These ideas are in my ebook MAKE MORE MONEY AT CRAFT FAIRS.
If you already own the ebook, you’ll find a few NEW ideas, examples, and sketches in this article.
Although there are many photos out there that are great examples of the techniques I share, it can often be difficult to find the original source of the photo, find contact information, and/or get permission to share the photo on Made Urban.
So I’ve added a few sketches to visually communicate some of my ideas.
Before we get into the list, here are a few rules to follow when deciding on props for your craft show display:
CRAFT SHOW PROP RULE #1 – KEEP IT ON-BRAND
There are lots of cool ideas out there and your imagination can run wild when it comes to how to use everyday items in your display.
But you always want to keep your display on-brand.
Let’s say the prop idea “cake and cupcake stand” caught the attention of the following craft show vendors:
- Soap maker
- Jewelry maker
- Card maker
In theory, cake stands and cupcake stands could work as props for all three types of vendors.
But let’s look at their brands first and who they typically sell to:
The soap maker has a nature-inspired brand. All of their packaging and ingredients are environmentally friendly and inspired by nature. Their typical customer is a woman in her 30’s who follows a clean-living lifestyle. No artificial flavors, no sugar, no harsh chemicals in their home, etc. and loves yoga and being out in nature.
The jewelry maker has an elegant and sophisticated brand. Their classic gold pieces are targeted towards retired women who like to do everything in style. A crisp white button-up, jeans, leather loafers, and classic gold accessories are required for something as simple as walking the dog.
The card maker has a quirky brand. They sell a variety of humorous, colorfully illustrated greeting cards but mainly focus on birthday cards. Their typical customer is in her 20’s, has a great group of girlfriends, and they love to give each other the gears. The card maker’s sarcastic, snarky, yet lighthearted and funny cards are the perfect topping to every gift they give.
The cake and cupcake stands will only work for ONE of these craft show vendors.
Which one is it?
If you answered the card maker…you’d be right!
What do you think of when you see a cake stand?
Most people would associate cake stands with words such as:
- Colorful (colored icings and sprinkles, etc.)
- Birthdays or celebrations
Those words aren’t necessarily fitting next to:
They could fit together but not without some explaining to connect the dots.
You want your craft show display to make immediate sense.
If a shopper is looking at your display and thinking: why are these soaps sitting on cake stands? It looks cool but I don’t see the connection. Their attention is taken away from your products.
But imagine seeing a table full of different sized cake stands, each one having one colorful birthday card sitting on top, and recipe boxes holding extra stock and other categories of greeting cards. Balloons and other party decorations would create a theme for the table and shoppers would immediately see the connection between cake stands and birthday cards.
If the soap maker had a playful brand and offered baking-themed products (e.g. chocolate chip bubble bath or black forest cake soap), or even launched a cake-scented product line, the cake and cupcake stands could work.
If the jewelry maker had a youthful brand and launched a line of products that used candy-colored jewels, or if they sold diamond pieces and marketed them as “the icing on an outfit”, cake stands might make sense as props.
But otherwise, cake stands aren’t on-brand with environmentally friendly soaps, or sophisticated and elegant jewelry.
Why you must brand your craft show table and how to do it is explained in MAKE MORE MONEY AT CRAFT FAIRS.
CRAFT SHOW PROP RULE #2 – KEEP IT COHESIVE
Each element of your display must make sense. If the vendor selling natural and organic soaps used baskets to house their soaps, the baskets should all have the same look and feel. They wouldn’t want a wicker basket on one side of the table and a blue-painted basket on the other.
If you imagine the card maker’s display with the cupcake stands; they wouldn’t want to add a wicker basket to the end of the table to house their wedding, graduation, and baby shower greeting cards. If they used white cake stands, balloons, and decorations, they’d want to add white recipe boxes to display other categories of greeting cards. Recipe boxes would be cohesive with the theme.
