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Art Fair Equipment Essentials

Updated on December 20, 2014

A Resource And Checklist For All Your Essential Art Fair Gear

As an artist I've been doing art fairs for over 15 years as one of the ways in which I market my art. From this I've learned a few things about packing for art fair venues. Though my husband and I are seasoned pros at doing the art fair thing, we still on occasion forget to pack something. Sometimes it's major, like tent side-walls. And sometimes it's an easier fix (and item to replace while in a foreign city) like a calculator.

My husband keeps saying we need to make a checklist for packing the van. Which after 15 some odd years I've finally done and thus this page was born. It will function as both a checklist and as a resource for art fair and festival essential equipment and gear. If you have any questions please feel free to contact me or leave a comment in the guest book at the bottom of this lens.

The Areas For Equipment Covered Will Be

Securing Your Tent

* Dog Stakes

* Tent Weights

* Zip Ties

* Wire Nippers

* Cambuckles

* Clamps

* Ropes

Sun And Weather Protection

* Hats

* Umbrellas

* Sunscreen

* Hats

* Rain Ponchos

* Shop Towels

* Extra Tarps

Electricity And Lights

* Lights

* Extension Cords

* Surge Protector

* Generator

Storage and Organization

* Clear Totes for equipment storage

* Rubbermaid Totes for product storage

* Coolers

Money Management and Office Stuffs

* Fanny Packs

* Receipt Books

* Pens

* Counterfeit Money Detector Pen

* Calculator

* First Aid Kits

* Hand Sanitizer

About The Author Of Art Fair Equipment Essentials

Mona Majorowicz of WIld Faces Gallery

My name is Mona Majorowicz I am a professional artist who has been making my living selling my work for some time now. I have been in the art and framing industry for over 20 years not only as a business owner but also as a working artist.

I am an animal artist, (meaning I paint critters) who works primarily in Oil Pastel or Water Soluble Pencil. I own and operate Wild Faces Gallery with my husband Mike in a small rural town in Iowa. There we sell my original artwork and prints, as well as do quality custom framing and offer Giclee printing for other artists as well as for ourselves

I maintain a blog called Fur In The Paint, as well as write a regular column for the equestrian magazine Apples 'N Oats about painting horses.

Animals are my passion and art is how I chose to express it.

Owatonna Summer Art Fair
Owatonna Summer Art Fair

Securing Your Tent

Secure Your Artist Tent Properly To Prevent Ruin

Weights On Pavement - Stakes In Grass

Artist Canopies are really just big hang-gliders.

The slightest wind will send an untethered or poorly weighted tent sailing. Use one heavy weight or stake per corner. If the weather has the potential for going bad we may put an additional weight in the center of the sidewall and cross tie it.

Note that the wreck of tent skeleton in my photo all crumpled was a light weight type that is made by many companies the best known of which is ez-up. These types of tents are a little more frail that the heavier professional grade vendor tents. But the mechanics are the same regarding weighting or staking.

Remember it's just not your work that you are trying to protect, but if your tent breaks loose it may well destroy your neighbors' and you are liable for that.

Note: The tent on the left was dropped to it's lowest upright position overnight, to minimize wind resistance from the oncoming storm. This is a very good idea and I have done it often when using my ez-up tent.

The Best Type Of Stakes For Your Artist Tent - Corkscrew Stakes Are Best For Securing Your Artist Tent

Securing Your Tent On Grass

Corkscrew style dog stakes are the best way to secure your tent on grass. Straight stakes and weights will do in a pinch. But they aren't nearly as secure. Straight stakes will pull right out with any wind so are really kinda useless when used alone.


Get at least 4-6 dog stakes, preferably 8 (the corkscrew kind) straight stakes aren't usually all that effective. The only time we use straight stakes is if it's really windy and we already have all 6 dog stakes in.

Plant the stakes a few feet away from the tent and preferable at an angle (like a circus tent stake) this allows for the tightest tie down even in the stiffest winds.

Tent Weights For Securing Your Artist Display - Securing Your Art Fair Tent On Pavement

Securing Your Tent On Pavement

You really have to rely on weights when on pavement. We actually use tractor weights which are large flat plates They weigh around 80# each. When doing events on my own I use a smaller weight that averages 30# each and I place 2 per corner.

A professional system that works similarly to our tractor weights are Happy Feet tent weights. I know many artists who use them (as well as the artist who created them) and I think they are the best solution, particularly for the EZ Up variety tent.

