Vintage Visual Feast Thanksgiving 2015

Every year, my favorite part of the holiday season is theme development in preparation for my Thanksgiving table . Similar to theme development for a booth display, the theme for a table should stimulate a visual feast of repeating design elements over and over.  

Thanksgiving 2015 photographed by photographer Philip Cohen
Photograph of the Thanksgiving 2015  by Philip Cohen.

My goal each year is to reinvent our Thanksgiving table and deliver a completely different and memorable experience. This year it was inspired by vintage 1950's/60's screen printed  fabric that I found in a secret, dusty, musty storage room at Direct Office Furniture in Harrisburg, PA. (Check out the Red Door Consignment Gallery for great furniture options at the same location.)
Fiklauf vintage fabric for our Vintage Thanksgviing Feast.
 Vintage Fabric from the 1950's/60's is marked "Filkauf Inherently Fire Retardant Fabric Screen Printed".

The screen printed leaf pattern and fall colors were perfect for a Thanksgiving table. To save time I fringed the edge. It looked great.
Filkauf Inherently Fire Retardant Fabric was vintage 50's 60's in fall colors

Long Thanksgiving table for 17 people A phenomenal stroke of good fortune, the fabric was large enough to cover the entire table for 17 people in one piece.  Photo left is before setting the table...   



The idea for the vintage theme began 5 months ago with the discovery and purchase of two "atomic era" (1950's) starburst candlestick holders from West Germany.Vintage atomic motif plastic candlestics from West Germany started our theme for Thanksgiving.

Atomic starburst plastic candlesticks from West GermanyYes they are a little weird but I loved the orange translucent colors and vintage atomic aesthetic that also reminded me of pumpkins. Then I had to find six more online. Amazingly, most of the Friedel Gesch plastic purchased online was unused, still with the original tag. Imagine, they have been sitting in a drawer for 60 years!

Thanksgiving 2015 031

Orange candles weren't hard to find. Adding small sugar pumpkins boosted the orange shapes and color  on the table. The sugar pumpkins will be cooked at a later date. 

Gold leaf glasses for our  Thanksgiving 2015 037These vintage Libby glasses from the 1950's with gold leaf design further repeat the leaf theme of the table cloth perfectly. I bought them for a past Thanksgiving and fortunately had about 20 of them. 



The gold plated flatware was my grandmother's from the 1960's. I remember when she bought it. I think she only used it once. Dishwashers and convenience-focused lifestyles really brought an end to gold leaf glasses and gold plated flatware. None of this is dishwasher safe.  

Gold plated flatware complete of Thanksgiving theme

All of the plates were from my collection of vintage dinnerware collected over the years. The colors were selected to match the colors in the tablecloth.  The plates sat on gold chargers to repeat the gold of the flatware and gold leaf glasses. 

Thanksgiving 2015 012

The floral arrangements were real fall leaves with the addition of some dried orange pods. Both the leaves and orange pods echoed the tablecloth leaf motif and colors.  

Thanksgiving 2015 001


Thanksgiving-Menu-2015Left is our menu card inspired by the vintage fabric tablecloth.

Dessert included a carrot cake with cream cheese frosting in the shape of leaves inspired by the tablecloth. It took a whole crew and hours of work . . . and topped off with a final touch of chocolate creativity to bring this to fruition.

Making our Thanksgiving dessert to match our vintage tablecloth.






The dessert crew made abstract chocolate leaves as the final touch.

Thanksgiving 2015 021

The photo below shows how you make the chocolate leaf shapes. 
Thanksgiving 2015 023
Just paint warm chocolate on wax paper, let them cool, and peel them off. 

Vintage fabric, dishes, glasses, and flatware with atomic candlesticks. 

Theme development with repetition of the visual elements works every time. Give it a try for your next holiday table or booth display. 

Previous Thanksgiving tables:

Many images of my Thanksgiving tables can be see on Facebook albums. 

Thanksgiving 2014 flower arrangements 003Thanksgiving 2014- Setting the Table



 Philip Cohen photography of Thanksgiving TableGelt, Gilt, and Guilt - Thanksgiving 2013



Thanksgiving a Visual FeastThanksgiving Visual Feast Giving Thanks





Thanksgiving with a mondrian inspired color blocks in red, blue, yellow and black  outline.

Thanksgiving 2012 was inspired by a Mondrian  color theme including the cake and cookies. 




Thanksgving birthday cake with sculpted cream cheese frostingThanksgiving 2011 followed a leaf motif including the drinking glasses and the cake with sculpted cream cheese frosting.









Thanksgiving 2010 was black, white, grey and chartreuse green

Thanksgiving 2010






Thanksgiving 2009 with a beautiful Thanksgiving festive table.Thanksgiving 2009 is  a traditional fall motif with leaf motif including cake and our drinking glasses with gold leaves. 








Thanksgiving in Black, Grey and SilverTHANKSGIVING 2008  was black, grey and silver. 


Art Adventures in Wonder Washington, D.C.

Adventures always start with a journey. After a 3,000 mile, cross country red-eye flight I arrived in Washington D.C.  exactly 6 hours before the fancy shindig opening at the Renwick Gallery.

WP_20151110_037My first goal for the day was to see my own artwork on display at the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Luce Art Center at the Smithsonian Museum of Art In this gigantic museum (right), I was searching for an area called the Luce Art Center.

The artwork on display in the Luce Art Center is shown on shelves to offer insight into the depth of the permanent collection in paintings, sculptures, folk art, and crafts.Harriete-Estel-Berman-Renwick-LuceFamous Selection from the series "The Deceiver and the Deceived" 

My metalwork was surrounded by the excellent company of other metalsmiths.

WP_20151110_012The acquisition number next to each object allows the viewer to look up information online. There were computers nearby if you wanted immediate access to information.  Information on my piece can be found at 1997.51.  A little they show only the back image of my work so maybe they couldn't tell the front from the back. I'll have to write to them and correct this mistake. 

Smithsonia Art Museum building
The Smithsonian American Art Museum is amazing.  The building is a dazzling combination of ornament and decoration that I never tire of admiring. The variety of collections and exhibitions is extensive. I highly recommend this as an art destination of the highest priority. Entrance is free.

Curators at the best museums have an incredible skill for the juxtaposition of artwork. In the portrait gallery "Shimomura Crossing the Delaware" by Richard Shimomura hung directly across from a portrait of Bill and Melinda Gates by  Jon R. Friedman on a painted blue wall.  This conversation between two paintings was worthy of discussion, but I had no one to discuss this with at the time.
(I snuck these images for your review.) 
Shimomura Crossing the DelawareBill and Melinda Gates








The opening of "Wonder" at the Renwick Gallery
started at 7:30pm.  My amazing art adventure in Washington, D.C.  was a marathon day. 

live statueThis was a festive, celebratory event beyond the usual craft/art opening. This is the first time the Renwick was open after a major two year renovation.

The live woman "statue" (left) was in a central location near the decadent chocolate desserts.


busts at the Luce Art Center at the SmithsonianIt  reminded me of the white busts I had seen earlier at the Luce Art Center (left) and the exhibition of Hiram Powers' The Greek Slave. 

Moving through the Wonder exhibition, each large room of the Renwick had a different installation by one artist. Everything was of a monumental scale which was truly wonder - ful.
Patrick Dougherty installation at the RenwickShindig by Patrick Dougherty

I loved each room and the artwork for different reasons.

