Wednesday, November 11, 2009


© 2009 By David Wainland

Do you need a tent, only if you want to stay dry, keep your products safe, make money and intend to do major events.

There are any different types of art and craft shows, some of course are held inside malls and they do not require tents, but you should check for display requirements before you mail in a deposit or contract. Quality indoor shows and the malls they are held in, have stringent rules regarding displays. Some even ask you to maintain their color scheme. Many require that your booth be open both front and back. Still others demand that you camouflage the area behind your display.

Remember, a good display is a major key to your sales.

If you are doing outside strip mall shows and they are under cover, you needn’t worry about a tent, but be prepared with tarps and other protection against the elements. Remember the wind is not your friend so be prepared to tie down your displays and have quick access to your tarps.

Plastic boxes and not cardboard are desired. Even if the area is protected from the rain you may still get water flowing beneath your display. Your merchandise is your lively hood, protect it.

Are you looking for portability, a space saver or quick set up? Then a pop-up such as Easy-up or K D may be your answer. You can have a pop-up assembled and ready to stock in less than twenty minutes, but make sure you get one with sides and here I recommend zippered corners if at all possible.

Stay away from tents that are any other color than white. In the light of the sun they cast peculiar shadows and take away from your products look. They also fade and are much hotter to work under.

Avoid back yard tents and gazebo affairs. It is important to appear professional.

I use a dome style tent. The rounded roof gives better protection in the rain and they are stronger. The downside is that they are more difficult to employ and take more time. The upside, you feel secure against the elements.

Make sure your tent is weighted and or secured. There is no worse feeling than watching your house turn upside down in the wind.

Your tent is your home and you entertain guests inside. Look good and you will do good.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009


© 2009 by David Wainland

Either setting up is getting harder or I am getting older. Maybe I should think of quitting. The wind blew in over the whispering surf and putting up a tent at the art show, something I have done for over thirty years, was proving to be a challenge. Throw in a humid and warm Florida morning and I could feel rivulets of sweat crisscrossing my body.

After a bit, it settled back into routine and I spent the next two hours driving stakes into the beach sand, unpacking my stuff, displaying my sculptures, and finally preparing the necessary tools of my trade.

Being an outdoor artist is a hell of a lot more complicated and time consuming than most people would believe. For all the customer knows, I make the stuff and magically appear in my spot hawking my wares and occasionally slipping around the back to sip red wine and smoke a funny cigarette. No, it is a far cry form blankets on the grass and Hippies selling water pipes.

A flock of seagulls fluttered overhead, a white wave of cawing, cackling scavengers waiting for the surge of humans and their eventual litter to pick apart. I guess that was symbolic for us, two hundred artists and crafts people lined in a row of white tents that would have impressed Napoleon, waiting for the first of the early bird shoppers to spend their green litter.

As the sun began its rambling travel across the sky, I watched car after car approach the beach and disgorge the passengers. They were coming and I was ready, pen, order book and business cards in hand. The majority of my comrades did not follow suit. Instead, they placed there high deck-chairs opposite the walk and waited disdainfully as the patrons approached.

“I am an artist, beg me to buy,” their body language seemed to imply. Not me, I am a salesman first and an artist second. If you came within striking distance of my tent, I was talking about my work and encouraging them to step in.

Some were entranced and some, not so much, but they all had the chance to hear my pitch. Amidst the cries of, “I’m just looking,” “Nice work,” “My uncle does this” and the ever present, “I’ll be back, I would occasionally score a hit.

Midday and the heaviest surge of humanity swept over the show like a tidal wave of sun burned flesh. There were points in the day like this that all I could think of was escaping to the surf and a long swim with the creatures of the sea

On the last day at almost the end of the show and two days in the sun while I was beginning to pack up, one of my be-backs returned.

I love the metal sculpture of the Bronx apartment building, but you quoted me a bit high. You told me eight hundred dollars.”

“No sir, I quoted you nine hundred and I don’t think that is too high for all the work involved.” It was the end and the sun was slipping away. I would have taken five hundred.

“OK then, what is your best price?”

I could not resist.