Use actual weights only. This means DON'T try to improvise by using use water jugs, buckets filled with sand (or water,) barbells or your artwork. And yes, I've seen all of these used at one time or another and on windy days they will fail to do the job.

For ez-up style tents it is best to keep the weight close to the bottom of the leg. NEVER attach weights to hang from the corners of this style of tent. Their joints are weak and they will collapse if there is a wind. For professional vendor tents hanging weights work fine.

Clamps: An Art Fair Essential

More On Securing Your Art Fair Tent

Clamps have multiple art fair uses but the most important things they are good for is, clamping the top tight to help shed water and for securing side flaps.

Notice here we are using one to weight the awning slightly to help shed rain.

I use well over a dozen clamps in multiple sizes for various purposes during any given event.

Get Multiple Sized Clamps To Use For Multiple Purposes. - Securing Your Art Fair Tent

We usually haul around 30 clamps like this of varying sizes and still occasionally find we didn't bring enough. You'd be supised how handy these little guys are.

Using Cambuckles - Securing Your Art Fair Tent

Cambuckles are the best option for securing your tent to the dog stakes. They are easy to adjust and pull tight. and usually brightly colored so they're easy to see. People are often so busy looking at the art fair goodies they may walk into or trip over a narrow white rope. And bear in mind that they will be used in the dark so again with the folks tripping. Plus rope stretches when wet and if it's windy the tent may move around thus tightening the knots.

Cambuckles are quick and easy to use. Time is money so quick to set and tear down is always a plus. And as seems to be a reoccurring theme with me get more than you think you'll need.

Zip Ties: An Art Fair Necessity - Also Known As Cable Ties

Every Artist should have a good sized stash of Zip Ties. These perform multiple functions for doing art fairs.

In regards to using them with artist display panels, they are used to:

* Help bind unstable panels together

* Bind the panels to the tent structure

* Bind lamps wires together for keeping your booth looking neat.

Fortunately Zip Ties come in both black and white so you can get the color that will be the most invisible against your display. Just be sure to pack a nippers or some other way to cut the ties when the event is over.

brookings summer art fair
brookings summer art fair

Men And Womens Straw Hats - Art Fair Sun And Weather Protection

Both my husband and I in addition to sunblock and all the rest wear straw hats when it's sunny or the temps rise above 90. Once again they really help to keep you gool as well as prevent the top of your head from getting sunburned.

Clamp On Umbrellas: Keeping You Cool At Art Fairs - Art Fair Sun And Weather Protection

Now while they may not entirely block UV light they do offer a little oasis of shade. I have truly baked in some art events and shade makes a world of difference not only to comfort but also to my health. I have been to more than one art fair where my neighbors gets heat sick.

The nice thing about these clip on umbrellas is you can attach them to your chair, your booth or your surrounding (like a parking meter) to create the shade you need, exactly where you need it.

Note: On a windy day they are pretty much useless and potentially dangerous. Only use on calm days. That last thing you want is your umbrella to tear loose and smack a passerby or a patron.

Sunscreen: UV Protection For When You're Working Outdoor Art Fairs - Art Fair Sun And Weather Protection

We usually have several bottles of sunscreen. It tends to be one of those things we forget to pack (we have the same trouble with calculators) and so have to run out and buy more.

Most tents don't block UV rays so even though you may think you're sitting in the shade, you are still exposed. Working art fairs is an all day job. Often for several days in a row. And when working an event in a city it is often compounded by glare off skyscrapers and reflected heat of the pavement and sidewalks. The time spent in the sun is substantial. Therefor we always buy the highest SPF we can find and if it's sweat proof that's a bonus.

Rain Gear For When The Weather Turns Wet

And it will, trust me on this.

These emergency rain ponchos are really handy. They don't take up much room and when it's raining you'll be so grateful you packed a few. We get rained on several times a year and wearing soggy clothing all day is a bit of a drag. So stash several in your kit and probably a couple extra in your vehicle in case you run out.

Proof That God Has A Sense Of Humor This particular event (photo above) it drizzled all weekend (notice the umbrellas) and finally about noon on Sunday we had a serious downpour. After spending about an hour packing up everything in the soaking rain. We climbed in the van preparing to leave. As if on cue the clouds parted to reveal a glorious blue sky. I swear you could hear an angelic chorus. Of course by then the crowds and nearly all the artists were already gone.

