Sunday 27 March 2016

The March 2016 Gem Expo, Setting Up Part 1: Thursday Night...

Lots of notes, lots of observations. More notes will be at the end of this post.

What I had no way of knowing was how crazy the table setup was going become this time. I almost didn't bring my tablecloths and I almost forgot my big wooden type tray full of fetishes because there was no bin big enough to pack it in so it was sitting wrapped in Saran wrap on a table right by my front door where I couldn't possibly help but see it and grab it... right? Hah, hah and hah.

Check and double check your list. Make your list by mentally setting up your table and double-checking to make sure each and every item is indeed in a bin and in your vehicle before you leave home; also mentally walk through a couple of sales in order to make sure everything you need is in your office box. Do NOT rely on other people's word that something has been stowed in the vehicle. Trust me on this. Make sure the power cord to your phone is with your phone and you can see both of them on the front seat of your car.

Try to plan for help at the show, even if it's a friend who can only come for an hour with coffee or food or just to sit for a few minutes while you get some air or a bathroom break. Failing that, make friends with your new pals on either side of you.

I've been very fortunate doing these three-day shows in Toronto as Ruth was originally a customer at my first Gem Expo back in July 2013 and subsequently has became a wonderful friend. She helps me stay organised, reminds me to eat and drink water because once the doors open it can get completely crazy and hours will go by with no break.

The best thing is we're both food fanatics, and contemplating which new restaurants to try and emailing suggestions back and forth is a big and fun part of every show run-up.

I packed most of my van Wednesday night. But I did learn the hard way years before that if it's going below zero to not leave glass, metal or organic beads and findings in the vehicle overnight as, respectively, they will crack, sweat and rust/corrode or go mouldy. Same thing in the summer: the heat will cause plastic bags and bins to sweat and the mess is indescribable. Good way, though, to find out who's been telling little lies about the composition of their metal findings.

I finally got away around 9:30 Thursday morning, taking the back roads as far as I could before dropping down onto the QEW at Guelph Line, and drove at speed into Toronto. Encountered only one instance of braking for hallucinations and saw just one or two people playing dodgem, starring in their own personal video game.

First things first when I get to Toronto where I can't park at the show venue right away: find cheap and reasonably secure centrally-located indoor parking in a crazy expensive city primarily because all vehicles have to be off the main streets by 3:30 or 4:00 p.m. For me, it's Winners' underground parking on Queen West near Bathurst, $12 all day, which is also near to most of the bead stores I want to go to. From there, it's a short streetcar trip to the restaurant where Ruth and I are meeting for lunch at, a tiny but so delicious buffet at Little India, Queen West, just west of University.

We stayed here for several hours hanging out and making a couple of trips to the buffet, then we walked over to the Strath so I could check in, then we headed back to Queen West where I stocked up on gauze bags and goodies for my Saturday market customers.

We got to the Hyatt Regency shortly after 7:00 p.m. to start setting up only to discover that there was another event going on in the second ballroom and they had commandeered almost all of the tables. I do have my own tables, which could save me money instead of renting, but they are heavy, awkward, and kill my back to heave them around, so I usually elect to pay a few extra dollars and save my energy for things that matter more.

I was assigned two 8-foot tables (not the 6 footers I was expecting), and while an extra four feet of table space is to be welcomed, it meant that it threw the show floor plan alignment out the window, plus my own mental map of where everything was going to go -- not to mention these were not normal tables, they were long skinny tables that pushed together would make a normal-width 8-foot table.  Zukekha told me, "You'll love this layout, trust me," but all I could think of is I now needed 16 bed risers and I only had 12.

Okey dokie, let's see what kind of alternate reality we're dealing with here. First order of business is to get the truck emptied. Umpteen trips up and down the elevator later...

Thursday night, 7:30-8:30 p.m.
Normal setup is two or more vendors around a pillar with larger vendors and single-table artisan vendors lining the walls.

You can see the split tables I'm talking about and the green tape marker, and just how far off the mark we were going to have to go in order to allow room for the other tables to line up. In fact, we should have come out even further, but the other vendors didn't show up until the next morning and it was too late to do anything about it. I heard that at some shows people are spitting nails and throwing snit fits if tables are out of alignment by even a centimetre. I was more concerned because I was seriously impinging on aisle space by this point.

Once we're finally happy with where the tables have been placed, the bed risers go under the inner tables... us two levels of display space with that doinky bit of top table sticking out.

Thursday night, 9:05 p.m.
It's a little difficult to see, but the grids are in a T-formation (I use zip ties to keep the grids together, but only because I forgot the reusable green "Gumby" ties I use, aka garden plant ties), and since beads will go on the "outside" of my table, I need a little extra space between my neighbour's table and myself so people can come into the aisle between two tables to choose beads. You'll see what I mean in a few minutes.