Renwick wonder slider (5)Installation by Gabriel Dawe. Photo from Wonder Gallery Renwick  

The concept of craft and working with materials was expressed with radically different approaches by each artist/maker. This artwork looks like vibrating beams of light. It was far more intense than this photo reveals (from the Renwick website).  In person, at night, after a very long day, and drinking a strong vodka and orange juice far too quickly (for medicinal relief of thirst), the colored thread seemed to vibrate!!!!!!! 

Walking up the see more installations.Renwick-gallery-stairsStairs at the Renwick Gallery leading to the 2nd floor. 

This light sculpture Volume by Leo Villareal (below) hung high up over the stairwell.  


This light installation seemed the least hand made craft of all the rooms. The left photo was from the Renwick Gallery website by Ron Blunt.

WP_20151110_073The computer controlled lighting was dazzling like my rhinestone wallet, but it seemed a little glitzy without enough craft soul in this context. (Photo right taken at the opening with my phone.)  

Booker01_0 ANONYMOUS DONOR by Chakaia Booker Photo Ron Blunt

The tire sculpture by Chakaia Booker (above photo) had a demanding presence defining a completely different kind of implementation of hand made; it had a bold, gutsy, uncompromising strength. Made from radial tire detritus it invited the viewer to examine modern materials like tires that keep our society moving.

Now contrast the coarse and ugly tire material to a glass marbles installation by Maya Lin.  (below)Maya Lin installation at the Renwich Exhibition Wonder

I have seen many inspiring installations and artworks by Maya Lin, but for some unexplained reason, this room was not as successful. Perhaps it was too subtle in the excitement of the occasion.  A portrayal of cracked wall (?) seemed ironic considering the two year renovation of the historic building.

Another problem was that some barricade ropes prevented people from walking among the marbles glued to the floor (probably out of concern that a careless step might ruin the installation or risk their lives slipping). 



Move to another room...Donovan-detailThis installation by Tara Donovan is constructed from styrene index cards. I am still trying to decide what I think of this installation. The volume of new styrene plastic used to make these sculptures made me very uncomfortable, so uncomfortable that I could not appreciate  the visual impact.  I could not ignore the environmental impact of plastic, along with the production and disposal issues.

Saving the best for last. Two more rooms to mention...
Hand made "wallpaper" made entirely from insects. Even the red painted tint on the wall was made from crushed cochineal insects. 

Angus01_0In the Midnight Garden by Jennifer Angus  Photo by Ron Blunt from the Renwick Gallery Wonder website.

Angus-detailThe initial impression of a highly, decorated, hand made wall paper (perhaps consistent with the era of the building) was created from insects. I was told that the insects were farmed in Indonesia. Definitely, this room had a new definition for hand made.   




This installation by John Grade seemed the most "Wonder"ful of all. Grade01_0Middle Fork by John Grade Photos by Ron Blunt from the Renwick Gallery Wonder website.

An entire tree was recreated bit by bit into a gigantic installation that filled the room with awe. Each 1/4" rectangle of wood created a lattice resembling bark surface and tree silhouette. It was simultaneously powerful both close-up and far away.

Grade-detailMost of the photos in this post for the Wonder exhibition came from the Renwick website including the one to the left. At the exhibition, the tree filled the room so completely that I don't think an individual could look down the inside of the trunk like this....but it gives you a great idea of the scale of detail and form.

This was truly an example of the artist's vision combined with execution by hand to bring a grand inspiration to reality. Not everything can be fabricated by machine or created by computer. Sometimes it can only be hand made to create Wonder.

There was one more installation in WONDER by Janet Echelman that has no photo on the Renwick website. I can't say I know what to make of it.  At the opening, the ceiling installation didn't leave me with a strong first impression. I've seen her work at the San Francisco Airport as well and had a similar experience. She's been selected for such prestigious exhibitions as the Renwick and the S.F. airport, but these two installations seemed to be lacking. The airport installation suggests that some computer programmed lighting is supposed to be involved.  As is, the colored cord alone of these pieces look like scaled up versions of work by Ruth Asawa from 40 years ago. There is no surprise in how the materials themselves are used. The only wonder for me is why the work was selected, but tell me what you think.

Go the Washington, D.C. to see the show. Fill your heart and mind with inspiration on a grand and gutsy scale.

Go to see Wonder. 


Adventures in ArtLand

Every so often after working really hard, an artist's professional role includes going to an exhibition opening . . . maybe, even at some distant location.  When such events arise, I am often tortured trying to make a decision about whether it is worth the expense and time to travel to the opening.  

How should one justify the time and expense for going to an opening? I am not sure, but when my artwork is in a museum exhibition in New York City, the opening seems like something of a bigger deal . . . but the "adventure" is much scarier, more expensive, and oh so many thousands of miles away.  I deliberated with myself extensively, but when the curator said that I could stay at her house....I had to say "yes." 

Harriete-Estel-Berman-San-FranciscoTraveling by myself is a real challenge for me.  Serious effort.  I'd much rather stay at home, work in the studio and exercise until I fall over exhausted than navigate subways and trains or eat in a restaurant by myself. Two weeks ago, one of these art adventures tested my endurance -- and I survived. In retrospect is was an empowering experience.

Wayne-Theibaud-Painting-San-FraniciscoMy departure started at the San Francisco airport at 5:00 a.m.  However my not yet caffeinated mind spotted this painting by Wayne Thiebaud titled, "18th Street Downgrade" near my gate. The depiction of San Francisco's roller coaster hills reflected my heart pounding anxiety. My adventure had begun.  

Why go to an opening? Is it worth it
In retrospect, one good reason to go to an opening is to see your own artwork with new eyes. Instead of the humble circumstances in a studio laying on the work bench half formed, I saw my work installed magnificently and gloriously surrounded by powerful and interesting work by other artists.10 plagues 008

The installation of my artwork was just amazing. My quick cell phone photos do not capture the presence or atmosphere. 

Blight-10-plaque-Evil-Exhbition-ShotThe exhibition Evil: A Matter of Intent and the installations were truly of the best caliber. The organization, layout, and the lighting consistently enhanced the work.

Water-pollution-blood-10 plaguesIt is impossible to show how exquisitely my artwork was lit to enhance the intent of the work. The blades of withered grass on Blight-World Hunger (left) had extra shadows. Blood-Water Pollution (right) had watery red reflections (just like water) bouncing onto the wall. 

The vision brought to life by the  curator and the professional installation staff was evident. I've seen my artwork displayed many times in 30+ years....and I've come to appreciate the superior skills and evident expertise that museum and exhibition staff bring to bear on how to install artwork.  Their talents are all too often underestimated.

If you live in New York or are visiting in the next 6 months, I recommend making it a priority to view Evil: A Matter of Intent.

This week another adventure begins.  This time to Washington D.C. for the opening of the Renwick Gallery. Below is shot of the invitation that arrived in the mail. Gold embossed lettering on a thick square of dense cardboard. This memorable invitation seemed too special to miss. My cocktail outfit is ready in my suitcase.






Your Money Talks But Are You Listening?

Calculator-ASK Harriete-I-covered-EXPENSES
Passion does not equal profit.
 If expecting to make money, we need to separate our love for creative making from the down to earth reality of selling. 

The caution is to not let our creative passions cloud the realities of marketing, selling, generating profits, and avoiding loss.  

I will always encourage makers to make the best work possible. No holds barred. BE PASSIONATE. Work hard. Spend countless hours doing what you love.  But when it comes to making money and selling for a profit, that is when business principles apply.

Read the post I wrote for Artsy Shark: “I Covered My Expenses” and Other Forms of Delusion & Denial and see if "I covered my expenses" really means I lost more money faster than ever before and four days of my time.
Calculator-ASK Harriete-opportunity-cost
Have you asked yourself what is the "opportunity cost" when spending weeks making low cost sell-able, bread & butter items to prepare for a show?  What if you had spent that time making your most inspiring, most creative work without thinking about who might be shopping at a show and what their budget might be?  