Disposable Rain Coats - Art Fair Sun And Weather Protection

This actually happened to me. It was raining and was supposed to continue to rain all day heavily. So this means most likely I'd be packing up in the rain. Since i didn't have a rain poncho is my art fair gear I ran to the local big box store in the wee hours of the morning.

The place was empty with the exception of a handful of people. So I am looking in the camping gear section (they had umbrellas everywhere but rain ponchos were hidden within the bowels of the store) At any rate I am looking and spot another artist who was looking for the same thing. We divide and conquer and she hollars "They're over here!" I choose a snazzy red one I and while looking over the dozen or so other colors I call another artist friend to see if she'd like one. By the time she had answered my call the "They're over here" had the intended effect and it was a mad feeding frenzy of artists coming out of the wood work, leaving me with only the one in hand and a couple of kids sized.

I determined then and there to be sure to have a few of these packed. They're cheap and when unopened take up no space. Yet in terms of keeping you dry in a heavy downpour they are a god-send.

Shop Towels For Drying Yourself And Your Product After A Rain - For Cleaning Up After A Storm

We usually haul about a dozen or so of these around. Paper towels will do in a pinch but shop towels can be washed and reused. Plus if it is a temporary shower you can hang them out to dry to be reused that same weekend if need.

Extra Tarps Are Handy At Any Art Fair - Art Fair Sun And Weather Protection

We always take extra tarps to every art fair we do, whether it be indoor or outdoor.

For Outdoor Events:

* We often use them to make additional shade when there isn't room to put up a second tent.

* Covering product to look neat and also protect from random downpour.

* Recently I used one after a heavy downpour as the floor under my shade awning. The ground had quickly become a soupy muddy mess. By laying down the tarp we had a resonable dry surface on which to stand for the remainder of the day.

For Indoor Events:

* We use them to make a temporary wall to close off the booth overnight.

Omaha Summer Arts Festival
Omaha Summer Arts Festival

Lighting & Electricity

Lighting Your Art Fair Booth - Art Fair Lighting And Electricity

Always remember the S-Rule Shiny-Stuff-Sells.

I cannot express the importance of good lighting enough. Whenever possible (not all events offer it) purchase electricity to light your booth. Some events charge a nominal cost while others can run rather expensive. Whatever the cost it will be worth it. If your neighbors booth are well lit and yours are not, the average patron will pass you by, like moths to a flame and move on to the warm glow of someone else's booth. Yours will look like a cave by comparison.

These swing arm type lights work really well and usually come in a variety of colors to coordinate with your art panels. The nice thing is they are also inexpensive which is good because you'll at least 10-15 to fully light your booth. More if your doing a double booth or have a corner spot where you are lighting both sides of the panel.

Note: This is actually the lamps we use because we have the silver wire mesh panels and they look awesome with it.

Extension Cords - Art Fair Lighting And Electricity

For indoor art fair events you usually don't need excessively long cords as most provide electric outlets fairly close to your booths.

Outdoor art fair events you'll probably need the longer cords as electrical sources are usually pretty scarce.

Quiet Generators For Powering Your Art Fair Booth - Powering Your Outdoor Booth

Electricity is a wonderful thing. It lights your booth in early morning and at dusk. As well as running fans for those hot and humid days. Plus as previously mentioned The S- Rule applies even if you're in the middle of a huge city park. All too often in outdoor situations, especially art fairs held in parks, there in no power available to purchase. Here's where a generator comes in really handy.

Note: You should check to make sure a generator is allowed by the event. Even if it is, make sure you have a quiet running one. Nothing will annoy your art fair neighbors more than your making so much noise they can't even hear themselves think or worse yet . . . talk to their customers. So be kind and considerate. If your generator is not quitee don't bring it.

Loring Park
Loring Park

Storage And Organization

Rubbermaid Totes - For Watertight Product Storage

This style of tote is best used for storage of product. They are easy to carry, stackable and most importantly waterproof. Even though I am a painter, I use they for hauling my shrinkwrapped prints and small framed objects. As previously discussed rain is a common occurrence for anyone doing even a handful of shows. Most often extra inventory is kept behind your booth outside. Knowing your product is safe and dry is a huge comfort in a sudden downpour

Be Aware that bigger is not always better. Remember you'll have to lift and carry your packed tote so choose wisely.