The grids are up, but we have a little problem. We need the tablecloths to reach the floor but they were made to fit each of the long narrow tables.

Thursday night, 9:25 p.m.
White tablecloths come off, we put my black cloths on the lower tables, and the white cloths go back on. FYI, for reference, this table is the fetish table, the other is the bead bin table.

Just wanted to point something out here: see how the black cloth in the front corner is puddling on the ground? That's a serious tripping hazard, especially when you have a lot of people crowding around and shuffling along close to the table.

This is where bulldog clips or even safety pins, work great. Bulldog clips are very useful for all kinds of things (including clipping table covers onto lights and shelving at night -- mine are always slipping off at one end while I'm down at the other end) and make a very clean, square professional edge for your table.

Small shelves go up on the fetish table utilising recycled glass breeze blocks (thanks Door Store, aka Re-Store). Note the diagonal placement of the shelf in the sticky-outy doinky corner -- very awkward placement. This is where my turquoise will go, and I ended up turning the shelf 180 degrees the next morning, which opened up the whole corner, making the doink almost invisible.

Thursday night, 9:52 p.m.

Lights are up, brackets go onto the grids, the beads, which are stored in bins on curtain rods between shows, go up on the grids still on their curtain rods and we're done (this is done in reverse when we pack up). I can set this part up in five minutes, takedown ditto. It used to take at least an hour when I used to hang each bunch of beads on the grid individually (they're gathered up with metal shower curtain hooks, 12 for a buck at dollar stores).

A selection of the brackets I use. I also have large ones that I use to project beads and sometimes necklaces out over the table where you can see that rainbow of glass bead strings. (My grids and brackets come from Lovers AtWork, London, Ontario, but you can get them at any retail store furnishings suppliers.)

Thursday night, 11:00 p.m.
Everything comes out of the bins that will be going onto the table: the "furniture" (T-bars, racks, boxes, risers, trays and beads still in their bins are all roughly set in place and the lights have all been checked (always bring extra bulbs and different lengths of extension cords and power bars).

I've talked before on other sites and forums about using something from show to show that becomes your signature and an easily visible landmark, making you easy to find by people who may have forgotten your name. Some people use a tall banner, but I'm too often strapped for space behind my table (and a banner going across the front of the table can't be seen from any distance once there are more than a few people in the aisles, let alone if you're on a corner -- in which case you'd need two banners).

I bought the woven blanket in the San Giovanni Market in Rome in 1996 and have been hauling it around ever since -- and now that I sell turquoise, it works thematically. It drapes across the outside corner if I have two tables, or diagonally across the front when I only have one table. The turquoise beads always go up in whichever is the most visible corner of the grid with a light on them -- and can be seen across the ballroom.

I'm now a big fan of clear plastic boxes to use as risers and to hold items and clear T-bars these days (Jacob brand from Winners). Ambient light becomes magnified and any items on them appear to float without blocking what's behind them. I also like a certain look of towel rack which I find at thrift stores and garage sales. Trays are a little different matter, as sometimes I need something to provide contrast against whatever is in them, or to provide a visible partitioning from other items. I have plain dark wood, a lighter relief-carved wooden tray and a glass "lake" tray which is lovely for sparkly anything. This also reflects light back up onto whatever is on it.

Gross and messy, but this is what my table/booth usually looks like from behind (the blue Winners bag and red bag will come out and I haul a chair over and sit there:

Bringing along a small folding table is extremely useful for doing your cash or wrapping things. I do a surprising amount of stringing for my customers while at shows and sometimes other vendors will often send their customers to me.

I've seen people with two 3-drawer bins on wheels that had contained all their beads, and once they've finished their table they put a board across the two bins and make themselves a table. Mine sits neatly just under the table when it's on risers, I'm close enough to say hello to people, but still do work and keep an eye on things. Obviously, I stand up when talking to people.

Believe it or not, THIS is me being tidy. I'm a less is more and more is always better kind of person, so I bring far more than I could ever put on the table. I hate it when someone asks for something and, "Yeah, I have that -- at home."

Okay, 11:00 p.m., it's time to find food and go sleeeeeep because I'll have to be back here around 7:00 a.m. to finish setting up. I have long plastic tablecloths from Dollarama that I use to cover my tables at the end of the day.

Food. Moan. What really happened: we walked down to the Elephant & Castle and -- whoopeee!!! (we thought) -- scored the last table. It was St. Patrick's Day, which I had forgotten about, and the streets, bars and restos were jam-packed with crazy-happy and very noisy drunks. The reason we got that last table? It was situated directly underneath blasting speakers. We got up and left. Sigh. No food. No ice-cold beer. Bummer. Ruth hit the subway and I continued over to the Strath and bed too exhausted to search further.

On to Part 2... 

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