Calculator-ASK Harriete-booth-showWhat about scheduling fewer art/craft festivals? This interview with Carrol Swayze is makes a lot of sense when you read "How a Hard Look at Business Changed an Artist’s Life."

Calculator-EXPENSES-ASK-Harriete-5buttonsAfter adding up all the true costs on your calculator for profit and loss, you might be saving yourself money doing fewer shows.




Over Supply, Reduced Demand = Downward Price Pressure

The Economic Stakes of the White Tent - Reduced Demand

The Economic Stakes of the White Tent - Over Supply



Identity Complex - Lost and Found

I just found out that my artwork, Identity Complex, is currently on view at the Racine Art Museum in Racine, Wisconsin.  The exhibition that includes my work is titled "Lost and Found: Featuring Kim Alsbrooks and Nikki Couppee."

IDcomples_leg72 Artists in the exhibition were selected from RAM's permanent collection including:  Boris Bally, Harriete Estel Berman, Jerry Bleem, Robert Ebendorf, Geoffrey Gorman, Tina Fung Holder, Judith Hoyt, Lissa Hunter, Esther Knobel, Keith LoBue, Karyl Sisson, Kiff Slemmons, and Anne Wilson.

So the question that I always want to ask participating artists is . . . "How did your work get to be in this museum's permanent collection?"

In this case, I can at least answer for myself. Identity Complex was purchased by collector Karen Johnson Boyd from a solo exhibition I had at Sybaris Gallery in 2001. 

Now many years later, I appreciate Sybaris Gallery for their confidence in my work.  It is regretful that such a supportive gallery has closed.

When amazing collectors like Karen Johnson Boyd buy the best artwork from an artist, they change the fortune of the artist. I am very grateful for the support by this patron whom I have never met. 

When generous collectors like Karen Johnson Boyd give their collections to museums, their gifts enrich the lives of many viewers in the public. 

Identity Complex Vanity Seat from recycled materials.

If you are traveling or live near the Racine Art Museum, I hope you will get a chance to see this exhibition.

Dates of the exhibition:
September 25, 2015 - January 3, 2016

The one-page exhibition guide highlights the theme of "incorporation of  'non-art' materials."  The found objects and materials used in the artwork "construct layers of meaning." 

Identity Complex Vanity Seat in the exhibition Lost and Found at the Racine Art Museum

Identity Complex Vanity Seat is constructed entirely from post consumer tin cans. Even what looks like a soft cushioned fabric seat with trim and a button is all metal.

Identity Complex Vanity Seat is a commentary about beauty in our society.

The legs have writing on the inside. The quotes recount the terrible comments I (or each of us) say to one's self when looking in a mirror. Messages from advertising and media create an impossible standard of perfection for comparison.

"Beauty magazines make me feel ugly."

"My breasts are too big, my breasts are too small."

"Big pores, dry skin, age spots and wrinkles." (left photo)

"My waist is too thick and I hate my thighs."


Under the seat, the internal dialog continues with a statement... 

Identity Complex Vanity Seat is art from found materials with social commentary about beauty
"Can’t stand that person in the mirror, Make me over, paint my face, airbrush my blemish, color my hair, botox my wrinkles, reduce the appearance of fine lines, erase the circles under my eyes, tattoo my lips, pencil my brows, masque my imperfections,  whiten my teeth, soft focus, perfect lighting, Am I visibly firm?  Is there an age defying complex?"


Photo Credit for all images in this post: Philip Cohen

18-Year-Old Model Edits Her Instagram Posts To Reveal The Truth Behind The Photos

What I Learned From My Halloween Costume

Looking through some old photos at my parents' house, I found old memories . . .  and remembered that long ago I learned a valuable lesson from my Halloween costume.
My mother used to make costumes (photo above) for my sister and me from crêpe paper because at the time it was very inexpensive and it could be sewn using a sewing machine like fabric.  Above I am wearing one of those costumes. (I am on the right side, my sister stands behind me to the left.)

One year . . . (succumbing to peer pressure conformist tendencies) I begged for a purchased costume like all the other kids had for Halloween. I wanted one of those costumes that came in a cardboard box -- with a mask inside. The lid of the box even had cellophane so you could see inside the box without opening it. I can still see it clearly to this day.

My mother caved in and the (somewhat out of focus) photo below shows me (on the right again) as some kind of princess.  My sister (left) was a clown. 

These photos also caused me to remember a profound lesson that I learned that day. 

My realization at 8 years old was that a store-bought costume was not as good as home made. In fact it was a flimsy, generic copy that wasn't unique or special in any way. I was so embarrassed that I had coveted this item so highly and then found out it was such a poorly made piece of junk and that anyone could just purchase and wear it without any creative thought or imagination.  There was nothing unique or special about this costume. 

Halloweens have been magical ever since. I learned that home made and hand made are better even with imperfections and mistakes. Anyone can buy a look-alike costume.  But when it is your idea and you make it yourself, it becomes a memorable experience and expresses your unique character.

This lesson I learned at the age of 8 has taken me a long way.   Perhaps makers are makers because they have had a similar experience.  Imagine . . . and make it your own.


Jen is wearing one of my past Halloween costumes. The hairy spider costume was intended to be good for exercising, but proved to be very hot.

MORE COSTUMES FROM THE PAST (in no particular order)

Dalmatian Dog (me) with two pint size firefighters1991


Ghost family 1988

Pumpkin son actually walked around with his head inside the pumpkin.

Everyone ready to Trick or Treat includes Pumpkin plant, butterfly and scarecrow.

Butterfly costumes on another day. 

My son ACE.


A new exhibition -- "Evil: A Matter of Intent"

The exhibition "Evil: A Matter of Intent" has opened at Hebrew Union College in New York City.  I couldn't be more proud to have my work in this thought provoking exhibition. The curator, Laura Kruger, selected two pieces from my new series, "10 MODERN PLAGUES." Berman-Water-Pollution-Blood-Plague-1920Blood - Water Pollution from the 10 MODERN PLAGUES


Evil: A Matter of Intent explores several questions.  Why does evil exist?  How is it manifested?  From whom or from what is it derived? According to the Hebrew bible and rabbinic teachings, all humans have some capability or predisposition to commit acts of evil, or what is known in Hebrew as yetzer hara. Philosophers argue that such inclinations are not inherently malicious, yet can easily become evil if not confronted.

In this exhibition, topics include the Ten Plagues, the Golem, the Shoah and the proliferation of acts of violence including genocides worldwide.*


Packing images and repair 064On the practical side of delivering artwork to an exhibition, shipping is always a challenge.  In this series, 10 MODERN PLAGUES, each piece presents unique challenges for safe shipping.  The left photo is a preview of my packing solution.   A more thorough examination of the packing will be the subject of an upcoming post on ASK Harriete.  It may be worth the close inspection because the Hebrew Union College staff said this about my packing . . .  "We are all in awe of your ingenuity in packaging. I had my registrar photograph them in situ."

Packing solution for artwork of Blood Water PollutionTo all the readers of ASK Harriete, I hope that if you are planning to be in New York some time during the next seven months you will make a point of going to this powerful exhibition. 

Exhibition dates: September 1, 2015 - June 30, 2016

I am going to the opening.
Will you meet me at the opening?

Opening  is October 21, from 5 - 7 pm.  

Berman-Blight-World-Hunger-Master72Blight - World Hunger  

Berman-Blight-World-Hunger-10 Modern Plagues

(Above and Left) These photos show Blight-World Hunger which is also in the exhibition "Evil- A Matter of Intent." 