CRAFT SHOW PROP RULE #3 – KEEP IT FUNCTIONAL
It might be a cool idea for the card maker to keep within the baking theme and use a whisk as a display prop; sticking cards between the wire loops. However, if the whisk kept rolling off the table or cards kept slipping out, it wouldn’t be a functional prop.
You want shoppers to feel comfortable enough to interact with your products. If they don’t know how to get something out of a contraption or worry they’ll break something, they’ll continue to look, but not touch.
More craft show display rules, tips, and techniques that encourage shoppers to shop and buy can be found in MAKE MORE MONEY AT CRAFT FAIRS.
With those 3 rules in mind, have a look through the list of prop ideas:
A smaller apothecary cabinet could sit on top of your craft show table. Open some of the drawers, which act as display space, and keep other drawers closed with overstock in them. You could even remove some drawers, creating cubbies for display space.
I’ve seen items such as stuffed animals, plants, cards, soaps, crafting supplies, etc. displayed in the small drawers.
Baskets are an obvious choice for grouping and merchandising a variety of products. Anything from mittens and hats to tea towels or soaps can be merchandised in baskets.
Smaller benches could sit on top of a table to add height and another layer of display space. You could also place a bench in front of your table for lower display space that expands towards the aisle.
Be sure the event organizer is okay with you placing something in front of your table. There have been many craft shows I’ve participated in and shopped at where the aisles were so narrow and the event was so busy, a bench would be in the way.
If placing a bench in front of your table, ensure it’s not too deep and doesn’t run the entire length of your table. People stand close to a table when they’re shopping it, so it can make it awkward if they have to stand a foot or two away and bend over the bench.
An old bike wheel can be propped up on your table. Use clothespins or another type of clip to attach items such as cards, photos, artwork, etc. to the spokes of the wheel.
There are all kinds of beautiful ornate birdcages. You could use one to showcase an item, by placing it inside the birdcage (e.g. a candle, piece of art) or use the wire cage to hang items from.
If you have a bigger craft show booth or opt for a smaller table, or no table, you may be able to work a bookcase into your display. It gives you more height and shelf space to work with.
It would be a great prop for a vendor selling home goods such as art, candles, signs, stationery, vases or pottery, etc. But it could also work to display and stock items such as bath & body, knitted goods, etc.
Small vignettes could be created on each shelf to give the shopper an idea of how they might display the products in their home, as well as other home décor items they might pair them with.
Stacks of books not only make a nice prop to accompany home goods, but they can also be used as risers to add levels to your display.
Wine bottles or even growlers might work to stand items in (e.g. if you sell tall skinny items such as cake toppers) or to place items such as bracelets around the neck of the bottle.
BOXES, BLOCKS, OR CRATES
These items can be used as risers, giving you display space on top. Or you could turn boxes and crates on their sides to create cubbies. You could group several together to create a shelving system that sits on top of your table.
When a box or crate is turned on its side, you can also add a wooden dowel to the top to add hanging space.
And of course, you can use the boxes and crates upright to place stock into.
BRACELET BAR / NECKLACE STAND
These items are obviously perfect for jewelry vendors but a necklace stand may work for other hanging products.
BUCKETS OR PAILS
These can sit upright or on their side and hold items such as blankets, scarves, mittens, soap, etc. or you can turn them upside down and use it as a riser.
There are smaller forms that are perfect for displaying jewelry, as well as larger ones that are more to scale.
I always like to suggest vendors dress the form when using a life-sized one to display items such as scarves. No one wears nothing but a scarf (hopefully not;) or a big wool scarf with a short-sleeved t-shirt. Help shoppers imagine what they might wear the scarf with (e.g. wool scarves would be worn with a winter jacket). Or, if using a bust form to display a top, show shoppers how they might layer or accessorize it.
CAKE OR CUPCAKE STANDS
Cupcake stands create tiered levels to display smaller items, while cake stands have a bigger surface and can help add height and levels to a table.
CHAIRS OR STOOLS
A taller stool could sit in front of your table and display a product such as a handbag, stuffed animal, home décor item, etc. Smaller chairs and stools can sit on top of your table to add height and another display surface.
