Hello and welcome to the Hollyrocks End-of-Summer Outdoor Craft Show Survival Guide! I'm definitely not trying to sell myself as the reigning queen of craft shows, because goodness knows I'm still learning. But I've gained a bit of experience since I began pursuing a creative side business five years ago, and I always enjoy hearing tips from others as well as sharing my own in case anyone out there might gain something from them.
In a post I wrote for the Make:Tulsa blog, I spouted off my opinions on craft shows in general- topics such as how to choose the right ones, prepare, and display. But exposing yourself and your work to the elements can sometimes be tricky, so after a summer full of fun outdoor events I am here to summarize the things that might make your own experience more pleasant.
☀ PITCH A TENT! ☀
☀ PITCH A TENT! ☀
I cannot overemphasize how important it is to have proper shade when you do an outdoor show. The whole idea is that you will be parked outside for hours on end, but I've known people to become ill from too much exposure to the sun at outdoor shows. So for your own comfort and that of your shoppers, supply your booth with adequate shade.
☀ WEIGHTS ARE YOUR FRIEND. ☀
If wind is not a problem in your area the weights won't be such a necessity, but remember I live "where the wind comes sweeping down the plains" and I have seen serious damage done by tents that were not properly weighed down. My preferred method is a set of PVC pipes filled with cement placed at each corner of my tent. I zip tie or duct tape them to the feet of my tent and then tie fabric to the corners to decorate my setup and hide the weights. The fabric is a king-size vintage bed sheet that I bought for $2 at an estate sale and cut into four strips. It's nothing fancy, but it was easy, inexpensive, and the floral pattern looks lovely in the sunlight.
☀ BRING MORE THAN ENOUGH WATER. ☀
The organizers of the show pictured above, The Gypsy Arts Festival, were thoughtful enough to supply all their vendors with cold water throughout the day. However, you can not count on this so it would be wise to bring plenty of water to get you through the show. If coolers are allowed, you might even want to bring an ice chest filled with cold water and snacks to keep you refreshed and hydrated.
☀ USE HEAVY DISPLAYS. ☀
If you've never known the frustration of constantly chasing down windblown products and readjusting your displays, hopefully this tip will spare you the headache. The fixtures shown above are made of solid wood, and I added tiny rubber bands to the ends of each metal hook to keep the product cards from flying away. I don't recommend using flimsy displays for any show, indoor or out, but it is especially important to protect your work when you're exposed to the breeze.
☀ PREPARE FOR LOTS OF SUN. ☀
Outdoor shows can be so much fun, allowing you the opportunity to hang out in the sunshine, meet new people, and hopefully even get paid for it if you make good sales. But if you're not adequately prepared to be showered with the sun's powerful rays, your good times can quickly take a downward turn. Wear a TON of sunscreen and make sure to reapply often. Dress yourself in clothes that are comfortable and lightweight. I'm a big fan of cotton (that's right, this guide is so thorough you'll even gain fabric recommendations) and breezy dresses when I do outdoor festivals.
I've had some of my very best shows out in the fresh air and open skies, and I encourage any small business owner to give outdoor craft fairs a try if it's something you're interested in. Here's a printable checklist I put together if you think it might come in handy. And if you'd like to come see me at my last outdoor festival of the season, you are guaranteed a GREAT time at the Tulsa Mini Maker Faire this weekend! There will be all kinds of businesses, inventors, scientists, farmers, designers, and musicians ready to demonstrate and display their creations.
I'll be set up at the Make:Tulsa booth with a free craft project for you to partake in, so bring your crafty self to this event if you're in the Tulsa area and say hello!