Smoke and Mirrors

The "public face" of my display.

The image above is what visitors to Pike Place Market see when they come across me in the daystalls – a table with four levels, displaying my products in a (hopefully) organized and attractive fashion. Little does the general public know what lies beneath that bamboo mat and velvet cloth.

When I first started working the farmers’ market circuit, as a sales agent for a local farm, I was fascinated by the tricks of the trade that vendors used in their displays. What looked from the front to be a shelf may have been a wooden crate that would carry product home at the end of the day or an ingenius system of interlocking planks that folded flat to pack away.

The "shelf" unveiled.

When I started selling my soaps in the market in October 2005 (six years ago?!?!), I used a small bookshelf to hold my products. For various reasons I decided it didn’t work well, so I enlisted a clever friend to help me design and build the perfect riser. It needed to fit the daystall tables, show my products well, and be both durable and portable. He settled on sheets of foam insulation for the building material, bound and reinforced with duct tape (seasoned marketeers can build anything out of duct tape and bungie cords). I modified it slightly when I added my line of Skin Smoothies, and it’s taken quite a beating over the years, but it still serves its purpose quite well.

In the back are cutouts where I keep bags and my sales book.
My foam shelf even has a handy carrying strap.

The sight of me carrying this slightly ridiculous contraption between my storage locker and the North Arcade attracts a bit of attention. “Hey, is that your boom box?” “That looks like a keyboard!” “Actually it doubles as a flotation device in case of a water landing.” “It’s not heavy, it’s just bulky.”

So next time you’re browsing a craft booth, whether at a hometown fair or Pike Place Market, take a moment to acknowledge the smoke and mirrors that make our temporary businesses look so permanent.

Becky Boutch
Seattle Rainwater Soap Co.

3 thoughts on “Smoke and Mirrors

  1. That table is so cool! I’m glad you were able to figure something out to make selling at Pike Place worthwhile.

    And.. duct tape is the answer to SO many things *laughs*

    Anyway, congrats and maybe I’ll see you in the market sometime!

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