More information:
Location: Hebrew Union College Museum
One West Fourth Street (between Broadway and Mercer Street)
New York City

Subway: N/R/W to 8th Street (NYU); 6 to Astor Place; A/C/E/B/D.M to West 4th Street

Packing details for shipping artwork to an exhibition.Hours: Monday-Thursday, 9 am – 5 pm; Friday, 9 am – 3 pm

Admission: FREE. Government-issued photo ID required.

Group Tours and Information:
212-824-2298 or

Evil-A-Matter-of-Intent-invitationArtists in the show: 

Andi Arnovitz
Debra Band
Harriete Estel Berman
Leon Bibel
Andres Borocz
Beverly Brodsky
Lynda Caspe 
Larry Frankel
Tommy Gelb
Linda Gissen
Carol Hamoy
Nathan Hilu
Ruben Malayan
Richard McBee

*Description of the exhibition from the press release provided by Hebrew Union College. When I go to the show, I will be sure to write more extensively about the exhibition.

Article about the curator Laura Kruger. "...she has stood alone among curators and Jewish museums, providing an often singular forum for emerging contemporary Jewish visual culture." Read more at the link below: Laura Kruger At The Hebrew Union College Museum

WANTED Better Display - Offender #8 CLUTTER

WANTED-BETTER-DISPLAY8-clutterThe 8th Display Offender is Clutter. What is Clutter? For a booth display it is anything that could distract a potential customer from purchasing your work.  It may be anything visible that fosters a less than optimal customer impression....not that you don't need the items, not that everyone doesn't have clutter ....but clutter should be eliminated from customer view in your booth display.



Clutter in your booth displayStorage boxes, suitcases, and credit card machines are clutter. Sure they are important, sure you need them, but they really distract from the quality of your work and your display -- and as a result, diminishes the customer's impression.

When planning your booth, a crucial tactic is how to hide the necessary clutter. Putting your suitcase anywhere that is visible in your booth is not hiding the clutter.  A charge machine and invoice tablet on a table at the back of your booth is not hiding clutter. I know you've seen it all and you don't need me to show you boxes of clutter.

Below are some practical examples
of how some people hid their clutter:

Emiko Oye hid extra inventory and clutteremiko oye stored extra inventory by changing the tile color on the floor to black, and covering her boxes with a black drape. It wasn't the best solution, but it still looked better than visible packing boxes on the floor.


Jonathan SpoonsDid you notice that Jonathan's Spoons had a tiered display on their counter top?  Jonathan very proudly told me how the elevated display conceals their credit card machine, tissue paper, along with everything they need to complete a purchase.

Beverly Tadeau booth Lots of people use the space under their cases for storage, but that doesn't work if you aren't using a drape for the open look, or if the drape is shear as in Beverly Tadeau's booth display.


Beverly-Tadeau-Concealed-Storage2Tadeau's solution was a diagonal drape across the back corner. Everything from a charge machine, to boxes and suitcase fit into that corner behind the drape.

Beverly Tadeau

Amy Nguyen beautiful clothing at ACC San Francisco Amy Nguyen had a beautiful display of her clothing. A table of extra inventory, postcards and a charge machine were concealed by a drape on the main aisle, but not concealed from the side aisle of the corner booth (right photo.) Amy Nguyen did not hide her clutter  completely.

Customers see everything.  Clutter suggests unfinished, unrefined, and careless. Hoping that clutter doesn't matter may give a subtle message to prospective customers that you don't care about every detail -- and they walk out, almost, but not quite convinced to purchase. 

Clutter is a "kissing cousin" to Offender #5 Inconsistent Display Materials" and Offender #3 TOO MUCH STUFF On Display.  Don't let these display offenders enter into your booth.... and steal your sales. Avoid Clutter.   


Wanted-Better-Display-Offender8-clutterYour Display is An Invitation To Walk Into Your Booth or Walk Right By BYE

WANTED Better Displays - Display Offender #1 Black Drape Booths

WANTED Better Display - Display Offender #2: Not Enough Lights

WANTED Better Display - Offender #3 TOO MUCH STUFF On Display

WANTED Better Display - Offender #4 Purchased Racks & Props

WANTED Better Display - Offender # 5 Inconsistent Display Materials

WANTED Better Display - Offender # 6 Pathetic Aesthetic

Personal Appearance and the Pathetic Aesthetic - Where's Tim Gunn When You Need Him?

Pathetic Aesthetic with Poor Signage - How Would I Know Your Name?

WANTED Better Display - Offender #7 "Butt Brush Factor"



WANTED Better Display - Offender #7 "Butt Brush Factor"

WANTED-BETTER-DISPLAY-Butt-brush-factorOffender #7 - "Butt Brush Factor" is a real and very well documented phenomena first observed by the famous shopping guru Paco Underhill, author of the book  Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping. 

It occurs when a merchandise display is placed right up to the boundary of an aisle.  Some may think that such a position would help force passing shoppers to look at the work.  BUT the opposite occurs.  It is far more likely to be pushing your customers away from your booth. Yep, your customers are leaving because they can't put up with the "Butt Brush Factor" when they are shopping.

Apparently, too many people have never heard of the "Butt Brush Factor" because I saw several display cases pushed to the very front edge of the booth.  

Here is a quote from Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping :
"As part of an early study for Bloomingdale’s in New York City, we trained a camera on one of the main ground-floor entrances, and the lens just happened to also take in a rack of neckties positioned near the entrance, on a main aisle. While reviewing the tape to study how shoppers negotiated the doorway during busy times, we began to notice something weird about the tie rack. Shoppers would approach it, stop and shop until they were bumped once or twice by people heading into or out of the store. After a few such jostles, most of the shoppers would move out of the way, abandoning their search for neck wear. We watched this over and over until it seemed clear that shoppers — women especially, though it was also true of men to a lesser extent — don’t like being brushed or touched from behind. They’ll even move away from merchandise they’re interested in to avoid it." - Paco Underhill, Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping

Jewelry-cases-pushed-into-aisleI witnessed the impact of  "Butt Brush Factor" while roaming around ACC San Francisco 2015. For example, a very forlorn looking booth with dark black drapes had cases pushed to the very front edge of the aisle.  (Actually, if you look at the photo closely it seems they pushed the jewelry cases a half inch into the aisle.) This had the appearance of shoving the jewelry cases into the customer. The customer will have to stand in the aisle blocking traffic flow.

In addition, shoppers likely concerned about over commitment took a wider berth or stopped briefly and then walked away.  Why? At least one reason was Butt Brush Factor. 

Sign-Victoria-Morre-long-sideAs previously mentioned, women in particular are most vulnerable to the impact of Butt Brush Factor. They will not stop and shop if they run the risk of people pumping into their behinds. When the jewelry cases are pushed to the edge of the booth, there is no place to stand except in aisle with people closely passing by. When a customer is  forced to stand in the high traffic zone, they will choose instead to just keep on moving. 

To eliminate Offender #7 - Butt Brush Factor, the remedy is simple.  Leave at least 12"-18" for the customer to tuck themselves into your booth and out of the aisle.   They can then inspect your work without the unconscious concern of being bumped. 

Booth-layout-narrow-gauntlet-over-commitmentButt Brush Factor can also be a display offender involved in the internal booth layout - the narrow alley trapping the would be customer in a gauntlet of scary over-commitment.  Once one shopper is  shopping in this narrow aisle there is no room for a second customer to navigate around.  Butt Brush Factor is another reason why this booth layout is less than ideal. Consider a different booth layout, larger booth, corner booth, or sharing a booth to create a larger common shopping space.


