Craft Fair Display: designing upwards and onwards for a 5′ X 5′ spot

posted in: craft fairs, display, millinery | 0

One of my odder summer activities was putting together an application for a craft fair in November. For this show, the organizers (rightfully) want to see what a maker’s booth looks like: the craft fair display.  After doing a search online I can see that this is a common request for craft show organizers.  This application is for a special section of the One of a Kind Show, in Chicago. Etsy sellers who are establishing themselves, and have not yet exhibited at OOAK, are encouraged to apply.  So I did.  I’ve yet to participate in any events in the US.

image of FeltHappiness hats under a marquee - lots of hats and lots of room too!
Norwich Lanes Street Fair in Norwich, UK


And while I’ve done a few indoor fairs in the UK, along with a few outdoor ones, I had never done a show with such a small footprint. The sellers at the Etsy Pavilion have a 25 square foot space (5 X 5).  Does that seem small?  Additionally, there are no walls or separation between the artists-makers.  While I’ve shown at fairs without walls in the UK, I did have a bit more room.  Or maybe I didn’t. Perhaps, an 8 X 3 banquet table just seems a bit more conducive because there is the space behind it? Supposedly, the OOAK show is a tight squeeze for both sellers and shoppers. But a happy tight squeeze.  So, how to maximize space so that multiple hats can be tastefully taken in at one time?  And also be lightweight to ship to Chicago? Oh, and reasonably priced ….and within my skill set of making.  Lots of constraints.

This necessitated lots of brainstorming of thinking up ways to get height, as the ceilings at the OOAK are 8 feet tall.  I’m a rather rubbish Pinterest pinner, with the exception of sporadically pinning for clever ways to display millinery or other products that can be adapted for hats.  Hats just seem more challenging than jewelry. They are large-ish in size and do not always read as ‘hat’ without a context.

My husband thought of how lovely copper pipes look; but they are costly and heavy.  Instead, there are PVC pipes, which don’t  evoke fine, handcrafted, or natural items.   However, it seemed that these inexpensive pipes can be transformed to many shapes and uses beyond plumbing.  This, I learned on Pinterest.

pvc pipes


Hence, lots of faux blue-prints were drawn up not-quite-to-scale. Then, there was more measuring and adding up to see how many pipes were needed. They come in lengths of 8 feet.  A handy tutorial on the internet explained that they were easy to cut. We already had the saw and the mitre box/ jig thing that holds the pipe. PVC pipe is easily and quickly cut with a hack saw and jig and a foot to hold the jig.


saw for pvc pipe with jig


Then there was the issue of pretending that they were not pipes for plumbers.  There are now spray paints for plastics which can add texture and or color an lessen the plastic look. My laundry line transformed into a spray booth with help of cardboard boxes. We have loads that we keep around for drop cloths for painting the walls of our house.

laundry line transformed into a spray booth


Here’s a photo of the contraption,all painted and kited out, as seen from the side. Remeber: it’s a 5 by 5 foot space.  Clothes pins attach the hats to cord. It rather reminds me of a Francis Bacon painting.  The breeze makes a nice silent wind chime effect, and catches the eye.

hats hanging from cord, hung from pvc pipe


Here’s what the display looks like with the shed white-ed out with Photoshop Elements.

image of hats hanging from pvc pipes for craft show


Okay, it’s not brilliant in the photo.


What have been some of your solutions to displaying your hats, whether in your home collection or to sell at a fair?

P.S.: Found out on the 15th that I wasn’t accepted to the OOAK Show. Guess that was an educational exercise which can be used in future craft fair displays. Know that aspects of it would work well in another setting, so it wasn’t a waste of time.