The White Tent or the White Wall Feed

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 (left) 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 gray rental carpeting  (left) that I saw in several booths was not doing its 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 gray 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


 This post was updated on December 10th, 2021.


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.

This post was updated on December 10th, 2021.


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 are 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 to 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 an 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.

This post was updated on December 10th, 2021.











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 #3 TOO MUCH STUFF On Display

TOO MUCH STUFF! Yeah, wwaaayyy too much stuff on display is a visual offense. A real downer . . . especially to see multiples of the same thing on display.

This is just wrong at a craft show, . . .  but not at the mall. Why?

You know why.

At a craft show the audience is looking for what YOU have made, i.e. "handmade." While many items for sale may not be one of a kind, they certainly are not manufactured by the 1,000's or millions. People are coming to buy directly from the artists or makers who have created work that reflect the unique abilities of one maker, not a corporation.

At the ACC show I walked past one booth with 30 identical pendants hanging from a display on top of their display case.  What in the world is the point of that? The illusion of buying one of a kind or limited production vanishes on the spot. 

Multiples of the same item send the wrong message. It doesn't say artist-made, hand-made, or limited-production. It doesn't even say special.

Since a craft booth is maintained by the maker, if a pendant is purchased, you can replenish your display from inventory in a few minutes. This is not Macy's selling 100's of the same thing. 

Only one of an item should be displayed

The same principle goes with displaying too much inventory, over all. There were a few booth displays that had so much inventory on display it was overwhelming. Quoting one attendee: "There were a few booths I didn't go into because I couldn't deal with feeling overwhelmed. It is hard enough to go to the show and look at so much work, but if a booth felt  crowded, I couldn't deal with the quantity of merchandise."  

I did not take photos of the "TOO MUCH STUFF" offender booths to avoid embarrassment, but in contrast, here is a prime example of a selective and thoughtfully presented display. 

Among many booths with artist clothing, the display in the booth of  Amy Nguyen 
was my favorite.  Notice how carefully the jackets are organized by color. Each jacket hangs evenly spaced so there is room to look without even touching. The large photo in the corner frames the jackets with the glace of the eyes toward the clothing.

The clothing designer did not put out too much merchandise. It  might not surprise you that this was a deliberate decision on her part.

clothing  by Amy Nguyen on display at ACC San FranciscoWhen I admired their booth and asked if I could take a picture because I loved their display, my comment opened an entire conversation about how careful they were not to let their display get too crowded. They understood that their work was special and they wanted the display to convey that message.

They also had plenty of light directed on the jackets (which was the topic of the previous post).

Before concluding this post, notice also that the booth for Amy Nguyen did not use any commercial clothing racks.  This leads us to our next Display Offender #4 Commercial Display Racks & Purchased Display. 

This post was updated on December 10th, 2021.


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 - Display Offender #2: Not Enough Lights

The #2 Display Offender -- Not Enough Lights.
 These days there is no excuse for this display offender. The options for energy efficient LEDs and low heat lighting are expanding. 

The positive impact of effective lighting in your booth can be remarkable and rewarding. Yet during my visit to the ACC show, there were many booths with inadequate lights. And when inadequate lights combine with black drapes (as mentioned in the previous post), the effect was devastating. (I did not take pictures of the victim booths with poor lighting.) 

Look at any department store display and you will see that the merchandise is brilliantly lit using different kinds of lighting. Effective lighting can include both general lighting and spots.

If you think my insistance for effective lighting is expecting too much, consider the fact that consumers are accustomed to the best quality merchandising every time they go to the local mall. Lighting can even become a signature element of some high end shopping venues or restaurant dining. Poor quality overhead lighting correlates to bargain clothing shops and fast food. 

Aelish-Wilson-spot-lightsLighting that highlights your work on a wall attracts the customer into the booth. In the photo (left) Ealish Wilson used spots to light both her name and the fabric art on the wall.




Fobots-individual-cubbiesFobots by Amy Flynn integrated lighting into each recess of her display. This is very similar to how high end designer handbags has lighting installed (but concealed) in the store display.


Fobots-display-cubbies-with-lightingFobots (Found Object Robots) display also functions as a multi-purpose traveling case for storage that fits right into her van. 



Emiko-oye-lightbulbsLighting can also be an effective accent as in this photo (left) from a previous post from 2013 Display Ideas Remarkably Effective . Here emiko oye used hanging colored lightbulbs in her booth display to catch the eye. These light bulbs are not providing lumens but do catch the eye of visitors encouraging the curious to look in further.  





In other examples of superb lighting at ACC 2015, Jonathan Spoons took commercial lighting and modified the arms to match his booth aesthetic, lighting every utensil in the front of his booth. (Spoonwood, Inc. also won the ACC San Francisco Booth Award.) This demonstrated that expensive lighting fixtures aren't necessary, but savvy planning and preparation can win the day. Jonathan-spoons-lights-every-wooden spoon

Lim-table-lampIn her booth, Valerie Mitchell showed me an exquisite LED light fixture she arranged to highlight her jewelry laying on the table.

The Lumina light fixture (left ) has an arm that can swivel, rotating on it's minimalist stand. An additional arm can be added to the other side. (This is the light manufacture's photo but if I get an image from Valerie Mitchell I will add it to this post.)  



Lim-c-under-surface-table-lampThis light is also available as a counter mounted version. "The “L” shaped arm discreetly conceals an array of high-output LEDs with two intensity level settings, and it utilizes a magnetic attachment system for effortless adjustment."

I only showed this light as an example. It may not fit the aesthetic of your booth, but I loved the minimalist design that does not distract from the work. Great lighting can truly enhance your display.

One final point regarding booth lighting is to be sure that your lights do not shine into your customers' eyes. I noticed that several booths had poorly positioned overhead lighting and case lighting that was literally a blinding light and very unpleasant shopping experience.

This post was updated on December 10th, 2021.


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 Displays - Display Offender #1 Black Drape Booths

Retailing is a highly competitive market -- especially at a craft show. Not only are you competing with every other seller at the show, but also all the other demands on the customer's pocket, i.e. rent, tonight's dinner, or this summer's vacation. They don't NEED what you are selling.

I'd go so far as to say that most craft show attendees intend to only come & look. The craft show is entertainment and they are not committed to buying anything -- unless something really stands out and strikes their fancy.

This is where your booth design and display plays a pivotal role in the consumer's purchase. As mentioned in the previous post your booth is the first thing that people see.  If you think of selling as a step by step process, your display is the bases of their first decision whether they will look more  deeply at your art/craft. You can't sell anything unless the potential  buyer diverts from "just looking" and chooses to walk into your booth.

ACC-black-drape-like-caveAfter spending hours at ACC in San Francisco, I observed that the most fatal display offender was the foreboding dark black booths drapes.  Black pipe and drape is the funeral parlor "valley of death" for a craft show display. It is the Darth Vader of "dark side" display offenders. Black drapes suck the life out of even the most colorful craft. Black drapes behind beautiful black jackets are retail flat liners.

There is no pardon for black drapes. It is not sophisticated. On the contrary it was depressing. Of all the booths at ACC, their was one booth with black drape that was O.K. because the light colored wood furniture booth stood out with great lighting and the booth was at  least double wide (avoiding a dark cramped feeling.) 

Every other booth with black drapes looked like a cave.
The smaller the booth, the worse it felt. I am not exaggerating. Even though Fort Mason has fabulous ambient light with extensive sky lights, large windows and a high white ceiling, the black drape booths sucked the energy right out of the booth space and the craft work.  Fort-Mason-Windows


Booth-layout-narrow-gauntlet-over-commitmentThe claustrophobic affect of black drapes was worse if the booth layout had a narrow alley trapping the customer in a gauntlet of scary over-commitment.



Even brightly colored work could not resuscitate interest when so much black in a small booth extinguished the inadequate lighting.   

This leads us to the next "Display Offender #2 - Not Enough Lights" for tomorrow's post. 
P.S. No booths with black drapes were photographed at ACC San Francisco 2015 to protect the perpetrators of "the #1" display offenses. 


This post was updated on December 10th, 2021. 

The black drape rule still stands.

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

Summer 2015,  I went to the San Francisco ACC show with the express purpose of studying the booths and figuring out (if possible) what elements contribute to a successful booth.  I was curious if there was a way to diagnose what was a successful display and what was not effective in a craft show booth. Could a few simple principles be gleaned and generally applied? Alternatively, are there display issues to avoid? 

WP_20150802_030Granted, the difficulty of transporting and setting up a booth in a strange city can be a challenge, but most everyone is under the same time constraints for set up, needing effective low-cost booth designs, and the challenge of creating a booth display that is an appropriate aesthetic for their craft work.

Harriete-photographing-a-boothAfter spending several hours looking around and talking to many of the artists, I gathered lots of topics to discuss that are practically exploding out of my head.  There are numerous ideas that can be implemented successfully and recognizable "display enemies" to avoid.

Several makers at the ACC show allowed me to take photos of their booths to share their great booth ideas. And one super brave individual was willing to let me take photos of his booth display problems. He knew his booth was a “work in progress.” Clearly, his booth display did not reflect the quality of his work.

Over and over I saw problems in the display of craft work that could have been rectified on the spot, rearranged, or edited to better effect.  Just imagine if a "Tim Gunn" display professional gave a styling critique before the show opened improving display, retail sales and the quality of the show overall.  A few booth edits would have improved many displays to "Make it Work" much better.

craft show booth by Julia Turner at ACC san FranciscoA craft show display should be an invitation for the customers to walk into the booth. That is the crux of this series.

It is a terrible shame to see quality work in a booth display that clearly does not present the work favorably -- sometimes I even saw superb work with a really poor display. That is the greatest shock!

Pipe and drape becomes a dull and repetitive craft show display structureIt breaks my heart to see the negative impact of a bad display diminish a maker’s chance for success, yet that is the impact of poorly designed retail display.  A poor display is an excuse for potential customers to walk right past the booth.  

In contrast, a great display is a magnet attracting the customer into the booth. Engaging the viewer to look -- or even to buy your work.

This series of posts will discuss other issues regarding booth displays.  To keep it lively, Alison Antelman and I agreed to go to the ACC show separately and prepare our separate observations to debate and discuss what seemed to work well.

Stay tuned to this 2015 series on craft show displays starting with specific display enemies. 

This post was updated on December 10th, 2021.


Observations at ACC San Francisco 2013

ACCShow2013 035cu
Miss Charlotte Kruk speaking with ACC
seller Jillian Moore Booth 625.

On Saturday I dedicated hours to walking the aisles of the American Craft Council show in San Francisco, California with Miss Charlotte Kruk. Not only did we have each others company, but it turns out that Miss Charlotte had gone to the Renegade Craft Fair the previous weekend in the same exact building. (The comparison of the Renegade Show and the ACC will be a topic of a future post.)

In general, I thought this year's ACC show was better than previous years in many respects.

Before I even went to the show I was optimistic. For the first time ever, the ACC show was promoted on the local PBS television station and PBS radio. Bravo,this is a much more targeted promotion to the niche audience that would be interested in artist-made work.

1001_DesignAgencyCo_174The promotion for "Make Room: Modern Design Meets Craft" is just fabulous. This stellar idea gives craft an upscale design context. I hope they carry on with this idea.

This year's ACC seemed improved from previous years but, nevertheless, I'd like to review some constructive criticisms.

  • The designer rooms could have been bigger and included more craft objects. Some rooms had only one or two items from the ACC vendors.
  • It would have been nice to see a bedroom, kitchen, family room, or office instead of just living rooms. This would have allowed a broader range of craft media and objects featured including clothing, jewelry, cutting boards, lamps, mirrors, etc.
  • The displays also needed more lighting to feel brighter and alive.
  • Instead of placing all the "designer rooms" at the opening of the show, (where I rushed by anxious to see the show) I would have liked them to be sprinkled throughout the show. Perhaps placing the "designer room" next to the artists selling work in the show.

ACCShow2013 025
Yellow cube sculpture (in this photo) and red cube sculpture in the photo (above)  for Make Room: Modern Design Meets Craft by David Whippen, ShopFloor Design San Francisco.

More observations to share. Stay tuned for several post in the series about ACC San Francisco 2013 including stellar booth ideas, successful booth layout, display mistakes, signage, and a comparison between the Renegade show and ACC San Francisco.

Innovative and Fresh Display From Europe

In this post, I am thrilled to share images of booth display taken by Linda Savineau at "Sieraad", a yearly jewelry show in Amsterdam.   Linda was following the ASK Harriete series on innovative window display as ideas for booth design and offered to take these photos to share with the viewers of ASK Harriete. 

Linda Savineau lives in Aartselaar, Belgium. "Sieraad", a yearly show in Amsterdam held during the first week of November. "Sieraad" means "jewel" (in Dutch). She says, "It's a really good show, mostly European jewellers."

Unfortunately, we a missing a few names for the artists' work in the display, so if you know the work, or the show, please let me know.

