Saturday, March 5, 2016

Designing a Renaissance Fair Booth

So after a couple of years of etsy sales, I decided I wanted to have a booth at a Renaissance faire. After all, ren faire is what got me started on this whole crazy hat making journey. The thing is though, I can't take 6 or more weekends to work at the big faires. I have a job and an active toddler! Plus, I get tired. I mean there is only so many hours per year I want to spend strapped in to a steel boned kirtle.
So I picked a small, one weekend, local faire. After exhaustive reading and re-reading of the rules, year one I went with a 'tarted up' easy up. Basically all of the metal has to be covered, and the canopy has to be made from fabric, not nylon. I made a canvas cover for the top, which didn't fit quite right, but it wasn't bad either. Then my genius idea: all the metal bits would be covered with fabric covered foam. I would just glue it together. It worked great, but not for the reasons you might think. You see, my canopy was a little on the short side. And when that canvas got warm, it sagged like an elephant skin. So, my tent started to shrink inwards. And all of the lovely tall men and women in their tall hats had to awkwardly crouch to enter my humble hat shop. And when they tried to make their escape, they hit their heads on the sidewall of the easy up. Good thing it was well padded, because it was a bit like watching birds run into your window. You wave you arms and say "look out!" then, BAM and watch with guilt and horror as your prospective clients wave off your apologies and try to reorient themselves.
So yea. Taller tent needed. So I asked a lovely co-worker, at my 9-5 job, who is in SCA, what kinds of tents did he prefer. Now I am sure I could have asked other vendors, but many of them have clearly made their from scratch or had the same Ye Olde Folding Canopy that I did. Plus I'm and introvert and, well, I'd sometimes rather walk over hot coals than make friends with people just so I can get information from them. It just doesn't seem right, even though generally the other vendors, actors and guilds people were really really nice. So, Panther Primitives tent was my friends recommendation. Pricey, but handmade and worth it.
So I saved my pennies and bought a 10 x 10 center pole marquise tent. I have to say, it is probably the most beautiful tent I have ever seen. It even smelled good coming out of the box. Wow. And the side walls are 7 feet tall, no more hat strikes. Now, it takes real ropes and poles to hold it up, and I am really really glad I practiced putting it up in my backyard before the event.
So of course I had an awesome plan for table layout, and created a cool screen for a private area to stash a cooler, boxes and supplies. Once I got there and started setting it up, my plan went right out the window. The center pole made it difficult to set the tables up as I had planned.
My dad surprised me with a chair. Yup, he made it himself, it packs flat. It's a more medieval style, but I had people coming in to my booth just to sit in it. What an awesome gift!
The shelf loops from panther also worked really well, though I plan to either cut notches in the shelves or get narrower wood next year

I had lots of positive feedback from customers and faire participants on my booth. It worked quite well, and I have only a small wish list of things to change for next year. I may try a different table layout, and I could have used a better space for doing on the spot hat customization and trimming.

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