Outdoor festivals are tricky because you have to deal with things like high winds, rain, heat, dogs, children, Port a Potties, questionable food trucks, set up and tear down, and fitting everything into your car. There is a lot to think about.
So, while you should try to plan for as much as possible, don’t let any of those things discourage you. Things will happen, like a stupid girl will let her stupid dog pee all over your booth, but you will get through it.
I started painting when I was five or so. I started selling my paintings when I was 21. I did my first indoor art show when I was 23. I didn’t do my first outdoor art show until I was 27. It took me 27 years to get the courage to do an outdoor show. You don’t have to wait that long.
First thing, it will never be perfect. I’ve been doing outdoor festivals for three years now, at least once a month, usually more than once, from May to November. None of them have ever been exactly perfect and each show is entirely different. Even shows I’ve done before. They are never the same the next year.
First you need a basic set up. Regardless of what you are selling, paintings, jewelry, clay people, dinosaurs, this is what you need.
A TENT TO PROTECT YOUR SHIT
Most shows want a 10x10, white tent. I got mine for around $200 at Sams Club. It’s called the EZ-up. I’m able to put this up and tear it down myself, hence the name, which is important.
Tip: Don’t rely on your family and friends to help you forever.
I see way too many couples screaming at each other over how to put up a tent. While they are threatening divorce papers, my tent is up and ready to go. Whatever you buy for your show/display, make sure you can handle it yourself. Your art friend neighbors, at the shows, will usually help you out, but make sure you can do it yourself if you need to.
The EZ-up tent came with four velcro walls, stakes, and a bag. The bag was bullshit and ripped at the bottom within the first month. I still use it though. But the tent has survived torrential downpours and high winds which is really what I need. It also fit, along with everything else, into my two door Honda Accord Coupe. Shout out to Tetris for helping me improve my mad puzzle skills.
A WAY TO KEEP YOUR TENT AND SHIT SECURE
After you buy your tent you need to get weights. Do not underestimate the need to have your tent weighted down. Most shows are on pavement, aka the road, which means those stakes that came with the tent are useless.
I bought tent weight bags, like this one, and filled them with rocks from Walmart. They are about 30-40 pounds each. They worked great two weeks ago when we had high winds and dust storms. Everyone else was hanging on to their tent to keep it from taking off. Mine was fine.
A WAY TO DISPLAY YOUR SHIT
My first display consisted of four grid walls and a table with a tablecloth. I sell paintings so I needed a way to hang them up and a table for my prints, greeting cards, and business cards. I bought my grids on Craigslist (super awesome, slightly shady, score) but there are a lot of options. I’ve seen people use shutters, wood panels, rope, fencing. Be creative but don’t worry about it too much for your first show. This is usually the part people get too hung up on so they never actually do a show.
Yes, product displays are important. Yes, merchandising correctly will help you sell more. But, if you aren’t doing a show because your display isn’t perfect, you will never sell a damn thing. Also, don’t worry about that $500 sign with your logo, nobody cares.
Grab some tables and lay all of your artwork on them. Do whatever it takes and don’t worry about having the prettiest most perfect display ever. Just get out there. Your display will constantly evolve and get better as you make more money and learn.
A WAY TO TAKE PAYMENTS