Note: I really like the Rubbermaid brand. They are made of a really durable plastic that flexes and doesn't harden with age. The harder non-flexing totes seem to become even more brittle with age. They may crack, leak and eventually and break after a year or two of hard use. We had some really nice large size Sterilite totes that I really liked as they were the perfect size and shape for hauling prints in. But they have been replaced many times. My smaller Rubbermaid totes have been with me from the beginning and are in as usable condition from when I purchased them.

Money Management and Office Stuffs

Calculators: Yet another art fair essential - You can never have enough

Okay well maybe you can, but this is one item that having several of is a good thing. Cheap and cheerful is good enough for this purpose. Something that is solar powered in addition to batteries is a good thing.

So why do you need more than one?

* In case they fry in the heat (and they do)

* Get doused in a rainstorm

* Forget to pack one. Always keep a spare in the van or permanently stashed in your stuff.

This also happens to be the one item we most often forgot to pack. So that's when we started traveling with 3 or 4.

Fanny Packs: Keeping Your Art Fair Money On Your Person - Because nothing says rob me like carrying a cash box.

Always carry your money on your person. I generally use the totally unfashionable fanny pack. Cash boxes are easy to snatch when your back is turned. In a pinch your pockets are still a better option than a cash box.

Fanny packs work well because you can make change for your bills with relative ease. I do use a small coin box for coins.

Receipt Books For Keeping Track Of Your Art Fair Sales - Art Fair Money Management

Truthfully I do not create a receipt for every sale I make. Primarily because if your doing a good event you'll have people waiting in line to buy your work and completely filling out a sales slip for everyone will waste time as well as your customers patience. Most people don't even want one so this is no problem. However occasionally the sale is great enough or the customer requests one so it's good to have a book or two handy at all times.

NOTE: I do record every sale for tax purposes as well as inventory reasons. But I do so by keeping a running tally.

Counterfeit Money Detector Pen - Art Fair Money Management

Most of the time the cash that you take in will be smaller bills. Occasionally I do have someone pay with a $50 or $100. This is where a pen comes in handy. Oddly enough I don't do $20 and I think they are the most counterfeited of all the denominations. I have yet to find a bad bill but I also don't want to take the chance.

Hand Sanitizer For Art Fair Cleanliness

Most outdoor art fairs have gotten much better about providing hand washing stations in addition to their port-o-potties. However not all of them do and the ones that do may not get them restocked often. The other thing is cash is is surprisingly dirty. Keeping a bottle or two of hand sanitizer is always a good idea. Especially since you are lightly to be eating with your hands when working events.

I Would Love To Hear From You. - The Art Fair Equipment Essentials Guestbook

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    • profile image

      Robyn 3 months ago

      I didn't see a picture of the lights you use.

    • profile image

      Samantha 2 years ago

      What are the best tools to use when hanging up small and large pieces? And where can one purchase covers for the side of the tent?

    • MG Seltzer profile image

      MG Seltzer 2 years ago from South Portland, Maine

      One of the best Hubs I've seen to date. The checklist is comprehensive, and two of your suggestions in particular --- about the need for various size clamps and the idea to use Rubbermaid totes to keep stuff dry -- are worth their weight in gold. I'm a writer who sets up book tables at art and community events and the people who are prepared have a much better time when weather does what weather does. Thanks for this essay. There are more than a few ideas I will definitely use in future. Thumbs up, of course.

    • IncomeFromHomeT profile image

      IncomeFromHomeT 5 years ago

      Great list! I do both antiques shows and music jam/camp events, and I'd say your art fair list is ALMOST complete.

      The one thing you'll want to add to it is four kid's hula hoops. If you wedge these in the topsides of your EZ-up between the frame and the cloth during a rain storm it curves the cloth top in such a way that it keeps the water from pooling. Really effective, and easy to pack since they're FLAT!

    • DANCING COWGIRL profile image

      Dancing Cowgirl Design 5 years ago from Texas

      I like seeing peple at a craft fair, but all the equimpment to carry around makes me appreciate this internet even more.Gave that up for a while. You are right though, having the right equipment is sure a lot easier than the homemade things I started with.

    • kburns421 lm profile image

      kburns421 lm 5 years ago

      I've never sold my work at an art fair, but I've been to them! I find it too hard to part with anything I create, but I might decide to start selling one day. This page is, as OhMe said below, an excellent resource.

    • OhMe profile image

      Nancy Tate Hellams 5 years ago from Pendleton, SC

      Excellent Resource for Artists. We have a large Juried Art Show in our town in the spring. I am going to add this to my related lenses if you don't mind.

