GOOD BOOTHS GONE BAD #24: When “Perfect” Isn’t Good Enough

Sometimes perfecting the best booth you have isn’t good enough. Sometimes having the best booth, period, isn’t good enough.

What I mean by the first statement is, sometimes we get stuck trying to perfect something that isn’t the best solution in the first place.

Take my search for the “perfect track lighting.” I constantly worked, reworked and replaced my track lighting for my booth. I experimented with light bars, cross bars, looked for more reliable systems and flexible lamps.

I finally got to the point where I realized I hate track lighting. It’s just not the best solution for my booth. The last two shows, I didn’t use any track lighting at all–just gooseneck clamp-on halogen lamps. They are easier for me to ship/pack/set-up and have fewer things to go wrong (fewer electronic connections, for one thing!)

Or my search for the “perfect table display”. My very first booth set-ups included those dreaded folding tables I’ve been harping on throughout this series. I experimented with different drapes and decorations. I tried to make them taller. Then bought narrower tables–before realizing I was never going to get them into my little car. And I was never going to get the professional-looking display I needed with them. I invested in Dynamic Display cases, sometimes augmented with Abstracta, and never looked back.

Then there was my search for the “perfect pipe-and-drape walls”. I struggled with various fabric walls–purchased pipe-and-drape, making my own drapes, adding various shades and blinds to make them stiffer and more stable for displaying my wall hangings. The happiest day of my life was the first day I set up my new Propanel walls.

So sometimes you have to persevere to find the right working version of something for you. But sometimes you just have to start over with something totally different.

Then again, sometimes even that perfect booth isn’t enough.

In 2007, I did two wholesale shows with my “perfect booth.” Okay, I know it’s still not perfect in many ways, but it was beautiful and got rave reviews. The display fell away, the work stood out, and was well received.

But I had the right work at the wrong show. Or the wrong work at the right show, if you want to look at it that way. I had de-emphasized my jewelry to promote my fiber work. It didn’t work.

You can have the best booth in the whole world. But if you have not targeted the right market for your work, you will not do well.

If you don’t do a preshow mailing to your audience, they won’t know you’re there.

If your work is high-end, and the show is low- to mid-end, they will not buy.

If your work is contemporary, and the show is country/folk, they will not buy.

If you specialize in Christmas decor and it’s a retail show in spring, you probably will not do well.

If your work is a little pricey and unusual and not a gift product, you may not do well at Christmas shows.

So what’s a craftsperson to do?

Stick with it. Observe. Learn. Get better.

And laugh.

No one said it would be easy. If it were, everyone would be doing it!

You keep doing it because you believe in your work, and you believe there are people out there who will love it as much as you do.

You try this, you experiment with that, you tweak this and you replace that. You work hard to get into that dream show, that perfect show for your work. And a few years later, you struggle to find the courage to leave that “perfect show” that is no longer the best marketing strategy for your work.

There is no “finish line” you cross where you finally realize you’ve made it. There is no final formula for success.

There is only another exciting challenge ahead of you.

The downside? It can be exhausting.

The upside? It’s good for you! Aimee Lee Ball writes about “THE NEW & IMPROVED SELF-ESTEEM” in the January 2008 issue of OPRAH magazine. Research shows that the brain grows more neurons when challenged. By struggling to figure this stuff out, we get smarter, and more competent.

So don’t despair if it all seems like too much sometimes. Remember–this is IQ training for your LIFE.

Author: Luann Udell

I find it just as important to write about my art as to make it. I am fascinated by stories. You can tell when people are speaking their truth--their eyes light up, their voices become strong, their entire body posture becomes powerful and upright. I love it when people get to this place in their work, their relationships, their art. As I work from this powerful place in MY heart, I share this process with others--so they have a strong place to stand, too. Because the world needs our beautiful art. All of it we can make, as fast as we can! Whether it's a bowl, a painting, a song, a garden, a story, if it makes our world a better place, we need to do everything in our power to get it out there.

6 thoughts on “GOOD BOOTHS GONE BAD #24: When “Perfect” Isn’t Good Enough”

  1. A wise woman I knew taught me: perfection does not exist.

    Think on that for a while: it’s not that we aren’t perfect, or that the booth isn’t perfect, or that it’s getting closer to perfect. Perfect does not exist.

