Have you ever visited an art fair and witnessed the artists holding their tents down during high winds, while at the same time attempting to hold a conversation with an interested customer? Where is the artist’s attention at that very moment? Probably on the wind.
My Tent Criteria
Prior to taking the leap into art fairs with my own fine art landscape prints, I spent one summer just attending different venues and looking at the various canopies used by others, primarily photographers. I saw the lightweight canopies and the much heavier canopies, and a few in-between.
My criteria for a canopy became simple: very sturdy, even in wind, relatively easy to set up by one person, strong vinyl top and walls, easy to add options, if desired.
Lastly, I wanted the tent to feel spacious and light, not closed in and dark. Notice price is not listed.
My goal was to purchase a quality tent that met my criteria, knowing full well it was going to be more expensive than most other options.
Settled on the Flourish Trimline
After extensive research and talking with other artists, I settled on the Flourish Trimline 10×10 canopy. One photographer gave me great advice: “Buy it. You’ll never be disappointed.” How right he was.
If you aren’t familiar with Trimline tents, they immediately meet the first criteria – very sturdy.
The frame consists of steel tubular poles that snap together (5 foot sections). The top and sides are made of a tough, rip-stop 11 oz. waterproof vinyl. The walls, combined with their strong marine grade zippers, are easily added either during set-up, or during the show in the event of inclement weather.
The top comes standard with a center translucent panel, allowing light into the booth even on overcast days. In fitting with my spacious feeling requirement, the top has an arch that elevates the canopy center approximately 2 feet. Visitors do not feel claustrophobic.
An additional requirement was the ability to add options easily when needed. Admittedly, this turned out to be very important after the first year when I added the front awning and front 3-panel door. Both make it much easier to operate in the rain. Yes, not all art fairs are held in the best of weather.
Is the Trimline easy to set up?
This question is asked often, especially from other vendors. It takes me, by myself, approximately 30 minutes to set up the canopy, awning, and Sta-bars (side stabilizers) with the weights. If outside walls are needed, it seems to take me another 15 minutes. (Setting up the panels and actual display is not included in this timeframe). I use the Easy Riser pole system in both the set-up and tear-down.
Tear-down is about the same, unless the walls are used, then add about 30 minutes. With one person, walls just seem to take time. Or maybe I’m just too particular in how they are folded.
Is the Trimline heavy?
Yes it is. I keep the top canopy, sidewalls and awning all in one Sterilite plastic 27 gallon see-through bin. The metal parts (corners, connectors, etc.) are stored in a smaller, Sterilite plastic 7.5 gallon see-through bin. All the poles (and there are many) are stored and transported in four separate Flourish pole bags.
As you might imagine, the steel poles are the heaviest. Packaging these in four bags makes it much easier to handle. I use my Pro Panel “Haul it All” cart to transport everything to and from my vehicle.
How does the Trimline handle the wind and weather?
This is where the Trimline canopy excels. I’ve been in heavy rains and have remained dry, as has (most importantly) my prints. While others are holding down their tents during high winds, I simply go about the business at hand, talking with customers about my photography.
In two consecutive years, I’ve come back on the Sunday morning of a 2-day autumn art show only to see the late night very high wind storm destroy lighter tents.
I weight my tent with 4-40 pound Great Weights (sand bags from Flourish). These work very well.
Other than one time, I’ve never had an issue. On that one occasion, my booth was located “unprotected” to the direction of the wind.
This incredible force of wind hit the full left side wall (which presented a perpendicular surface to the wind) and moved the left corner of this wall in a couple inches. (This is the corner that is the front left when entering the booth, and thus has no lower stabilizer bar, like the back does). (It was the same late night 60 mph+ gust of wind that took out the lighter tent shown above). The rest of the tent didn’t move, with weights all did their job.
On that night, I fault not having my Pro Panels secured to the frame as well as I should have. My tent never flipped, tore, nor was destroyed. I was open for business shortly thereafter. (One note – I never leave any prints on the walls or in the bins overnight. By removing them each night they are protected from moisture, and, as in this case, high winds). The wind did teach me how to better secure my new Pro Panels to the tent frame. The next show at this same venue, these walls weren’t going anywhere, and neither was the tent. I’ve since added a stake in the ground on each corner, along with the Great Weights, for safe measure.
And in the end, is the Trimline worth the investment?
Once again, the answer is a clear Yes. At a recent art show, an individual approached my booth, looked at the tent and said, “You have to do a lot of art shows to make a tent like this pay.” My response was, “I only have to do one. One very high windy show, or one very rainy show (or combination thereof), and the tent has paid for itself”.
I go back to the advice the photographer gave me: “Buy it. You’ll never be disappointed.”
(Editorial Note – If you are interested in additional articles about my equipment and/or experience at art shows, click on the category “Art Fairs” for additional articles of interest).