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shawnhar

Tow behind trailer for shows

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If I were going to travel 1000 miles to go to a 2 day show, how much weight rating do I need for an enclosed tow behind trailer? Pottery seems to get heavy fast. You can get a new GVWR 3,000# 6x12 single axle enclosed trailer for less than $3,000 local, would that be enough for all the booth stuff and product?

Edited by shawnhar

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What vehicle are you towing with and how much product are you intending to bring?

Personally, I'm a one woman show, so I have to be able to manage everything myself in a short amount of time without killing my body. My setup packs as compactly as I can make it, and designed it with lightweight and sturdy in mind. I can fit a 10 x 10' booth in my minivan with the back and middle seats stowed, with enough room for 10K of stock in Rubbermaid bins. You'd be surprised what you can get into one of those suckers. Tetris is a life skill, as it turns out. 

Are you at the point where you need more than that?

I believe @Mark C. has a full sized van, and @GEP also has a minivan. I have colleagues that have been experimenting with rental vehicles for a couple of shows because the stock they need won't fit into the hatch of their crossover.  

 

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I take everything in my Pathfinder SUV. It has a third row, but it's not a full size SUV like a Tahoe. I take about $7,000 worth of pots, plus my booth setup. Total weight comes in under 800 pounds. I take 7-8 tubs of pots, each with a mix of work in them. Each tub weighs 30-40 pounds. I find that if I only load small pieces into a tub, they get heavy real fast. By putting a mix of sizes in each bin they all come out about the same manageable weight, which also helps when distributing the weight evenly in the car.

Here's a ballpark breakdown:

Tubs of pots- 300lbs

Booth and sidewalls- 100lbs

Tables- 75lbs

Shelving- 50lbs

Booth weights- 160 lbs

Cooler- 30lbs

Bags and paper- 20lbs

 

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Trailers can kill pottery fast from lack of good suspension 

thats why most of us use the vehicle for the pots , the booth can be in a trailer

trailers are a hassle at shows as well

i have used 1 ton vans and in the old days 3/4 ton trucks

i think of a mini van as the smallest vehicle to use for shows

i also do some double booths as well

Edited by Mark C.

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We use an enclosed Hallmark trailer, single axle, electric brakes, tow with a Rav4. Inside is approx 8'x5'x 5'8 height. I appreciate being able to stack everything inside it, do a market and not have to unpack a vehicle afterwards. Some summers I do markets every 2 weeks, after a market we pack the trailer so the empties are right by the doors, re-fill those and leave everything else where it is. Don't go the great distances that Mark and others travel, but haven't had any breakage. I use thin foam wrap or heavy paper between pots. Before this we used a pickup with a canopy, crawling in and out of the back of that got old real fast.

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@shawnhar  I would not choose a trailer as my first choice. Especially if you are still in the early stages of your pottery career. Try to make it work with a car that doubles as an everyday car, such as an SUV or minivan. In addition to the lack fo suspension that others have mentioned, there are lots of show sites where space is very limited during load-in and load-out. If you are pulling a trailer, you are taking up twice as much space (which can get hairy when a trailer-owner doesn’t know how to steer their trailer). Trailers are also bigger targets for theft, compared to a normal looking car. I would not spend $3000 on a trailer. If you don’t have a large enough car, I would trade in your current car, plus put the $3000 towards a larger car.

I also don’t think 1000 mile trips are a good idea for the early stages of a pottery business. Very few shows are worth driving that far. I guarantee there are good shows closer to where you live. 

When you get to the point that you are doing this full-time, then it makes sense to think in terms of a dedicated van or a trailer, that you never need to unpack. Right now, the investment doesn’t make sense. And again, a trailer doesn’t really make sense for doing long distances with fragile pottery. 

Edited by GEP

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(Before this we used a pickup with a canopy, crawling in and out of the back of that got old real fast.)

Ain't that the truth-the truck crawl will tear you up over the years.

As to trailers I own 4 of them so I'm speaking from a little experience-pack well as Min says .

I have been to shows where trailers where stolen like 100$ bill loose ina wind storm.

My 4 are 1 enclosed -that now is just parked lockable container that hold all my spare booth shelves-a spare new in box canopy (if needed ever)and some chairs and spare weights.

I bought it used for $500

The other is a utility self dumping with high sides extra heavy duty for hauling whatever-it stends to be loaned out always. It has not be home in over a year.

Bought it used from maker for $500

Two boat trailers with boats on them-one spends the winter in a friends barn . The smaller 18 foot one stays home always with my smaller whaler it.

These two came with the boats-I had to replace the smaller one 6 years ago for $4,500

I think Gep nailed it in above post.Makes the most sense for you starting out.I agree wholeheartedly about not driving 1,000 at the start of this career.You live in a area that has millions of customers very nearby.

