Tuesday, November 15, 2011

How to help your feet survive an art show

by Patty Lakinsmith

I never thought this topic could comprise an entire blog post, but since I did as much with jewelry busts, why not?

We all spend a lot of time thinking about our show booths, especially what's on the tables (or pedestals) and on the walls, but have you considered what's underfoot?  It might be worth spending some time on this, as it can make a big difference in your stamina during the show and your customers' desire to hang around long enough to check out your wonderful handmade work.  I'm talking more about comfort than aesthetics here, but you can have both.

It's fairly common knowledge that your booth is more inviting to shoppers when you stand in your booth rather than sit (there are plenty of other variables that can make or break your show, but I'm limiting this post to flooring).  It's tough to do, however, particularly if your show is a multi-day one, or is on an unfriendly surface such as concrete.  The best surface for surviving a show is grass or dirt, but during the holiday season most shows are indoors, and consist of carpet over some hard material (if you're lucky), but more likely it's wood (better), or concrete (worst).  What to do?

I have found that those interlocking rubber floor tiles (mine are 2' x 2') make a great surface for standing for long periods of time.  I only bought one package of these (in grey) at the local home supply store, which is 8 tiles, and I use them on the outside of my booth (2' x 8' in front of each of my two tables) for my customers' comfort.  I have borrowed additional tiles before to cover the area behind my tables where I stand, but during the last show I layered medium-pile carpet under a recycled plastic fiber rug from Costco, and it was just not enough over the concrete.  My dogs are tired!

Grey interlocking floor tiles (background, to the left) are a great survival tool.
If your goal (and budget) is limited to solutions for your own feet, the gel-type anti-fatigue mats (designed for chefs) are a great idea.  I saw some 18" x 24" at the bed and bath store the other day for around $50, but may be cheaper options online.

If you want to get fancy you can get these interlocking tiles that look like wood, at a cost of around $170 (plus shipping) for your entire 10 x 10 booth. 

Another option is laminate flooring.  One year I saw a photographer install a Pergo floor in his booth, plank by plank, for a very nice look, and no doubt more comfort than the concrete.  Of course, installing something like that takes some effort, not to mention muscle power to install and the cash to buy.

One last important point - don't forget about safety.  The last thing you want to do is trip up a customer approaching your booth and have them get hurt and take down your displays in one fell swoop.  Some flooring solutions come with beveled edges to ease the transition into your booth, but my interlocking tiles do not.   I like to tape down the edges of the floor tiles, but some venues are particular about the type of tape you use.  Black duct tape (one of my show staples) can leave residue on concrete, and show staff have informed me previously that only Gaffers tape is allowed.

For more tips on booth flooring, check out this post by Bruce Baker of the Crafts Report, or Google "rubber flooring" for more ideas.


somethingunique said...

Hi Patty...i use these tiles in my studio...and i have an extra set that travel around with me...they work great!!! thanks for sharing your tips..take care ttfn Lana ;)

SummersStudio said...

Good tips! While my shoes are not necessarily pretty, I always make sure and wear something with lots of support.

mairedodd said...

excellent - i learn so much from you and really have a lot of admiration for the thought you put into your booth... it is so professional in all ways...

Beadbug said...

I love the idea of the chef mat and am going to get one today. I also believe that shoes are so important, in the summer I wear Keen sandals but in the winter I wear Dansko's. They come in fun funky colors and I can stand all day in them.

Artisan Beads Plus said...

Great things to think about. I don't do shows, but I'll ask Bill about this. I know for me, personally, I would have a very hard time standing all day. As it is, I have to have orthotics in all of my VERY expensive shoes (I almost choke when I see the prices for well made shoes that have some style).... no more.... fun with any funky style in that dept. I do have to say, however, that buying shoes that are high quality with good arch support makes a world of difference. It probably end up saving money because they last so much longer too. When my feet hurt, I know it shows on my face too ;o)

KJ said...

Great post.

I am keeping my eyes open for a bar-stool height folding chair so I can pretend I am standing.

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