Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Outdoor Art Show Advice, part 2- Display Walls & Panels

This blog post started life as a Squidoo Lens, which you can find here:

I wanted to take the information from that page and elaborate on it a bit.
My blog is mostly geared toward 2-dimensional artwork, therefore this post is mainly weighing different options for walls and panels on which artists can hang their artwork.

However, this Flickr pool has lots and lots and LOTS of ideas for displays, booths, tables, indoor and outdoor, for anyone who wants to do craft shows! You may want to bookmark this and refer back to it from time to time.

Now that you're overwhelmed with display ideas...!!

My advice for finding a tent (if you decide to purchase one) applies to panels, too:
Look for used!
Save money and be eco-friendly! Or if you can't find used, start with a few new panels, and keep your eye open for good deals on used ones and snag them as you find them.


Pro-Panels Trading Post
Pro-panels are sort of what I refer to as the "Rolls Royce of Art Show Display Panels." In my opinion they're the best of the best! They're expensive though, but the company is very helpful in putting up a forum on their own website where people can look for used panels to buy, or sometimes rent.

The Wet Canvas Swap Shop
This is a forum from the WetCanvas art website. There are mostly art supplies in this forum, but you may be able to find display equipment too.

Check Ebay for good deals on both new and used craft show supplies.

There are so many manufacturers of panels out there. You can set up your booth in so many different ways, too! Walls on 3 sides, walls and miscellaneous walls that stick out and about, making your booth a little like a maze (but in a good way), or just a wall in the back. If you can, you may want to go visit an outdoor art show and take a look at different booths. Decide what you like, what you don't like, or if you notice a trend (such as, most artists tend to leave a space open in the back where they can put their chair and desk and sit, out of the way, but still be accessible to customers), take note of it, and factor that into your layout.

I'll price these out by panel, and give you a few more pricing options for walls and booth as well. For these below, cost and wall size is figured for a standard 10'x10' booth.

Carpeted, lightweight, heavy duty VERY nice looking panels.
I've talked to artists who have been using these for over 10 years. They are highly recommended (and my panels of choice). However I couldn't afford them for my first show, so at that time, I made my own (scroll down and you'll see!). But these are definitely worth the investment. There are also a lot of different size options and colors available, too. They offer panels that break into two pieces and fit into most sedans- NICE! The cheapest options for a wall would be to get 3 of the 38.5" wide panels (6 or 7 feet tall, do not break apart), at $115 apiece, $345 for a wall, $1,035 for 3 complete walls (doesn't include shipping).

My current booth, with Black ProPanels. I use shutters (found at any hardware store) to display greeting cards.

Armstrong Panels
Carpeted, lightweight, heavy duty VERY nice looking panels.
Different break-down options, again for smaller vehicles. Also come in lots of different colors. For "The Gallery" panels, 38"wide x 7' tall, the cost is $125 apiece. You need 3 to complete one wall, so the cost for a single wall would be $375. For 3 full walls of a 10'x10' booth, $1,125 (doesn't include shipping cost).

Graphic Display Systems
Metal mesh panels that you can use as-is, or purchase fabric covers for them. The metal mesh is also really good in the wind, as it does let the wind pass through it.
Fabrics are offered in different colors or if you're crafty, you can make your own covers! I have talked to artists who have used these for over 10 years as well, and the panels still appeared to be in very, very good shape. These are also offered in break down options for smaller vehicles. For their Standard (non-break-down) 37.5" x 6' panel, each costs $75. Again, 3 are needed to complete 1 wall, so $225 for one wall, and $675 for 3 walls of a 10'x10' booth. Not sure on the cost of shipping for these.

I've seen a lot of different options for covering these, including burlap or bamboo mats for a natural look. Your options are almost limitless! Go crazy with creativity!

Here is the site for the covers you can order:
DIY El-Cheapo Panels
Lowes or Home Depot or your local hardware store.
Miscellaneous PVC pipe and garden wire. You would want to cover this with fabric, trust me. You can try and design your panels to the same sizes as the Graphics Display Panels and order covers from
(or order a cover first, and see if you can create a panel to fit in it.)

When I did my first show, I used PVC pipe costing about $12 for all of it, duct tape costing maybe $8 , and garden wire at about $30 for the roll I needed (and I still had a lot left over). I spent maybe another $12 on fabric to cover it- pretty cheap.

Supplies for panels all laid out...

First frame constructed. I constructed my own break-apart panels so I could fit them into my car. I would give you more info such as measurements, etc. but I made an error when I made these, and instead of a 10-foot long wall, I ended up with a wall more like 11 feet. This wasn't a bad thing, as I ended up angling the panels to compensate for the extra space.

These panels were made with PVC pipe frames and garden wire duct taped to the frame,
then covered in fabric.
I angled the panels so that people coming from either direction could see as much of my work as possible, since I didn't have enough panels to cover 3 of the sides.

Lowes also offers white plastic lattice or pegboard, which are other popular options at shows!
Once you have your panels, do a test run. There will be a learning curve in setting them up, and you want to be as relaxed as possible on your big day! Set them up in your back yard, or in a parking lot that isn't busy- somewhere that you can have room (and time) to lay everything out and really learn what works best for you.


Doris Sturm said...

Samantha, that is really good information for people just starting out...or wanting to improve on what they already have. I will definitely keep that article handy.

Thanks so much for sharing your experience and knowledge with us.

You're the BEST :-)

Samantha G said...

Thank you so much Doris!

I hope when artists are looking around on the web for info, they will find this post and it'll help answer some of their questions!

Tony Moffitt said...

Hi Samantha,
This is a wonderful article... and a great help to artists. Congratulations on your superb coverage and explanations.
Tony Moffitt

Hailey Rose said...

fantastic info! My Art show starts this Thursday...and I haven't much idea of some showy way to put up art. I think I'll be doing that pvc idea. Thank you so much for the great info. xxxx

Joy said...

Thanks for the DIY portion. I was going to try to build my own (can't quite afford the propanels yet.)
Question, though: What is that green and blue thing you have at the front of your booth (the fabric three-tiered bin thing) and where can others get one?

susan hong-sammons said...

Hi Samantha, Can you recommend a tent cover that's really weather-proof? thanks

Samantha G said...

I think the best tents are Craft-Huts, Light-Domes, or other ones like them. Unfortunately brand new they start around $1000, but in the fall more artists begin to move their shows indoors... so it ends up being the end of art show season. Therefore this is a great time of year to look for a used canopy from someone either retiring from outdoor shows or just looking to get a new tent!

Gabrielle said...

I'm looking into doing my first art show with my photography, and am pretty money-tight myself. I really liked your DIY panels, but I was wondering.. How do they stand up? :o

Gabrielle said...

I am looking into doing my first art show to show-case my photography, and am pretty money-tight myself. I loved your idea of DIY panels, but I was wondering.. How do they stand up? :O

Samantha G said...

I tied them to the frame of my tent :) it's a little bit of extra weight which is always a good thing, to hold the tent down. Just have to makes sure your tent is weighed down really well, too, of course.

Ernie Kleven said...

Samantha you have a lot of good comments but tieing your panels to the canopy is a bad idea. I keep mine independent of the canopy so the canopy can move but my panels stay put. Of course I use my panel clamping method which is slipping hose clamps over the legs top & bottom and tightening. This method is displayed in my E-Manual sold on eBay. You may search for Ernie$$$ or email me

rita maria said...

samantha i'll be doing my first tent show and i'm clueless. thank you for your generous info! this was so helpful :)