Display by Anna Häggström & Rob Grootenboers
Presently called SMID/Stockholm
Photo taken by Linda Savineau


Display by Anna Häggström & Rob Grootenboers 
Presently called SMID/Stockholm
Photo taken by Linda Savineau


Photo taken by Linda Savineau


Silvi Dupont (Belgium)         Photo taken by Linda Savineau


Gu Weng & friends (China)     Photo taken by Linda Savineau


Photo taken by Linda Savineau


Alchimia (Italy)                       Photo taken by Linda Savineau


British Collective                    Photo taken by Linda Savineau


British Collective                Photo taken by Linda Savineau

Effective "Framing" For the Best Show Ever!

Hi Harriete,
I followed your advice about "framing" in my booth after reading the post Sticker Shock or A Real Bargain - It's All Relative To Framing. I extended my affordable line of yarn bowls and made a more expensive one.

I showed it at a show last weekend!"

"And the show was a great success!" 


"My best show ever!
I sold 82 yarn bowls including my framing piece."

"Thanks for the info on framing pieces! 
Next year I'll make 2 or 3."


Harriete response:


Good going on developing your niche market. Fantastic!  Now why only 2 or 3 framing pieces? Why wait till next year?

Your framing peices can perform multiple functions. This more special work will get you into better juried shows, and can help sell your work online as well. This higher end work can also develop into a more expensive and popular line generating more profit. And finally, the framing work will help create a more evolved artistic voice for your work and reputation as a maker. 

Perhaps a framing piece for every show is in your future?

SHOW MANAGEMENT is like Cultivating a Garden

Ever since starting this theme about craft shows and art festivals, readers have been sharing stories of chronic problems.

The vast majority of issues fall into one or more of four categories:

  • buy/sell merchandise
  • imported items competing with local artists
  • bad, sub-standard, low-quality displays
  • bad management

Each one of these categories deserves further illumination, but I am wondering ....How do these situations persist from show to show without resolution?

WeedingdandelionThe responsibility certainly lies with the craft show/art festival sponsor, but a bit lies also with the artists and makers. 
I see the situation as somewhat similar to cultivating a garden.  In a garden, some weeding and pruning are often required to promote healthy growth.  Likewise, our craft show participation needs to carefully cultivate what should be nurtured and what should be weeded out.  We are in control of our future, but only if we act accordingly.

PruningshearsArtists/makers can decide to decline participation in shows that do not have clear policies regarding buy/sell, imported merchandise, and minimum display standards. 

Examine show policies before applying.  Do not apply to a show that does not have minimum standards. Go one step further and write to the show organizer clarifying what you consider the minimum expectation. It may require pruning a show from your list of events for the coming year even if you made money last year. 

Do not support poorly managed shows with your money & time.

Pruning treeshearsThe same goes for show organizers. This job is not a popularity contest. Clear policies regarding the hot button issues of buy/sell, imports, and display are necessary. Just like cultivating a beautiful garden, strong pruning is often required for healthy growth. This includes eliminating sellers that do not meet minimum standards for selling studio-made merchandise in a reasonably attractive display and instituting policies that guarantee acceptance for top-quality sellers.

The limitations and clear expectations for show standards from both the artist/makers and the show organizers are important for a healthy future for craft.


Related articles:

6 STEPS to Craft Show Research

Responsibilities of Craft Show Organizers

Window Dressing for Booth Display Inspiration

This post was updated on July 1, 2022, to provide current links.

My Seasonal Stress Disorder: DISCOUNTS

DollargrIn early December, we are mid-stream in the holiday shopping frenzy including open studios and holiday craft shows. This could be the right time to bring up the important topic of discounts.

I strongly disagree with the premise of discounts for one-of-a-kind art or craft. Every holiday season, I whither like a dried-up fall leaf as I watch the art and craft world try to compete in a shop till you drop world of consumer discounts.

Ten years ago I wrote a document about DISCOUNTS for the PROFESSIONAL GUIDELINES. The opinions in this document were reviewed,  evaluated, supported, and edited by Bruce Metcalf, Board Liaison and Contributing Editor; Suzanne Baizerman, curator; Tami Dean, production artist; Marilyn da Silva, artist; Lloyd Herman, curator; Cherry LeBrun, owner of DeNovo Gallery; Marc David Paisin, Attorney at Law; Dana Singer, Executive Director of SNAG; Lynda Watson, metalsmith; and Caroll Webb production artist.  

HotbuttonRecently an article was brought to my attention titled,
Discussion: Are Promotional Sales Appropriate in the Art World?  This article chooses to focus on very important points regarding the issue. It is well worth the time to read the article. Jason Horejs actually combines several points under three headers.*

Here are the
Disadvantages of Discounts

               from the

Discounts can create disadvantages for both the artist and the gallery. 

A) Discounts create uncertainty about the VALUE of the artwork.  Discounting gives the message that the work was perhaps not worth its initial price, and may diminish what customers are willing to pay.  Thus, in the long run, discounting can erode value. By not discounting, a consistent value is maintained for the work.

B) Discounts create uncertainty about the stated PRICE of artwork.  If it is widely known that a gallery will negotiate prices, buyers will regard the posted retail price as fiction and will expect a discounted price as a starting point for negotiation.

C) Discounting creates the impression that art should be bargained for, like items in a flea market.  Many craftspeople find this highly undignified.

D) If an artist’s work is discounted in one gallery and not another, and buyers become aware of it, sales at the gallery that refuses to give discounts may be discouraged.

E) Discounts can encourage price competition between galleries, which is not in the best interest of either artists or galleries.

F) Giving discounts selectively may imply that some collectors are more important than others.  Many collectors know one another, whether or not they live in the same area.  If some customers receive discounts and others do not, word may get around and cause ill feelings.

G) When buyers negotiate for discounts, the discount becomes the object of discussion instead of the artwork itself.

H) Once a customer receives a discount from a gallery, he or she will expect a discount on all future purchases from that gallery.


Password Mezuzah © 2012
Recycled post-consumer tin cans
Artist: Harriete Estel Berman

In our society, price establishes worth and value.  For better or worse, the common denominator in the marketplace is the dollar, and worth is measured by what is paid.  It is the job of both the artist and the gallery to establish the value of the artist’s work (by virtue of its uniqueness, craftsmanship, reputation, and quality), and remind people that this worth is reflected in its price.

Berman Mezuzah Yellow Flower  from recycled tin cansScrollLEM
Yellow Flower Scroll Mezuzah © 2012
Recycled post-consumer tin cans
Artist: Harriete Estel Berman



The actual selling price confirms the value.  If the selling price is negotiable, then the value is questionable as well.  And then the discounted price is the true value, not the retail price.  As a result, it’s in every artist’s interest to maintain close control over the selling prices of his or her work.

More insights and remedies can be gained by reading both the article listed above by Jason Horejs AND the DISCOUNTS document from the PROFESSIONAL GUIDELINES.

Be aware of the impact of discounts on your work.  Approach the holiday season and the whole year with a firm understanding of the financial and reputation impact of discounts.  
*Read the comments (and clarification) below offered by Fiona Purdy.

This post was updated on July 1, 2022, to provide current links.

Holiday Windows Inspire Holiday Display

I just can't resist sharing these two holiday window displays that are the perfect inspiration for making your booth display remarkable.
Hanging ribbons with Price TAGS window display that is a fantastic idea for your holiday booth.
Holiday window for Macy's, San Francisco
It can't get much easier than making your own oversized "price tags" from cardboard and hanging them with ribbon. The slightest bit of air causes movement that catches the eye.


Ribbon fabric star would make a great booth display
Macy's window downtown San Francisco. 

Strips of fabric...really create a great window. The diagonal lines direct the eye. In this case, they used the entire depth of the window, but you could keep it flatter and it still works. The star is an effective motif for the holidays, but you could substitute an example of your work after the holidays.


This post was updated on July 1, 2022, to provide current links.

What's the Artist's Job for a Show?

Alison Antelman suggests artists ask themselves:
“What do you want the show to provide for you?" 
"What are your expectations?"
 "What can you do to bring expectations to reality?"
Art fair LATE at NIGHT by Alison Antelman
Photo Courtesy of Alison Antelman

Antelman continues...

AlisonSettingUpBooth in SantaMonica
Alison Antelman
setting up her booth at
Contemporary Crafts Market
Santa Monica, CA

Consider the amount of effort you will expend to prepare and exhibit at a craft show; the physical labor, time, and money involved; investment in the display, wear and tear on your display and tent, lodging and travel, food, and booth fees.  Well before you go to the show, it’s worth some thought about self-promotion.

While the primary responsibility for show promotion rests with the event organizer, artists and makers can play a significant role in making a show successful for themselves. 

Alison Antelman recommends that every show participant do the following as part of checklist months before and at the show:  

  • Provide amazing, professional-quality images for publicity of the work that you will exhibit.
  • Include image descriptions and photo credit
  • Include contact information for the artist/maker
  • Provide links, emails, and contacts for newspapers and blogs where the show promoter or their P.R. agency might be able to promote the show.
  • Provide short videos (no more than 3 minutes) about you and your work for promotion  (NOTE: this is new but I’ve seen the request several times recently)
  • Reach out to your clients in the area.
  • Be professional.
  • Be a good booth neighbor   

Harriete recommends that the better you are at reaching out to local newspapers, bloggers, or media contacts, the more likely you are to get a feature article. Two months before the show, look for local newspapers and online media writers. Don't hesitate to write a personal note including one amazing image along with a short description, show information, and booth number.


Metro Ring.
Metro Ring by Alison Antelman
18 k. &, tangerine garnet,

Yes, technically, all of the above should be done by the show promoter, but there is nothing wrong with a personal note (not a press release.)

In addition, if a writer contacts you, make yourself available immediately as a top priority. Your interview should be full of positive energy and excitement for the upcoming event.


Good luck with your next show. Create your own success with research, planning, and a fantastic display.

RELATED POSTS by Alison Antelman
6 STEPS to Craft Show Research

Resources for Craft Show Evaluation 

Responsibilities of Craft Show Organizers

What's the Artist's Job for a Show?

This post was updated on July 1, 2022, to provide current links.

Responsibilities of Craft Show Organizers

In this post, Alison Antelman offers her opinion on the role and responsibility of craft show organizers. She has been participating in retail juried craft shows for 12 years. She participates in 6 to 8 national juried shows per year, in addition to two open studio events.

Note: The opinions expressed by the author, Alison Antelman, in this post are hers and hers alone, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of ASKHarriete or Harriete Estel Berman. No endorsement or refutation is implied.
Alison Antelman in BOOTH with CUSTOMERS
Alison Antelman at the Bellevue Museum of Art Arts Fair. This show is actually held inside the parking garage. The show has very long hours (till 9:00 p.m.) because the garage is open that late! Make sure you investigate these issues in advance.

Craftfair by Alison AntelmanThe art festival/craft show sponsor establishes the flow and organization of a huge multi-level event. Many shows are run by non-profits, some by a city’s chamber of commerce, other civic groups, or even artists who want to create the "perfect" show. These events operate in a kind of partnership with the artists. They provide the venue, publicity, and crowds. The artists provide high-quality work to attract and satisfy visitors.

The two previous posts on ASK Harriete recommended that artists and makers do their research
before committing to a craft show/art festival. Below is a list of responsibilities for the craft show organizers.  

Most important a craft show or art festival should promote the event and individual artists including an image and link to each artist's website on their website. Advertising should promote the artists through print, television, web site, Facebook, and other social media.

Additional Event responsibilities:

  • Clear written instructions for artists before arriving with booth location, logistics, details, schedule, and useful tips
  • Organize and plan the move in and move out
  • Provide security before, during, and after the show
  • Clean bathrooms
  • Bring in the audience of potential buyers  
  • Provide the space and atmosphere that enhances artwork sales
  • Deal with problems immediately
  • Provide an artist listing and map of the layout for visitors to navigate
  • Make sure exhibitors are displaying the work represented in their jury images
  • In case of extreme weather, have a system in place for warnings. An example would be automatic phone calls with updates about storms.
  • Provide a survey at the end of the show for artist input

Some shows also provide:

  • Hospitality services for artists including daily lunch
  • Free beverage coupons
  • Booth delivery of water and snacks
  • Booth sitters (important if any artists are doing the show alone)
  • Hospitality location where artists can relax and have some snacks/food
  • Special events: This might include galas for patrons where artists are invited and expected to schmooze.
  • Awards, cash prizes, or acceptance into the next year's show.
  • Breakfasts, dinners, or receptions.
  • Links to lodging and special artist pricing for hotels
  • Parking during the show
  • Fashion shows, music, kids events, and other amusements
  • Incentives for patrons to become collectors and commit to purchasing a certain dollar amount at the show.
  • Artist Demos and/or lectures
  • Brochures with artist listing, images, featured artists, sponsors, map of show layout, and information about the show promoter/organization

AlisonAntelmanNECKLACEHanging Garden Necklace
Hanging Garden Necklace by Alison Antelman
S. Silver, 18 + 22k gold, tourmaline, rose-cut diamonds.

