Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Craft Fair Tutorial: Display on a Stick

Things sell better if you don't just throw a pile of them on a platter on a table.

This has been a huge struggle for me, as I have pretty much zero design sense. It has been a lot of work, and a lot of thinking, and a lot of doing stuff wrong, and a lot of willingness to toss bad displays and make new ones, and a lot more thinking, and a lot more willingness to toss those new displays when they didn't work either, blah, blah, blah, but slowly, like YEARS slowly, my craft fair displays are starting, and I mean just starting, to come together nicely.

My main hindrance has always been a fear of spending money. Every nice craft fair display that I've ever seen seems to have incorporated a lot of purchased elements, and I am not even willing to thrift stuff to use just for a display. A lot of my display mistakes over time have come from me trying to cobble together something from what I already own that ends up looking cobbled together, or me trying to put something together as cheaply as possible that ends up looking cheap.

Ironically, a lot of the stuff that I've done that I've liked the most--the record bowl shopping cart display, the spray-painted EZ-Up, have been cheaper than those cheap-o projects. They tend to use found elements that fit my needs perfectly, and supplies that have other purposes in my art, crafting, or homeschooling, etc.

This stand-up display for any craft on a stick--flags, pinwheels, or my rocket pop crayons--came together just the same way. It utilizes an old cardboard box lid for a base, some of the plaster of Paris that the girls and I do craft and homeschool projects with, more popsicle sticks from our thrifted supply, and our artist's acrylic paints.

The first step is to fill the box lid with plaster of Paris. I wasn't sure how much to make, so I mixed up one batch at a time and poured it on top of the previous batch. Alternately, you could fill the lid with water and pour it off into a measuring cup to ascertain the volume of plaster that you'll want to mix.

As the plaster sets, you'll need to supervise it in order to make the holes that your sticks will fit into. Use exactly the same sticks as you use in your craft, although these sticks will end up with plaster and paint on them, and so they won't be suitable for your crafting afterwards.

Watch the plaster as it hardens (I brought a book, and a four-year-old who wanted to chat), and as soon as it will hold your stick upright, place all your sticks upright in it, exactly where you want the holes to be. I made more holes and closer together than will actually fit my rocket pops, so that I can rearrange my display in a larger variety of ways.

Keep watching the plaster, and when it's relatively stiff, but not fully hard, try to pull one of your sticks out. It should come out cleanly, if a little wet. If it takes a bit of plaster with it as it comes, hurry and get the rest of the sticks out, because that means that you've let the plaster set a little too long, and the last thing you want is a display full of sticks that won't come out.

As soon as the plaster is fully hard, put the sticks back in, because otherwise the holes will shrink as the plaster contracts. Every little while, pull the sticks out and put them back in to keep the holes clean and perfectly sized. Be mindful as you do this to put the sticks in and pull them out perfectly straight--until the plaster is fully cured, you can damage the holes by wiggling the sticks in their holes or pulling them at an angle.

When the plaster is fully cured, you should be able to put the sticks in and out of their holes cleanly and easily, and they should fit snugly. If any holes are imperfect, then cover them up when you paint--customers often want to pick something up and look at it and then put it back, and they'll be frustrated or worried if they can't put your craft back the way it came (if they're the kind that care about that sort of thing, and not the kind that'll just toss it anywhere. Ugh).

After the plaster has cured the amount of time called for in the instructions, put all the sticks back in their holes and grab your acrylic paints for some prettying:
And yes, I'm sorry, you do have to paint in the nude. It's sorta required.

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