 

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Thanks for the awesome knowledge sharing!

 I have a 2003 Trailblazer and the cargo space sucks, so we were thinking of getting a trailer to haul everything around, and be able to leave the show stuff inside and use it as basically storage when not in use. I'm not planning on traveling great distances any time soon, but I would not want to get something that would be wrong for that, just thinking long term, not having to buy another one if the time comes we do want to travel.  Good to know the lack of suspension is something to consider, had not thought about that!  - And the load in/out is a great point, I've already seen how crowded it can be just for the couple of things I've done. 

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I did shows for over 10 years with a Subaru Forester. It can be done. I did some “tetris-style” packing (like @Callie Beller Diesel mentioned above) and also used the roof rack. I unpacked the car between shows. Most of these years were the part-time years of my business. Having a dedicated vehicle for a part-time business doesn’t make economic sense.   

Don’t think about it like “I need more space to pack more stuff” but rather “I need to design a display that fits into my Trailblazer along with X boxes of pots.” This approach to thinking will serve you well in many aspects of doing shows. Being organized and efficient goes a long way. So does being frugal. The Trailblazer is absolutely big enough. 

The right time for a dedicated vehicle is when your pottery business has supplied you with the funds for it. Until you reach that level, run your business as cheaply as possible. 

I traded in the Subaru for a used Toyota minivan when my business was full-time and the cost was easily affordable based on my business’s revenue. 

Edited by GEP

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I have made several changes to my booth setup over the last 5-6 years, with one of the main considerations being how everything fits into my vehicle. How attractive my booth setup is, of course, is very important to me, but that look is only accomplished within the constraints of packability and ease of setup/teardown. The hours spent before and after a show have as much bearing on the enjoyment of doing shows as sales do. It's exhausting enough sitting in the heat and rain all weekend without having to deal with setups and teardowns that take hours and beat up your body. My current setup only takes about 1 1/2 hours to put up (booth totally secured, awnings up, pots out and ready to sell), so I don't usually do Friday setups unless it's required. That saves me an afternoon of driving and working that I can spend in the studio, or with my family, instead. At the end of a show, I am usually on the road within an hour. That allows me to get home at a decent hour. I do a few shows that are 6-7 hours from home, and I have to get home on Sunday nights since my wife work Monday mornings and I have to take care of the kids. By tearing down quickly I can get home by 1am. I have friends that need 3 hours to tear down, which means they have to get a hotel room on Sunday night, which easts into their profits.

I know a lot of people who use trailers. They tend to have bulky, complicated displays that require a trailer or  very large van, and they don't usually do shows alone. It's handy to have an extra body when dealing with a trailer. Trailers are cheaper than large vans, but are much more difficult to maneuver on the show grounds. I'm not a huge fan of cargo vans, either, unless you're making the bulk of your money from doing shows, and can afford to keep and store a vehicle specifically for that purpose. Using your daily driver as your show vehicle makes a lot more financial sense, and there is a lot you can do within the constraints of an SUV. It's not very limiting if you get creative. There are a number of discussions here on the forum that show compact, foldable shelving systems that work very well.

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A good rooftop storage system can help with some items; I wouldnt put the heaviest things up top as you have to lift them up there, and unless you want to bring a stepstool along, its best for lightweight, bulky things.

I see lots of folks doing shows with a small suv/truck, but it all depends on how elaborate your booth display is, and how many pots you want to bring. Plus, are you bringing along a partner who needs the front seat; dont forget about a cooler, change of clothes,.....all the small things which do add up to a bit of space. If your pots are heavy, and you have a lot of them, all the weight of your booth, tent weights (need at least 50# per corner....at least for here in the midwest/east coast, maybe different for you), display, etc can reach the capacity of your vehicle. Plus, dont forget that the carrying capacity of your axle is one thing, but make sure the tires you have for your SUV have sufficient strength, especially if you're going to be overloading your vehicle's weight capacity. Overloaded tires, especially on long highway drives, will stress the sidewalls of the tires and cause blowouts; a D or E load truck tire, if available in your rim size, will easily handle up to a ton of weight. Like others said; when using an SUV for shows, it becomes tetris; heaviest things on bottom.

Personally, I bring much more inventory than I need for a show; if I plan on selling $5k, Ill bring maybe $20k in inventory; I bring as much as I can fit, because there will almost always be someone who wants "x" item, in "x" color, and if you dont have it, then you cant sell it (or ship it later..). I have a big sprinter van though, so I have the luxury of doing so. Plus I do a number of double booths, which I dont think Ive ever seen anyone fit a double booth (unless they are a jeweler, etc) into an SUV. If you end up doing shows full time, pick up a high top van; your back will thank you when loading, and it makes life a lot easier. Comes at a cost, so not usually an option for those doing just a few shows here and there.

