Make a kit!


It’s holiday show season! DH and I just hung my work at North Main Studios in Rockford, IL for this weekend’s ArtScene. We’re getting good at this. It only took us about an hour to hang the show this time, which I think is a record. Between the two of us, we managed to remember everything we needed last night, but I can’t help but think that the process could be easier.

To make this happen, I have created a list: show kit contents and procedures to make this happen like clockwork. In the interest of helping fellow artists, I will share it with you.

Setup Kit: The Tool Bag

  • Hammer – To hammer in picture hooks
  • Picture hooks – I’ll let you guess why you need these.
  • Frame hardware – For when the hanging hardware breaks off or for when I forget to properly repair the frame.
  • Wire – See “Frame Hardware” above.
  • Rubber bumpers for frame backs – Sometimes they fall off, and it’s annoying when you can’t get things to hang straight.
  • Awl –  For starting holes in the wall. An awl is like an icepick, a screwdriver with a wicked-looking point on it.
  • Screwdriver (preferably electric): Some venues prefer that you hang using screws instead of nails, and sometimes nails just don’t work. If you don’t have an electric screwdriver, you’re, well, screwed.
  • Hanging screws – These are screws with stops on the end. They’re pretty cool in that you can screw them all the way into the wall and still have the perfect amount sticking out on which to hang your frame/artwork.
  • Level/laser level – You know why you need this.
  • Tape measure – You know why you need this, too.
  • Pencils – Marking where to put that screw/picture hook
  • Sharpie markers in the color of your frames – If you use black frames, you will get dings in them, no matter how careful you are. If you have a black Sharpie, you will decrease the drama of finding that ding/scratch that is ticking you off by being able to touch up that frame. It works like a charm!
  • Steel wool – for buffing out frame scratches that haven’t broken the paint.
  • Business cards – Besides handing these out and making sure that at least one card leaves with every piece of art you sell, you can also use them as artwork labels.
  • Pen – for writing artwork labels on business cards
  • Sticky dots – These removable adhesive dots come in a roll. They’re available in the scrapbook section of your favorite hobby/art supply store, and I wouldn’t do a show without them. They are perfect for sticking labels onto the wall, and for sticking to the bottom corners of lightweight frames to coax them into position. I always have fellow artists asking to use my sticky dots. I’m a hero on the cheap, because it costs about $2.50 for a roll of 200 of these.
  • Glass cleaner and towel – You will need this to remove smudges from frames, walls, glass, etc.
  • Table easels – If you have framed artwork and no walls, you will need these. They are inexpensive and take up very little space.

During the Show

  • Money apron – This is better than a cash box, because it can’t walk away from you. Stock it with about $60 in ones and fives.
  • Foldable bar stool – This is easy to transport and carry, and it will keep you at eye level with your customers, even when your feet and back are tired.
  • Name tag – If your venue is not supplying name tags, you will want your customers to know who the artist is!
  • Square credit card reader – If you’ve been burned by rubber checks and you have an iPhone, use ONLY this brand for processing credit cards. Other companies promise low fees or no fees, but can completely rip you off and cost you hundreds of dollars. Square is the real deal. They even email a receipt to your customer.
  • Hat box (or similar box) – You can use this to store the following items without cluttering up your area:
  • Plastic grocery bags (used, of course!) – Customers will appreciate it if you have these available. They will protect their items on their way home, and also from prying eyes, if your artwork happens to be a gift. If you can find a tissue box in which to store them, it’s even better.
  • Pain reliever – Shows are fun, but they can also be a pain in the neck, back, feet…
  • Snacks and a drink – You will get hungry. You will get thirsty. Don’t pack Cheetos, though. Orange fingers may be distinctive, but they’re not very professional.
  • Napkins and tissues – ‘Nuff said.

Much of this stuff can be kept in a permanent kit, along with a list of the items that can’t be permanently stored with the others. Just store the kit, along with your packaged artwork, in a special area, and your shows will be smoother than ever!

On with the show!

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