Friday, January 6, 2012

A Look at Fiber Festival Preparations and Booth Design

This month I wanted to give you all an inside look at what happens at my homebase before a fiber festival. I do not simply load up the car and head out. I wish it were that simple. With a majority of my income from face-to-face sells, I put a lot of thought behind every detail, from what inventory to bring, to how to set-up my displays and even tagging everything.

Having participated in many festivals now, I have a better idea of what works well for me and what doesn't. However, no two festivals are the same. The people visiting aren't the same. What I have in stock isn't the same. You get the picture. Besides, if I went to various fiber festivals and saw the same set-up and inventory every time from a vendor, I probably wouldn't keep visiting them because I would already know what they have and if I were interested. Now, that's not to say there is a certain stock that I take every time like batts and roving. I just like to add something new to tempt you. 

For example, at my next Fiber Festival, Arkansas Fiberarts Extravaganza in December, I plan to bring hand-dyed silks and my new drop spindles. On one hand, I'm delighted to bring them because I am so proud of getting these finally out for sale. I've been working on the drop spindle designs for nearly a year now, testing weights, hook shapes, shafts, etc. . . To finally be able to put them in spinners hands will be rewarding. On the other hand, that means I need to figure out a way to display them in a booth that's attractive and accessible.

To begin with I start brain storming. In previous years, I have displayed drop spindles by hanging them on a tree of sorts. You can see it in the example below of my booth at Mid-Ohio Fiber Festival. It worked out well for my inexpensive beginner drop spindles. However, it took up a lot of space within the small 8X8 feet booth.

So off to the drawing board. I usually start off with a pen and paper (or pencil in my case). I take the space I'm given and create a square. One inch equals one foot in my models. It's really easy to measure everything else out then. Here's an example of my latest layouts. I know I'm going to have a table and a chair, plus some of my other displays. So I take those big items and start placing them within the space. Let me tell you, it's a lot easier than pulling out a table and moving it around.

Once I get an idea of what will work, that's when I make a Mock booth set-up. I usually do it in my dining room since it is the easiest to remove everything and it's large enough to accommodate all sizes of booths.

You also have to keep in mind that these items have to be able to fit in a car. I personally only have a 2002 Saturn. It's a midsized car with good trunk space. I don't own a trailer and I don't want to waste money on a U-Haul. Therefor, everything must be able to fit in the car. Knowing this, I try to make everything I use for display very portable and able to break down into small bundles. While attractive wooden shelves are nice, I personally want people to see my products not the shelves. Besides, if my displays get in the way of the amount of fiber I bring, that's money lost.

I use a wire shelving system that many vendors use. They are wonderful because they can be put together in numerous ways to suit your needs. They are very portable and inexpensive comparably. I know many vendors that use Grid Walls as well, but they don't fit comfortably in my car (or I would use these babies!). So when I looked at displaying the spindles, I tried using the things I already had on hand. 

First, I placed them in the holes on to see how that looked. Well, You can see the tops of the spindles, but only if they are on that second level. It's not very attractive and I could only get about 25 spindles per level.

Then, I hanged them up on the upper shelves. Well, unless you want to just see the bottom or side of them, this was not a good option. Plus, unhooking one to look at tended to knock the others down. Hmm. . .

 So after contemplating what I learned from the experiments: I want to see the tops, not hang them, and yet not add anymore display gear. I tried this option. I took dowel rods and placed them at an angle so the spindle was tilted towards you. It's easy to set-up, doesn't take a lot of room, the spindles are easy to grab, and you get a great view of the tops. I can also fit a lot of spindles using the vertical space between shelves rather than using a space that can be filled with something else.
This is a winner! 

Now, I'm ready to place products in the shelves. I also write up a diagram for that, too. Here's the beginner layout. It's a diagram of just the table with the shelves. You can see this was before I added the spindles. I try to place things together, like fibers in one section and yarns in another. You have to make the flow smooth from one product to another. No one likes to jump around to find what they want.

At home I can play around with where to put things rather than wasting time at the event. You usually only get a small amount of time to set-up and I'd rather spend it fine tuning display, rather than trying to fix a major catastrophe that could have been avoided.

Another good reason to do a mock booth is that you can count the inventory you plan to bring. It also allows you to repack everything in a compact manner for the upcoming trip. I know that all my fibers tend to get spread out as I create more and sell them online. Having to gather and pack it all gives me the opportunity to do some housecleaning.

So, here is my final booth at Arkansas. I actually had to switch the batts over from the right side of the booth to the left, since more people would see them from that direction. Once again, that was just one of those things the I tweaked based on the environment.

 The vintage ironing table was an excellent table for the register, business cards, and other information. It doesn't take up much room either. See the spindles displayed on the table. It worked beautifully!

I was most excited to see the wall of batts go up.  I usually keep them all organized in buckets. Having them out and displayed was very fulfilling. That's a lot of elbow grease on that wall!


Brandie said...

Thank you so much for posting this! I'm doing my first show in April, and this post is an immense help, especially with all the pictures.

Peacecat said...

Fantastic post. I am readying for another fiber sale and it's always a herculean task! It's nice to see your thought process and layout ideas. Beautiful batts, too!!