Other great books about modern marketing include:
Buyology Buying-In-Why-We-Buy

I have read all these books along with Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping,and think they are both entertaining and informative. I'd consider them required reading if you want to sell your art or craft effectively.

These books are affiliate links provided for your convenience. Clicking on these links could provide this blog with a few cents. Other options for finding these books are your local library.

Online book review from The New York Times about Why We Buy offers insight into the content covered in the book.



Your Display is An Invitation To Walk Into Your Booth or Walk Right By BYE

WANTED Better Displays - Display Offender #1 Black Drape Booths

WANTED Better Display - Display Offender #2: Not Enough Lights

WANTED Better Display - Offender #3 TOO MUCH STUFF On Display

WANTED Better Display - Offender #4 Purchased Racks & Props

WANTED Better Display - Offender # 5 Inconsistent Display Materials

WANTED Better Display - Offender # 6 Pathetic Aesthetic

Personal Appearance and the Pathetic Aesthetic - Where's Tim Gunn When You Need Him?

Pathetic Aesthetic with Poor Signage - How Would I Know Your Name?



"Uncommon Couture" - How Do I Decide About Participation in an Exhibition?

Artists and makers frequently have to make decisions about participation in shows, exhibitions or competitions. Depending on your experience, time and finances the criteria will change and evolve.

AskHarrieteOreoIMG_7919_web 1000x

Currently I have work in an exhibition titled, "Uncommon Couture" that just opened at the Florida Craft Art Gallery in St. Petersburg, Florida. I have other work in a separate show opening Saturday, September 12, titled, Body as Agent: Changing Fashion Art at the Richmond Art Center, Richmond, California. 

Recently with the up-tic in the economy, I am much surprised by the number of invitations to participate in exhibitions.   With each opportunity the question arises, "How should I decide about participation?" -- sort of like "to be or not to be" in each one.


One of my hard and fast rules about participation (actually my #1 minimum requirement) is insurance at the venue.  After much experience (good and bad), I have chosen this requirement as a measure of whether the sponsor has their act together.   The issues surrounding insurance have been discussed at length in several previous posts.  

“We all hope that the insurance coverage isn't needed, but it is just this guarantee to the artist that raises professional exhibitions above the lower level venues and events.  Participating artists are assured that their work will be protected with superior handling AND will have a "back up plan" (i.e. insurance) in case of damage.”

Red Hots Flower Pin by Harriete Estel Berman in yellow and red recycled materials.

The need for insurance at a show can be a "red hot" topic leading to heated discussions on occasion. This really isn't about whether you have business insurance in your studio. [Yes, I have business insurance.]  This is about a minimum professional standard in an event that characterizes itself as something above the day-to-day mundane -- is this a real "show" or is it just a hangout.

Totally-To-Point-Fuchsia Flower Pin by Harriete Estel BermanIn previous posts, I have gone on record saying "no insurance, no show. "Competitions or exhibitions that do not provide insurance are for the hobbyist/amateur level such as the county fair, a display at the mall or at the local library, as just a few examples."  In these venues the artist/maker assumes all the risk.   Often, these artist/makers are just beginning to accumulate experience in showing or selling their work. 


I understand that insurance is an expense that is getting very expensive. But in my opinion, every exhibition or opportunity needs to consider insurance as a demarcation of professionalism and a minimum accommodation to attract the best work. Providing insurance is a reflection upon the exhibition sponsor's expectation for the quality of work to be shown. 

We need to stand together supporting professional standards. No insurance, no show.

If you are invited to participate in any situation where you are sending your work to a location outside of your control, then you have a reasonable expectation that the sponsor will provide insurance.

  • Read the contract.
  • Raise the issues with exhibition sponsors.
  • Learn how to establish appropriate insurance values (in a future post.)

All of the images above in this post are currently at an exhibition "Uncommon Couture" at Florida Art Craft Gallery in St. Petersburg, Florida. Exhibition dates: August 28-October 24, 2015

Location: Florida Art Craft Gallery
501 Central Avenue
St. Petersburg, FL 33701

Silicon Valley from the California Collection at the Richmond Art Center

Please join me this Saturday at the Richmond Art Center at the opening for Body as Agent: Changing Fashion Art  5 - 7 pm, free and open to the public. 
2540 Barrett Avenue
Richmond, California 94804
Open until November 15th


OREO Unlock the Magic Bracelet in Yellow, purple at Uncommon Couture.Oreo “Unlock the Magic”
Retail Price: $530
Photo Credit:  Steven Brian Samuels 
at "Uncommon Couture"



Yellow Bracelet with orange dots, super thin.Reverse side: “America Online” dark blue & white address label.
Retail Price  $415.00
at "Uncommon Couture"


Red Hots Flower Pin by Harriete Estel Berman in yellow and red recycled materials.

Red Hot Flower Pin
Recycle post consumer tin cans & plastic.
Retail Price $535
at "Uncommon Couture"


Totally-To-Point-Fuchsia Flower Pin by Harriete Estel BermanTotally to the Point Flower Pin
Recycled post consumer tin cans & plastic.
Retail Price $375
at "Uncommon Couture"



Silicon Valley Jewelry from the California Collection by Harriete Estel Berman

Silicon Valley from the California Collection 
Three bracelets displayed in a custom made wooden fruit crate. Bracelets and fruit crate label constructed from recycled tin containers, 10k gold rivets, aluminum rivets.
Currently at Richmond Art Center "Body as Agent: Changing Fashion Art"

Additional work at  "Body as Agent: Changing Fashion Art" include: 
Santa Rosa Bracelets Bermaid Santa Rosa
Bermaid Santa Rosa Bracelets and fruit crate display

Recycled Fruit Crate and necklace from recycled materials

Recycle from the California Collection
Recycled Fruit Label from recycled tin cans BermanRecycledcollar72  Berman Recycled Bracelets from Recycle the California Collections

Pathetic Aesthetic with Poor Signage - How Would I Know Your Name?

WANTED-BETTER-DISPLAY-generic-signThe last several posts have discussed issues that cause Pathetic Aesthetic in booth display. Improving your display quality is a minimum requirement for success and this includes a sign identifying your name, or company name which will be consistent with your signature booth aesthetic. 

The white paper print out with your name & number identifying your booth (provided by the craft show organizer)  is NOT a sign. Sorry for the big bold scream (I'm containing a scream of frustration)!

Dinky photo banners at the back of your display do not create an inviting impression with that customer walking right "by Bye"  your booth.  How will they know your name?  Without remembering your name they won't even be able to look you up in the show map to come back when they are ready to buy. 

Your name needs to be up high and done in a creative way. I wrote a number of posts with inexpensive  ideas. The links are at the bottom of this post. 

Steve Rossman  (a reader of ASK Harriete) says:"I  owned a custom exhibit design and fabrication company for almost 30 years. When it comes to signage and messaging, I believe strongly that, for a small booth (8\' to 20\') you have something like 3 to 5 seconds to \"capture\" a prospective visitor. So signage should concentrate on 3 basic things...

  • Who you are
  • What you do 
  • Why visitors need to stop


It is time that artists and makers start being more creative than the standard printed banner.  But something in "good taste" is better than nothing. Here are a few examples from ACC San Francisco that include signs in their signature aesthetic along with a few comments.

Can you take these ideas, improve upon them and make them work for your booth?

Sign-Jonathan-SpoonsThe round white sign for Jonathan Spoons included their descriptive tag line "Wild Cherry Spoons." Though I still don't care for the black drape, the sign popped against the dark background giving it high visibility. The font and styling matched the other price tags in the booth. 

