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Callie Beller Diesel

Favourite craft show tools and tricks

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Ok folks, so it’s that time of year when the craft show season is basically completely insane! This discussion was kind of getting going in another thread, but separate tips threads are always fun. So inquiring minds want to know:

What are the handy things that make your life easier for all the hauling, packing, selling, etc? What do you take every time, and what are the genius soloutions you’ve come up with for all the little things that come up?

Another poster mentioned the importance of a good hand truck or dolly, and I have to agree. It needs to be solid and have a large carrying capacity(7-800 lbs), and pneumatic tires (not the solid ones!). I prefer the convertible ones. 

I also am fond of using small sandbags or bean bags to prop bowls on, so people can see the inside of a bowl or plate at a glance. They’re compact and one size fits all, as opposed to plate setters. 

Lastly, I like Velcro strips to tame cords for the lighting displays, rather than zip ties. They’re reusable, and you don’t almost cut through your lamp cords with a questionable utility knife at the end of the show. 

How about you?

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Something super simple but took me years to think of is using little paper bags instead of newsprint to wrap mini pots in. I make 4 types of mini pots, used to wrap each one which was really time consuming, way faster just using little paper bags, especially when someone buys them in multiples.  I've started using paper lunch bags for mugs and things of that size too. (I still bag their purchases so they can be carried easily) 

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For me it's just being prepared for anything. I can't have a good show if I'm worried about structural things like the stability of my canopy. I take two toolboxes to shows. One has all different size of wood shims for my table legs plus a bunch of clamps. The other has tools- hammer, vise grips, side cutter, screwdrivers, allen wrenches, etc- plus more clamps, tent stakes, and straps. I also carry an assortment of cable ties from 4" to 18" which I don't generally use for anything except emergencies. Instead, I carry about 2 dozen clamps from little minis up to 3" which get used quite a bit.

A lot of what I carry gets loaned out to at least one neighbor during every show. Someone is always missing something, or something has broken or whatever. We've all been there. Two weeks ago a friend loaned me a small table for wrapping pots because I had forgotten to pack mine. It's good to have your neighbors in good condition, too, so everyone can have a good show and everything looks professional. I once cable tied a neighbor's canopy back together that was broken during a wind storm. Her tent was toast, but it made it through the show. I carry twice as many tent stakes as I'll need because I know someone else will need them. The last thing you need is your neighbor's tent blowing into their work (or yours). When things start breaking, the customers can't focus on buying.

I see of fair number of art fair people who have the attitude that it's a competition between artists, but I don't see it that way at all. Not everyone is going to like my work, so I'm happy to see them by someone else's instead. We all put our best foot forward and hope for good sales. If they're not buying my work, that's probably my fault for not having quality work or for picking the wrong show, not the fault of my neighbor. It's good for the art community for people to be buying anything. So I carry way more stuff in my tool boxes than I'll ever need just in case someone needs it.

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My favorite craft show "tool" is the well-honed avoidance that I apply in response to all such events that would directly involve me! My "trick" is...I run like the wind...far, far, away... anytime some well-meaning "fan" or advice-giver suggests I ought to (oh, you must!) do shows/fairs. Not happening.  If I could hire someone to pack & schlep everything from start to finish, maybe.  But, who am I kidding? No. Not happening.

More power to all of you who enjoy it (or even just endure, but always show up). I imagine the whole proceedure, being able to generate some revenue, meet people, show off your wares, etc. feels quite satisfying.  I admire people who have the drive to participate in such a dynamic market place. Maybe even have a bit of envy.  But not enough to join the club.  People keep trying to get me to change my tune. I just had a conversation tonight, at dinner with a couple of other craftspeople,  about "why" I won't be bringing my goods to the "big one" this weekend, and the one after that, and the three before Christmas etc. etc. Guess I'm the odd man out. Makes me twitchy to even think about being immersed in that much hustle & bustle. :rolleyes:

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I could write an page or two on this-maybe later when time is on my side

My 1 ton extended van changed my craft life  20 years ago.I'm on my second one now. The sooner you get the right vehicle the sooner your back will thank you.

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Lots of good tips above already. I’ll add another, which is to place a lot of importance on your shoes. All of your preparations are for naught if your feet hurt. There’s a balancing act, I want to dress nicely and look polished, but not at the expense of my feet. When I am facing a whole weekend on a concrete floor or pavement, I will put a small rubber mat in the spot where I stand the most. It helps a lot. 

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4 hours ago, GEP said:

Lots of good tips above already. I’ll add another, which is to place a lot of importance on your shoes. All of your preparations are for naught if your feet hurt. There’s a balancing act, I want to dress nicely and look polished, but not at the expense of my feet. When I am facing a whole weekend on a concrete floor or pavement, I will put a small rubber mat in the spot where I stand the most. It helps a lot. 

Waterproof shoes! Setting up for a show in the morning on damp grass, or when it rains, will ruin your feet for the rest of the day. I always take two pairs of shoes to shows. In the summer it's waterproof sneakers and some sandals, at fall/winter indoor shows it's waterproof sneakers and a nice pair of loafers. I also always have an extra set of clothes (socks and undies included) in my backpack with a hat and rain gear- jacket and pants. You never know when you'll get wet or someone will spill something on you or your lunch will end up on your shirt or whatever. Be prepared!

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damp soapy rags and dry towels.  that last show was messy with rain and mud and i know some of it will show up on my white shelves.  carrying a damp soapy rag in a plastic zip bag makes all the difference.  and dry towels are packed between pots in some of the boxes.

a huge bath towel on top of the big basket of small things keeps the drive quiet.  the soft weight doesn't allow movement among the little pots so  i can put heavier things on top without breaking the little ones.

 rubber bungee cords to hold the pvc pipe/concrete tent weights firmly against the legs so they do not get in the way.

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Awesome suggestions! 

I just have to add some extra love to the good shoes/mat to stand on idea. It can't be overstated how much pain this will save.

I also wanted to mention the importance of a good thermos. It is almost guaranteed that the moment you have a bite of your sandwich, someone will appear out of nowhere and need to discuss something about your work. Soup for lunch makes emptying your mouth quickly much less awkward.

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been making do with little charger packs and bringing a few fully charged alternatives for Square, but since starting in February we are going to be doing a once a month local I am adding a nice power station. Borrowed one for a few shows last year and they are really great and cover you on other emergencies like jump starts and adding tire pressure. I think they will also run small low power consumption fans.

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On 11/16/2018 at 2:02 AM, Mark C. said:

I could write an page or two on this-maybe later when time is on my side

My 1 ton extended van changed my craft life  20 years ago.I'm on my second one now. The sooner you get the right vehicle the sooner your back will thank you.

I agree with Mark; the most important tool of my business is me. Making the shows less physcially demanding on me is the priority. I love my Sprinter; no more bending over loading boxes, or dying when I get in a wreck and all my cargo ends up in my lap. Gemini Sr convertible cart for hauling stuff. Otherwise favorite tools are the different stabilizers, weights, etc that Ive made to keep my work safe when on site. I have at least 2 boxes of different clamps, straps, attachments, tapes, zip ties, tarps etc that like Neil said have saved my and my neighbors bacon a number of times. Boy scout's motto here for sure!

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