In the Studio: Stand-Alone Gallery

I wanted a booth that looked like a gallery for participating in indoor fine craft shows so my pottery could be displayed in a setting that would easily let people envision it in their homes. I asked my partner, Elijah Ferguson, to build a booth that would complement my pots (integrating a rustic and contemporary aesthetic), could be broken down and transported, would be sturdy enough to hold ample pots, and would look like a stand-alone gallery. It needed to be the standard show size (10×10 feet) and adaptable to different space configurations, like having a corner on either side. Elijah, along with our friend and fellow master carpenter Matty Semkowich, built a booth that exceeded all the above expectations. The project took about a week, including planning, buying materials, and construction. The cost of materials was roughly $1000.

Melissa Weiss’ stand-alone gallery, assembled.

Shelves in the stand-alone gallery stocked with pots.

Booth Construction

The booth consists of five 4×4-inch posts, seven 2-foot-wide panels in 10-foot lengths, and two 2-foot-wide panels measuring 8 feet long. The panels are stacked to form the walls (the two shorter panels allow for a doorway along the back wall that leads to a hidden storage area) (1). The panels are framed on 2-foot centers using sawed-down 2×4s. Each panel is faced with cedar fence pickets. At the end of each panel, there are bolts epoxied into place that mount through offset holes on each side of the 4×4-inch posts and are secured with wing nuts (2).

The two side walls can be constructed separately and then bolted together with the back wall. To make adjustable feet, the bottom of each post is drilled with a large drill bit to 1 foot deep. This allows for a ¾-inch nut welded to a plate to be recessed and mounted into the bottom of the post. Next, 1-foot sections of all-thread rod with a plate welded to one end are screwed into the bottoms of the posts to act as feet. The all-thread rod can be turned in or out after set up to level on uneven ground (3).

1 Elijah and Matty work to attach the wall panels to the 4×4-inch posts.

2 Detail of the wing nuts used to secure the 4×4-inch posts to the panels.

3 Feet made of all-thread rods and plates are used to level the booth after set up.

4 Detail of a French cleat used to secure the box shelving to the wall panels.

On the interior of the panels, a French cleat positioned on each wall accommodates the box shelving (4). Two of the upper panels of the side walls have a removable 18-inch×3-foot grid consisting of 21 cubbies that are 6×6 inches each. There are window openings in the top panels of the side walls where the grid is fitted in. Two carriage bolts inserted into pre-drilled holes hold the grid in place after assembly. The grids can be taken out and put back in and provide a view of the pots from the exterior if the booth is set up on a corner. The grids and cubbies are made with plywood that is glued and nailed together, and then faced with oak. There are also two small shelves made with Eastern red cedar. The boxes are finished with wipe-on polyurethane. I chose a light wood and no stain to keep a bright and clean aesthetic.

Across the front of the booth, ½-inch-diameter black iron pipe with flange mounts secures the front posts (5), acts as a racking stabilizer, and is used to mount lighting. Two of the box shelves are mounted at counter height and are attached together at the corner to provide further stabilization of the structure. The outside corner wall can also hold plates on hangers. 

5 A black iron pipe stabilizes the front posts, and is used for mounting lights.

6 Cubbies meet and attach to each other for strength and accommodate a lot of work.

The stand-out features of the booth are that it transports the viewer out of a craft-show, convention-center setting and into a beautiful gallery. The booth can accommodate a large volume of work displayed as if on a table, on shelving, on the wall, and stacked in cabinets (6). It’s easy to imagine the pots in one’s home, displayed or neatly put away.

However, this booth requires the strength of multiple people for set up and break down. It’s heavy and takes up a lot of room, requiring a large vehicle for transportation (we have a small school bus that we take to shows). It takes about two hours to completely set up. The booth is worth it if it’s a long show with a long time allotted for set up, as it gives the pottery the setting it deserves and draws in viewers who appreciate the extra effort.

Originally from New York, Melissa Weiss received her BFA in photography in 2000 from the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan. Melissa currently resides in Asheville, North Carolina, where she runs SouthSide Studios near the Swannanoa River. She is a full-time studio potter and mom. Melissa has attended John C. Campbell Folk School, Penland School of Crafts, and Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts as a studio assistant, a work study, and a teacher for wood-fire workshops.

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