Most professional venues offer a simple pipe-and-drape booth service (a booth surrounded by a selected color of drapery), which is a practical option for
newbies, but it far differs from the seasoned exhibitor. Booth construction can make a huge difference
in your overall presentation and brand.
Indoor shows often have additional service fees for
things like electricity, WiFi, drayage (shipping), and
there may be load-in restrictions. Some venues require union laborers exclusively do all the work from
handling your work at a loading dock to bringing it
to the booth, and any work assembling your booth
that requires tools. If a venue allows carry in, you can
save time and money by using a knock-down booth
and carry-able furniture. Some shows have limitations on dollies (only two wheels allowed). It can get
confusing, so read the rules on your contract.
Shows featuring only furniture can be good; your
audience is there for furniture. But it’s important to
stand out, as competition will be stiff. If you are one
of 20 makers doing American Craftsman style, it will
be tough to get noticed. Your visual brand, booth,
customer engagement, and charm all come into play.
Higher-end craft shows with a variety of media
such as jewelry, ceramics, textiles, as well as furniture,
can limit people looking for furniture, but you might
be one of only a handful of makers exhibiting, and
you can stand out with a particular style. This also
can apply if you are selling cabinets or furniture at a
home show. Not everyone is there for custom woodwork, but you have a chance to make an impression.
Joining guilds, societies, or groups gives access
to larger shows that one would not be able to afford.
Groups such as the Furniture Society share space and
split the cost between the participants. Typically, only
one or a few pieces can be exhibited, but this can be
a great way to access larger shows and audiences.
You can also participate in a local studio tour or
host an open house, which is a great way to practice
before you go on the road. An open studio is cheaper
too—no travel or booth set up fees. Getting the word
out with good PR and a strong mailing list is impor-
tant. Often it takes a few years and an annual event to
build a reputation. Inviting guest artists to exhibit at
your place can increase interest and attendance.
Once you decide which show(s) to attend, there are a
lot of decisions to be made. Here are a few questions
that will help you define next steps:
• Do you need a booth with walls to hang products, like shelves or mirrors?
• Do you want to pay extra for a corner booth, or
one that is at the show entrance?
• What size booth do you need? I know a woodworker who shows with a quilter – he brings two beds,
which need a lot of space, but the quilter makes the
beds up and they create a cozy space together.
• Should you invest in a lighting system? Adding
overhead lights makes your work pop; if you do, make
sure it is easy to set up and transport. Don’t forget
arrangements for electricity.
• Do you need a special floor? Can your work
stand on grass, dirt, blacktop, concrete or carpet?
• What kind of ambiance do you want? Should you
play music or burn incense? Consider bringing fresh
The author’s own booth makes good use of lighting to
highlight the pieces on display. Art on the walls showcases
additional pieces not at the show.