How To: Low Cost Art Fair Display Panels
I'm in the process of transferring to this new blog platform so I've been deciding which to move over here from the old platform. When I came across this article, I quickly realized that it has bar far been the most popular so it's a keeper.
I first posted this article on creating low cost art fair display panels about 3 years ago so that 2-D artists just getting started with art fairs could have an economical way to create display walls. And guess what? Three years later, these same display panels are still holding up! After the first show, I decided to recover them with a tan burlap fabric since I thought the black was a little harsh for the backdrop color. Over the years, I've found a couple of cons to these; 1) these can be a little bulky for travel and 2) I think you are more limited in the size of the artwork you can display. Now that I know I enjoy the art festival scene, I'm thinking of switching to the Flourish mesh walls. I think these will be easier to transport and allows enough display space for larger paintings. However, these panels have served me well and I think they are perfect for other artists starting just starting out. The photo here shows the panels in use at an art festival this past fall (2016). I still have a photo of the original panels at the bottom.
I mentioned in my post a few weeks ago that my goal for 2014 is to participate in a few art fairs around the Atlanta area. Well folks, this week I have taken a step in the right direction and completed my display panels. You may recall that I participated in a small fair last year, however, I don’t feel that my set-up looked "professional" enough for these higher-end art festivals. Especially since the look of your tent plays a big factor in the admission/jury process. On the flip side, I’m just getting my feet wet in this area so I don’t think it’s wise to plop down $1200-$1500 for the Pro Panel display walls just yet.
Through some internet research I came across an artist who had the brilliant idea of using unfinished screen doors to create display walls. As soon as I read through her blog post the light bulb clicked on and I knew this was the answer for cost-effective and professional panels that I had been looking for.
My total cost to create 9 panels was around $300. I found this info so helpful that I wanted to share my process in case there are other artists in the same situation as me. Read on for required materials and instructions.
9 – 36″ wide unfinished screen doors. My tent measures 10’x10′ and so the 9 doors cover 3 sides (3 doors per side.) I found these doors at my local Home Depot for about $22/each.
1 -50 foot roll of 36 in. wide wire mesh. I used this 20 gage chicken wire which cost around $30 for the roll. The beauty is that it’s the same width as the door so no additional cutting! This one roll covered all 9 panels. I only covered the top 4.5 ft. of each door with the mesh since I know I won’t be hanging any art lower than that. Also, I recommend that you pick-up some wire cutters if you don’t already own a pair.
Black felt material for covering– I got my felt from Joann’s – check their website before you go since they usually have a 40% off coupon! I ended up using around 16 yards. Because I have tables sitting in front of 5 of the panels, I didn’t need to cover the entire door since the bottom won’t be seen. However, there were 4 doors where I did cover the entire length.
Heavy duty staple gun and a couple boxes of heavy duty staples.
** The cashier at Home Depot gave me a 10% discount off my tab since she thought my project was really cool!! ***
1: Flip the door upside down so that the T-shaped bar is at the top and the screen material is on the bottom. I like having the extra wood bars at the top for additional support. I didn’t bother to remove the old screen since it won’t be seen. Cut off a piece of wire mesh to size and staple it down to the top (the side without the screen).
Note: Make sure that no stray pieces of wire are sticking off the edge since this could snag and tear other panels during travel.
2: Roll out a section of felt. Flip the door over, placing it mesh side down directly on top. Cut the fabric to size, making sure to leave a few extra inches around each side. You'll need this extra material to wrap around the wood edges and staple to the back side.
3: If you've ever recovered a seat cushion this is the same type process. Attach the fabric with your staple gun. Start with the corners first. Staple down the “point” of the corner and then fold the 2 sides over the top and staple. Then move to the corner diagonal from the first and staple it down, making sure to pull the fabric tight as you go. Then, staple the opposite two corners.
4: After you are done securing the corners, finish by stapling the fabric down the four sides. Again, make sure to pull the fabric tight as you staple.
5: After you have finished all of your panels, take a hot bath or sip a glass of wine. Your shoulders and wrists will thank you!
The Finished Product
A Few Notes:
1 – The top of the panels fit pretty well between the support bar and the roof flap to stand-up on their own. But this is the case only if you don’t have your tent “jacked up” to its maximum height. I had to bring it down a notch to make this fit (I’m using the basic 10×10 EZ Up tent).
Also note that the panels on each end are only supported by a small corner of the support bar. In extreme windy situations this could pose a problem. I plan to get small eye hooks to screw into the top corners and use zip ties for additional security.
2 – Be careful not to let your panels fall over into the grass during set-up. If this happens, you will be picking a LOT of grass off of the panels. The felt is a grass magnet!
3- Be prepared to have something available to level out your panels in the event your tent is on uneven ground.
4 – I used drapery hooks to hang my artwork – you can also find these at Joann’s for around $5-$6 a pack (56 hooks to a pack!). I did see where repeated use of these over time will make the felt look worn and ragged.