You might be wondering why I keep showing photos of Jonathan Spoons in my posts. Well there is a reason why -- they won Best Booth at ACC San Francisco 2015. They did so many details right, keeping a signature booth aesthetic in every detail.



Sign-Melissa-FinelliMelissa Finelli had a very eye catching sign that matched her business card exactly.  It turns out that the business card design came first, and then she duplicated it as a sign. Ironically, the vintage typewriter mistake styling with jumping letters that were faint and more precise felt very contemporary.

The one improvement that I would make is to put your name at the top of the sign. This way if there are a lot of people in front of your booth, or in the aisle, your name is still visible. When your name is low, it can easily be hidden by your own cases or even one customer.





Beverly Tadeu has her name at the top of the sign. That is good.  She added a short description "metalsmith" though I wonder if that could be improved upon for a more unique and informative description. 

Note that beverly tadeu's sign is done in lower case lettering, a current trend in font styling. I wonder how long this texting influence will last before it looks common and everyday ordinary. On a positive note, the earrings in the sign and the sign itself were large, going full length from the top bar to the floor.

What would I want to see for more signature sign styling? Amazing metal letters done in Beverly Tadau's signature style. The letters can hang from the bar at the top holding the drape. They could fit in one suitcase along with some touch-up paint.



Ealish Wilson and emiko oye put their names up high and on both sides of their booth. Good move! This way their potential customers will see their names no matter which direction they are walking up the aisle.

The rub off decal on the hard wall looks professional but Ealish Wilson in metallic lettering did not have strong enough contrast. As you can see in the photo (left) the silver lettering is hard to see. Either this should be applied to darker paint, or the lettering needs to be darker.

emiko used her trademark "reware" to reinforce this branding of her jewelry. If you do use a business name rather than your own name, it is important to keep reinforcing this alternative identity for your work.  (The question of whether you should market your work under your own name or a business name is another huge topic in itself.)

The mirror done in Legos helps reinforce the identity for emiko's medium - Legos. It is also intended to be a "selfie hot spot" for selfie photos when people try on her work. This way every photo will include the identity for "emiko reware" jewelry.

Our final example is Victoria Moore jewelry. She had three different signs in her booth as shown below.  I've condensed  the three signs adding arrows to point out the point of discussion.
Sign-Victoria-Morre-long-middle-side-arrow copy

Sign-Victoria-Morre-long-side(left) The left sign went all the way to the floor with a large image. Her name is at the very top. Unfortunately, the jewelry case was pushed so far forward it obscured part of the image.

Sign-Victoria-Moore-backThe center sign has larger text for her name in a brighter, higher contrast color that improves readability. This is a definite improvement. She has also added a "tag line" damascus steel jewelry which describes her work.

Notice that victoria moore is using the lower case text style on her signs. As just the third example of four example booth signs you can see that lower case doesn't feel like signature style any longer.

Sign-Victoria-Morre-shortThe right sign was an earlier version of her sign and is too short. With a much smaller sign her name seems tiny and harder to read especially with the pattern of the jewelry behind the lettering.  The image of the jewelry is smaller and less dramatic just because of the size of the sign. Despite the difference in size, it was good that Moore put a sign on both edges of her booth to capture the eye of the customer no matter which direction they are walking down the aisle.   

I'd like you to notice in the images that the cases obscure the jewelry image on the signs. This is because  the jewelry cases are pushed to the very front edge of the booth. It seems that many jewelers are trying this for booth layout, and it has a huge marketing problem called "butt brush factor." (This will be discussed in the next post in the series WANTED Better Display. )  


  1. Your name up high.
  2. Your name in high contrast lettering.
  3. Large lettering big enough or bold enough to impress.
  4. Your name in a signature style matching the aesthetic of your booth.
  5. Optional is an informative tag line or short description about "what you do"or "why visitors need to stop."
  6. Make your sign memorable.



 Window Dressing for Booth Display - YOUR Name on Display

Window Dressing for Booth Display - Hang It UP
Signage in the ACC Show Booth Display
Resources and Highlights for Remarkable Booth Display


Your Display is An Invitation To Walk Into Your Booth or Walk Right By BYE

WANTED Better Displays - Display Offender #1 Black Drape Booths

WANTED Better Display - Display Offender #2: Not Enough Lights

WANTED Better Display - Offender #3 TOO MUCH STUFF On Display

WANTED Better Display - Offender #4 Purchased Racks & Props

WANTED Better Display - Offender # 5 Inconsistent Display Materials

WANTED Better Display - Offender # 6 Pathetic Aesthetic

Personal Appearance and the Pathetic Aesthetic - Where's Tim Gunn When You Need Him?



Personal Appearance and the Pathetic Aesthetic - Where's Tim Gunn When You Need Him?


Wanted-Better-Display-6-iPATHETIC-aESTHETIC-appearanceThere are a couple more issues related to the previous post, WANTED Better Display - Offender # 6 Pathetic Aesthetic.
The first is a very personal, yet important component to the booth display aesthetic -- the artist's appearance.

Yes, YOUR appearance in your booth should reinforce the aesthetic signature of your display and your work.

At every art and craft show the appearance of the artist is very much a part of the story that your customers want to buy. The moment someone walks into your space, the artist/maker is playing a role as the creative individual that every customer wishes they could be. This is why so many art/craft shows require the artist/maker actually be there to sell their work. 

The artist/maker is always selling more than just a vase, plate, cups, clothing, piece of jewelry, sculpture or painting. You are selling the personification of the creative individual. YOU are the star of your booth! You are walking your own red carpet moment in your booth, yet too many artist's and makers let this moment slip by due to a disappointing pathetic personal aesthetic.

Where is Tim Gunn when you need him with his sharp eye?

O.K., runway couture is not really expected, but "for maximum impact the aesthetic of your booth display needs to align with your art/craft, absolutely 100% down to the last detail." This includes you. 

Almost any attire can work, but there are some definite do's and don't's. 

Artist attire should match the price range and style of the work.

David Guiletti at his booth at ACC San Francisco 2015 David Guilette & I had a pretty frank discussion about his shirt at ACC San Francisco.  The picnic casual plaid of blue and white did not match any other feature of his display nor did it reflect the price point of his work.  


Jonathan SpoonsThe Jonathan Spoons husband and wife team both wore the same brown shirts matching the burnt wood colors of their display. The individual utensils were mostly about $35- $50 so the matching t-shirt and tank were completely fitting in every way.

Wardrobe choices can't get any simpler than a t-shirt or tank, but it fits their booth perfectly. When walking up to the booth display, there was no question that this dynamic duo were there to represent and sell their work.

Artist/maker clothing style should match the artistic influence expressed in the work for sale.
Davide-Bigazzi-display-materialsDavid Bigazzi wore a white shirt that felt like a classic, European styling. This matches his technical background and the metalwork. 

WP_20150802_021emiko oye wore a contemporary white and bright combination to match her booth and jewelry.



Apron-logo-printedA potential customer should be able to walk up to your booth and identify the maker/artist/craftsperson immediately without confusion or hesitation. Other wardrobe possibilities could include an apron, dress or shirt made from the same material as the booth background, booth theme or display materials. 

It doesn't take much effort to align your appearance to the aesthetic of your booth display and walk the walk to success, but you have to think about it. It is a shame that so many sellers miss this opportunity to impress. 

Am I asking too much that your appearance align with the aesthetic of your booth?  No way! Your customers are accustomed to going to stores and restaurants every day where the employees wear clothing that matches the style of the store or venue.  High end stores to discount stores control every aspect of the retail experience. So should you.

