What’s A Panel?
When I first considered displaying my photography in art fairs, I had no idea what a “panel” was or why I would need one.
In asking around and viewing other artists’ displays, I soon learned that the “panel” is what I would use to support my prints. (I always thought they were just called walls! Not the case).
There were homemade panels (that worked effectively for the specific artist display), mesh panels, Pro Panels, and a variety in-between. With the desire of having a professional looking display, I opted not to try the homemade route. The results – in my case – would clearly detract from the photography.
Settled on Flourish Mesh Panels
After consideration of many factors, I purchased the Flourish mesh panels at the same time I purchased the Flourish Trimline canopy. Having absolutely no experience at the time with art fair booths, I liked that the mesh panels were lightweight, easy to transport (both in the vehicle and to the booth location), easy to install, visually attractive, and would easily display my framed prints. (If it’s a nice day and your side walls are up, you can see through the mesh panels. I’ve never found this too distracting. Dropping the side walls eliminates any distraction).
For two plus years, mesh panels worked perfectly for me. Installation was rather quick and easy. The top section has hooks that slip over the top tent wall bar, the bottom straps slip over the Sta-Bar. Each side is secured to the respective corner posts with velcro straps. I always tightened the velcro standing on the outside of the tent, which meant I needed to make sure to have my tent and panels in place (hopefully) before the neighbors showed up, especially in tight settings.
During this time, I displayed framed prints. The frames hung very nicely on the Flourish “S” hooks. (Hint – Purchase an extra bag or two of the Flourish “S” hooks. They are designed specifically for the mesh panels, and are just the right width. The “S” hooks from the local hardware store, while they look almost the same, are almost too thick to work conveniently).
Flourish recommends using two “S” hooks per frame. (I had both 16×20 and 20×24 frames). In addition to helping with leveling and weight support, having two hooks is vitally important on windy days. It seemed no matter how tight I thought I had the mesh panels, on high wind days (20-30 mph gusts), the mesh panels would bow in with the wind, and the frames would move with the panel. On very windy days, with the wind blowing into the tent, the lower portion of the frames would move out with the wind. Using two hooks provided the extra level of comfort. I never lost a frame in high wind. To slow the wind down, drop the outside walls.
Since I wanted all frames on each wall panel to be level across the top, I did find it slightly time-consuming to place the prints. It just took some time making minor adjustments with the placement of the “S” hooks. After a few shows I became pretty good at getting it close. For those who don’t concern themselves with exact placement, using the “S” hooks are really quick.
Swithced to Dura Plaq, Required Pro Panels
With my third season, I started to display both frames and Dura Plaqs. Like any new addition, this brought with it a new challenge. The traditional wire hanger system that I used on frames would not work for the Dura Plaq prints. I created a hanging system that worked, and had the “D” hooks exposed above the prints. The “S” hooks, one per “D” hanger, then supported the Dura Plaq. The problem I then ran into was that customers viewed my "D" hook arrangement as the way the prints would be displayed in their home, and such was not the case.
After trial and error with the “S” hooks and a homemade hanging system with a “D” rings for the Dura Plaqs, I decided the most appropriate mounting system would be to utilize velcro and switching to the Pro Panel panels. To do so now meant all Dura Plaq prints were “display only”. Any customer purchasing a Dura Plaq would receive an original, printed after the show. Their print would be completely new, never used (scratched or chipped) at an art fair. Admittedly, this may not work for many, but it does for me.
Switching to Pro Panels meant another investment into my booth. It also meant re-designing how I transport everything. The panels take more time to deliver to the booth location. I’ve never really timed it, but the time it takes to set up, especially on fairly level ground without wind, is similar. It takes more time on uneven ground, or a windy day.
I failed to order the Pro Panels without the leg extensions, thinking I’d use leveling boards (which I do use for the Pro Panel print bins). The boards worked for first show (fairly level grass), but didn’t at the next. The wind came along and pushed the panels off the leveling boards. After that I purchased their retrofit leg extension kits which work great. Much easier to install on unlevel ground.
At a very windy show, I learned the need to secure the Pro Panels to the Trimline canopy frame. Without this attachment, the panels are free to move. Attached top and bottom, the wall is very sturdy. To do this, I use the Flourish white bungee cords, both top and bottom. In addition to the two Pro Panel extension support bars (one diagonal in each back corner), I also found it advantageous to install a third Pro Panel extension support bar across the full front inside of my booth (hidden by the Trimline bar). This holds both front side panels in place.
Caution - Sagging
One side note. Both panel types (mesh and Pro Panels) sagged from the weight of the displayed prints. In the case of the mesh panels, it was an easy fix. I would simply pull the bottom straps on the mesh panels tighter, and the sagging would “come out”.
With the Pro Panels, the sagging seems more pronounced in warmer weather. This started in my second season using the Pro Panels. With displaying all Dura Plaq prints, there is a considerable amount of weight hanging on the carpeted Pro Panels. As the show day wears on – especially in warmer weather, the sagging appears more pronounced in the lower sections of the panels. (This sagging would not have occurred if I were using the Pro Panel hanging system).
In an attempt to reduce/eliminate the sagging, I tried using less velcro. That clearly didn’t work. I went back to using a great deal of velcro to make sure the prints are secured, and have come to the conclusion that the sagging will be the consequence.
To lessen this sagging considerably, I inserted heavy -duty double sided tape between the carpet and foam center. Very carefully, and using a 3 foot ruler, I slid the tape into position about half-way the inside of the panel. Using a few pieces, this has greatly reduced the amount of sagging. It was a real trick to get the tape in place. If it is allowed to stick before the location you desire, it's going to stay there!
They Both Work
In my experience, I’ve had great success with both the mesh panels and Pro Panels. If I hadn’t been constantly changing my displayed products (first metal framed, then wood framed, then Dura Plaq), I may never have switched.