Anthropology even created an entire display out of chairs, stacking and gluing them together, creating shelves and hanging space.
CHRISTMAS TREE (DURING THE HOLIDAYS)
You could even build a tree out of wooden dowels or metal pipes and use it for hanging items such as Christmas decorations or earrings. Here’s an example.
It can get a little visually messy if a coat rack is used for simply housing stock (I tried this technique for my handbags and they were usually a tangled mess by the end of the day).
However, a coat rack would be a cool prop to create a vignette; help people visualize your items in their home. For a vendor who sells scarves, I imagine a long wool coat hanging on the coat rack, with a complimenting scarf draped over the coat and a hat hanging on another hook. Even though they’re not seeing the hat and scarf modeled on a person or bust form, the mind has an easier time imagining how those items would look together.
If you have a full booth at a craft show, consider if you can (and are allowed to) set your space apart by hanging curtains in front of the basic white or black fabric dividers.
Curtains are also a great option for table coverings, especially if you know how to sew. Tablecloths tend to come in pretty basic colors and prints, but you have more options when you head to the window covering section.
For a simple DIY project, you can use hinges to connect two doors and create a self-standing screen. Paint the doors to match your brand and add nails, hooks, shelves, etc. for display space within a larger booth or behind your table.
At smaller craft shows, shoppers at your table can sometimes see the back of the vendor’s table behind you. Adding a divider behind your table (as long as it doesn’t encroach on the other vendor’s space and there isn’t the risk of it falling over) visually cleans up your craft show display and removes visual distractions behind your table.
A dresser could be a nice alternative to the 8-foot tables you’re typically provided with. If the craft show organizer gives you permission, you could use a smaller table plus a dresser, or a couple of dressers to fit within your space.
The top of the dresser can be used as display space, as well as the drawers if you stagger them opened and closed. Drawers that stay closed can house extra stock.
You can leave the dresser at home and simply use the drawers. They could be stacked on your table to create height.
You can fold items such as tea towels, blankets, cards, scarves, etc. over the rods of a laundry drying rack, or if your items are light enough, you can use clothespins to hang them.
A dish drying rack could be used on your table to display and organize products such as framed art.
Use picture frames for signage, or fill them with corkboard, chicken wire, burlap, etc. so you can pin or hook items within the frame.
If there’s a way to hang items above your table you can use a hanging fruit basket, which gives you height and layers of baskets to display product in.
There are also tiered fruit baskets that sit on the counter, also adding height and layers.
Grid walls are free-standing and are a good alternative for vendors selling art. It gives you more vertical space to hang items.
At my very first craft show, another vendor had taken the cover off an old ironing board, spray painted the metal turquoise, placed the board on its side and sat it on top of their table. I believe they simply used it as a backdrop to their handbags but it could also be used to hook items to, such as jewelry.
It could also work as a table alternative for a vendor selling items related to laundry/ironing. A clothing vendor could display stacks of folded t-shirts on top of the board. Or a vendor selling cleaning supplies could use it to display their products.
Jars could be used to display anything from bars of soap or bath bombs to rolled up tea towels or dishcloths.
Opened jewelry boxes can be used to display jewelry.
LAMP / MINI LIGHTS
Not only can a lamp add a bit of ambiance to your space, but you can also hook items along the top of the shade.
There are a couple of magazine rack styles that could work. Freestanding ladder-style ones could house items such as quilts, tea towels, t-shirts, scarves; anything that can hang by folding it over a rung. There are also the magazine racks that work more like a basket; they could house pillows, artwork, etc. If you have a backdrop, there are also ones that attach to a wall.
If you sell items people wear, don’t forget a mirror! You may also use mirrors to help with sightlines and to cut down on theft (it does happen, unfortunately…here are more tips to prevent it).
OFFICE ORGANIZATION ITEMS
Letter organizers, pencil/pen/paperclip cups, business card holder, etc. are all items that could work to hold a variety of products…not just stationery.
