Designing Women

My friend Catherine has a booming business creating handwoven, felted, and knitted fashion items, as well as soaps. All of it springs from her own farm, her own goats, and her own imagination. Amazing stuff! Visit her at Foothills Farm Fiber.

Well, Cath is gearing up for the largest art/craft faire in our area, the Bellevue Art Fair. It's at the end of the month, so she asked me to come over and help her design her booth layout. She had a booth at last fall's Issaquah Salmon Days Festival, but she wasn't really happy with it.

Yesterday, I made my way out to her farm and we had a blast trying out ideas.

We set up a mock-up of the booth in her driveway. The white walls are not up, nor are the white tablecoverings and black table draping. (It was tooooo hot to close in the booth, plus we didn't want to get any of the fabric dirty.) SO, just imagine it all with a clean crisp white backdrop under/behind everything. That will serve two functions: It will increase the bright light, which will make the colors stay truer to their remarkable hues, and it will keep visual distraction to a minimum - which will make the colors POP and be the center of attention. Which is exactly what we want to accomplish here. Then some racks and tables went in, to hold product up at eye height. With the fixtures set, we started on product placement.

To keep the riot of colors from being visually overwhelming, I arranged them in three color groupings/areas: Warm, Cool, and Neutral. Why? Less chance of potential customers feeling overwhelmed with too much going on all over. That would negate the impact of the vibrant custom colors, plus it would deter people from coming closer, where they can see the intricate detail work Cath puts into her art. Also, fashion merchandising is tricky - many people glance and say 'Oh there's nothing there for me'. But when you use color to catch their eye, they inevitably stop and browse because they see what they like - either cool, warm, or neutral colors. It's a trick that works very well in show booths, because of the split-second decision made to walk past or walk IN.

Now, let's look at how that concept played out:

The 'Warm' display is anchored by this FABULOUS (and very heavy) steamer trunk with a salmon silk lining. Not only does this make for a great prop, it will hold many of the tunics & shawls Cath makes, AND the drawers will serve as her cashwrap. Bags, tissue, credit card slips & machine all tuck neatly & discreetly inside.

You can see how that salmon silk just ties right in with the rich warm colors of her art...and I truly covet that chartreuse scarf with crocheted edge!

Next is the 'Neutral' display, which is mostly black, white, and grey. It will all show up much better with the white back wall installed. But it's a nice resting place for the eye after all that color. Adjacent to this is a display of various soap products, in multiple colors. And the smell of that soap....aaaaahhhhhhh.

Finally we move to the 'Cool' display. The vibrance of the blues and greens is just remarkable!
Because Cath lines her hats with some of the most sumptuous fabrics known to man, I took a few yards of several patterns and swathed her (previously boring clad-in-gray) mannequins in it. Then I dressed them in coordinating hats, shawls, tunics, and scarves - and the fabric made her art look even richer!

Cath has purchased a large fixture that can hold 30 hats, and it will be placed on the left wall of her booth. She'll also be displaying scarves, shawls, and a few tunics on it. It has black velvet heads on it, and the steamer trunk is black on the outside...so we made the decision to have her handy hubby (HER Mr. Deb, who is actually Mr. Dan) paint all of the fixtures & props black. She also has a sign with her logo in black, so I suggested that she find a big old funky picture frame to paint black and then put the sign in and hang it on her back wall. This way, her booth's 'bones' are all black & white. She can use it year-round, and it is fresh and trendy, which is important in fashion merchandising. Any colors she designs and displays within it will look fabulous, making her art the main focus. It is truly a design plan that will grow with her from season to season.

I can't wait to see it all completely done at the show...I'll get photos of it and Miss Catherine to share with you then. As an aside, her daughter and I were talking yesterday, and Aleina stopped mid-sentence to ask me "Do you want me to call you Debi or MISS Debi?". She has called me 'Miss Debi' since she started talking all those years ago, after I painted her nursery. She is now on the verge of 12 and teenage life, and when she asked me this question I almost teared up. She's grown up! She also has a great sense of design, and was very interested in what I was doing all day....another designer in the family, perhaps?!


  1. I'm so jealous. I've not been to the Bellevue art fair yet, only heard such great things about it.

    Will you post pictures of the booth after she has it set up at the show?

    Hope all is well. SFIGF is next weekend, just won't be the same.

  2. Wow - I would love to see that booth all finished! It is so rare to actually find craft shows anymore where the vendors are true craftsmen!

  3. Prairie Home-Sherry6:58 AM

    Hi! Wow you are a Busy Lady!
    Love your talent for display! If you are ever in the area...Temecula Wine Country, Ca.We have Antique Barn sale events once a month for 3 days.We were featured in Romantic Country Magazine earlier this year.We are having a Blog-Her party August 16th.Come and visit my Blog..
    Cheers! Sherry