Abstracta Showcase
Or, what to do (and not do) when designing a booth setup...


This unassuming black structure represents a great deal of effort on the part of my father, who was the original designer, my brother the engineer who modified the design to my specifications, my spouse, who made additional pieces, and, of course, myself. Along the way I made a great many mistakes.

This post primarily documents how to put the thing together, at least enough should I decided I need to do so again in the future. Along the way, however, I'll attempt to throw in some wider observations on what I learned (or didn't) about booth design.

Ready for display materials. Note the corner display, which comes in two versions—one with hooks, shown here, for displaying pendants, and plain. Jewelry does not read well in booth shots, which is why you're always hearing advice about putting 16x20 blowups of your jewelry on the back wall so the contents of your booth will ‘read’ from 30’ away.

As is so often the case, conflicting desires got me into trouble. My father has a love classicism and simplicity I've never been able to emulate and this has driven everything the man has designed for me. Because I make reather large pieces that require very large neckpieces, the height from the shelf to the top of the case was originally 18”; and all the pieces were 18” square, roughly 6x18” or 18x24”. He also based the height of the showcase to be equal with that traditionally shown in jewelers’ shops, roughly double the shelf-to-top height, plus another 6” for legs. Again, all the poles were one of three lengths, a tribute, given the ‘jagged’ silhouette, to the care he put in the design.

Only problem is, art fair showcases need to have the shelf height (on which the displays or pieces rest) at hip height, and the top roughly at chest height. Even if the top had been high enough the 18” distance was much too great. Now, I'd been doing art fairs for years by this point, so you'd think I would've noticed this little difference, but no...

I'd noticed some other problems as well. My scheme to cover the bottom part of the showcase with one long piece of fabric, attached by means of fabric pockets that required it be slipped on as the thing was built was totally and utterly and horribly impractical. Also, 1/4” tempered plate glass is incredibly heavy. Even 1/4” plexi is heavy.

So I decided to make some changes. By this time my parents had moved far, far away, so I called upon my engineering brother to help. One of the things that sacrified was the low number of types of componets. Instead of three sizes of glass, the design jumped to six sizes, of which half were 1/8” thick, and half 1/4”. This came about for two reasons: one was to save money by cutting down the old pieces, the other was to reduce weight on the vertical pieces, which don't need to be as rigid. Of course, this meant I had to buy two kinds of clips.

Not only that, the company had changed the designs of the corner brackets, coming up with a new, much beefier design. However, they're also much uglier. I put the shelves on the bigger ones, where they wouldn't show, reserving the daintier version for the tops. Wrapping the many pieces of plastic was also a major pain, so in addition to the three carryalls I made to tote the shelves, I constructed fabric ‘books’ with enough leaves to sandwich each sheet of plastic. And I ditched the glass entirely, deciding that I would simply replace any tops that got too scratched by the inevitable keys, metal pens, purses, etc that customers routinely dump on one's showcase.


From the back. We learned pretty fast not to break this down to its individual components, but rather to remove the horizontal poles, leaving us with vertical slices. The slices were bound tightly together with rope, which helped to hold them together. We also used rubber cement to help keep the slices from falling apart. The white yarn ties, which do not show once completely setup, indicate the back (i.e. facing the artist.)


I sewed three carriers for the shelves and plexi. This one, with black velcro, is slightly larger than the other two (a holdover from the original design) and the one that I put the larger pieces in.


The upper shelves are what the display stands and jewelry sit on. The plywood shelves, alas in this incarnation not big enough for a 18gal tote, are for cashbox, artist munchies, receipt books, packaging, and other stuff needing to be out of the customer's view. This many shelves means I also have plenty of room for backstock, as well.


Same thing, but from the back. Originally I hung my earring displays on the wall of the canopy, but found this didn't work out with me trapped behind the counter. I couldn't hear what people were mumbling, and I couldn't take earrings down off the board to hand them to people. I like to think my selling style is pretty low key, but I've learned from experience that I must be able to hear what the customers are muttering about amongst themselves, even if I have to pretend I can't hear them, because that's when they tend to make comments that, if I can hear and respond nonthreateningly, (such as ‘this is much too long’ I might answer casually, ‘now here's a shorter version in the same color/style/price range...’) will make the sale.


But there are always tradeoffs. The reason the left leg goes to the front of the booth is because the right leg has two face-blocking earring displays, and it looks unfriendly from the street. The obvious solution is not to be such a pig for real estate, but some things I just learn the hard way...

Fine gauge 316 steel wire makes hooks for hanging fabric panels.


Another closeup, from a slightly different angle. This project was the reason I purchased a grommet tool that I believe I have used precisely 0 times since these panels.


Shows the aluminum bracket, into which standard 7x14 velvet tray inserts slide.


Shows the oh-so-elegant back of an earring board. Two metal tabs fold over the abstracta tubing in order to hang it.


Closeup of hanger. I think these can be purchased from abstracta, or rather, I think these were.



  • 82 15” poles
  • 3 18" poles
  • 2 13-1/2" poles w 2L shape ends (pad hanger)
  • 2 16-3/4" poles 2 2L shapeends (pad hanger)
  • 1 11" pole with 2I (straight) end
  • 2 24" compound poles (2I internal) with 2L ends
  • red knock-apart tool
  • nylon ended hammer
  • 56 1/8" clips (green x-stitch bag)
  • 149 1/4" clips (lg silver zigzag bag)
  • 59 curved old-style corner brackets (blue heart bag)
  • 52 straight heavy duty corner brackets (yellow crescent bag)

still to do: count plexi, photo metal components, and slices tied up. Oh, and write a post on how actually to put the thing together...!

created 27nov06; add'l material, primarily intro, 9jan07.