Thank you Alison for your words of experience. If the readers of ASK Harriete have any suggestions for the responsibilities of craft show organizers, please consider adding them as a comment. It is always good to hear from a range of experiences.

What is the Artist's Job Before an Art /Craft Event?

RELATED POSTS by Alison Antelman:

6 STEPS to Craft Show Research

Resources for Craft Show Evaluation


This post was updated on July 1, 2022, to provide current links.

Resources for Craft Show Evaluation

With over a dozen years of craft show experience, Alison Antelman shares her insights as she takes her own advice to prepare her 2013 schedule of shows with these Resources for Craft Show Evaluation.

Note: The opinions expressed by the author, Alison Antelman, in this post are hers and hers alone, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of ASKHarriete or Harriete Estel Berman. No endorsement or refutation is implied.

Alison Antelman in her booth at a craft show.
From Alison Antelman:

Participating in a craft show is always a risk and there are no guarantees, but you can at least weed out potentially dismal situations that are a waste of your time with these resources:


Greg Lawler's Art Fair Source Book is a great resource when you are ready to invest in craft shows and travel away from home.

Art Fair Source Book is a guide that lists shows by region, location, dates, and how they rate, for over 600 shows. There are many variations to choose from including region and ranking –depending upon if you are doing shows on the national circuit or just locally. The guide itself is a worthwhile investment that is better than wasting your time at a show with no sales.

Greg Lawler compiles information from artists who already participate in shows, he supplies a postcard questionnaire with free mailing that many show promoters encourage artists to fill out. The questions include medium, show income, style of work, and a place for specific notes that you liked or did not like about the show. The questionnaire can also be filled out online after the show. He depends upon artists filling these out in order to create the most comprehensive data for the rest of us to use for our own craft show research.

There are other guides and listings out there but in my opinion, this is the most comprehensive one that I have found. I have used the Top 300 national shows but now the information is provided as an online subscription.

Visit his site and ask him questions regarding what guide is best for you. You can also follow Art Fair Source Book on Facebook.
The information that The Art Fair Source Book provides helps you determine if a show is worth your time. This information includes:

  • Return on investment
  • Gross and net sales
  • Ranking from the #1 show on down
  • Notes of sales being up or down from the previous year
  • Ratings that will tell you how worthwhile the show is regarding distance to travel, from across the country, to 1,000 miles, to not worth doing at all.
  • Dates for deadlines
  • Show dates
  • Jury odds of acceptance into the show
  • Fees
  • Reproduction restrictions, if any
  • Notes are based on artist input. For example, the notes may say that move out is chaotic, or western wear sells best, or the show is well organized but there’s no electricity available.

 Network during downtime at the show. This is an opportunity to talk with other artists.

  • Exchange information with other artists about shows, expectations, and promoters, and ask about which is the best lodging.
  • Take notes and look up prospective options later.
  • Make connections and ask if you can email a seasoned artist at another time.
  • Don't be vague, ask specific questions that will help you make your decision.
  • Keep in mind price points and quality of work. If you’re talking to someone who sells under $100 items and your work sells for over $1000, you may require a different audience.

The process of finding the right shows is always evolving. Some get better, others worse. Instead of continuing with a show that’s been sliding downhill, re-evaluate each time, and don’t let habits be your guide. Let quality, not quantity be the primary determining factor.

Alison Antelman Grand Staircase  earringsOXIDIZED
Grand Staircase Earrings by Alison Antelman
oxidized silver, 18 + 22k gold, blue zircon, peridot, hand fabricated hollow forms.


6 STEPS to Craft Show Research by Alison Antelman

READ THE ENTIRE SERIES on ASK Harriete about the craft show marketplace:

The White Tent or the White Wall


Harriete comments:
The Art Fair Review Group on Facebook was recommended in a comment after the previous post. It has potentially useful discussions. The problem is they don't have enough of a sampling. Most of the craft show listings have no information at all. Only a few have one to four comments.

P.S.S. I love comments. If you have additional resources not recommended here let me know about them in the comments. ALL comments are published except spam.

Spam is NOT PUBLISHED. Spam has increased recently so all comments need to be "approved" before publishing. I wish it wasn't necessary to approve comments, but a few people with bad internet manners have ruined it for everyone.

This post was updated on June 30, 2022, to provide current links.

6 STEPS to Craft Show Research

This is the first of three posts by guest author Alison Antelman,* an experienced craft show vendor. Her first craft show was the Mill Valley Fall Arts Festival 12 years ago.  Since then, she has learned to investigate prior to craft show participation and use her years of open studio experience to help her assess shows and select the most successful events.

Alison in booth at main st fort worth arts festival
Alison Antelman at Main Street Fort Worth Arts Festival

FROM Alison Antelman:

There are many different ways to run your craft business, including selling online, through galleries, or via wholesale and retail shows. In this series of guest posts, I will be focusing on juried retail craft shows. Today’s post will discuss 6 steps of craft show research.

Experience has taught me that craft show research saves time & money. If you’ve never sold at a craft show before, I recommend that your first experience should be at a local venue.

Where to start? A summary...
Every time you consider participating in a new craft show venue do the following (before you apply):

  1. View the show website.
  2. Visit the show.
  3. Walk the aisles.
  4. Discuss the show with other artists.
  5. Investigate show organization & promotion.
  6. Get a brochure/guide to the show. 

Where to start? The details...

1. View the show website:

  • Look at the list of last year's artists, particularly in your medium, then look at the individual artist’s websites and their list of events.
  • Do you like what you see?
  • What are the price points?
  • Is there anything that is of a similar type/range to what you make and sell?
  • Email past participants asking about the show.
  • Remember to tell them who you are and be gracious when asking a stranger for advice.
  • Show participants are usually willing to share information.

2. Visit the show
Some shows will give you a free pass if you tell them you are a prospective vendor.  This tells you something about the promoters.  American Craft Council usually obliges with this request for their shows. The Paradise City Art Festival was not so generous and I didn't end up going (although I was in the area visiting.)

3. Walk down the aisles

  • How does the overall setup of booths look?
  • Is the layout easy to navigate?
  • What does the work look like?
  • Review quality. Are there t-shirts and items made from purchased parts or is it primarily artist made?

4. Discuss the show with other artists

  • Talk to the artists and ask them about their work. The artist’s attitude at a show can be very telling. Do they seem happy? or angry?
  • Always remember when chatting with an artist to step out of the way when they're doing business.  They are there to sell their work.

5. Investigate show organization & promotion.

  • How many years has the show been in existence?
  • What is their potential attendance based on previous years (e.g. 300,000 is huge)? If they promise 5,000 then the clientele must be very specially interested because that is extremely small.
  • In the end, it's about the quality of the audience.
  • What are the specs on setup? If it’s the day of the show then you must make sure to have the necessary time you need to set up along with a change of clothes to convert from roadie to salesperson.
  • Where and how do they advertise and how far is the reach?
  • Do they offer any services to patrons or to artists?

6. Get a brochure/guide to the show.

  • I have one artist friend who brings me the guides to every show he does.
  • More resources for craft show guides in a future post on ASK Harriete.

Reassess Every Year:
I reassess the shows I’ve done and revisit others. It's a constant cycle that depends upon the economy, weather, audience, and even some luck.

It's important to apply to more shows than you plan to do since juried shows change their juries each year and you may not get in consistently. I’m starting the cycle again, with many show applications coming up for 2013, always keeping in motion.
Alison Antelman
Metropolis II Bracelet: Reflections on the Hudson. Oxidized sterling, 18 + 22k gold, vesuvianite, tourmaline, peridot, hand fabricated hollow forms, handmade box clasp. 8 x 2.5 x .25, $5600.
Metropolis II Bracelet: Reflections on the Hudson
by Alison Antelman. Oxidized sterling, 18 + 22k gold, vesuvianite, tourmaline, peridot, hand fabricated hollow forms, handmade box clasp.
8 x 2.5 x .25  

Do you have information or experience related to today's post that you would like to add? Please consider leaving a comment. I'd like to use this post for a new document in the Professional Guidelines. A comprehensive spectrum of opinions is important.


"Resources for Craft Show Evaluation" by Alison Antelman 

Responsibilities of Craft Show Organizer by Alison Antelman 

What's the Artist's Job for a Show?

READ THE ENTIRE SERIES about the craft show marketplace:

The White Tent or the White Wall



*Note: The opinions expressed by the author, Alison Antelman, in this post are hers and hers alone, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of ASKHarriete or Harriete Estel Berman. No endorsement or refutation is implied.


This post was updated on June 30, 2022, to provide current links.

Resources and Highlights for Remarkable Booth Display

The previous post titled "Guidelines for Remarkable Booth Display" was a brief summary. This post expands on some of these guidelines with more explanation and resources.

VisualMerchandising WindowsBergdorfGoodmanI found a great book to recommend: Visual Merchandising: Windows and In-Store Displays for Retail, by Tony Morgan. Many quotes from this book appear in today's post. The price for Visual Merchandising is modest . . . or look for it in your local library. The author has written many books.

Another book at a somewhat higher price is Windows at Bergdorf Goodman Anniversary Edition. The publication date is November 15, this sounds like both a timely publication and could be a really great holiday gift. It must be amazing!

Bergdorg Goodman dress shown in Bazaar magazine 1
"Bergdorf Goodman turns 111 this year and is feting the occasion in appropriately high style. Premier designers have been enlisted to create exclusive one-offs, such as Akris's 10- piece window-print capsule collection inspired by "a vintage photograph found in the book Windows at Bergdorf Goodman." Image and quote found in Bazaar magazine.

Helium ballonlettersThe windows of Bergdorf Goodman are famous for style and innovation. Some windows are very involved productions, while others only involved a background of burnt toast graded from light to dark or helium balloons (proving that not all great ideas have to be expensive or complicated).

VisualmerchandisingPeglerMost of the books on visual merchandising are college textbooks and kind of pricey (as textbooks are inclined to be). Buy the used early editions or borrow the books from your local library.  If they don't have it, use the inter-library loan program with your local colleges. Here is one more book recommendation with good information despite very lackluster images in black and white. Visual Merchandising and Display (6th edition)

As we review some of the principles in window design applicable to booth display, keep in mind the importance of focusing on a few key ideas.  The booth display needs to excite the customer about why they can't live without your work.

I was watching a video about the fashion world and a comment from Mindy Grossman, CEO & Director of HSN caught my ear. She said, "It's the idea of inspiring vs. selling. People want to be inspired to buy things, they don't want to be sold to."


YOUR NAME (or company name) UP HIGH on display
"Signage is probably the most important component of any display. You can't assume that every person who sees a display is going to understand it. There are many ingredients that go into signage. It needs to educate, explain, and make the product something you just have to have."

"Often signage and graphics may be used as a statement to support the ...theme, or sometimes as the prop that ties" a theme together. "It is always best to keep any text simple and explanatory; punchy one-liners always work best." "...too many tags, signs, or graphics can lead to visual overkill."  Visual Merchandising

LIGHTING to highlight your work. "Lighting is one of the most fundamental aspects of design." Visual Merchandising has a lighting chart for a variety of lighting options. Low voltage LED lights are really phenomenal options for limited electricity. They even run off a battery.

CLEAR THEME that relates to your work. This could be:

  • color
  • topic
  • texture
  • visual motif
  • seasonal
  • demographics of your customer. Will your theme relate to your customer base?

"...What are you aiming to achieve with your display? Are you aiming to shock, attract, or cause a buzz?" Your objective may be to "stop passing customers in their tracks."  Visual Merchandising

The Louis Vuitton windows featured an eye-popping installation by dot-obsessed Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama.


  • COLOR THEME works with the merchandise.

"One of the most effective... schemes that has been used by visual merchandisers worldwide is the use of only one color. Various shades of the same color used in the same display can create impact." A display "based on the color blue, for example, can add an emotional value: it could be perceived as cold, sad, or - depending on the hue - warm." "Color can also promote a trend: pink for valentine's Day, for example; red for Christmas; or black for a more luxurious fashion look." Visual Merchandising page 80

"Color really is the most magnificent tool for capturing the attention of passersby and creating atmosphere. If in doubt, always go for the brighter or darker option. Taking the soft option will not be as effective and will be perceived as predictable by the customer who may overlook the color weak" or stale. Visual Merchandising page 83



"The hardest category of products to design display... for what is called 'smalls'. This includes... jewelry." "It is much harder to focus on little things and get a big impact." "What you need to do is make a broad statement that grabs people's attention from a distance, and then focus their field of vision onto the product by drawing them into the center, corner, back wall, ... to notice the little gem. Pin spotlighting and clever signage is a sure-fire way to get this done." Visual Merchandising page 74

Bamboo PLINTHI do not think that artists and makers selling their handmade or artist-made items should use commercial displays. It sends the wrong message. Commercial or purchased displays look...well....just so commercial.  It does not say "handmade", "artist made" or one-of-a-kind. It says standardized, commercialized, manufactured.

The display (left photo) is from Visual Merchandising page 155 featuring lacquered bamboo.