Dial-up-aesthetic copyEvery aesthetic decision about your booth affects the customer experience and can move it from pathetic, to average, and into extraordinary. Using the words of Tim Gunn, "Make it work."  



Previous Posts in the series WANTED Better Display:
Your Display is An Invitation To Walk Into Your Booth or Walk Right By BYE

WANTED Better Displays - Display Offender #1 Black Drape Booths

WANTED Better Display - Display Offender #2: Not Enough Lights

WANTED Better Display - Offender #3 TOO MUCH STUFF On Display

WANTED Better Display - Offender #4 Purchased Racks & Props

WANTED Better Display - Offender # 5 Inconsistent Display Materials

WANTED Better Display - Offender # 6 Pathetic Aesthetic

WANTED Better Display - Offender # 6 Pathetic Aesthetic

The past two display offenders,  "Purchased Racks & Props" and "Inconsistent Display Materials" often travel with "Pathetic Aesthetic" to art and craft shows.

PATHETIC-AESTHETIC-LETTERINGExamining the situation closely, I'd say that "Inconsistent Display Materials" and "Purchased Racks and Props" are at least partially responsible for the mismatched, incoherent booth display offender that this post will label as "Pathetic Aesthetic." 


WANTED-BETTER-DISPLAY-pATHETIC-AESTHETICFor maximum impact the aesthetic of your booth display needs to align with your art/craft, absolutely 100%
 down to the last detail.  If every single booth assembly decision contributes toward this goal, the better your booth display and the more effective your booth display will be in attracting your customers.

The booth needs to be like a powerful magnetic field. It needs to attract an audience from 50, even 100 feet away.  Before your customer even enters your booth, your booth display has started "selling" your work.

Another issue is that "Pathetic Aesthetic" will be confusing to your customer.
 If they walk into your booth, and the display is not consistent with the work for sale, it is unlikely that they will fully engage with you or your work. 

Do you think that I am too critical of "Pathetic Aesthetic?"  Perhaps, but your non-customers are being even more critical when they walk right past your booth. They are too busy, too tired, or too uninterested, especially if they see a more interesting booth on down the path.   

So here it is ....your booth display has two jobs.....

Attract the customer into the booth......

Then keep the customer in the booth.... until they talk to the artist maker, look at the work for sale, and maybe even buy or at least pick up a card for a later online purchase.

What are the components of  a consistent aesthetic in your booth display?
It could be a decision about color, texture, motif, background drape, display props & displays, your floor, your cases, even your sign, the way you are dressed. Everything counts.

ACC Show 2013-electric-green-displayColor is a key indicator of aesthetic. In the image below from  Jillian Moore at the 2013 ACC San Francisco. The  Lime Green wall says trend, young and irreverent. Every color is acceptable....but they all send a message.

Colors do affect purchasesColor is specific to a demographic consumer audience and type of purchasing. There is so much information about the science of color.  I'd recommend considering your color choice to fit your audience. A quick study online can find lots of information including "10 Colors That Increase Sales, and Why." 

Texture can also be an aesthetic choice. As one example that I have seen on many occasions, Japanese Rice paper says "low key, subdued" aesthetic.


Looking for a motif for your booth might come from your work as in this example by Fobots. Funky chalk board paint with  hand drawn characters in white chalk have the same whimsy as the Fobots made from repurposed materials.



Background drapes should be background
 without distracting from the items on display. In the left photo, Fobots has a curtain that looked totally consistent with the booth aesthetic. I thought they must have even hand drawn on the fabric themselves.

Be cautious about a dark colored background. Dark colors to black drape need a tremendous amount of light to be a successful display, so consider lighting before taking this option.



Commercial-display-prop-finger-ringsDisplay props and racks often send a very "commercial" retail message.
"Purchased display props of any kind are synonymous with mall-style mass merchandising -- i.e. the wrong message in a craft booth about "handmade."  

Jonathan-spoons-lights-every-spoon-wood-displayCan you think about how to make your own display?
Can you make your own display from your medium?  Jonathan Spoons made their display entirely from burnt wood like their signature Niche Award winning spoon . They made their entire booth from wood, the same medium they use for all their spoons and utensils. Consistency created a strong aesthetic in the booth display.

Floor-white-tile-emiko-oyeFlooring in your booth such as tile or carpeting can create more of a defined space. It is kind of like crossing a threshold of graciousness into a space or environment, but it also becomes part of the aesthetic of your booth. In the photo left from emiko oye's booth at ACC San Francisco 2015, the raised dots in the floor tile echo the raised dots in the Legos she uses for her jewelry. Walking up to her display at ACC was a knock your socks off eye-catching experience.


Carpeting-grey-rentalIn contrast, the grey rental carpeting  (left) that I saw in several booths was not doing it's job. It was not creating an aesthetic experience nor the effect of a special room. This image looks like a super boring picture doesn't it. Well it didn't look any better in person. Skip the grey rental carpet.  

Your booth sign and personal attire are two more considerations for creating a complete aesthetic experience in your booth.
These are topics for future posts.

Previous Posts in the series WANTED Better Display:

Your Display is An Invitation To Walk Into Your Booth or Walk Right By BYE 

WANTED Better Displays - Display Offender #1 Black Drape Booths   


WANTED Better Display - Display Offender #2: Not Enough Lights

WANTED Better Display - Offender #3 TOO MUCH STUFF On Display

WANTED Better Display - Offender #4 Purchased Racks & Props


 WANTED Better Display - Offender # 5 Inconsistent Display Materials




WANTED Better Display - Offender # 5 Inconsistent Display Materials

A close cousin to the previous Display Offender #4, "Purchased Racks and Props", is "Inconsistent Display Materials." These offenders have the same DNA and often work together to rob booth displays of potential customers. 


David-Giuletti-booth-profileAt ACC San Francisco, I saw several booths with as many as 13 different display materials in one case or display. Rarely did I say anything to these display victims.

However the interaction with David Giuletti was different perhaps because we met at the Holiday Metal Arts Guild party last year. We entered into a conversation about display. David Giuletti said that "his booth was a work in progress." He wanted to hear what I had to say to improve his booth display for next time, and he bravely said I could use images of his cases in a post. 

Below are two  photos of his jewelry cases taken with my phone. These are not professional quality photos, but clearly show a number of examples of "inconsistent display materials." 


Between this photo (above) and the next photo (below) I count the following materials:

  1. A whitish background lining the bottom of the case (not sure if it is paper or fabric;)
  2. Brown textured leather;
  3. A light colored wooded block (similar in color to the brown leather;)
  4. Dark brown wooden blocks in three different sizes and thicknesses;
  5. Off white textured leather in two different sizes;
  6. Purchased acrylic ring stands;
  7. Dark brown leatherette (?) rolled ring stand;
  8. A lighter colored wood block laying down with wide grain;
  9. Different grained wood block standing up with tight grain;
  10. White fabric drape (?) for the back and sides of the booth;
  11. White signs were a different color white from the back drape.

Layout in the cases is an additional problem.  The inconsistent layout of the earrings and the chains lack organization. 


David Giuletti is a skilled engraver and metalworker. You only have to look at his work for a few minutes to see that quality -- but his display is lacking.  Unfortunately, I doubt that most customers will give the work in his cases that much time. They are going to walk right by because his booth display did not convey quality.

And though this post only featured David's inconsistent display, there were many other Offenders #5 at ACC San Francisco that had "Inconsistent Display Materials."  Examples (not shown) included:

  • Postcards used in the display (postcards are not display materials;)
  • Mismatched paper in different colors and textures;
  • Mismatched purchased display props that were not the same color;
  • Different color tablecloths (that had no relationship to the booth display colors;)
  • Mismatched signs.