    • AcornOakForest profile image

      Monica Lobenstein 5 years ago from Western Wisconsin

      Unfortunately, I have been the person at the art fair whose tent blew away. Many lessons learned... Your suggestions were very good!

    • Elsie Hagley profile image

      Elsie Hagley 5 years ago from New Zealand

      This is a great check list for a Art Fair, well done. I have not heard of a Counterfeit money detector pen, but it's a good idea, you never know. Thanks for sharing with us. Blessed.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      where can I buy a sign for my art festival tent that attachs to the tent and is above my tent? Not a sign in front of my tent, one that attachs to the side and hangs high

    • profile image

      agent009 6 years ago

      I've seen tents come apart and fly right out of the ground. Make sure your tent is properly secured and weighed down!

    • ItayaLightbourne profile image

      Itaya Lightbourne 6 years ago from Topeka, KS

      What an extensive checklist you have for those considering doing the art fair circuit!! Very well done. Thank you for putting together all the million and one things I need to consider if I ever do an outdoor art fair. Also, thank you for sprinkling some love on my article about abstract art! :)

    • lesliesinclair profile image

      lesliesinclair 6 years ago

      I only do indoor sales, and have wondered how involved it would be to do big fairs like you describe. Thanks for a useful product.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      I've been doing outdoor fairs since 1989. My first EZ-UP canopy at a wine festival was hit by a large tree branch during a sudden rainstorm. My wife was packing up the goods inside the canopy when the branch struck her in the head. It would have killed her if I had not cross-tied down the canopy with rope before the storm: the rope acted as a spring absorbing the weight of the branch. The canopy was destroyed.

    • David Stone1 profile image

      David Stone 6 years ago from New York City

      Having used some of your guidance already in our first year at outdoor art fairs, I know this will be endlessly useful as well. Thanks, again.

    • Joy Neasley profile image

      Joy Neasley 6 years ago from Nashville, TN

      I plan to participate in several shows this year for the first time. Thanks for the info to help me get organized.

    • makingamark profile image

      Katherine Tyrrell 6 years ago from London

      I do like a really solid and practice lens. This one had been liked, favourited, lensrolled and is now a featured lens in my Art Business - Resources for Artists lens

    • profile image

      ArtFestival 7 years ago

      Great lense! Very informative!

    • Tyla MacAllister profile image

      Tyla MacAllister 7 years ago

      This is really helpful info. My husband is a talented artist and really should be selling more of his work at shows and fairs. So far he's only done a couple of indoor community fairs but when he's ready for the larger fairs we'll know what to bring.

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      Mona, Thanks so much for this information! I am a Silk Artist who has been struggling to get the right display for a couple of years. I am also seeking the "right" art show. So far, I have only done small ones and have been duped by "very crafty" ones which is not good for my art. I have been reading your material for hours. You should write a book or charge for your counseling! I have actually paid for information such as this and it was not that good. Thanks again! Reese Silk Arts

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      WOW. I have been doing some low level art shows for several years and am in the process of redesigning my display booth. Your website is PHENOMENAL!!! You share all the lessons I have learned and then some. Thank you SO MUCH for sharing your knowledge and best of luck to you.

    • profile image

      spiritartist 7 years ago

      VERY THOROUGH LENS MONA. The only thing I would add is a small First Aid kit of some kind (aspirin, band aids, allergy pills, etc.) and I don't know about other states, but here in NJ, you never know when those State Tax peps will show up, so be sure to have a copy of your state issued sales tax registration certificate on hand. :-D Well done, 5*'s and a lensroll from me!

    • NatureMaven profile image

      NatureMaven 7 years ago

      This lens is fantastic. You'v e really covered all the bases. Bravo!

    • WildFacesGallery profile image
      Author

      Mona 7 years ago from Iowa

      @anonymous: The first event is always the scariest if it's outdoors. Inside is not so bad. :) Feel free to ask me anything. You can contact me through my bio page if you'd like to do it on a more private level. :)(

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      I am looking over your art fair pointers - I'm just about to do my FIRST!!

      ... and a little NERVOUS. Looks like you really know your stuff

      I need all the help I can get!

    • indigoj profile image

      Indigo Janson 7 years ago from UK

      Once again, you've provided a whole load of solid practical advice to artists who are serious about selling through art fairs. Great work and will be useful to many!