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How to build your Murphy Kit [And why you should never leave home without it!]


A windy day nearly destroyed hundreds of dollars of our products.

It turned my favorite jewelry display into a colorful kite full of fragile, expensive work.  

I chased it across the parking lot that was our venue that day.  Ah, the joys of showing on macadam… my heart crashed as my display/kite hit the macadam — HARD.

Shattered stone and glass lay scattered.  My favorite piece, my showstopper, had just been destroyed.

The worst part is that it should never have happened.  I know the wind plays with that display, which is why I have bean bags that I use to weigh down the base of it.

But the bean bags were at home, sitting next to the dining room table.  Useless.

I held back frustrated tears and carried the broken pieces and dented dispaly back to our tent where hubby was busy trying to put order to the things that were knocked down by the flyaway display.

Our neighbor noticed what happened and came to the rescue!

She had handy dandy zip ties in her bag and started chatting with us about being prepared for Murphy’s Law when we do shows.  She chatted on about the various things she kept in her kit and how they’ve saved her.

That night, on the drive home, hubby and I brainstormed about what to keep in our kit — our Murphy Kit.  

If you have ever participated in an art event, you know that things go wrong.  That’s why you need a Murphy Kit.  It doesn’t matter how well you plan and design your stand — there will be a hiccup.

It’s Murphy’s Law, if something can go wrong, it probably will.

Maybe it’s a windier day than your stand has had to weather and your displays are flying around.  Or maybe you arrive to find out that your site is uneven and your shelving is too lopsided to keep things from rolling away.

Why you need a Murphy Kit, and what you want in itThis is where the Murphy Kit comes in handy.

A Murphy Kit is what we call our kit of “just in case” emergency items.  Being prepared can help you stay calm and composed when you want to panic.

And you can create what appears to be a seamless flow to your customers.

The best time to put your Murphy Kit together is as you design your stand.

When you’re designing your look, you’ll pull together different display pieces.  Some of these will have specific purposes, but you’ll often think of half a dozen uses for each piece.

And that’s a GOOD thing!!  That versatility will work to your advantage when things go awry.

So, today I’m showing you the types of things that I keep in my own Murphy Kit.

I bought nearly everything online, so I’m including handy dandy links for you.*

As you assemble your stand, think about how something might break and what could go wrong.  How could you improvise a fix?

Why you need a Murphy Kit, and what you want in itHaving an assortment of hardware such as nails, tacks and screws is incredibly helpful.

I keep them in my kit, along with this small tool set.

And they’ve helped with loose and missing screws, wobbly boards and so forth.  Making on-site repairs isn’t always easy, but it can make your event run much more smoothly.

How will the wind affect your displays?

For example, if you have easel backed jewelry displays, they each become a kite in the wind.  So you’ll want a way to secure these to your surface.

Why you need a Murphy Kit, and what you want in itIf you’re on a solid surface, like a shelf, some simple museum putty will keep your stand from flying away.

A stand that sits on a fabric covered table may require something a little more ingenious.  You can use tablecloth weights clipped to the base, for one example.

I always recommend that every vendor carries various sizes of bungee cords and Velcro straps as well.  I love the assortment packs, so I’m linking them to you!

These are great for lashing tables together to provide more stability on uneven ground.  They can also help to tie your tent (read more about how to care for your tent HERE) to the one next to you… offering you both more security in the wind!

Why you need a Murphy Kit, and what you want in itThose tablecloth weights I mentioned a moment ago?

Keep extras on hand.  Even if you use a table covering that is secured by clips, things can happen. And tablecloth weights can help keep a slight tug from one side from clearing your whole table.

Not to mention that pesky wind!

And there are so many designs, that you’re sure to find some that will complement your product and brand.

If you use any display made of pegboard, congratulations on using one of the most versatile displays ever!

Why you need a Murphy Kit, and what you want in itNo matter what situation presents itself, a handy collection of a variety of hooks can help you adapt to anything.  We have had displays break for all sorts of reasons, and our pegboard display and hook collection keeps on saving us.

Again, assortments are your friend.  I keep this one on hand, and I’ve painted the bins to match my setup.

I can use these to improvise on any product I make!

Why you need a Murphy Kit, and what you want in itDepending on your products, it’s also useful to have S hooks on hand.

If for some reason, you find part of your stand too uneven to use a particular display, an S hook helps you convert your tent frame into an impromptu display.  Using the tent rails will look professional with the right hooks.  Look how they help display purses in this store!

Some clothesline and pins work great for a variety of products, too.

I highly recommend keeping things in your kit that can help you clean and repair your art as well.

Fingerprints, mud, grit and other debris can ruin plenty of pieces.  But being able to use a lint roller to pick up fuzz before it pills can save a fabric piece.  This great reusable roller is convenient and easier on the environment at the same time.

Why you need a Murphy Kit, and what you want in itAnd a great microfiber cloth cleans a multitude of sins without scratching your item.

Clean, sparkling and lint free products are far more attractive, so be prepared!

Keep spare parts on hand while you’re at it.  I’ve had a necklace break while a customer was holding it!

Being able to repair it on-site let me also add the extender the customer wanted and salvage the sale.

Speaking of when a product breaks, this is a handy tip.  Keeping a selection of zippered storage bags is a great way to keep components together until you get an item back to your studio, too.

Why you need a Murphy Kit, and what you want in itKeeping a selection of zippered storage bags is a great way to keep components together until you get an item back to your studio, too.  You can use plastic baggies, but I like something more durable.

I have a couple of these waterproof zipper pouches that I keep in my Murphy Kit.

These are cute, handy, and look far more professional when I’m forced to put something away while a customer watches.

Then there are the miscellaneous things that can go along with your product to secure a sale.

Artists who offer jewelry may want to keep spare earring backs and cleaning cloths along.  A lost back can mean a lost sale.  And individually wrapped cleaning cloths can be included as a bonus to a sale, or offered for an upcharge.

Why you need a Murphy Kit, and what you want in itSomeone offering home décor might make sure to have spare battery operated candles along to help showcase their holders.

These can be purely for display, or even included in the sale.

The best thing to do when assembling your Murphy Kit is to think about how your stand and art will be treated during an event.

How can each display be made more secure if necessary?  What can serve double duty in a pinch?

Will something small in your tote save you HUGE headaches in a bind?

Even if you’d rather pack light, I prefer to err on having it on hand every time.

Because every event is different and has its own set of Why you need a Murphy Kit, and what you want in ithazards, evaluate your Murphy Kit before each event.

Consider the weather, ground, heat and air conditioning, and anything else you can find out about the location.  Being prepared to improvise can save your sanity.

And it will always save your bottom line.

*Here’s where they want me to remind you that I’m an Amazon Affiliate.  I do get a small percentage if you happen to purchase through one of my links. 

About the Author Gypsie

Hi! I'm Sandy, your Head Gypsie here at Art Market Gypsy. I've been working the markets since 2003 when a friend asked me to show some jewelry I'd made at an event she was coordinating. I cobbled together what I could with the limited answers I could find to my questions, and I've been roaming art and craft events ever since. I've expanded my line to include wire and bead sculpture. I'm exploring French beading, and I've recently discovered the joy of clay! But no matter the medium, writing about those questions unique to art market vagabonds is always on my mind!

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