Next week a brief pause in the series on Display and The White Tent or the White Wall In honor of the holiday, I'll share images of my Thanksgiving themes from past years.

Then we start a series by Guest Author Alison Antelman about how she previews craft shows, selects the craft shows she participates in, and more. Hear from Antelman's years of experience.

PS. I love comments, but the comments on ASK Harriete now require my approval before they go live. This is because increasing visibility has attracted spam.  Please be patient, I publish all comments whether I agree or disagree but remove spam.

This post was updated on June 30, 2022, to provide current links.

Guidelines for Remarkable Booth Display

Here are the highlights of a remarkable booth display. Pick one or two ideas as a focus....not everything listed here will work together.

Remember less can be more.

YOUR NAME (or company name) UP HIGH

CLEAR THEME that relates to your work. This could be:

  • color
  • topic
  • texture
  • visual motif
  • seasonal
  • etc.


DIAGONAL LINES create movement.

CURVED LINES create motion.



  • COLOR THEME works with the merchandise.

REPETITION of similar elements


LIGHTING to highlight your work.

THURSDAY'S POST details and reference materials.


This post was updated on June 27, 2022.


Booth Display Impacts Customer Behavior

Emiko Oye boothThe previous post featured a booth by emiko oye from the August 2012 ACC show in San Francisco. I asked emiko to share observations about how her booth design affected customer behavior and sales.

She said,  "the most important benefit of an improved booth design is that the booth worked for me." The booth engaged the customers, bringing them into the booth and helping to initiate a conversation -- the first two steps to a sale. She attributes an increase of approximately 1/3 more sales than the previous year because of the innovative booth design.

Below are a few questions from me and observations from emiko.

What do you think was the impact of your booth design?

  • People definitely paused and looked longer instead of walking right by.
  • The booth design invited them in. All I had to do was stand in the back corner waiting for them to engage in conversation.
  • There was enough room for attendees to walk around. In contrast, some booths feel like a gauntlet -- customers may feel they will be cornered or pressured into a purchase. Most people choose to walk right past instead.
  • The design created "positive energy" in the space with room to walk around. (While we both discussed how the concept of "positive energy" seems a little "new age", she definitely thought that allowing flow was a successful component of the layout and in part a result of her yoga training.
  • The mannequin in the back of the booth with exhibition work gave people more to look at, drawing people further into the booth, and worked well for framing the price point for less expensive work.
  • Photos and work displayed on the walls engaged people throughout the booth.

What was the impact of winning a booth award?

  • The award gave something to talk about when people walked in.  They could comment on the award and the booth.
  • The booth award gave "permission" for the customer to begin a conversation. Bruce Baker says it is an important sales technique to wait until the customer has given "permission" before speaking.
  • Everyone loves a winner.  The recognition from ACC gave me credibility.
  • The validation also made people look more closely at the work.  People wanted to buy work from a winner.

Emiko oye I noticed that you didn't use a jewelry case. What are the advantages of not using a jewelry case?

  • It was a huge advantage that I was not standing behind a case. Too often cases are like a barrier between the seller and the customer. My work is not expensive so security was not a big issue. Displaying my work out in the open made it accessible. Since my work is made from toys, it was natural that people wanted to touch it. Touching the work is an important step to make a sale.

Were there any other tricks you can offer?
I made small treats and offered them to anyone who looked like they were staying for a few minutes.  A bite-size treat was a psychological commitment.

Many factors contribute to a REMARKABLE booth that sells your work. Uniqueness, clarity, inviting, engaging, multidimensional, depth, psychological . . .  all factors work together to sell your work.

We can see the benefits of an award-winning booth.  In the next post, some specific recommendations and actions will be offered for booth layout.

Your comments are most appreciated and often influence future posts...

FUTURE POSTS on ASK Harriete will cover a spectrum of issues under the white tent theme: 

  • Booth Display Criteria
  • Visual Merchandising Resources
  • Craft Show Research
  • Evaluating and Selecting Shows
  • The Role and Responsibilities of Craft Show Organizers
    and more.

SubscribeSUBSCRIBING IS EASY. Put your email into the white box under my photo.


This post was updated on June 27, 2022.







Display Ideas Remarkably Effective

If some of the ideas in previous posts for improving the booth display of your art or craft seem like too much trouble . . . perhaps there is more than meets the eye.

Consider the great free publicity, visibility, and improved selling because the display is so remarkable.

Emiko Oye.Below are images from emiko oye's display this summer at the ACC show in San Francisco. Her booth won an award (for good reasons) because her display included significant features mentioned in previous posts.

Here are some highlights to describe what is "working."

Cohesive display that works with her Lego jewelry.

For emiko oye, the idea for booth components that fit together is conceptually consistent with her media, Legos (that fit together).  Her jewelry is all made from Legos.

The floor pulls her booth together into a unified display. The same thing can be achieved with a rug, carpet pieces, or floor cloth but she used rubber floor tiles. 

The cardboard display is made of purchased cardboard units.  Something similar could be made with other materials consistent with your work. An important aspect is that she departed from the standard jewelry case to display her work.

Emiko Oye booth display

NLightbulbote the colored light bulbs hanging above her display. The primary purpose is to attract the eye. Stores at the mall do similar tricks -- hanging gems or objects above the display to attract the customers (like moths to a flame.) Emiko saw a similar idea hanging over kitchen appliances in the department store and adapted the idea for her booth. Talk about a light bulb as an icon for bright ideas!

Emiko Oye booth with lights.

A wall of publicity gives the seller credibility. If you mount the articles on foam core it will eliminate reflection and wrinkles. The articles establish your credibility in the first 30 seconds. An important goal is to give people a reason to buy your work.


The publicity wall also gives something for the friend/significant other to look at while their spouse is buying. (Not all shows allow a publicity wall, so make a publicity book instead.)


A sign placed up high establishes your identity and gets your name and identity above the crowds. Stores do this all the time. Just walk around the mall for examples.

Large photos in the back of the booth can give people a better idea about what you are selling.

A mirror is necessary for customers to look at themselves while trying on jewelry....but emiko oye has taken this one step further by decorating her mirror with Legos to make it consistent with her theme. Look closely...
Photo Credit: Ravipa Veerasaksri

Your comments are most appreciated and often dictate future posts...

FUTURE POSTS on ASK Harriete cover a spectrum of issues under the white tent:
comments from emiko oye about the impact of her booth display,  booth display criteria and visual merchandising resources, craft show research, evaluating and selecting shows, the role of craft show organizers, and more.

SubscribeSUBSCRIBING IS EASY. Put your email into the white box under my photo.


This post was updated on June 27, 2022.

Window Dressing for Booth Display - Hang It UP

This post is all about ideas for hanging stuff UP.

What could be more simple and fantastic than a tangle of hangers to create an innovative background? A perfect theme for anything clothing related.

Metallic gold hangers have a completely different look. 
White hangers look just as fantastic!

Remove the shelf and HANG UP what you are selling.  This works extremely well for water pitchers or cups.

Coffeecupshang it up
Or put handles on your trays and platters to display your work.  Where possible, hang up your scarves, or jewelry. This increases visibility and makes your display more dynamic.

White twigs
Painted white twigs seem like a great idea for a holiday show...but don't overfill the twigs with merchandise.  The twigs are your eye-catching focal point and you don't want to lose the drama.

Below the display uses a peg board for display in a whole new way.

PhilipKarlberg portraits

Hang up anything.


When a display is both metaphoric and a fantastic display, it becomes a real winner. Look at this display for books made with pencils.


In the video below, watch how the display with pencils is constructed.

Wondering ....what to do with those old cassettes or video tapes?

Cassette tapes
JUST DRAPE THE TAPE... Tapes aren't that strong, but certainly strong enough to catch the eye. Practically speaking you could always camouflage some mono-filament fishing line for strength.

Building the fixtures (like this piano) may take too long...but I am thinking, what about the jewel boxes from C.D.s?  Glue them together in a grid. Build a front to your display to camouflage the legs.

What could be easier than helium balloon letters?
Helium ballonletters
In this window for Bergdorf Goodman the helium letters spell out the store name. The brilliant orange dress really works as a focal point. You could use a variation of this idea to spell out your name. Remember the post "YOUR Name on Display" suggests getting your name up high.

Velvet ropes are a great idea evocative of the holidays, theater, and elegance.

The sweep of the velvet ropes also creates eye-catching movement.

A brilliantly colored blind would be a great backdrop. The great thing about this idea is that the blind collapses for travel. ADD your name on top...or open the blind to reveal something behind.

Look at these other amazing ideas for suspending creativity in the air by Ken Marten.
They both use Vaseline as an adhesive.

BlueFLOWERwreathBlue flower petals are inspired...I can also imagine this with autumn leaves.

The whole idea for this series of posts
is to be inspired by display ideas from either stores or window displays. Think about how your booth can be remarkable!

Would you like to share an idea? Send me a photo. Leave a link in the comments.

Would you like help with your booth? Contact me.


This post was updated on June 27, 2022.

Window Dressing for Booth Display - White on White!

Imagine EVERYONE at the show...coming to your booth. Selling at a show is all about numbers. The more people in your booth, the more sales you will make.

This could all be made in foam core without the horse and be amazing.

The extra work required for a spectacular booth will be worth the effort.
A fabulous booth will bring in your customers.
A fabulous booth shot will get you into the next show.
A fabulous booth will earn you a reputation for "worth watching", blog posts, and magazine articles.
Be prepared with lots of cards. People will go home to look at your website.

Today's booth ideas are white on white.

A collection of mundane to ordinary objects all painted white
can be extraordinary.

White post-it notes couldn't be much simpler.

A stack of white chairs looks great!

The Polo Ralph Lauren window features the Spring Collection 2010 and was on display at Polo Ralph Lauren’s Bond Street store in London, which is the brand’s main flagship store in Europe. Both windows were executed by Hiro Hayashi, vice president of creative presentation, Europe and Japan, Polo Ralph Lauren.

Some ideas are a little on the heavy side and would only work if you lived close to the art fair or craft show with a van and some help.



White on White always looks fabulous.
If your work is small, what if were displayed on Cake Plates, white plates, white boxes, or white baskets? Yard sales shopping might help you find some great solutions. 
Finish with a can of white spray paint. 



Too much furniture to transport? How about this iteration of white furniture I found at The Urban Farm and Garden on Facebook?

Only the shelf is real, but all you need for display. Painted  furniture from The Urban Farm & Garden on Facebook

Maybe just one or two props are all that is needed to make a booth look distinctive.

My concern is that every white tent booth these days looks too much alike. Purchased displays, cases, and standards of professionalism in the white tent have turned to stale white bread.

Brighton-based designer Kyle Bean‘s window is based on the theory that "Matter cannot be created or destroyed, only transformed." 

Click on the image (above) ..because the rest of the windows are phenomenal (even if you can't use the ideas they are worth checking out!)

The wooden structure (shown above) could be prepared in advance and assembled on site. And it could also hold your merchandise. Or think about how you could put your name on top with 3-dimensional letters.

Sure, many of the display ideas in this example are heavy....not ideal unless you have a truck and help for a local show. But can you stop thinking about what will not work...and think about what you can do to freshen your display?

White box white ribbonWhite boxes with white ribbons. Big boxes stacked up could create a pedestal. More boxes hold up your tabletop.

White ribbon big bow and boxes in the back of your booth? An elegant and festive motif for the holidays.

Make your own paper-mache eye.
What about adding a diamond (rhinestone tear) inspired by Dali. 

White on white could be cut from Foam core.

Glasseshair white
Make your booth a destination.
Make your booth remarkable.


This post was updated on June 27, 2022, to provide current links.

Window Dressing for Booth Display - Mirror Mirror

Many booths need mirrors to sell their items.... such as jewelry, scarves, or clothing. Why not make your mirror a focal point?
Mirror, mirror.

Imagine a whole booth of mirrors
find an old mirror and decorate it to match your booth.

Another idea below:
Go to a plastics store and have them cut a bunch of mirrored Plexiglas.

Mirro rmirror The Window Display Blog

Seems that the squares could hang using mono-filament fishing line from the tent structure or pipe & drape. I can see the movement as being fabulous as it would catch the light and the eye.

Mirror balls capture the light.
Mirror balls
Christmas window display found on Flickr


Gold metallic details with fabric create an upholstery motif.

More ideas on Friday...followed by a summary.

Please feel welcome to leave comments.
Comments will need approval.... so be patient.

Spam will not be published. 

Would you like help with your booth? E-mail me your booth image along with images of your work. We could brainstorm some ideas.

This post was updated on June 27, 2022.

Window Dressing for Booth Display - Dessert Delight

Today's post continues the series of window design ideas for booth display. Deliciously sweet inspired ideas for giving your booth sparkle and delight.
Buy fake food.  Tie your jewelry to the display to prevent theft (if necessary.)
While this window shows many shelves of ice cream cones...I think one shelf (perhaps larger than real life) would do just fine for your booth.


 Keeping with the desert theme....

