Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Evolution of an Artist's Alley Table Part 1

(My display has since leveled up! See the new display.)

After the last couple of conventions, it seems my artist's alley table is growing and evolving into something grand! I am always seeking ways to improve and welcome any suggestions you might have.

It started out at an Anime Weekend Atlanta of years ago where I just tossed unmatted and unbagged prints on the table and sold them for $5-$10 with a banner hung out front. Then we had the Dragon Con display this year with an elevated banner and slightly more offerings of necklaces and matted prints.

Now, we have the Anime Weekend Atlanta display where we pulled out a few more stops to make our display the best it could be. Here's a run-down of what we did.

The Elements of an Artist's Alley Table

1. One Sleep Deprived Artist - Complete with circles under the eyes and friendly smile. Customers like to see the artist at the table so they can talk to you personally and maybe watch you while you're working on a project. People like to be close to that creative flow and are generally curious about 'the life'. ($100,000,000 or 100 steak dinners)

2. Professionaly Printed Vinyl Banner - Printed at my local sign shop by my wonderful brother over at Graphic Signs Atlanta. I chose vinyl because it can take abuse and weather the elements. It's guaranteed to last longer than a paper sign. (FREE, generally $6 per square foot)

3. Backdrop Display - This is actually a piece of photography equipment called a backdrop kit. The poles break down and it comes with a handy carrying case to store it all in. It is relatively lightweight. I generally use this set for my stock photography needs. Bought from eBay. ($85)

4. Jewelry Stand - My dad made this wood stand ages ago and I stole it from my parents' bedroom. You can buy cute tree style stands from eBay for pretty low prices. Having a stand for necklaces helps draw in the crowd with more visibility for your shinies. (FREE, generally $25 for a nice one, less for a wire one)

5. Small Prints - I like to have these out for folks who don't have a large budget for buying the larger pieces. At only $5 a pop, they're a colorful way to help fill up empty space on the table and provide a low end price option.

6. 3 Tiered Magazine Display - Purchased from displays2go.com. Instead of magazines, I put in matted prints. People enjoyed rifling through it, but I want to invest in one with deeper compartments with more room for people to flip through. ($30)

7. Greeting Card Rotating Rack - Purchased from displays2go.com. I used this to display matted 4x6 prints and unmatted 5x7s which fit snuggly in the slots. It's amazing how a rack like this can give your work a more professional feel. This is pretty lightweight for transport, if a bit bulky. ($35)

8. Canvas Bin - Purchased at Big Lots. I used this to display more large prints to rifle through for those who wanted something a little more beefy than the 5x7's. ($15)

9. Cube Grid Walls - Another item that was donated to me. These grid walls were a lifesaver for making my display project upwards more. They stack easily when broken down and give you plenty of space to play with as far as hanging art. I had only 6 cubes, but imagine what you could do with more! (FREE, generally $16 for 6 cube set)

What am I missing?

Display Portfolio - I didn't have it out in this photo, but I had a portfolio of my best work laying out on the table housed in an Itoya notebook with a custom printed spine. ($8)

All in All...

I feel the weakness of this display setup is that it is slightly bulky, but the ability to project upwards I feel is a necessary one for my tastes. I've also been told carrying primarily more expensive items forces people to buy those instead and that a lighter setup is easier to do. My experiences have shown this does not work for my particular set of items and audience, though this lighter setup with more expensive items may work at conventions where customers are more willing to pay for top dollar items. At smaller cons, customers seem to like an option for smaller budgets.

The next big step in my display campaign is to figure out what I need for a large 10 x 10 foot space, the standard floor plot for art fair space. I sense canvas panels, tents, and god knows what else in my future!

Questions? Comments? Suggestions? Feel free to drop 'em here!


  1. obviously beads are a lot smaller but when we held our first shwo, my sister and I were told our first investment should be a pair of lights. people tend to gravitate towards booths with good lighting.
    beautiful display BTW, I really like all the levels. hope you do well !!!

  2. Beautiful display! You have a lot of stock, but it doesn't feel crowded or busy. :D

    One thing I've liked seeing folks do at their tables is bring their own cloth to throw over the table. Kind of makes the space more customized. I'm considering bringing that to my next con next time I table - though it's more because I tend to be a wino and spill stuff. ^^;

  3. Lighting is an interesting idea! It costs extra for electricity so generally I stay away from such things. However, I can see white christmas lights offering nice ambience if a room were a little dark.

  4. I have issues with spills as well, being the klutz that I am. I've been pondering bringing some sort of pale cloth as well, we just kept forgetting it these past couple of times. We're considering some sort of decorative garland to drape out front of the table to help it look more customized as well.

  5. Excellent article, Ang. I saw Mere having the grid cubes and I loved her idea! I really like how neat everything looks in your stand. Something I need to think about seriously if I want to do cons!

  6. I also use custom jotters and a good sales item at shows. When I am not at a show and trying to think of ideas I look at my Trophy Cases and usually looking at the collectibles helps me come up with something.

  7. Where do you find the plastic sleeves for the prints you sell? I have been searching locally and am wondering if I need to purchase them online.

    1. Kudi, I use clearbags.com for all of my product bags and precut backing. Some of the hobby stores like Hobby Lobby and Michaels carry them in lower quantities as well.