    Understanding this has freed me up to be what I am. To learn what I need to learn and not fret about what I am not.

    I continue to love your blog, Luann!


  2. I am exactly where you are. The Booth the Booth instead of the plane the plane. I have only been doing shows for 5 years and changing the booth is the most constant thing I have. I have seldom setup at any 2 shows the same. Just whenI think I got it figured out. the ground has a large slop and I can’t do this or that. One show you can expand out the back the next one you can’t but you got space on the side. I bought awning for my flourish tent I got three awning 2 52 and a 32. It a challenge can I use which one and where. if I can use one on the side I can expand my tables out futher.

    I have spent so much time on the art that I have not spent the time on the art of the presentation not the selling but the booth. know I am working on some new items for next year already figuring what I want to do etc. But my goal for the next 2 months or so is the booth.

    I am looking to build several pedestals. But I have to build trial versions to see what sizes etc. I wanted them oak but I started thinking oak stands out I want them to be neutral so they really are not so noticeable.
    I am thinking a gray or a gray with a light misting of white sort of marble look.

    I have thought about the pipe and drape mainly for the indoor shows. I got armstrong panels many of them that i could probably buy the carpet that can go over the wire mesh instead of the pipe and drape. But I have to see will they fit in my car where I put my tables at.
    Packing the van is a science of its own. Its one thing to make the perfect booth but can I get it packed up with everything else.

    My lighting I have went to a local lighting center and order 7 clamp lights that have a silver flexible 18″ necks on them with halogen bulbs. I paid $31 and have worked nice where they furnish the electricity becasue they use 50 watts bulbs time 7 thats 350 watts its not enough to light everything. I will probably have to re do my lighting along with everything else.

    My main concern is to look professional.

    I like to think that I have finally got it all together but everything changes all the time. The main thing I have to keep in mind is my attitude toward all the changes, things I buy only to find no I don’t think so.
    I just am not going to fight the change but its like doing your art you can not keep doing the same art over and over it is a challange but it keeps the mind alert and sharp.

    Enjoy you thoughts like I said its where I am at but I just change my attitude toward all of it and accept the challange.



  3. Luann, First thanks again for your generosity and time spent writing this blog. The booth series is fabu! I come away with a fresh perspective everytime I read a new post. I live in Switzerland and the show circut is a strange one in deed. Mostly I have found unless you are in a gallery your work is percieved as less than something shown in an upscale gallery. Its tough to get into these places. When one is doing a show its mostly lower end items, during the christmas season. Although its been a challenge I do belive that this is what makes us evolve. If we had no challanges we would all be fat and bored. So I keep plugging away.
    Thanks again
    Deborah Hill


  4. OK. So I got my first big belly laugh on reading your article Luann. Just having finished a 10 day in Vegas which required 3 cars worth of wall panels and gorgeous but awkward stainless tables, not to mention the “support cast”…I still haven’t yet figured out how to showcase my jewelry, not the display, and to balance issues of security, accessibility, beauty and story, etc. Thanks for the article and everyone’s responses which helped me realize I’m not alone in the challenges of booth design and marketing. A good laugh helps us all and its comforting to know that booth design is just plain challenging!! Period! I read your article Luann, and everyone’s responses to my husband, a ceramicist and sister, another jewelry designer. We all laughed and enjoyed your insight and honesty!!
    Thanks so much.
    Carol Ryerson


  5. Deborah, you are so right. Sometimes we have to do these things–get into a good gallery, jury into that great show–just because they give us credentials, not because they are necessarily the best venues for our work.

    Carol, I’m so glad you got a good laugh! Some days, that’s more important than getting smarter… :^) No, you’re not alone. And if you ever meet anyone who thinks they have all the answers–RUN!! They only have the answers that worked for them.

    Happy New Year!


  6. I can only assume you have been secretly spying on us for the last 3 years. ūüėČ I just posted a booth evolution with photos on my blog. You nailed it.

    Anyone want 4 tracks full of lights, fitted sage green table drapes, some ugly salmon colored prewtinkled drapes, 4 folding
    tables……… ūüôā guess not.

    Thanks for all of your great information.


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