Saturday, June 2, 2012

Stumble-Through on the Booth Set Up

The Entire Booth
I've sort of adapted my booth development process around the theatrical process...

When you're rehearsing a play, you start out in a variety of different ways, but eventually you start a process called "blocking", which is where the actors and directors figure out where the actors are physically positioned and begin working on fleshing out the dialogue.  Then you move onto "working" rehearsals, and eventually you get to a "stumble-through".  From that point, you keep doing the play over and over, tweaking bits and pieces until you can start "run-throughs", and then suddenly you find yourself in technical rehearsals, dress rehearsals, previews and opening...  It's an interesting process, and I like to think that my booth is heading toward it's opening but I'm not there yet.

Today, I did my first "stumble-through".  I had a plan, I knew where everything was going to go, and I decided to give it a shot.  Wow.  Did I learn a LOT.  Even without my stuff there to display, I learned a number of different  things that I need to develop in my "working" phase so I can eventually get to a series of "run-throughs" allowing me to practice setting everything up over and over and over until it runs smoothly.  By that time, I'll be ready for a "dress rehearsal" (which I may make into an invite-only trunk show) before I hit the big time and do my first real, upscale art festival.

Left Wall
Depending on whether I can get juried into one.  : )

But obviously, I have to work toward a goal.  I'm taking things slow, yes, but I believe that (much like a theatrical presentation) the opening night audience pays for the same tickets that the closing night audience does, so they deserve to see the same show.  I'm going to make sure I've got my booth ready for my first show.  And that's just gonna takes a bit of time to ensure it's right.

So my stumble-through was incredibly productive.  As I said, I learned a lot.  I've included pictures here of my initial endeavors.  My banners came in so I was excited about those, so I was very keen on doing a trial run this weekend to see if they were going to work.  Of course, I hadn't brought any of my stuff from storage, so there was only a handful of current projects in my studio that I tried to spread out as much as I could...  It makes the booth seem quite spare and empty.  But I'm workin' in baby steps here, so it was a good thing I didn't have it in my way...

Things of a general nature that I learned:

Right Wall
1) 8' walls don't measure 8' from the cross bar at the top to the stay bar at the bottom.  The walls themselves do, but the metal structure on the inside is smaller.  My 2'x4' grid wall panels were too tall, as were my banners.  Duh.  I hadn't thought that all the way through...  This caused some logistical problems I had to figure out...

2)  I need more practice putting this thing up. A lot more practice.  This was the first time doing it by myself, and I practically wiped myself out.  I have to get the "choreography" memorized in order to make it as swift as possible.  Otherwise, it will take me too long to set it up, and the shows will open around me, and I'll be a bad artist who won't be allowed back.  And wearing comfortable clothes, gloves, and sunglasses is a must.  Being in southern California, sunblock is a no-brainer.

3)  Marking the tent poles with permanent marker where the grid wall should go is a good idea.  I tried guesstimating, but soon whipped out the ol' tape measure to do it right. 

4)  Having a plan is a must.  I wouldn't have been able to progress this far unless I had already drawn out what I wanted over and over, asking for opinions and imagining how it would all go together.  A good director plans (generally) what he wants the audience to feel and understand when they see his show.  He knows the high points and the low.  Likewise, a person doesn't build a house without a set of approved architectural plans.  Don't "wing it" when it comes to your booth.  You'll think it's fun to organically develop things, but in the end you'll be frantically trying to get things done, and lose any sense of salesmanship you might have had because you're too tired from setup.  I learned this the hard way as my neighbors came over to see what was up, and suddenly I found myself explaining my work with the few pieces I had on hand in my studio...  I was tired, and it took a lot of energy to be "on".  Don't let this happen to you.

Things of a specific nature that I learned:

Back Wall
1)  I need to make my banners a smidge shorter than they are by taking 2" off the top and the bottom.  They're just a wee bit too long.  Good thing I have the technology to do that...

