Friday, 5 August 2011

Craft Show Confidential: Pipe and Drape - part 1

Since folks seem interested in a general discussion of craft show issues, I'm going to dive right in with booths.

Booth requirements vary wildly from show to show. This can make it hard to decide what type of booth to invest in - and it is an investment. Having a craft show booth is a lot like having a house - it's never done. [insert groan here]

I bought my booth from Exclusively Expo in 2005 and have added to it over the years - shelves here, lights there - you learn what works and adapt accordingly. The company has been good to me and I recommend them highly.

The structure of my booth is what's known as a pipe and drape system. It's pretty much what it sounds like - the "bones" of the booth are made of aluminum pipes and they thread through fabric drapes, which then become soft walls.

The advantage of this system is that it's cheap compared to others. It's quick to set up and break down, and it can be set up by one person in a pinch. In this post, I'll be focusing on the pipes.

Here's a breakdown of the different components:


Steel base plate

Bases are put at the corners of your booth and are made of steel - they are heavy! The peg at the center of each base is what anchors the upright pipes - the pipes slide right over the pegs. For ease of transport, the pegs can be unscrewed from the bases and transported separately.

The slot in the base helps accommodate the pipes of your neighbors - you can just slide your base right over theirs. You can cover up most of the base with flooring or carpet.


The exhibit booth standard height is 8 feet. There are two types of upright pipes to choose from - fixed (a.k.a. standard) and adjustable height pipes. Both of these pipes are made from anodized aluminum.

Fixed height uprights

Fixed height pipes are one set height and are cheaper than adjustable pipes. Sizes vary from 3' - 12' feet tall.
Adjustable height uprights

Adjustable height pipes are infinitely variable, within the minimum and maximum pipe size. For example, if you purchased a 6' to 10' adjustable pipe, then you could fit your booth in a site with 7' tall ceilings. If you know that you'll be doing shows with unusual spaces (believe me, it happens), then it might be a worthwhile investment to purchase the adjustable pipes.

Horizontals (a.k.a. telescopic drape supports)

Adjustable drape rods

Adjustable width pipes are infinitely variable, just like the uprights. Very often, a 10' x 10' booth isn't exactly that size. Your booth neighbors might set up before you and perhaps you lose an inch or two. The adjustable drape rods help you deal with that issue - and I have encountered this issue at most of the shows I've done. In addition, transporting pipes in a vehicle is much easier when they're adjustable.

The hooks on the end of the drape pipes are inserted into slots in the uprights - in a nutshell, they link together like Tinkertoys.

Some craft shows include pipe and drape in your booth fee. If you want to try out the setup before you buy it, you can often rent a set from a convention center or event rental shop.

I compared the cost for my booth in 2005 to today's cost - the price has varied little in six years - it still comes in under $500 for the whole shebang - this includes the pipes, drapes, and bases.

Next week I'll talk about drapes. If you have anything to add to the pipe and drape discussion, I’d love to hear about it! Share your experiences with the B.E.S.T. team by sending me an Email and I'll include them in a follow-up post. Be sure to include your name and a link to your Etsy shop.

Many thanks to Exclusively Expo for granting permission for the use of their product photos in this post.


PrairiePeasant said...

Wow, I had no idea that sometimes vendors were responsible to supply this set-up at an indoor show! Could be quite an investment to start doing shows....

Blue Roof Designs said...

You usually don't have to worry about buying a booth until you get to the more expensive retail or wholesale shows (ACC or BMAC).

These shows want you to have walls. It turns a craft show into rows of little stores.