Instead of the cherry on the side (as in this photo)...what if it were a red hat or red purse on top of the "whipped cream". One big cupcake (on a stand) in the back of your booth with your merchandise as the "cherry on top" along with your name in red...for an eye-catching display. Your sign should match.


If you could carry the red accent throughout your booth, that would be better. Make your own fake cupcakes or buy fake food that fits in your display cases or a stack at the edge of your booth.

Go larger than life with your own display.

What about all red accents?


What about collaborating with another maker for display? Use one item like this entertaining cake plate (right) to establish your theme.


If your work is small, what if were displayed on Cake Plates? Yard sales shopping might help you find some great resources. Go white on white for a sophisticated display.


This post was updated on June 27, 2022.

Window Dressing for Booth Display Inspiration

Let's continue with the objective to look at window dressing for booth display inspiration. The great thing about looking at window design for ideas is the similarities to designing a craft show/art festival booth.

  • the space is shallow
  • the main objective is to catch the eye of the passerby
  • the display is temporary

I am so excited about these ideas found online, and would like to share images for a couple of posts!  Please keep in mind that the objective is to be inspired by elements in each photo, not copy the idea. Some ideas will fit your work perfectly, others will be the wrong style.

ABC used minimalist window details to illuminate visionary designers. These included Tom Dixon, The Conran Shop, Moroso/M’Afrique, local designers with VOOS Brooklyn, Glas Italia, and a tribute to the classic Fritz Hansen Egg Chair by artist Tal R.

Pure white, black details, and a spot of color always make an eye-catching combination. Keep the color accent to one strong color.


Nordstrom’s Seattle flagship store window designed by Nate Rasmussen.

An area of eye-catching and energizing color with diagonal lines from the cord creates a memorable impression. The cord could be used to hang anything from pitchers to clothing. The gears are completely optional. 


White suit cases against a colored backgroundeOld suitcases and trunks painted white against a colored background look great. The suitcases might even be used to carry your work to the show, then used as props. Use the suitcases to support shelves. Or stack the suitcases to become pedestals. 

This is part of a Louis Vuitton window by Visual Department, Paris. The windows were inspired by a famous photograph from artist Jacques Henri Lartigue.


 Macy’s window with graphic white clouds that acted as platforms for the mannequins or your merchandise. The windows also showcased kites, birds, and insects.

Use your imagination. Blue fabric in the background. Foam core clouds could be a background or extra display for merchandise. Make your own fabric kites to match your aesthetic. One or two kites within a booth space are all you need. Consider putting your name on the kites as a way to get your name up high.


Grafitti background
Topshop's experiential “Colour Shock” window campaign was to mix a life event with commercial art in order to generate a maximum wow factor. The result is a concept that combines a regular window space with the art of up-and-coming Japanese artist Que Houxo, who painted the window space with fluorescent paint, while passersby observed the spectacle.

Fabric or paper with paint or graffiti images
with lots of color and diagonals can really be eye-catching. Don't forget to include your name in the graffiti so everyone remembers your name. What if you let anyone who bought work sign their name on the side of your booth with a paint marker?


Greenbackgroundvintagerust display
Gomez created this window, incorporating funky vintage items, for Saks Fifth Avenue's men's designer pre-fall June 2010 campaign.

The mucky mint green is a nostalgic color from the 1930s. It works perfectly with the rusty metal display. The rusty bins could be anything. Does this match the aesthetic of your work?

Take a really large professional-quality image of your work. Grid it out.

Print the image in sections on photo paper...then mount it on foam core. Hang from the tent structure or pipe and drape. It doesn't matter if the image matches edge to edge like this is the idea of creating an eye-catching display. If you glue some of the foam core to a white cardboard box...that is all you need to push it out from the surface. 

More window ideas coming...


This post was updated on June 23, 2022, to provide current links.

Window Dressing for Booth Display - YOUR Name on Display

The previous post demonstrated how store displays focus on getting the brand names up high as a focal point above the heads of the crowd. Here are a few more ideas inspired by store window designs. Your name up high creates name recognition and draws customers into your booth display.  

Nordstrom’s window was designed by Bridget Rogler.

Minimal old fashion wooden hangers with clips hold the letters for the brand name CHANNEL. This could be hung from the back of your white tent booth structure or pipe & drape. It is so important to get your name above head height.

Repetition helps make many ideas successful such as in this eye-catching sophisticated example.

The hangers could be quite effective for any clothing designer but may work equally well for other objects, as in this example, handbags by Channel. In this window display, symmetry is very important with the chain of the handbag framing the lettering.

I'd love to see this all the way around the booth, including the sides and the back wall. Hanging some clothing on the hangers or clipping it up can work for clothing, handbags, scarves, prints, or aprons. Keep in mind that this type of display represents your booth but is not appropriate for the bulk of your inventory.  As soon as the display looks cluttered, it will no longer be effective. 

I LOVE THIS WINDOW. It gives me lots of ideas.
Paint your name up high on your drape (which could be painted vinyl hung from the pipe & drape or white tent structure).

The books are a great prop. What if you had a bunch of old books, painted them white (or the color of your booth), and used them as pedestals or table legs for a countertop? Of course, this is only good for a local show and it needs to tie in with the theme of your work. But if your work uses letters or words, what a great conceptual connection to your work.

More text-related are flowers in the window made from books!  A couple of flowers in the back of your booth (along with your name) would be fabulous!

In searching online, I am finding great blogs about window design. Why not subscribe and look for that nugget of a fresh idea. Here is one blog The Window Display Blog

More ideas coming in the next posts!

Wacky Words Flower Pin

Wacky Words Flower Pin by Harriete Estel Berman

Wacky Words Flower Pin

This post was updated on June 23, 2022, to provide current links.

One Hour At The Mall For Display Ideas

In a previous post, I was pretty blunt about craft displays that do not measure up to retail displays.  Yet, it seems disingenuous to criticize without offering solutions. The biggest problem is that we makers aren't display professionals, yet we are competing against the best for consumer dollars.

Effective display of your art or craft is an essential ingredient for success. This is reiterated by Greg Lawler of the Art Fair Sourcebook who says successful artists "pay attention to the presentation of their work in their booths..."

So with this insight in mind, I set myself an assignment. Could I go to the mall and in one hour find display ideas that could be implemented at low cost and incorporated into a craft booth display? What display tools do stores use to catch the eye of the consumer?

Please keep in mind that the objective is to find nuggets of ideas that a maker could implement for eye-catching results. Go searching on your own at the high-end mall or downtown retail area for inspiring ideas that fit your style.

Here are some rough ideas.

My photos were taken discretely and quickly. Generally, store managers don't like people taking photos. This is about thinking smart with a "can do" attitude. 

Display images 001
Small carpet segments on the floor help create islands of instant eye-catching color. It visually gathered two tables and a sign into one cohesive display.

I began to notice that carpets are used everywhere in different colors. Even carpet on carpet to focus a display of merchandise. In the next photo, a black carpet creates a trio of three different mannequins. The glittery sequin theme of the dresses was repeated on the fabric-covered mannequin torso and the printed backdrop. 

Display images 002

The housewares department is a great place to find ideas. The stores are accustomed to finding innovative ways to make objects look attractive.

Signs high above the merchandise were used over and over in different ways throughout many different stores.

Notice in the image below the high signage above the plates and dishes to grab your eye.

Display images 003
An interesting sign with your name high above your work is an effective way to gain name recognition and attract attention for work in your booth.  It must be high enough to be above the heads of the crowds with clear and easy-to-read lettering.

Color for your sign is an option, but not required. It depends more on the styles and colors of your work or signature style.

Below the lettering white on white works just fine.

Display images 011

In this image above, notice how the brand name is high above the merchandise. The addition of the vessel is irrelevant to selling clothes but a fabulous idea for any person making vessel forms. Large and dramatic it was eye-catching, solo by itself up high.

Display images 012
Here two vessels form a group below the sign. Again this shelf is high to keep the name and image above the crowd.

ALL kinds of signs can work but they need to be elevated high in the retail space. Notice the writing (rear left) at the ceiling height. The CHOOSE ME and HEAR ME signs are "calls to action" but they could be your name.

Display images 020

Notice how these signs (above) hang from the ceiling. They were very high so that they were always visible no matter how many people were in the store. Your signs could hang from the pipe and drape, tent, or an extra pole across the top. Use the signs for your name, or a "call for action" like these.

Did you notice the bright yellow walls? While this may not be appropriate for everyone, if it works for your style, yellow is an energizing color.

High merchandiseI noticed several stores featured one item or a group of items up high (above eye level) to catch the eye of the consumer. For example, the shoe is high, but more shoes for selling are much lower.

Highmerchandise2Notice how they used simple boxes to frame merchandise on the shelf and as a stand.

To the right is a similar idea. A high shelf for "display purposes". Merchandise for selling is below.






The next idea would be a great backdrop for the back of your booth or function as support for your tables or both.

 Display images 014
This structure of painted steel rings could easily be redone with cardboard tubes. Cut and paint the cardboard tubes in advance. Use shipping tubes for small circles. The tubes here are all one size but I could easily see this idea with circles of all different sizes. Larger cardboard tubes for pouring concrete pillars (Sono tubes) would be easy to find at a construction supply store. Pop rivet or glue'em together.

Display images 013
While this was supposed to be an open divider, I can see merchandise displayed inside the circles if they were large enough.


  • Pick a theme, shape, or color scheme for within the area of your both.
  • Keep your signage high above the heads.
  • Signs need to match your booth aesthetic.
  • Display example merchandise up high above eye level.

Consider the impact of your color choices.
    White on white for sophistication and modern aesthetic.
    Research your color selection. Color sends a message.
    Use color to unify display elements.
    Use color for eye-catching results.

THE NEXT POST is my 2nd assignment:
Could great display ideas be found on the internet? Wait till you see what I found!!!!!!!!!!

This post was updated on June 22, 2022, to provide current links.

The Craft Show Booth Just Stands There

ApplewhiteIn recent years, superior display and merchandising have become synonymous with good product design. Think about Apple Computer - sleek products, youth-oriented advertising, and Apple stores sparkling and brilliant white. 

"The company has executed a near-flawless strategy, from the stores' architecture and design right down to their sales staff." is by far the most valuable chain in the U.S.

WhitecratebarrellDisplays and merchandising that literally "attract" the consumer are readily apparent all around us.  Yet, the conventional white tent of craft shows seems stuck in time and is getting left behind by contemporary merchandising.


Wordle.rustGREEN.Unfortunately, white tent craft show displays rarely feel innovative or original.  Most of the booths are, well, plain, mundane, look-alikes. . . mismatched...not attracting customers.

To put this into dollars and cents, a poor craft show display costs money, and very likely much more than you thought.  If potential customers walk past your booth, that is a lost revenue opportunity.

If you want to be successful in the future of craft, then improved display and merchandising are essential.  Our target customers (and all consumers) are accustomed to stores with remarkable displays and sophisticated merchandising. I don't think it is going too far to say that great store displays "seduce" the consumer. 

Aspirational marketing means evoking the consumer's aspirations to perceive what they desire.  Play into the consumer's desire to be that beautiful, that powerful, or having that much fun.  

Pink There are all kinds of successful merchandising examples . . . think

  • Polo Ralph Lauren sending the subtle message of old money,
  • Victoria's Secret's Pink campaign (cute, colorful, sexy, and seductive),
  • MAC makeup to look amazing.

MACYour display style needs to elevate your art or craft in the eyes of the consumer.  Your booth is not just a viewing space.  How can a booth become an experience? 

WindowwhiteREDI know that creating an amazing display can be a challenge. We aren't display professionals, but this needs a solution.

So I set an assignment for myself. Could I go to the mall and in one hour find display ideas that could be low-cost for a craft booth display? 

2nd assignment Could I look at window designs and online displays for remarkable craft booth ideas?

Wait till you see what I found!!!!!!!!!!

Absolutely! Stay tuned for booth ideas that could be remarkable.


This post was updated on June 22, 2022, to provide current links.

Aligning Craft Values and Craft Practices with the New Economy

There were many heartfelt comments responding to the previous posts about the brand of craft. Some questioned the brand of craft. The overwhelming evidence, however, is that craft must adapt to the dynamics of the evolving marketplace.  The question is, "How?"

2HANDsolarizebrilliantHolding on to values that makers care about while navigating the realities of the current economy seemed daunting to me also.  Then I saw John Gerzema in a TED Talk that inspired some new insights and helped me focus on actions that the craft community can support. 



Some quotes from the TED Talk (shown below) by John Gerzema: The post-crisis consumer

The consumer has moved "from mindless consumption to mindful consumption." "By restricting their demand, consumers can actually align their values with their spending, and drive capitalism and business to not just be about more, but be about better."

Gerzema states that we are "going to go through four value-shifts that we see driving new consumer behaviors...." 

The consumer value shifts that Gerzema describes will impact or have already impacted the craft marketplace.  By understanding these value shifts, the craft community could better align itself with and take advantage of the emerging trends in consumer behavior.