To avoid display Offender #5, all the materials of your display props, display cases, drapes, and photos need to echo each other in both texture, color, materials, and aesthetic. The aesthetic aspect can be a matter of taste appropriate to your work but considering that you have one small booth, repeat this mantra "less is more." The fewer distractions from your work the better.

Below are some examples where the seller's display made an effort to provide consistency and coherent theme within the booth.

Davide Bigazzi used the same textured metal inside of his cases as on the front panel.Davide-Bigazzi-display-materials-booth
(Left) Davide Bigazzi;                          (center image) Looking at the back of his case;           (Right)  Sheet metal front to his case. 

Consistent use of display material may take on different approaches depending on what you are selling. Since Ealish Wilson was selling fabric wall sculpture, pillows and scarves, she had a custom wallpaper printed with her own design. It went up on the solid walls rented for the booth, but it seems likely that you could have your own fabric drapes printed with digital technologies if you didn't have solid panel backdrop.   Ealish-Wilson-wallpaper-backdrop copyThe image to the left is a portion of her booth.  The right half is a close-up of the wall paper. I am pulling back the edge of the paper so I could see that it was just like a big sheet of contact paper. (Ealish Wilson told me, " You have to be careful but you can indeed get it [the contact paper] back onto the backing paper to reuse it, because it's basically paper backed fabric it's more durable than paper ." )  Note how she used the contact paper/fabric to even conceal the seams in the rented wall panels. 

In another booth, Beverly Tadeu's display theme might be described as translucent white. She carries this theme through at many levels. Notice the white translucent scrim in front of her tables.
Her display props include translucent frosted acrylic on layers of white translucent paper and plastic.  In the photo below she pulled back the layers so I could see how she layered her table coverings. Beverly-Tadeu-translucent-layers

As shown (below) every display prop was frosted acrylic providing consistent theme to the display. This level of consistency is less distracting and helps the viewer pay more attention to the jewelry for sale.
There are a few more details that I would like to point out because details are what creates the impression of a well thought out display. Every nuance sends the message to the consumer that the work is as well designed as the display. First the color of the drape matches closely the background of her photos. Note also the necklace on the right "panel" and the elevated bracelet for high visibility to the customer walking in the aisle.  Maybe they will stop to look. 
Beverly-Tadeu-white-chairBeverly even had a white chair. Yes your chair counts. Another color and the chair is a distraction. You definitely don't want your chair to take anything away from what your are selling. And what your booth display is selling is more than just a piece of jewelry, a jacket or a vase. It is selling a premium experience.

Since Tadeu's booth focused on white translucency, she had no place to hide her clutter.  I loved her invisible solution which she is willing to share with ASK Harriete readers. Shhhh.....


Don't tell! Behind the photographic panel, cutting across the corner of her booth, Tadeu hid her clutter with a panel of fabric.

Clutter is a future Display Offender #8. Stay tuned.

Previous Posts in the series WANTED Better Display:

Your Display is An Invitation To Walk Into Your Booth or Walk Right By BYE 

WANTED Better Displays - Display Offender #1 Black Drape Booths

WANTED Better Display - Display Offender #2: Not Enough Lights

WANTED Better Display - Offender #3 TOO MUCH STUFF On Display

WANTED Better Display - Offender #4 Purchased Racks & Props





WANTED Better Display - Offender #4 Purchased Racks & Props


The use of commercial display racks and props just seems inconsistent in a craft show. Purchased display props of any kind are synonymous with mall-style mass merchandising -- i.e. the wrong message in a craft booth about "handmade."  Every aspect of your booth should resonate that what you are selling represents custom design, artist fabricated, and sold by one maker.  The entire booth design and aesthetic is supposed to reflect YOU as a unique, special, amazing artist/ maker....   So why, oh why would an average, off the shelf, mediocre display unit from a catalog occupy your booth?   

For me, this is an issue with no compromise.  Perhaps I should be more sympathetic for the use of commercial displays.  Perhaps people are sold the idea that they are professional or neutral solutions, but to me it sends a message that you're not quite a confident, unique artist/maker. Don't you understand who you really are and what you are selling? It makes me grimace and grind my teeth!!!!!!!

Don't-use-White-display-propJewelry is a common victim of this display offender.
It's taking a plain vanilla display prop as if from a commercial jewelry store, and using it to display your artist-made jewelry.  At a craft show, at that special moment of interacting with potential buyers, you are trying to differentiate your limited production or one of a kind jewelry from the local jewelry store.  So what is signaled by an average, banal display prop purchased from a catalog?


Wrong message.  Sure these are all fine for a jewelry store or consignment shop, not for artist-made craft. 






An equal opportunity display offender is commercial chrome clothing racks. These are too similar to the utilitarian clothing racks used in the garment district to wheel around mass manufactured clothing on the street. 



A purchased clothing rack sends the wrong message to the customer. Serviceable for working in your studio, but if you can buy that display rack at Bed, Bath and Beyond, it won't say my clothing is special for a craft show display booth.

Don't-use-grid-display-for-boothsThese were just a few examples. Craft shows too often exhibit many other display offenders including grids that clip together, or other "pop up" mechanisms.  A good rule of thumb is, If the display is purchased from a commercial catalog, don't buy it.   With a little effort, artists and craft persons should be able to "make" a display that attracts the eye and says "think different." 

Since, I did not take pictures of display offenders, let's look at a few successful display solutions for jewelry and clothing.

Frosted-acrylic-block-Beverly-TadaeuSimplicity without clutter is the current trend for the best art jewelry display Beverly Tadeu grouped work on frosted acrylic. Prices were written nearby. (More on her booth display in a later post.) 



Custom-display-Julia-TurnerJulia Turner created some height for her jewelry display with custom stands to hang necklaces and pendants.

For more valuable items she covered them with a clear acrylic vitrine to avoid commercial jewelry cases.

Her display was open and well lit.  White drapes looked elegant and clean -- consistent with her work. 



Simple-display-Emiko-oyeemiko oye grouped work by color. Variable height created a more interesting display. Only one of each piece is on display Extra inventory is contained within the chest of drawers seen in the upper left corner.



Paper-layout-melissa-finelliMelissa Finelli created a layout on plain brown paper. The drawing helped her keep track of whether jewelry had been picked up by the customer.

For clothing, I would like to feature the booth display by Amy Nguyen (shown below.)
Display of artist made clothing by Amy Nguyen uses a custom designed display.

 The booth had a custom hanging system using black pipe across the top of the pipe and drape.  

Amy-Nguyen-custom-clothing-displayFrom the top bar she used wire and chain running through black tubes for a straight, linear appearance. They told me the slim lengthwise black pipe was re-purposed from "abstracta cases", but I think you could consider black plastic irrigation tubing or other less expensive options created yourself. 

Notice also that the black tubing is different lengths which creates another level of dynamic interest. Long garments can hang higher. Short garments can hang from longer tubes. 

All the hangers match, and they even seem to have a longer "stylized" hook at the top of each hanger. This is just another small detail that says "I am special."

Every detail of your booth display counts toward the overall impression for the customer. Every artistic nuance of a designer's eye invested in your booth sends a subliminal message to your customer. This work is very special. Buy me.


Previous Posts in the series WANTED Better Display:

Your Display is An Invitation To Walk Into Your Booth or Walk Right By BYE 

WANTED Better Displays - Display Offender #1 Black Drape Booths

WANTED Better Display - Display Offender #2: Not Enough Lights

WANTED Better Display - Offender #3 TOO MUCH STUFF On Display