tent halfway to the front. I’ll
sometimes pull up the lower, leading corner 90 degrees to the back
leg and clamp it there to improve comfort on hot days. If I’m lucky
enough to be on a corner, or the end of the row, I might do away with
the side panel altogether.

If you were to use come sort of pattern or scene I guess it would be
possible to reconfigure walls in a way that would still continue to
show the creativity. I’m not as confident it would work with text or
words, unless you’re committed to a fixed configuration for each

I have to wonder how show promoters would feel about painted tent
sides. Some promoters are much more stringent about appearances than
others. Some of the shows I’ve done have specified canopies must be
white (what about walls?), and another is known to reject applicants
based on their display slide/photo not being “up to standards.”

I don’t mean to “beat up” your idea… I really do like it. Maybe
with some thought I can come up with a twist to make it work for me.

All the best,
Dave Sebaste
Sebaste Studio and
Carolina Artisans’ Gallery
Charlotte, NC (USA)

This past weekend my wife and I attended a 450 exhibitor art fair
where attendance was estimated at over 175,000 people for 3 days. We
looked at all the booths and only 25 of them had business cards or
postcards, etc readily available to give to prospective clients. Many
did not even have a web site address on their handout
Even more ridiculous was that about 20 did not even have a name on
their booth!

These are marketing and business basics. If your clients or
potential clients don’t know who you are or have any idea how to
contact you, you only have yourself to blame.


This is in response to Scott L’s post about going to an art fair
with 450 exhibitors and only 25 had business cards or such readily
available. Doesn’t surprise me for a number of reasons. Most art fair
consultants have said to not leave the cards out for anyone to take
but offer one and write on the back. The writing on the back makes
sense because how many business cards have you picked up that you now
have no idea why? One of the other reasons that people no longer
leave cards out to be easily picked up is because there are just too
many people that “collect” them and it gets expensive. My personal
all time favorite are the teachers that tell their class that their
homework is to pick up a business card or postcard from every artist
at a particular show. That not only gets expensive but the kids come
racing into the booth just to grab a card. That pisses me off. I will
gladly give a kid my card but at least look at my work first! People
take cards who have never even looked at my work, just come in for a
card so they can send me something. It’s either for a show I’ll never
apply to or a web site offer I’ll never respond to or whatever. Ask
me if I’m interested and I’ll tell you whether to save your time and
money or not. Most unsolicited gets pitched without
opening, either snail or e-mail. Sorry, that’s another tangent.

Many artists don’t put web site on their cards because
either they don’t have one or they don’t want the address spread
amongst the general public. There is a huge segment of the artist
population who don’t have a web site and don’t want one.

Not having a sign in your booth is one I have never been able to
figure out. Makes no sense to me.

For me personally, I put out color postcards for anyone to take. I
have all my web on my card. I’ve always had a sign in my

Hello Orchidland, The comments about having a large poster(s) in
your booth is so right on. Here’s what I’ve done. Kinko’s can make
large vinyl banners (complete with grommets) with whatever you want
on it. They need a disc with your poster in Powerpoint, and the
size you want the banner to be. Mine has large photos of several
pieces, a picture of me at the bench, and the that is on
my business card. I like the banner because it is full color, rolls
up and is light weight, and easy to suspend between the poles of my
canopy. Check it out. Judy in Kansas Judy M. Willingham, R.S.
Biological and Agricultural Engineering 237 Seaton Hall Kansas State
University Manhattan KS 66506 (785) 532-2936

When I first started doing street fairs in the San Francisco area
great crowds would sometimes come to these things. It was often so
crowded that passersby could not see the display. A woman who was a
fellow exhibitor suggested to me that I put up a large photo or
poster so that if passersby could not see the display at least they
could tell that it was jewelry and if interested could return when
there was less of a crowd. It may be the most valuable tip anyone
has given me. Judy in Kansas mentioned Kinko’s as a source for a
vinyl banner. Does anyone else have suggestions? Not that Kinko’s
isn’t the place, but I’d like some options. I paid a local
professional photographer lots of money to reproduce an image on a
banner and the results were awful. He told me about his state of
the art equipment and not long after he did the work the backround of
one of the posters turned a ghastly green. Any suggestion would be
appreciated. KPK