Craft Show Display 101: You can spend thousands of dollars purchasing a display for your booth, or with a little creativity and know-how you can do it all yourself.
We launched Aha Crafted in the Fall of 2015, so with a brand new business and the holiday season right around the corner we decided that to display our earrings at some type of craft show or holiday bazaar would be the perfect way to create some buzz around our new brand. I looked into a few shows in the New York/New Jersey area and when I came across the Asbury Park Holiday Bazaar I thought it would be the perfect fit for us. I'll leave our experience with the actual bazaar for another post and focus on how we created the displays here.
After we signed up, we had a little over a month to find displays for our leather earrings (and get everything else ready). We started by poking around online for displays and nothing really fit the bill. We then looked into having custom displays created by craftsman on Etsy. Unfortunately anything that would need to be custom built and shipped to us came in way over our budget. Thinking we might be able to score some types of antique wood displays we took a Sunday to drive around to all the antique shops in our area. About four hours and ten shops later we had only come across two pieces that could possibly work. The pieces weren't exactly what we were looking for and to be honest, they were way overpriced. Jeez; I never imagined this would be so hard!
We both agreed that we loved the look of anything that had a worn, antique look. It started to seem impossible though to find pieces that were aesthetically pleasing and functional. As we hopped from store to store I became more and more discouraged. But I could see Jamie's wheels starting to turn and finally he said: "If we can find this type of 100 year old wood, I'll just make the displays myself." Aside from a couple cool shots taken, the day was a total bust.
When we got home I google "reclaimed wood" and the first site to come up was for Real Antique Wood in the Newark area. What a find! If anyone is ever considering making their own pieces of furniture this is where its at. The show room was filled with custom made furniture that they sell, and the rest of the place was pretty much a lumberyard filled to the brim with antique wood. Turns out the owners scour the east coast for old barns and homes being torn down, and instead of the wood being burnt, it's collected for re-sale. (I was thrilled to hear all this, because I love the idea of anything up-cycled!).
We had no clue where to start, so one of the owners was kind enough to show us around and school us a bit on types of wood. With 15' tall piles of wood all around us, my head started to spin almost immediately, so I let Jamie take the lead and I trailed behind snapping pictures.
Once we had the wood, creating the actual look and functionality of the display was next. Jamie put together a graphic designed replica of what was bouncing around in his head.
From there it was all hands on. I'll admit, I was surprised and impressed to see him put this together from start to finish. I had no idea his talents stretched to furniture/wood working.
Below is one of the finished pieces without any stain or varnish. We hemmed and hawed for a couple of days on whether or not to put a coat of varnish on it. The raw wood was so beautiful in its natural state, but we thought that a clear coat might give a sleeker look and that it would be more appropriate to display jewelry. If this was going to be for a different use though, I think we would have left it as is.
And then came the varnish. Surprisingly one coat of varnish darkened the wood about three shades.
Next came small LED book lights picked up at Barnes and Nobel. (Jamie secured small iron handles to the back that the lights could be clipped onto.) He also added two strips of wood to the back that helped to keep the piece upright and could be folded in.
We built three displays for our booth. I'll finish with an image of us behind the finished product and about 100 handmade leather earrings!
And one last picture of our booth from afar, at night, with lights and all. A few posts from now I'll share our experience at the show and some tips to prepare for a craft show. If you haven't left your email yet, be sure to do so we can share our journey of our start up company with you!