Declasse consumption"The first cultural value shift" is "..déclassé consumption." Déclassé consumption is the whole idea that spending money frivolously makes you look a little bit anti-fashion."  Similarly, craft should not participate in the "buy cheap and throw away" mentality. Craft could be about quality instead of quantity.

"The second of the four values is this movement toward ethics and fair play." "And, as a result, businesses must provide not only value but values. StonyfieldcultureIncreasingly, consumers are looking at the culture of the company, looking for their conduct in the marketplace...Complete transparency."   Similarly, craft has traditionally been about multiple values. The value of handmade or artist-made. The value of skill. The personal connection with the maker in the booth or at an exhibition. No factory model, no exploiting labor in third world countries.

"The third of the four laws of post-crisis consumerism is about durable living." Consumers increasingly want to obtain the full "value out of every purchase." "The principle is...that it's about being sustainable.." Likewise, craft could highlight sustainability and conservative use of materials. Craft can be about traditional skills and heritage. It could be about "Made in the USA."  Buying quality instead of quantity.

"So, the fourth sort of post-crisis consumerism that we see is this movement about a return to the fold." It's a growing awareness of our place in the world. "It's now about connecting to your communities, connecting to your social networks."

BlueMoonCraftourBrew Within this concept, "the artisanal movement is huge. Everything about locally derived products and services, Human crafting Artisan Crafted Body Caresupporting your local neighborhoods, whether it's cheeses, wines, and other products."   GarlicGOLD Ironically, many of these new products market their products using the word craft, crafted, and crafting to develop an identity for their premium product.   Craft fits perfectly into buying local, "support your local neighborhood or local producer." Craft is about the value of buying from the individual that lives in your neighborhood or has a studio down the street.

Craft and the "post-crisis consumer" can be closely aligned with a long list of values:

  • SUSTAINABLE and GREEN FABRICATION (without greenwashing.)
  • TRANSPARENCY meeting the makers, visiting the studio.
  • IDENTITY OF THE MAKER as an individual (not a factory)
  • ALIGN WITH THE artisanal movement
  • MADE IN THE USA - no imports.

So what can artists and makers specifically do?
Specific actions can transform the craft market.

Insist that every show implements rules against imported items.  If the show has no such policy, Don't even apply.  Actively practice how the values of craft can be used to promote craft in the marketplace. 

Make quality instead of quantity

Decline to compete on price alone.  A downward price spiral is not a productive strategy. Craft needs to sell the values that makers add such as quality, buying local, or sustainable fabrication practices.

Differentiate your art or craft from third-world imports and manufactured goods.

Participate in the experiential economy. Demonstrate with samples, or show your fabrication process.

Create understanding and appreciation for realistic wages.

Appeal to the consumer with services such as custom or commission work.


BELOW TED talk from John Gerzema:
                            The post-crisis consumer

Think craft.

This post was updated on June 22, 2022, to provide current links.

Average Doesn't Cut the Mustard Any More

Craft has been self-absorbed in self-importance, resting on its past laurels, while the marketplace has changed drastically over the past twenty years. Just like print media and music, craft must redefine its role in the marketplace. Craft needs to rethink.

Grey PouponThe previous post generated a comment from Tara Brannigan...she says, "The examples listed, Grey Poupon, Campbell's Tomato Soup, etc., are singular products with an easily definable set of descriptors and a strong level of consumer awareness."  Very likely, many other people were thinking about this.

Makerstanding greenAnd I agree. It is easier to create a "brand" for mustard than it is to create a "brand" for an enormous diversity of makers and expressions of craft. Craft represents many media, many levels of skill and expertise, and degrees of expectations. I just can't imagine trying to answer the question, 'What is Craft?' It makes my head spin to think of it. It took Bruce Metcalf and Janet Koplos, authors of Makers: A History of American Studio Craft, 505 pages for just the 20th-century craft movement.

MustardOn the other hand, unless you understand that before Grey Poupon developed their remarkable advertising campaign, French's Yellow mustard was the only mustard anyone used.   The rise of Grey Poupon proved that the American supermarket shopper was willing to pay a premium—as long as what they were buying carried with it an air of sophistication and complex aromatics.

Despite the complexities of rebranding craft and the craft community, there's still room for applying the lessons of successful marketing.  Differentiating subsets of craft consumers and then target marketing to each audience provides the most likely improvements.  

For individual makers, developing your brand and cultivating an audience for your work is essential to achieving better sales. Branding the work allows the maker to establish prices beyond covering expenses.

If people walk up to your booth and say,
"Why does this cost so much?"
you have not established the value of your brand. (Read the previous post on ASK Harriete.) No one goes to an Apple store and asks why an iPhone5 costs so much.

Apple-iphone-5It is hilarious just to think about it. Not only is the value of an Apple phone established, but it isn't even one of a kind or a limited edition. An Apple phone is a mass-produced consumer item. Everyone pays full price. And next year, people will replace it with another phone.    

Think about how you can establish a clear brand for your work and define your market. Possibilities might include:

UNIQUE Objects
NICHE Marketing
ENGAGING the Customer

Competing with 1000s of other look-alikes has no future. Average doesn't cut the Mustard anymore.

Authentic Iconic Copyright, Trademark and Patent
Authentic Iconic Copyright, Trademark & Patent
Constructed entirely with post-consumer recycled tin cans. The packaging reflects the iconic images of our consumer society.
This post was updated on June 22, 2022, to provide current links.

The "dismal brand" of craft.

TomatosoupUnfortunately, the "brand" of craft has been on a steady decline and no longer represents something special for the consumer.  If the consumer (whether it’s an individual, a business, a voter, a donor, etc.) doesn’t pay a premium, doesn't make a preferred selection, or doesn't spread the word, then no "brand" value exists for that consumer.

Campbells-warhol-2012-cansWe need to reinvent the brand of craft, just the way Campbell's soup recently reinvented its TOMATO SOUP can based on Andy Warhol prints.  Clearly, a case where a company embraces art that reflected its brand.

I bought four cans, one in each color.
Before this, I hadn't bought Campbell's soup in years. It was too boring, too average for my taste. This new can was remarkable.   I was seduced into buying it and had to have it.

Along with a similar "brand" achievement, Did you read about the Grey Poupon Facebook page? "

The buzz isn’t centered around the fact that Grey Poupon has a fan page, but how they are managing it.Grey Poupon Good Taste

While anyone can view Grey Poupon’s wall, in order to “like” the brand, one must apply to be a member of the “Society of Good Taste.” Accepted members get access to exclusive content, which includes coupons and deals for the product. How do you get accepted? The application process requires allowing Grey Poupon to scour the public areas of your Facebook account. They look for good grammar, diversity in taste, and the number of friends you have. If you “cut the mustard” (their phrase) you are granted access. If not? Your application to the Members with Good Taste is declined!

It isn't the first time Grey Poupon has elevated its brand from ordinary mustard. Maybe you aren't old enough to remember this famous television commercial, so here it is.

This commercial (from the 1980s) transformed the perception of Grey Poupon from ordinary mustard into "extraordinary" mustard. It turned Grey Poupon mustard into something remarkable. Until this commercial, bright yellow (boring) mustard was the standard. Now Grey Poupon mustard is everywhere!

Now look at craft as a "brand".

Very few people go to a craft festival with the conscious intent to buy the craft, let alone pay a premium for something. (Brand isn't the only reason for this, but we can't tackle all the problems in one post.)  Previous posts examined the consequences of excess supply and dwindling demand.  Any commodity responds to the laws of economics. 

So sad to say that the oversupply of average has contributed to the "dismal brand of craft".  This handicap in the marketplace causes makers to compete in a downward spiral for consumer dollars. 

But if mustard can be reinvented from ordinary to extraordinary, it might be possible to reinvent the dismal brand of craft to remarkable.

Better branding can raise a product out of the ordinary.  It has happened over and over.  The opportunity to create a better brand for craft exists, but we need to admit to current facts, find better practices, and devote ourselves to elevating our craft.  A better brand for craft is possible, but only if we make it happen.

Ideas anyone? Seriously.....brainstorm. Your future, my future, and our futures depend on making a better brand for craft.

Golden Girl Bracelets by Harriete Estel Berman
Until Mrs. Field's, cookies were just cookies.
Until Jazzercize, exercise was exercise.
Until Barbie, dolls were dolls.

After Mrs. Fields, cookies were a million-dollar business.
After Jazzercise,  exercise was a franchise worth $93 million in 2008.
After Barbie, doll marketing was changed forever.

Golden Girl Fruit Crate display and three art jewelry bracelets by Harriete Etsel Bermanbra
Golden Girl by Harriete Estel Berman

The images and re-purposing of post-consumer materials reflect California as both the archetypal consumer culture and a leader in the recycling movement and green design.                    

Fruit crate labels were actually invented by California growers in the early 20th century as a promotional campaign for California produce.  The fruit crate labels symbolically convey the fertility of California’s bountiful agricultural industry of fruits and vegetables, but it now blooms with inventions and technology ventures.

Golden Girl was on display in an exhibition:

Redefining the San Andreas Faultline
September 8 - October 27, 2012

Craft in America Study Center
8415 W. Third Street
Los Angeles, California 90048.

This post was updated on June 22, 2022, to provide current links.

The White Tent - Rehab.

WhiteTENTcalendarDuring the entire month of September, these posts explored the White Tent. The response?  Fantastic! The number of comments, replies, and concerns raised has been overwhelming. Apparently, many issues are coming to the surface that I and many other people have been thinking about . . . but never discussed in a public context.

This discussion has prompted me to initiate over 40 draft blog posts. Yikes! That is a lot of topics or problems and hopefully, solutions.

Continuing on the current path of excessive oversupply and waning demand, the craft field will wither under the inevitable consequences of economic pressures. Or we can look for ways to survive AND possibly even thrive.

Unfortunately, the craft marketplace has been in a steady decline for a long time. A thriving economy over most of the past two decades concealed chronic bad habits. But then the recession has revealed extremely poor health.

Until we examine the symptoms, diagnose the problems, and accept the "cause & effect" realities, the craft marketplace will continue to decline.  

Medicine Vitalizer BOTTLERemedies need to be multifaceted. One therapy will not treat all the symptoms.

Full recovery is optimistic but certainly can't happen if we choose to ignore the symptoms or fail to take action to improve the situation.

Future posts will try to diagnose individual symptoms and suggest appropriate rehab options.

I'll try to keep the posts shorter. Is that possible?


TherapyMany of the comments from readers of ASK Harriete have been particularly enlightening about problems that aren't readily apparent, and I hope you will continue to share your points of view either privately, or publicly in the comments. Email me anytime at: harriete [at]

CommentapprovalComments on ASK Harriete now require my approval before publishing (because of spam.) Please be patient if your comment doesn't appear instantly.

SubscribeASK Harriete has a new feature....a subscription for an email version in your mailbox. I just figured out how to do please let me know if this is working properly for your convenience.


This post was updated on June 21, 2022.




Arrow copy

White Tents or Remarkable Purple Cows

WhiteTENTcraft-show-displays Purple Cow

A parable for artists and makers:

Potential customers are walking past the white tent because they see so many other white tents, and they just keep walking. They saw white tents last weekend and will see more next weekend, and for any number of weekends in the future. The white tent is just a commodity, always there, nothing special.  If they don't buy now, so what?  They feel no urgency to stop and look because so many more opportunities are readily available.

Are you making work worth talking about?

Listen to Seth Godin's presentation "How to get your ideas to spread." It is only 17 minutes long but will give you enormous insights for years to come because "All of this applies regardless of what we do."

Seth Godin says it in this video below.  

"Consumers don't care about you at all, they just don't care. Part of the reason is -- they've got way more choices than they used to and way less time. And in a world where we have too many choices and too little time, the obvious thing to do is just ignore stuff."

What if a white tent was a purple cow?

As the video explains, the message is to make your work remarkable and memorable. What if all your merchandise was "purple cow" -- so that consumers would notice it.

"The thing that is going to decide what get's talked about, what gets noticed, what gets purchased, is...
  ........ is it remarkable?"

"Think about how you can sell to the people who really care about your work because the riskiest thing you can do is be safe."

Is your work remarkable?

Is your display remarkable?

Is your signage remarkable?

Are you remarkable?

"And 'remarkable' is a word that should be highlighted because we think it just means noticeable, but it also means -- worth making a remark about."  Will people go home and tell their family and friends, "You should go see what I saw today!" or "You will envy what I bought today!"

Seth Godin says:

1) Design is free when you get to scale.

2) The riskiest thing you can do is be safe.

3) Being very good is one of the worst things you can possibly do. Very good is boring. Very good is average. 

"Triple your sales by being remarkable."

Can you reinvent your work? Can your work be remarkable?

More ideas soon.


P.S. If you tell me that craft fairs don't allow purple tents, you've missed the point of this post. On the other hand, given the trends, I'd consider breaking a few craft fair rules.

P.P.S. AT THE REQUEST FROM ASK Harriete readers I finally figured out how to add an email subscription to my blog! Now ASK Harriete can be emailed to your mailbox.