2)  I may be horribly particular, but I don't like how my gridwall overlaps.  I plan on shaving off three rows on the bottom pieces so they actually hang correctly without overlapping each other.  And maybe that's just an accepted industry standard.  But it drives. me. nuts.  Looks sloppy to my eye.

3)  I have a series of things I still need to purchase--a long mirror for above the display table, a rug, weights, more display heads, a marine battery, a tool box, clear crates for my product storage that will fit under my tables...

4)  I have a lot of things I need to make, too: an informational banner that I'm going to create that reminds people of custom ordering possibilities and the one-of a kind nature of my pieces, a fanny pack/apron for my "bank"that I can wear, and pennants for the poles above my business banner in front.

5)  I need to order more zip ties.  I'm gonna run out of the 1000 I already bought at the rate I'm using them...

6)  I forgot to put much time into my table display--a sorely needed aspect that I can't neglect.  I have to seriously ponder what I'm going to do there...  While it's the "fun" part for some people, it's frustrating for me--I was so concerned with the layout of the tent I hadn't really thought about what my table top was going to look like...

7)  I didn't even get around to setting up any electrical stuff, as I still need to get a marine battery and all the accouterments...  But I did realize that my Christmas tree lights that I purchased last year probably will run the battery down too much, so I need to get LED lights instead...  <sigh>...  That was disappointing...

8)  I made my sheer striped panels too long, and need to shorten them so they don't pool on the bottom stay bar in such an ugly fashion.

9)  I need a support rod for the top of my business banner above my entrance--I thought I could get away without it, but obviously I can't as the banner itself just isn't capable of being pulled taught.

10)  I need lights to show off the rhinestones of my neck lace items which will be on my table top.  The natural sunlight is too diffused by the transparent panel in the ceiling of the tent to be effective.  And I've read that "sparkle sells"...  If I'm going to use rhinestones in my items, I might as well show them off--I mean, seriously, I work in show business!  I gotta have my spotlights!!  : )  So I'll be investing in some lighting once I get my marine battery mechanism.  I have the stay bar for them (which I am also planning on hanging some of my recycled tin can mobiles from) it's just a matter of buying the fixtures and the lights themselves.

This was a very educational day.  I learned a LOT.  I put the fourth wall up on my tent and left is standing tonight, just to see if it would make it through the night and what it would be like tomorrow morning.  I don't want to go to my first festival and try that for the first time...  That sounds like a potential disaster in the making...

Anyway, it's done for now.  Time to turn my attention to the new mountain of work I need to accomplish to be ready!  Haha!!  If you see anything in my pics that stands out as something I might need to address (o ye sages of Artus Festivi) please let me know!  I'd appreciate the feedback now while I can still do something about it!  : )

And remember to Live Life with Relish.  After all, isn't that what it's all about?


  1. Corey, I have no experience with tent/booth display but I have a lot of opinion! First of all, well done. You've put in a lot of work and thought.

    I imagine your work requires a lot of "explaining" to interested customers. Imagine more people than you can handle all needing info at the same time. I'm wondering if you'll consider 1) a look book using laptop? or even something printed 2) information either thru' signage or brochure to explain certain aspects of your work in some detail questions you anticipate.

    p.s. your blog's word verification is like a fortress.
    I know you want a "circus" feel but I'm honestly not crazy about the buntings.

  2. Jane, I'm actually considering a brochure about my work for people to peruse and take with them. But your idea of a "lookbook" might be excellent--I think I could set that up on Flickr or Picasa or some such website with a slide feature... And if I make a QR Code for my clothing tags, people could automatically go to the site if they scan it in on their smart phones...

    Having put up the tent now, I can see that some form of signage with a nice "explanation" would be VERY helpful. I think you're right on with that suggestion! : )

    Regarding the bunting, I've received a LOT of comments on it, and most people are really liking it... I plan on suspending some LED Christmas tree lights in those positions as well for festivals that have nighttime hours... They might be a bit much, but I'm gonna give 'em a shot, and see if they're too much of a pain. I paid so much for them--each one is finished off at the bottom with a little metal "bolo tie" end. I may end up using them in different positions, but we'll see. : )


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