Road to Renegade (part 2!)

(photo via Market Day)

When I first started vending at craft fairs, the most perplexing thing to me was putting together my display area and tables. I don't know why this seemed so difficult, and I'm sure it comes naturally to some people, but I think that sometimes it was challenging for me to envision my space (and what would fit into it) and then figure out how to utilize that space to show all of my handmade wares in the best way possible. I scoured the internet to look for other vendors and see how they tackled their booth design, but didn't have a whole lot of luck finding answers to my questions.

In my experience, shows offer anywhere from a 6x6' to a 8x10' or 10x10' space for you to do what you want with. I'm pretty sure that for the first shows I ever went to, I just used two side-by-side card tables with a plastic tablecloth from the party store thrown over the top. That was about as far as things went – it probably looked like the college dorm room of craft tables. At the time, I hadn't seen other people's displays yet and it hadn't occurred to me that I could get a little bit more inventive or use things to build some interest.

Over time, my display items have changed and evolved a lot. I eventually accumulated this bin of things I'd keep for shows and I'd just take what I needed each time. (It wasn't always pretty.) So when I decided to apply for Renegade, I thought I'd give my display a little bit more thought. I needed an upgrade, but on the cheap. And I wanted things to look a little more consistent instead of the weird mix of whatever-I-had-lying-around plan of attack.

So here are a few things I've put together. It's simple, I used inexpensive materials, and it gives my booth a more cohesive look. For Renegade, I'll have a 10x10' space, and I'll be borrowing my sweet friend Erin's 10x10' pop-up tent. I'll be using three 6' folding tables, and I purchased some light gray canvas at JoAnn's Fabric to use as tablecloths. (*Note: You might be tempted to go crazy with your tablecloths and use bold/dark colors or busy prints, but just double check to make sure that that your tablecloth won't compete with the handmade items you're going to display. A lot of people tend to go straight for black tablecloths, but if your merchandise isn't light-colored, your stuff is going to get lost.)

I finally went ahead and purchased a vinyl banner for my booth. (I put together my own graphics and ordered from Wilson Graphics ... they seem to be the go-to shop on Etsy for custom banners.)

I purchased some stackable wire rack bins that were originally white, and also a white drying rack (which I'll use to hang some of my scarves.) I spray painted both the wire bins and the drying rack a light blue color.

And this is where Krylon became my best friend forever. I knew right off the bat that I didn't want to leave all of these items plain white, and spray paint became the perfect inexpensive tool that I could use to tie all of my booth elements together. I grabbed four cans of Krylon in yellow, light blue, orange and gray. I rounded up some clothesline and clothespins that I'll use to hang up some of my items (and also my banner.) And then I spotted this adorable tutorial on Made, one of my favorite sewing blogs. Spray painted clothespins!! Perfect. (I totally didn't even mean to use the same colors as she did, but those were the colors I already had! Funny.)

I attacked several other things with the spray paint. (Because it's dangerously fun.) I used the light blue again to paint the wooden base and top of my dress form.

And I couldn't stop there, so I spray painted some sticks from our yard and put them in vases in our living room.

And then I painted a chicken. I know, I know ... Jen, put down the Krylon. (My mother-in-law has an awesome sense of humor, and sometimes when she goes to garage sales, she'll pick up a ceramic poodle or panther or ... chicken ... and put it in our yard as a joke. So I decided to paint this guy for fun. He's not part of my display. I just wanted to take a photo of him.)

Anyway. A smart thing to do before a show is to do a mock set-up in your garage, basement or back yard. This is a great way to finally see what everything will look like together and to add/edit things to get your booth looking the way you want it to. Mask off the dimensions with duct tape on the floor or just set up tables and measure to make sure you're within your space limits. Figure out where your aisles will be and leave enough room for people wander in and look around. Don't forget to leave a space for you and your helpers to sit (and leave an exit space so you can get in and out of the booth without knocking things over.) Think about where you'll hang your signage – on the outside of your tent or hanging from the front of one of your tables (or both.)

More ideas for craft booth displays:

- paint a cool vintage frame and stretch it over some fabric to show off and hang small items (like jewelry)

- use small shelves, boxes, or other display items to give your tables a richer feel

- use different sized small fold-up tables or t.v. trays to add different levels of height to your area

- use table risers to lift your display up closer to eye level (these from IKEA are perfect and inexpensive)

- separate and organize small items in wire baskets, plastic lunch trays, thrifted wooden soda crates or colorful old suitcases

- use your own handwriting or type something up in a cool font and make up a sign that lists all of your pricing; display it in an old frame

- utilize quilt racks, small bookshelves and anything that can fold up or can be quickly assembled/disassembled

- make your own banner or sign out of fabric, stencils, your own handwriting, fabric paint, machine stitching, felt, embroidery, etc. (i think handmade signage adds character!)

- paint some pegboard, prop it up in your display area and use it to hang your items so people can see them from afar

- utilize chalkboards, easels, cork boards and whatever else you may have lying around at home to help enhance your space

- bring your own lamp to add a bit of lighting (if the show is indoors in a potentially dark building and you have access to outlets/extension cords)

- scout out props that relate to your craft at garage sales and thrift stores; collect things that can serve as storage/shelving

And last but not least, here are a few more awesome craft show booths to check out. Twinkie Chan has one of the coolest and most original displays I've ever seen – she incorporates a real retro fridge into her space! And check out this rad custom-built self contained print cart by Tugboat Printshop. Brilliant. And I enjoyed looking through this re-cap of some of the stand-out displays from Renegade in Brooklyn.

Hope this was helpful ... please feel free to ask any questions if I missed anything. And thanks so much for your feedback. (This has been fun!)


  1. you are officially a brand. GO YOU!

  2. You should take that chicken with you...good conversation piece to get people to your booth!

  3. Well, now I know what to look for when I visit Renegade - Chicago!! Can't wait to meet you!! :-)

  4. looks GREAT!! I so wish I could be there with you to spray paint stuff. Miss you!

  5. dude, bring the chicken. or get a golden poodle. spraypainted oddities are so in right now. and then bitches will be all, wtf? and then they'll buy all your wears. do it :)

    p.s. wish i could go.

  6. your table is going to where it is at!!your booth is going to be so great! :)

  7. when it come to spray paint, I can NEVER stop. It's like finding treasure for me, everything becomes new!! haha!

  8. Dude. Thanks immensely!! And have fun at Renegade! :) This is the most helpful first-display post EVER, hun! :) I'm hoping to do a few shows this winter, and the booth is a little overwhelming to think about, on-the-cheap. :) You rock, Jen!


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