Please try it out and let me know if it works.

Golden Girl  from the California Collection by Harriete Estel Berman
Golden Girl from the California Collection was on display at Craft in America Study Center. Yes, these are the people that produced the PBS series about craft.

Redefining the San Andreas Faultline

September 8 - October 27, 2012

Craft in America Study Center
8415 W. Third Street
Los Angeles, California 90048.

Three bracelets (below) from the Golden Girl Fruit Crate symbolize three remarkable women from California.
Golden Girl Bracelets by Harriete Estel Berman Mrs. Fields, Jazzercize, Golden Girl Barbie

The Golden Girls of California
are Mrs. Fields, inventor of the cookie company franchise which started in Palo Alto, Ca.; Judi Sheppard Missett, inventor of Jazzercise in San Diego, Ca.; and Barbie, the infamous doll and California golden girl invented by Ruth Handler which later became Mattel in Southern California.

Golden Girl Barbie Bracelet by Harriete Estel Berman

The reuse of post-consumer material
in this series reflects California as both the ultimate consumer culture and the leader in the recycling movement and green design.

Golden Girl Fruit Crate with three bracelets from the Californai Collection by Harriete Estel Berman

The bracelets symbolize the innovative and entrepreneurial spirit of California. California exports ideas as well as products from its fertile valleys.

The fruit crate
symbolically represents the historic fertility of California’s valleys bountiful with fruits and vegetables. Orchards once covered Silicon Valley, but it now blooms with inventions and enterprising ventures.


This post was updated on June 21, 2022, to provide current links.

Over Supply, Reduced Demand = Downward Price Pressure

The increasing number of craft sellers and the expanded number of sales venues exacerbate the oversupply of craft. 

Oversupply and reduced demand in any market lead to one inevitable outcome - downward price pressure. We have seen the results in the craft marketplace.

Moneyspiral2This is a fundamental principle of economics. Prices will competitively spiral down as long as supply exceeds demand.

It is not a judgment about art vs. craft, quality, or intentions.  With so many choices, consumers can simply wait for something as good or better to be offered at lower prices.  They have come to expect lowered prices and their expectations are steadily fulfilled.

                                  Claudia Reese 1983 bread bowl OVERSUPPLY +  REDUCED DEMAND
          = REDUCED PRICES

My own observation of craft fairs is that the price points for "bread and butter" items have been stagnating, at best.

Taking inflation into account, real prices have decreased significantly.

I had a growing feeling about this for years and had wondered why?  Now I am beginning to understand.

The bread dish above is my personal example. In the early 1980s, I'd take my saved-up "mad money" (maybe a couple of $100) to the annual ACC show. Once a year, I'd look for presents for family and something for myself.

I clearly remember buying this $85 bread dish (stamped Claudia Reese) which I still have (note the jade green glaze, a signature color of the 1980s). This was the typical price range of bread and butter items at the time.  Despite nearly 30 years of inflation, $85- $125 is still the bread and butter price range at craft fairs.  During that same time period gas prices, food prices, and housing prices have certainly risen substantially.    

100dollarbillAt the recent ACC Show in San Francisco, there was even a promotional segment "less than $100."  In an effort to promote craft purchases to a larger market, they are marketing to the lowest common denominator. Perhaps they are trying to turn the downward spiral of prices into an asset. However, I'd say they are catering and compounding a weakness - the downward spiral of prices.


Additional evidence for

The Art Festival Newsletter recently conducted and distributed a survey titled, "Art Festival Artists: Who We Are 2012". The Newsletter has allowed me to share their survey with you. (CLICK on the links for the full survey.) The quote below only compares only 2011 to 2010. 


"The responses to this question show a strong downward trend in the price of art sold at festivals."

"At a sales level below $100, the percentage has increased five points, to 29.1% Thus, except for the highest sales point, artists are continuing to sell at levels equal to or lower than last year, and much lower than in 2010. Put another way, any increase in the nation’s economy has not, as yet, translated into widespread spending increases, by price of work sold, at art festivals."

      End quote.

This is a reality.  Depressing, maybe, but the point is not to dwell in this abyss. We need to recognize that the crafts marketplace is in a state of oversupply and reduced demand.

In an effort to sell more, makers are showing more low-priced items at craft fairs. Instead of making and showing their best, makers are increasingly focused on the cheapest. This approach is not limited to the White Tent craft fairs and art festivals.  The online markets enable anyone who makes anything to offer their "craft" for sale online.   

And low price isn't the only issue here. Too often, instead of adapting by making work with less expensive production technologies, makers are simply paying themselves less. In other words, they are reducing their cash flow, income, and profit (if any).

Garth Clark says:  "The definition of success in the craft was being able to escape it. It is sort of like a penitentiary theory. We gave the most attention to those artists that seemed as though they were going to make the move into the fine arts.  And in the process of course, in the discussion, it really demeaned craft. What was craft if everyone wanted to escape from it." 

Garth was talking about a craft vs. art debate.  I agree with the observation, but not the reason.  I think everyone who becomes successful in craft wanted to escape the craft world not because they rejected craft definitions, but because they wanted to escape the low prices of the craft world.

Time to stop and rethink.

I welcome other people's insights.


This post was updated on June 21, 2022, to provide current links.

The Economic Stakes of the White Tent - Reduced Demand

The dynamics of supply and demand determine prices in a market economy. This is a fundamental principle of economics.

The previous post discussed the supply side of craft, specifically, the apparent oversupply of craft in the marketplace. To summarize very briefly, the rapid increase in the number of craft shows, art fairs, street festivals, open studios, etc., and especially the Internet, has created an environment in which multiple channels compete for craft buyer attention. The issues surrounding supply and demand have little to do with judgment, just economics in the marketplace.

SupplydemanddownThis post will examine the demand side of the economic equation in the craft marketplace.  Demand in the marketplace is more difficult to define, but my perception is that demand for craft is lethargic at best. A disheartening picture.  Demand has not kept up with supply.


Sluggish demand can be attributed to four factors that I've noticed:

  • a poor economy,
  • the impact of the information age,
  • aging demographics,
  • competition from "designer" products,
  • please add your ideas.

These may be interrelated, but I will try to examine each.

The poor economy is something we all recognize.  Quoting from a Survey Report and Analysis from The Art Festival; "Without question, the slow, nearly imperceptible recovery in the national economy has had a deep impact on the art festival industry--and the lives of the artists for whom the industry represents most, if not all, of their livelihood."*

There is nothing that the craft community can change about the economy, but we should note that there are products still selling briskly, even in this economy -- such as flat-panel televisions, tablet devices, iPhones, and energy-efficient cars. What do these products have in common? They are considered essential, trendy, new, and directly connected to market segments with growing demand.  Most are connected to the next category - information.


The information age has radically changed the marketplace. Information, connectedness, and social experiences are growth segments.  We are still a consumer society but consumption has shifted away from conventional craft. AppleIphone5laying downDo you realize the sales of the new iPhone 5 will boost US GDP (Gross Domestic Product by a forecasted $12.8 billion? One device has a measurable impact on the entire US economy. This is really astounding.


Many people attending craft fairs and craft organizations have already recognized that both the sellers and the attendees at craft fairs are getting older. This is confirmed in the recent survey, "Art Festival Artists: Who We Are 2012" Survey Report and Analysis from The Art Festival Quotes:

More than three-quarters of art festival artists (76.4%) are 50 years old or older.

Their age continues to shift upward. 

The impact of an aging demographic = fewer buyers and fewer purchases per buyer. Why?  They are settled and already have complete households. Recently an established gallery (specializing in craft media) revealed to me that their collectors are buying less than in the past. She observed that more senior collectors are even downsizing and seeking to deaccession their collections. (This adds to the supply side of the craft marketplace.)  Fewer buyers buying less and less are sure signs of weakening demand.

Corresponding to the aging demographic, another observation is that the merchandise and the merchandising in the white tent are less fashionable or trendy (with exceptions of course), but overall it seems stale. The accepted standards for display in the white tent have become status quo and (dare I say it) boring. It doesn't help demand when the marketing of traditional craft fairs does not use contemporary marketing through social media effectively.  Advertising and promotion techniques have changed in the information age.


In his lecture and paper "How Envy Killed the Crafts", Garth Clark says, ". . .  one cannot blame craft's slowing market on general economic conditions in the past ten pre-recession years. During that period more Americans spent unprecedented amounts on distinctive contemporary home furnishings, decoration, and art than ever before. While this market waxed, the interest in craft waned." 

I take this to mean that the craft market has not been adequately stylish or contemporary, nor competitively priced. I agree.

Garth Clark continues, "Design is undermining the craft market at every level. It can deliver handsome ceramics, fabric, and jewelry at a low cost. It can produce work that to the average eye seems to be hand-crafted and can program machines to produce objects that are to some extent, unique."

In a lecture that Garth Clark gave at the 2012 SNAG Conference, he said, "The crafts retail field at least at the top end is shrinking by the day" and the "[craft] work is too sophisticated for the existing craft marketplace."  Clark is referring to a number of Galleries that have closed in recent years. The more thoughtful, conceptual, theoretical, or expensive craft objects which had a specific audience during the booming 20th century have waned since the downturn of the economy. Demand is reduced even at the high end of craft.


The Art Festival Newsletter survey also reveals a steady decline in expectations from craft show sellers. I'd consider this an economic response to reduced demand.

In 2010, only 1.2% of respondents said revenue below $1,500 constituted a good show. In 2012, that number rose to 8.0%.

In 2010, 21.1% considered between $1,500 and $3,000 in sales a good show.  In 2012, the percentage rose to 29.5%.

In 2010, 25.2% responded that a good show brings in $5,001 to $10,000.  In 2012, it is down to 19.7%.

Expectations are shrinking.  The two lowest expectation categories are expanding, while the high expectation category is dwindling. 

As I was writing the previous post about the supply channels for craft, it struck me that the post was getting longer and longer as I thought of all the supply channels for more craft. I suddenly realized just how excessive the "supply" of craft had become.

As I wrote this post and tried to diagnose the reasons for low demand, the depressing realization was that the reasons for reduced demand of craft will not get any better without radical change to the white tent MARKETING and the products available for sale. The craft community needs to rethink really hard about the future of craft business.  To put it bluntly, adapt, wither or die.


THE NEXT POST connects the principles of supply and demand to the impact on prices. 

* Here is a link to the Art Festival survey.

Consuming Good Taste   1999
Teapot by Harriete Estel Berman from post-consumer recycled tin cans.

This post was updated on June 21, 2022, to provide current links.

The Economic Stakes of the White Tent - Over Supply

The interaction of supply and demand is the most fundamental concept of economics and it is the backbone of a market economy.  It is described as the state where shifts in supply or demand cause changes in price, up or down, that bring supply and demand back into balance.

Cherry TOMATOESWe see the effect of supply and demand every day at the gas station with fluctuating prices. At the farmer's market, an abundant supply of seasonal fruits and vegetables will be priced lower than at other times. We hear about the oversupply of housing on the news causing depressed housing prices.



Strong demand for new technology supports strong prices with the new Apple 5 phone.

In this post about supply and demand in the craft marketplace, I want to focus on SUPPLY.  This includes the full spectrum of craft supply at all levels from the white tent to "big G" Galleries, i.e. all the potential sales venues for all makers of craft.



Stake for holding up White Tent Let's go back a few years.  In 1979-80, when I was in graduate school in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, I made a pilgrimage to upstate New York to attend the fabled and original craft fair, Reinbeck. Later, in the early 80s, I would wait all year in anticipation of the ACC show coming to San Francisco. These two events represented opportunities to see the work of craft makers in the 20th-century craft movement.


Sausalito art  festival white tents Now in one weekend in metropolitan areas,  there can be any number of craft fairs, art festivals, and street fairs.  In the San Francisco Bay Area, this Friday's evening news mentioned four art festivals. On Labor Day weekend, there were two major art festivals, Sausalito Art Festival and the previously mentioned Kings Mountain Art Fair, both considered premier events.  Makers I know frequently lament about how they must choose between multiple events on the same weekend throughout the year.

A variety of organizations have jumped on the idea of hosting festivals or events. All have the best intentions of supporting the arts, showcasing artists and makers, and creating opportunities for selling while generating their own revenue from application fees, booth fees, parking fees, and food concessions.

The number of events showcasing arts and crafts has exploded in the last 20 years to include fundraising auctions, trunk shows, academic programs selling student work, and museums that now host membership events. For example:

  • MAD just hosted "Loot".
  • Bellevue Art Museum now sponsors the Bellevue Art Museum Arts Fair.
  • Tyler School of Art Alumni Association offers an "event" for alumni to sell work.
  • Academy of Art sells student work at the end of the school year, encouraging low prices to promote retail sales. Ironically, the low prices are a more realistic forecast of the "artist's life" than ever intended.
  • SNAG offered its own trunk show at the last two conferences.
  • Pier One offers handsome, well-designed handmade objects if you didn't find what you want at the local craft show.
  • Nationwide the list just keeps growing.
  • D.I.Y. adds to the handmade mix.
  • This is only a small sample. My mailbox (both email and snail mail) receives regular invitations to participate in all kinds of events.