“Fifteen hundred dollars,” I paused and waited for the reaction to show before I continued, “But I will take the eight,” and I smiled.

He handed me eight crisp, one hundred dollar bills and left with the sculpture in his arms.

I looked up just as another flock of seagulls swept by in the opposite direction.

Thanks, I owe you one.” It was just another couple of days on the beach, but good ones.

Thursday, October 22, 2009


© 2009 by David Wainland

When the rain finally arrived, it was anticlimactic. I spent much of the day preparing, something I have learned over the past twenty years. In Florida, even if there is only the slightest chance of rain interrupting your art show, you can depend on it to happen.

I slid off my seat, unsnapped the fasteners and dropped the side curtains to my tent. Earlier that morning while opening, I checked and lined up the zippers so now it took only seconds to secure them. My tables were already inside and I moved the sculptures I featured from the top of the displays down one level. I work in cold-rolled steel and even with a heavy lacquer protection the slightest mist can cause rusting.

It was a three-day show and the Delray Affair committee expected their usual two hundred and fifty thousand plus visitors. Of course, that was prior to the weather people and their dire warnings.

Friday went as expected, small crowds, but steady sales. Saturday they swamped us and we lost many customers to the heat and crowds. Still, it turned out to be an average if not record-breaking day.

When I was younger and first started the art tour, I dreamt of a gypsy life. I pictured myself roving from town to town, laying my goods on a blanket, sharing my work with the world, my philosophies and a bottle of wine with my fellow artisans. It was never that way and I should have known better.

Getting ready for a show season means days, weeks and months of preparation, Producing the inventory is only part of the business, planning, packing, loading and unloading make up the other half.

Creativity does not end with the product. To get into the better shows you need good pictures, slides of your work and your display, professional not amateur work. Almost as important as your art form is the way you show it. The judges of a quality show deny entrance to many a good craftsman, not because his work is bad, but because his display is lacking. There is no setting up on a blanket if you want to make the big money.

For a two or three day show, I have to plan weeks in advance. The real work begins two days before. I spend two hours cleaning and packing up my pieces, over one hundred and fifty of them and then loading my vehicle. The next day, if the show begins at ten in the morning I must leave my home early enough to arrive by six or six thirty. Depending on the location of my booth, it takes two to three hours to unload and set up. How early I awaken depends upon how far away the show is.

You can count on people arriving before the opening and if you are not ready, they pass you by. The early birds come to beat the crowds and tend to be buyers out looking for bargains or the cream of the work.

By mid morning, I have already had my share of “Be-backs,” those who look, compliment and say they will return. They seldom do. Over the years, my skin has grown thick so I am capable of warding off the inane remarks that threaten to bury my usual jovial mood. Candid acidic comments like, “My uncle makes this stuff.” “It’s nothing but nuts and bolts soldered together.” (I neither solder nor use nuts and bolts,) “You make a living doing this?” “You charge sales tax even if I pay cash?” And my favorite of all, “Can you do better if I buy more than one?” They never do. Some people get their jollies by asking me for something they know I will not have. I do custom work so they cannot get me on that.

I have a friend that collects comments as some people collect stamps. He has a book-full and still manages to enter one or two new stupid remarks each show.

Six o’clock finally comes and it is time to pack up for the evening, depending on show security this can take from an hour to two or more. The next morning I am back and doing it all over again.

I hate three-day shows.

After a long day I break down once more, if the show is over it takes a minimum of two more hours to rack, pack and stack. Then I return to my home and the next day I unpack, place my displays and tent in the warehouse, clean, revitalize, inventory my stock and place my orders into my computer. I spend the evening doing the necessary paper work.

Tuesday I start the cycle all over again.

The average two-day show uses up about forty-hours, there is not much time for sharing philosophies or drinking wine.

As I said before, The Delray Affair runs three days and every year it seems to rain on Sunday. This year the weather people added to the mix by threatening high winds, heavy downpours and tornado warnings.

By three, what was left of the crowd was drinking beer, staring at the sky and no longer buying. Like I said, when the bad weather came I was prepared.

It never did storm. I just got a little rain in my face.