How To: Low Cost Art Fair Panel Wall Display

Please visit my new blog for an update to this story. I’ve had these panels for about 3 years now and have added a few additional thoughts.


I mentioned in my post a few weeks ago that my goal for 2014 is to participate in a few art fairs around the Atlanta area. Well folks, this week I have taken a step in the right direction and have completed my display panels where I plan to hang my artwork under the tent. You may recall that I particpated in a small fair last year, however, I don’t feel that my current display system would look professional enough for what I’m going for. Especially for these higher-end fairs where the competition to get in is fierce and the look of your tent plays a big factor in the admission/jury process. On the flip side, I’m just getting my feet wet in this area so I don’t think it’s wise to plop down $1200-$1500 for the Pro Panel display walls just yet.

Through some internet research I came across an artist named Helen Wheeler Shaw who had the brilliant idea of using unfinished screen doors to create display panels. As soon as I read through her blog post the light bulb clicked on and I knew this was the answer for cost-effective and professional panels that I had been looking for. My total cost to create 9 panels was around $300. I found this info so helpful that I wanted to share my process in case there are other artists in the same situation as me. Read on for required materials and instructions.

Materials needed:

9Screen door – 36″ wide unfinished screen doors. My tent measures 10’x10′ and so the 9 doors cover 3 sides (3 doors per side.)
I found these doors at my local Home Depot for about $22/each.

poultry netting1 -50 foot roll of 36 in. wide wire mesh. I used this 20 gage chicken wire which cost around $30 for the roll. The beauty is that it’s the same width as the door so no additional cutting! This one roll covered all 9 panels. I only covered the top 4.5 ft. of each door with the mesh since I know I won’t be hanging any art lower than that. Also, I recommend that you pick-up some wire cutters if you don’t already own a pair.

Black felt material for covering–  I got my felt from Joann’s – check their website before you go since they usually have a 40% off coupon! I ended up using around 16 yards. Because I have tables sitting in front of 5 of the panels, I didn’t need to cover the entire door since the bottom won’t be seen. However, there were 4 doors where I did cover the entire length.

Heavy duty staple gun and a couple boxes of heavy duty staples.

** The cashier at Home Depot gave me a 10% discount off my tab since she thought my project was really cool!! ***


Wire mesh stapled to the screen door.

Wire mesh stapled to the screen door.

1: Flip the door upside down so that the T-shaped bar is at the top and the screen material is on the bottom. I like having the extra wood bars at the top for additional support.  I didn’t bother to remove the old screen since it won’t be seen. Cut off a piece of wire mesh to size and staple it down to the wood (using the side without the screen).

Note – make sure that no stray pieces of wire are sticking out since this could snag the felt and create a tear. I made sure to bend the pieces down or snip them off.

2: Roll out a section of felt, placing the screen door flat againt the fabric with the mesh side down. Cut the fabric to size making sure to leave an extra few inches around each side so that you can wrap the material around the edges of the wood and staple to the back side.

3:Begin attaching the fabric with your staple gun. Start with the corners first! Staple down the “point” of the corner and then fold the 2 sides over the top and staple.


A view of the stapled corner

4: After you are done securing the corners, finish by stapling the fabric down each side. Make sure to pull the fabric tight as you staple.

5: After you have finished all of your panels, take a hot bath and/or sip a glass of wine. Your shoulder muscles and wrists will thank you!

The Finished Product!

Art fair tent display

A test run of my tent set-up using the new panels

Here is a view of my tent all set-up using the new panel display walls. This is just a test run I did in the back yard to see where any potential problems could occur. Here’s what I found:

1 – The top of the panels fit pretty well between the support bar and the roof flap to stand-up on their own. But this is the case only if you don’t have your tent “jacked up” to its maximum height. I had to bring it down a notch to make this fit (I’m using the basic 10×10 EZ Up tent). Also note that the panels on each end are only supported by a small corner of the support bar. In extreme windy situations this could pose a problem. I plan to get small eye hooks to screw into the top corners and use zip ties for additional security.

2 – Be careful not to let your panels fall over into the grass during set-up. If this happens, you will be picking a LOT of grass off of the panels. The felt is a grass magnet!

3- Be prepared to have something available to level out your panels in the event your tent is on uneven ground.

4 – I used drapery hooks to hang my artwork – you can also find these at Joann’s for around $5-$6 a pack (56 hooks to a pack!). I did see where repeated use of these over time will make the felt look worn and ragged.

So there you have it – the new and improved tent set-up! I know this is not on the same level of actual Pro Panels but at least it’s a step up from where I was before. Once I am certain about my continued involvement in the art fair business I will eventually upgrade but I feel like this will meet my needs for now. I’m open to your thoughts, questions and suggestions! Feel free to leave a comment here or on my Facebook page or Twitter.


2 thoughts on “How To: Low Cost Art Fair Panel Wall Display

  1. Pingback: Lessons Learned: Spring Festival on Ponce | Katie Phillips Fine Art

  2. Pingback: Third Time’s a Charm! | Katie Phillips Fine Art

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