There are many ways you can use pegboard in your display if you’re willing to get crafty. It can be placed in frames to give you a surface to hook items to. You can create a larger structure that sits on top of your table or even a freestanding structure that replaces your table.
The holes in the board can be big or small and you can plug hooks or pegs into them. I’ve seen many vendors place pegs in the holes and rest shelves on the pegs so they have hanging and shelf space.
PLANTERS OR PLANTS
Outdoor pots, planters, or even artificial plants can be used as props. Pots and planters can be turned upside down to act as a riser, or used right side up to place stock in.
Some artificial plants, such as succulents, may work to display items such as rings or bracelets.
PLATES, BOWLS OR SERVING DISHES
If your brand, theme, or product line is related to food or dining, you could create an entire place setting at your table. Instead of food on the plates, in the bowls, or inside serving dishes, you could display your hottest or yummiest new products.
RECIPE BOOK STAND
This would be a great prop to display signage or art.
A shoe rack could add extra shelf space on top of your table. If your items are smaller, you could cut a piece of board to size to have a flat surface on top of the rack that ensures nothing falls through the bars.
I’ve seen shutters used a couple of ways. A solid piece of wood can be attached to the back and the unit positioned so the shutters are angling up. Then items such as art, cards, etc. can be slotted in, and each shutter acts as a pocket. Items can also be hooked onto each shutter to add hanging space to your display.
Vintage suitcases can be left open and stock displayed inside. The back of the lid can also be used to pin signage or products to. You could also keep suitcases closed and stack them on your table to create a platform and add height to your display.
Don’t assume you have to use the basic table the event organizer provides. Of course, check that it’s okay you bring your own table, and it will have to fit within your allotted space. However, you can set your space apart by using different lengths and heights (side tables, sofa tables, TV tray tables, etc. can be used).
If you can find a way to hang or stand a tennis racket in your space (and your brand or products follow some sort of a sports theme), you can hook items to the racket’s strings.
A freestanding towel rack can be used for any products that can be draped over the rods. Blankets, t-shirts, scarves, tea towels, etc.
Trays can be used on your table to add separation. You could also create a vignette within one. Imagine a stack of books sitting in a circular tray. A candle sits on top of the books, a boxed candle in front and a vase with a bouquet of flowers sits next to the books. Now the shopper can imagine how beautiful the vendor’s candles will look in their home and know exactly how to display them.
This could also be done with bathroom items to display bath & body products. An apothecary jar with cotton balls, a vintage mirror, and the bubble bath, soap, and bath bombs from a new product line.
VANITY / DRESSING TABLE
A smaller vanity table could work in place of a table. You can use the tabletop for display space, as well as the drawers if one or two are opened. Or you could simply store extra stock in the drawers.
WINDOW FRAMES / SCREEN WINDOWS
If you have a way to hang window frames or screens within your space, you can then hang items from the frames or hook them to the screen. Ornaments could be hung using fishing line and then tied to the top of a window frame.
Smaller wooden ladders can be placed on top of a table. Each step creates a small display shelf. Bigger wooden ladders could be used in place of a table. If you have a wall to lean it against, a blanket ladder could also be handy for hanging items.
If you have the tools, you can cut logs so they have flat surfaces on the top and bottom. You can carve a groove into a log to stand up signage or artwork, or simply use the flat surface of a log as display space.
There’s a lot more information, instructions, and ideas for your craft show display in MAKE MORE MONEY AT CRAFT FAIRS.
In the display chapter alone, I’ll show you how to:
- Brand your display
- Create Zones
- Group collections
- Use line & composition
These are the techniques the big dogs use (meaning retailers that make a lot of money). They don’t always have enough salespeople to help every shopper, so their displays must do the selling for them.
I’ll teach you how to create a display that sells in MAKE MORE MONEY AT CRAFT FAIRS.
Which props are you going to use at your next craft show? Share any fun ideas you have in the comments!
(and don’t forget to let me know if the sketches were helpful:)