This doesn't even include the extensive number of Open Studios sponsored by local communities, or online marketplaces which have no barrier to entry. Now anyone who can make anything can try to sell it online.

ARE YOU OVERWHELMED WITH THE NUMBER OF EVENTS?  I am. So is the consumer. "Handmade" has flooded the market.


Supply of craft is generated by all makers of craft. Art schools promote their programs and fill students with optimistic expectations that they can support themselves with the skills learned.  Garth Clark says: "We are hugely overproducing art students for a market that can only accept a small number."  The same scenario exists with the craft programs.

Additional sellers come from the baby boomer generation who pursue a 2nd career to express their creativity. While there is nothing wrong with this new dedication, it astounds me that too often their primary objective is to recover their materials costs. 

Back to basic economics and the principles of supply and demand
Let's be honest.  The flood of "handmade" has impacted the market.  We have generated an excess of supply far beyond market demand. All these shows, festivals, online craft sites, auctions, fairs, etc. have greatly expanded the supply available to a finite number of consumers.  In other words, the rapid growth of supply has exceeded demand. 

If you disagree with the over-supply picture presented, please say so. I'd love to hear about it.

This post only covered the supply side.  The other half of the economic equation is demand. This will be the focus of the next post.


Conversation E from a series of teacups titled Consuming Conversation by Harriete Estel Berman

Consuming Conversation is a series of 200 teacups about our consumer society. The stacks of cups are precariously balanced, not unlike our own economy which has been destabilized by overspending, greed, unsound business practices, and lack of government oversight. 

Artist: Harriete Estel Berman
Teacups are constructed from post-consumer recycled materials. Brass or silver handles.
Stacks are exhibited or sold in groups as photographed.

This post was updated on June 20, 2022, to provide current links.

The White Tent - Mainstream, Eddies, and Backwaters of Craft.

I've quietly talked to a lot of people about this topic, genuinely trying to understand . . . Why has the White Tent lost credibility?  I've long wondered why craft has not attained the stature of "fine art", but actually lost ground. 

White TENT craft-show-displaysI'm beginning to conclude that the White Tent of craft fairs and the lack of stature of craft are related.   Our marketing of craft is stuck in a 1960's model and we haven't changed our marketing methods to a 21st-century model.

The 1960s earthy, hand-made mystique of the independent artist outside of the corporate world is dated. The craft movement rode a wave of popularity that may well have become a "sinking ship" as described by Garth Clark.  I think we rode our "well-crafted boat"* with the mainstream current of American prosperity....but now we are stuck in an eddy.

The mainstream current, the eddies, and the backwater of craft.
Have you ever gone rafting down a river?   There's plenty of current in the middle and you hardly need to paddle, but closer to shore along the edge, the eddy currents actually slow down or even go backward, albeit very slowly.

WhiteTentTheresa Kwong2The craft movement rode the easy downstream current for years. We floated along, hit some gentle rapids on occasion, but never built any sustained momentum of our own.  As a whole, we craft makers rarely become good at marketing ourselves. For example, the artists participating in craft fairs and art festivals typically depend on the show sponsor for bringing in the crowds. The booth arrangements, displays, and merchandising under the white tent too often are poorly arranged, not engaging, or innovative.  I know that the artists and makers are not marketing and display experts, but these are exactly the skills that small business people need to develop in a competitive economy. 

My heart is broken. The craft fair format has evolved, but with no direction.  The white tent and craft merchandising look the same as they did 30 years ago. The white tent format has floated into an eddy and may be drifting round and round with the appearance of moving but not getting anywhere.

Bizarr Bizarre sign at Maker FaireMeanwhile, the D.I.Y. movement jumped onto the craft current and steered itself to catch the emerging currents of the Internet and social networking. Their long-tail marketing absorbed the "authenticity" that craft had 4-5 decades ago. The online buzz and fun names like Bazaar Bizarre captured the mood of a new generation. Their inventory and merchandise weren't so much better, but they leveraged the trendier and lower-cost sales channels like Etsy.

I apologize for all the negativity in this and the previous post.  Future posts will discuss the economic principles of supply and demand, the economics of handmade, demographics, and possible solutions or improvements, but I thought it was necessary to lay a foundation for background. Where can we go from here?
More soon.

*"well crafted" boat was a term used by Garth Clark in his keynote lecture during the 2012 SNAG Conference.

4 Worry Beads from Worry Upon Worry Coming Undone by Harriete Estel Berman promised gift for the Philadelphia Museum of Artlvd
Worry Upon Worry Beads Coming Undone
Artist: Harriete Estel Berman   (4 of 12 beads)
Post-consumer recycled tin cans.
Promised gift to the Philadelphia Museum of Art

This post was updated on June 20, 2022, to provide current links.

The White Tent's Credibility - Context Does Matter

The previous post The White Tent or the White Wall raises an interesting question. Is the value of art or craft defined by the context?

Here is one answer from an article in The Washington Post titled "Pearls Before Breakfast".

"MARK LEITHAUSER HAS HELD IN HIS HANDS MORE GREAT WORKS OF ART THAN ANY KING OR POPE OR MEDICI EVER DID. A senior curator at the National Gallery, he oversees the framing of the paintings. Leithauser thinks he has some idea of what happened at that Metro station. [Watch this video of Joshua Bell at the D.C. subway station if you missed the previous post.]

ELLSWORTHkelly-tiger-53"Let's say I took one of our more abstract masterpieces, say an Ellsworth Kelly, and removed it from its frame, marched it down the 52 steps that people walk up to get to the National Gallery, past the giant columns, and brought it into a restaurant. It's a $5 million painting. And it's one of those restaurants where there are pieces of original art for sale, by some industrious kids from the Corcoran School, and I hang that Kelly on the wall with a price tag of $150. No one is going to notice it. An art curator might look up and say: 'Hey, that looks a little like an Ellsworth Kelly. Please pass the salt.'"

"Leithauser's point is that we shouldn't be too ready to label the Metro passersby unsophisticated boobs. Context matters." end quote.

To go back to our craft fair White Tent:
With rare exceptions, the white tent at a craft fair does not add credibility any more than a subway or a restaurant.  The much hoped-for "value" context is lacking.

What is the impact of this lack of credibility?
I have been thinking about this for years, but now, re-examining the white tent in this series of posts has forced me to voice a very brutal reality -- if context matters, then we makers may have devalued our work by exhibiting at craft fairs, possibly to a point that it may never recover. The context of the craft fair has devalued craft media, regardless of quality. 

This isn't going to be a popular observation. I hear outrage....and hostility. My comment is not meant to devalue the art or craft work, nor make a judgment about quality.  I am describing the context . . . that the context of craft fairs has devolved into a branding gimmick for consumer audiences seeking to buy low-priced items.  Consequently, our handcrafted, thoughtful, unique objects are compared to mass-produced, low-priced goods.  This diminishes the perceived value and credibility of our work.

This issue has been compounded in recent years by the hard economic times. In sincere attempts to gain visibility and retail sales, makers are making less expensive items to sell work at lower price points. Two-dimensional artists are selling computer-generated prints and canvases using commercial reproduction processes to look like original paintings.  Likewise, three-dimensional makers shift their efforts to fabricate what sells.  Many decide to show only lower-priced items further reducing limited booth space dedicated to more unique expensive selections.

The consumer public is coming to craft fairs expecting "deals from starving artists" and prices comparable to cheap imported goods.  Craft fairs increasingly feature hobbyists who often price their inventory merely hoping to recover their material costs. Second careers and retirees may have "fun" making and selling but often seem to have less concern about making a living.

In an effort to increase interest in craft and raise attendance, the craft fair has pandered to the mass consumer market.  This is a huge mistake.

It is rare to find the discerning buyer or collector coming to a craft fair to buy the best from a maker or artist.  Most of the time the maker's or artist's "best" is not brought to the craft fair. Only a few craft fairs nationwide have been able to maintain the reputation of their event as a premium show. The rest are slowly diminishing in credibility.

Even established juried fairs are having difficulty filling show booths with top-quality makers. Top makers and artists are becoming less willing to invest three days in an exhausting, costly, and demoralizing event for people who come "just to look." More evidence that the context of the white tent is diminishing in value even to the makers themselves.

So sorry to say all this. I don't like to say negative comments without offering some recommendations....but it seems disingenuous to cheer "rah, rah, rah" and "sell, sell, sell" when the context at the white tent craft fair is losing value.

Is it possible to raise the status of the white tent, to change its context?  Or should we spend our time and effort in more productive channels to obtain the right kind of exposure and context necessary to sell our work?

Let's keep examining the issues. I have more thoughts.

Increasing quantity diminishing valuea
Increasing Quantity, Diminishing Value
Post-consumer recycled tin cans, and copper.
Artist: Harriete Estel Berman
7" height x 8" width to 2" (at narrow end) x 58.5" length
Close-up images are below.
Increasing Quantity, Diminishing  Value by Harriete Estel Berman
Increasing Quantity, Diminishing Value
(close-up view)

Increasing Quantity, Diminishing Value (close-up view) by Harriete Estel Berman 2side
Increasing Quantity, Diminishing Value (close-up view) 

This post was updated on June 17, 2022, to provide current links.

The White Tent or the White Wall.

KingsMountainArtFair2. Harriete Estel Berman at the S. F. Museum of Modern Art

SF Museum of Modern Art          King's Mountain Art Fair      

As mentioned in the previous post, on Labor Day Weekend I went to both SFMOMA and the King's Mountain Art Fair. Each of these venues offers a sanctuary for creative expression, a haven, a quiet experience to look at art, and a wonderfully tranquil environment.

Cathedral of Redwood Trees.The King's Mountain Art Fair takes place in a natural cathedral of redwoods.   In contrast, the  San Francisco Museum of Modern Art is a modern building designed for and dedicated to the arts. Both venues are "destinations." San_francisco_museum_modern_art_am030309_1Everyone attending these venues immerses themselves in the surroundings, taking time to look and to see what there is to see. By being there, they are supporting the arts.

Both locations offered visibility for the artists, but I kept wondering ....what difference is there between the white tent of the fair and the white wall of the museum.

Alison Antelman White Booth inside viewThe artists in the white tents are reaching for visibility, credibility, collectors, and retail sales.  But the artists at the museum are visible, credible, collected, and purchased.

Was there any artwork or craft at the King's Mountain Art Fair with a future on the white walls of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
(or any museum)?

What would I think about the art in SFMOMA if it were hanging on a white booth at Kings Mountain Art Fair?

In the video below, Joshua Bell played Bach in the District of Columbia subway during rush hour. A few people stopped and watched this world-class musician "playing exquisite violin piece on one of the world's most expensive violins." Mostly he was ignored, earning a reported $32.17.

The point? Without the credibility established by a concert hall, the metaphorical white wall, he was just another artist seeking visibility with no credibility.  A quote from the article from Joshua Bell, "When you play for ticket-holders," Bell explains, "you are already validated. I have no sense that I need to be accepted. I'm already accepted. Here,[in a subway station] there was this thought: What if they don't like me? What if they resent my presence . . ."

The primary issue in the art world and in this post is that the white wall of the museum establishes credibility.

Would I recognize work at a craft fair that deserved to be validated by the white wall of the museum?

How apparent is it that a painting, drawing, print, or photograph belongs only at a craft fair?

What aspects or factors of an artwork (of any media) cause it to belong in a museum?

Do you (the readers of ASK Harriete) ever walk through an art/craft fair or SOFA, and ask this question?

In the meantime, do you have an opinion you'd like to share?

Alison Antelman Booth Inside.
Booth Shot of Alison Antelman's Booth.

This post was updated on June 17, 2022.


Ordinary, Extraordinary & Future of Craft

This Labor Day weekend I went to the King's Mountain Art Fair and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.  The two venues provided both striking contrasts and similarities -- which raised questions that continue to reverberate in my brain.  The ordinary and the extraordinary coexist in both.  The absolute natural setting of an amazing redwood grove versus the man-made, credentialed establishment of a modern museum. 

Can you see the similarities and differences?

Kings Mountain Art Fair.

What issues do these photos raise?
The issues are varied and complex:

Is there a future for craft beyond D.I.Y.?

What is the economical model we are looking at here?

Can craft media makers make a viable living in craft media?

Can craft makers hope to achieve more than break-even? What is break-even?

Does selling at craft fairs reach your objectives?

Is there a future for craft fairs?

What is happening to the Galleries that sell craft media?

Will there ever be a craft media superstar?

Is it a bunch of baloney to say that making a living from craft is possible?

Does "handmade" have value anymore?

Should consumers pay what it costs makers to make?  

Can consumers be educated about why our work costs so much? Does it really matter?

In the next few posts, I intend to examine, discuss, and debate these issues.  Send comments and let me know your opinions, questions, and insights.


This post was updated on June 17, 2022.