Small Batch, Small Hatch

Set up in Blowing Rock, North Carolina.

Over the last several years I have entered the world of the craft show. The craft show, for me, is a constant emotional roller coaster. I pay a fee to rent a 10×10-foot booth space, typically outside, in which I need to set-up an exciting and dynamic retail experience in a small amount of time. Everything in my booth space needs to be lightweight, being hand carried or hand carted, to allow for easy setup and takedown. Within my allotted space, I work to create an environment that clearly showcases my pottery and entices people to add a piece to their daily lives.

I used to daydream of ways to make better use of my provided booth space while sitting under my old 10×10-foot white pop-up tent. So, I began researching mobile retail projects: food trucks, pop-up shops, and of course the ArtStream Nomadic Gallery. When I stumbled upon images of vintage teardrop travel trailers, the planning started. Taking advantage of all of the resources available to me at an academic institution, including supportive faculty, the CNC router, and the best studio technician ever, I designed and built the teardrop mobile gallery as part of my MFA thesis project at Syracuse University, Syracuse, New York.

CNC routing a side wall.

Fitting the ribs.

Fitting the ribs.

I modeled my mobile gallery after vintage 1940s teardrop campers. These were originally designed to be built at home and accommodate 1–2 adults on camping trips. Based on 4×8-foot sheets of plywood, the sleek aerodynamic shape of the trailer, without the compound curves found on an Airstream, made the project easy to build. Traditionally in the teardrop design, the back hatch area housed the galley kitchen. Based on the history of this space in the original design, I find it appropriate to place pots here, since the work I make is intended for use in the domestic setting and naturally crafted for the kitchen.

My mobile gallery was designed and built to fit into a standard 10×10-foot booth space, so it is shorter than a traditional teardrop trailer by 2 feet. Upon arriving at a show, I simply roll my small hatch mobile gallery into the booth space. The sleek, compact design of the teardrop creates a light and shiny temporary home for my porcelain pottery. Poplar boards, sealed with a clear urethane, and turquoise interior paint add to the fully considered aesthetic of the gallery. The lightweight nature of the teardrop allows me to tow it with my small SUV. Once at the show, the mobile gallery is easily maneuvered by hand into the booth space by one person.

Sanding the front after attaching the plywood.

Checking the rear hatch hinge movement for the first time.

Leaving the SU Art Galleries with the mobile gallery in tow. Photo: David Broda.

Right side of the mobile gallery, set up in SU Art Galleries.

My modified teardrop design has a 4×6-foot footprint and is built on top of a custom chassis I designed and had built in North Carolina. The back hatch lifts to reveal built-in display shelving that echoes the rounded shape of the teardrop curve. Additional pop-up shelving along each side and a front table over the tongue and hitch allow the public to move around all sides of the gallery. When set up at a show, the interior cabin contains a packing station complete with wrapping paper, bags, and a cash box.

As I began traveling with the teardrop mobile gallery last year, I found that when nestled in a line of other vendors, the public typically stumbles upon it unexpectedly. When this occurs, they usually see the pots first and the trailer second. However, when it is in a more open area and people see it from a distance, the reverse is true. I have found, that if I am not careful, people will spend more time talking with me about the gallery than the pots. While this would be good if I were in the trailer-building business, it can work against me because I’m in the pottery making and selling business. But, it is great to get a high-five from an older woman when I reveal to her that I not only make the pottery, but I also designed and built my mobile gallery (with some help from my friends).

Left side of the mobile gallery, set up in SU Art Galleries.

Rear hatch of the mobile gallery, set up in SU Art Galleries. Photos: David Broda.

As I look forward to shows this summer, I am excited to build my schedule around more locations that will welcome the mobile gallery. I also hope to frequent the weekly market in my local town. The more I travel and attend shows with the gallery, the more I learn that my preconceived notions of how it would be most effective continue to evolve. I look forward to adding a large umbrella, to protect me from the sun. I will also be making some adjustments to the shelving to better accommodate the constantly evolving small batches of pots I make as I continue to settle into life as a full-time studio potter.

the author Andrea Denniston received her MFA in Ceramics at Syracuse University in 2016. She now lives and works as a full-time studio potter in Floyd, Virginia with her husband, Seth Guzovsky, also a potter. Learn more at https://andreadenniston.com.

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