However, an option to solve this is to rent; enterprise has both Transits, and Sprinters for rent, along with full size box trucks (same as uhaul), and other truck rental companies may have similar options. $300 for a weekend of rental is cheaper than a $3k trailer, which as it sounds is just a stop gap for you now, and cheaper than a $50k new van. It of course eats into your margin for each show, but it might be the best option if you want to dip your toes in.

I agree with the sentiments about trailers at show sites; I get really annoyed when someone cant drive their truck/trailer combo properly, and everyone else has to suffer for it. Seen some drivers who are pro's at it, and seen some who have a "dolly" where they can unhitch the trailer from the truck, and push/pull the trailer into a tight spot, and then park their car. Plus, many a shows you have to "pull out of the lane" so there is emergency access even while setting up. Sometimes you cant squeeze a trailer into a space.

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I don't do a lot of outdoor shows, but I can get everything in my Subaru Outback.  My shelves are designed to fold flat and fit.  My tubs for pots stack.  If I did more than the occasional outdoor show (canopy, weights, etc,) and needed more space, I like the idea of renting a vehicle. (Thanks Callie!)  Sometimes I have help for my shows but not always, so I have to be able to manage it myself.  I like the advice of starting small and seeing what you need.  Situations change as time marches on.  

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It's been my experience that upgrades are best made when they become necessary, and not when theyr'e just nice to have. It takes a surprisingly long amount of time to build up a business the way we're kind of obliged to, and using what you have in the moment is both very doable and a necessary mindset to keep costs under control. If your vehicle is working fine right now in a mechanicaland logistical sense, use it until it needs replacing. When you do need to replace it for either mechanical or logistical reasons, then consider what your needs might be in the next five years.

So far I haven't travelled more than a 4 hour drive for a show, and I did that because I had family I could stay with in that city while I tested the market. I began travelling for some shows earlier than my peers at similar stages in their businesses because I had the option of staying with family. I have an organizer that wants me to do shows that are farther out, but with my kids, I can't afford to drive a lot farther because then I have an additional 2 days of travel costs when I'm not pulling in any money. 

I too need to be home Sunday night so I can get the kids off to school Monday morning. I can't afford to be so dragged out by the time I get home that I spend the next day doing absoloutely nothing, so there's a lot of folding furniture and fabric in my booth setup. It looks good, it's light, compact and fast. Travel costs will kill your profits fast in the early stages, especially if you're spending days just travelling and not setting up.

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I wold never do a show that was 1000 miles away unless I knew for sure it would be stellar, and I could stay with friends or family. You'll have $250 in gas, 5 or 6 nights hotel, and food. For two of you to do that, you'll be in $800-$900 before you've even paid your booth fee. If it's a big show with a high booth fee, you could be in a total of $1500 in expenses. If you only sell $3000 of work, is it worth all that time and effort to make $1500? If you have a place to stay every night, and pack a big cooler with food (gotta be willing to eat a lot of sandwiches!) you can, of course, do it a lot cheaper. But that's still a very long drive for a 2 day show. If you could camp, or stay with family, and pick up a second show the following weekend, then it begins to make more sense IMO.

I do one show that is 700 miles away. It's a one day Saturday show, but I can drive it straight through by myself on Friday, and I have a place to stay there. I drive halfway home Saturday night and get a $60 hotel room, and I'm home by lunch time on Sunday. The booth fee is really cheap, I pack a cooler full of sandwiches and apples, and I know I'll sell enough to bring home at least $1000 after expenses, which is fine for a small one day show, and I still get to spend weekend time with my family.

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In my humble opinion I would just do a few local shows first before you make investments beyond the studio and booth. Go slow, you can lose you a$$ really quickly doing a few back to back out of town  bust.

I know plenty of people here make thousands and thousands of dollars at their shows and am not in the least trying to dispute that. These are potters though that have spent years, sometimes decades building up their show schedules. There are many, many shows where you will make no where near this kind of money, I mean not even close and that's where it gets real tricky real fast because expenses can get out of hand and its very easy to start justifying spending money because you think of it as an investment in your future. 

I think there is a lot to be said for bootstrapping an art business. If you can't grow it from it's own revenue then the focus can be on building that revenue but trading in cars and buying other things beyond the basic studio and booth itself can really be a recipe for disaster. Hotels and travel expenses at a show you end up doing under 2 grand at will be a complete mess. You will end up working for less than minimum wage at the show and by the time you total everything up you would have been better off staying at home and just taking a hammer to 75-100 good pots.

 

Edited by Stephen

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Been wracking my brain to think of what, in a potter's booth is "light and bulky" to be carried on a roof rack. 

Everything is heavy. 

Maybe tent poles and lightweight shelves? I have  4' x 12" kiln dried cedar overhead garage door panels for shelves that are lightweight, but most sturdy wood shelves get pretty heavy. 

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45 minutes ago, Rae Reich said:

Been wracking my brain to think of what, in a potter's booth is "light and bulky" to be carried on a roof rack.

When I used to have a Trimline canopy, I would strap the poles to the roof rack. A dolly or handtruck can also be strapped to a roof rack. 

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1 hour ago, Rae Reich said:

Been wracking my brain to think of what, in a potter's booth is "light and bulky" to be carried on a roof rack

Tarps, tent tops/awnings, chairs, lightweight shelving, rug for booth floor, any drapery one might add to their display, table cloths. There's lots of items in my booth, that are relatively light weight (less than 20#, compared to 50# weights, canopy, etc) and easy enough  to hoist on top of your car. Ive seen plenty of folks who have the strength to hoist their tent on top of the car (light dome, ezup, trimline, etc) as it takes up a lot of room in a car, but of course you need to be stronger to do this, and/or have a sturdy step stool and/or a partner to help you.

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4 hours ago, neilestrick said:

For two of you to do that, you'll be in $800-$900 before you've even paid your booth fee

For me, after doing 20-22 shows each year, for the past 6 years full time, Ive found that my comfortable level of profit margin for each show, needs to be above 60%. Otherwise, like you say, the expenses add up, and youll spend as much as you made. Its a numbers game! If I could get into cherry creek (likely make around $10-15k, and was ready to make that 30 hour drive, I dont know that I would, because like you say, all those expenses are huge. Plus, all the time you spent out of the studio, making no money (travel time, etc) is time you could have spent in the studio making more work. A friend told me once to add in an hourly wage for myself to deduct from my show expenses; $8/hr while packing for the show, travelling to/from, working the show, and unpacking. Add that to the rest of your expenses, and you make about 50%, which is the same as wholesale, and you dont have the risk of getting rained out,etc. Shows are great for what they are; exposure and instant cash flow, but for me, it is not my preferred way of making the majority of my income.

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38 minutes ago, GEP said:

When I used to have a Trimline canopy, I would strap the poles to the roof rack. A dolly or handtruck can also be strapped to a roof rack. 

I have also put a dolly on top of my canopy on top of my tables on the roof rack.:D

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11 hours ago, shawnhar said:

Thanks for the awesome knowledge sharing!

 thinking of getting a trailer to haul everything around, and be able to leave the show stuff inside and use it as basically storage when not in use.

This advantage might be over looked.  At one time I did 20 shows a year (not in pottery).   I could not have done this many shows without this trailer.  Currently I have a 20 x 7 Cargo trailer that stays loaded year round.  I keep pottery fixtures in it but NO POTTERY.    I preload the jewelry racks and haul them to the 2 shows that I currently do.  I would NOT be able to put all this jewelry out if I had to unload and hang it.  I leave everything associated with the shows in this trailer (as seen in pictures).   And if I think of something, I go get it and put in trailer.     This gives me weeks to get ready for this show.  As jewelry is made, I hang it in the trailer.    I carry the pottery in a cargo van, in a Yukon and some in the Silverado cab truck that pulls the trailer.    We leave everything in this trailer. 

Consider this option if you need storage and have a place to put a trailer.    The money would not be an obstacle to me and if I didn't already have it, I would buy one.    Also consider this can be a single expensed tax deduction.

Here it is.  Sitting here full of stuff that never leaves the trailer.     You could put everything in the trailer except the pottery.    Might do with a bit smaller trailer but then the extra storage is good.  I don't even have to think about "packing" for my 2 shows.  NOTE:  The loading ramp door, a feature that has proved invaluable.    We can pop stuff on hand trucks and just whisk things to the space or load on a dolly inside trailer.  Would I use it if I only had pottery?   Yes, because I would have to store my fixtures, tent, bags, wrapping paper, etc. somewhere.   A smaller trailer but it would save so much time and wear and tear not having to unload things.

 

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Edited by DirtRoads

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7 minutes ago, DirtRoads said:

The loading ramp door, a feature that has proved invaluable

A great feature when you have room to lay it down; most shows that I go to though, this isnt an option. Id make sure that I had a second way to access the trailer if my door was only a lay down. I personally like the hinged doors that hook to the wheel wells, and a ramp which is made to hook onto the trailer floor provides rolling ability should you have the room.

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