Saturday, June 30, 2012


This example depicts a rough sawn lumber structure with a canvas roof and faux timber back wall and railing. This give the appearance of being a stall rather then a building and it might be appropriate to build your counter space on stacked hay bales. Wood is period, so using it liberally is always great, just make sure you hide any lumber stamps or telltale marks that suggest your booth might actually have originated from Home Depot.

Friday, June 29, 2012


Like the previous examples, this booth design uses rough poles as the basis of its construction and drapes banners and over-sized pennants as the roof, walls, and railing. This is a nice effect and works especially nicely when the booth is anywhere near the Horse Tournament area or stables.


Fabric Walls


This booth is constructed like the Twigs & Branches design but includes a patchwork peaked roof and back wall. This design also suggests the use of twigs and brambles as a method for displaying small hanging objects. The counter is sturdy and draped in a simple cloth. The counter could include a “lock box” that would allow you to keep valuables safe when you are away between event days.

Thursday, June 28, 2012



The following are some illustrated example of how materials might be used to create your own Faire booth. These are all based on a 8 foot by 8 foot booth space and are only meant to suggest techniques you could use in designing and building your own unique booth. These are also far from the limits of what is possible, so feel free to play and come up with something that will set you and your wares apart from those around you, and yet fit within the overall theme of the event.

Twigs & Branches

This booth is constructed using only large branches, twigs, and poles. The booth is very open with only fabric for a roof and as a view block on the lower rail. Banners and flags decorate the booth as well as a string of colored rags tied along the front edge. This is the sort of booth a traveling crafts person would build and does not include a back space or place to lock away their products. This is a very portable design, but will require you to rope it together each time you do an event. I have seen crafts people arrive with nothing more then a pickup filled with poles and branches and miraculously erect a fantastic booth from scratch. I have to admit that I am not that brave, but I have seen it done to great effect.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012


Thatch is one of the oldest roofing materials and a favorite when depicting a building from this era. The problem is that a true thatch is costly, cumbersome, and not that portable. Real thatch can be a foot or more in thickness, with a very characteristic appearance. With the exception of ambitious permanent structures, real thatch is impractical, but that doesn’t mean that it can’t be faked as a detail on your more temporary structure. Rather then attempting to recreate the thickness of thatch, it is better to go for something a little more theatrical. There are faux thatch materials on the market that are most often used to create tropical huts, sometimes found in Tiki themed establishments. These materials come treated with fire retardant, but cheaper quality faux thatch can have a plastic appearance. Thatch can also be faked by bundling your own reeds, straw, or other organic materials, or better yet attach them to thin strips of wood that can be layered onto the roof of your booth and easily removed and used again for a future Faire. Handmade thatch will need to be treated with fire retardant, so speak with the local fire department or your Faire organizer before considering this particular building material. Allowing the thatch to droop over the edge of your booth will suggest the curved appearance of real Elizabethan thatch, and help hide just how thin your roof surface actually is. A thatched Faire booth or building will definitely help your structure stand out, as long as it is done well, and with an eye to recreating the illusion of real thatch.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012


Brick is definitely a building material used in the periods surrounding the Renaissance, and in many ways it was more creatively used then, then in our modern architecture. There is a lot of leeway when using brick as a design motif, but like stones it is important to use materials that are convincing. Luckily there are commercial sheets of faux brick that are available, some more convincing then other, the real secret is how you distress it. Applying brick to a booth is easy enough, aging it down to not draw attention to itself is your next challenge. Like the tricks used in aging timber structures, consider applying washes of stain or watered down paint to give it the appearance of being weathered.

With brick there is also the opportunity to be a little playful. Research some of them many patterns that were used during this era and see what you can come up with. Probably the most convincing use of brick is when it is used on a booth that hides just how thin the faux brick really is. Whenever possible created the illusion of wall thickness to keep the eye from coming to the conclusion that your bricks are impossibly thin, and so unbelievable. Here are just a few examples of what is possible when laying out your brick details.

Monday, June 25, 2012


Another method for making your booth as convincing as possible is to age it down to give it the look of a structure that has been in the weather for more then a few weekends. Ironically, and not surprisingly, the method many people use for storing their booths during the off season… usually throwing it in the back yard or leaning them up against the garage, has the unplanned effect of aging a booth quite nicely. Often the ritual of retrieving last year’s booth involves brushing off mud and vanquishing black widow spiders before loading it on the truck. Still, it would be nice to have a little more control over the aging of your structure.

One quick method is to mix up a very light wash of brown ink or very watered down paint. The consistency of this mixture should be no more then dirty water and should contain very little pigment. First wet down all the areas you intend to age, then taking a sponge soaked in the dirty liquid, begin to scrub in the wash into the corners of beams, along the base of the booth, and in and around high traffic areas like doors and windows. Think about how mother nature might distress your building, so that roof eves might shield the top of your walls while the base might get the most splash and aging. There is no wrong way to do this, so distress as much as you like, and hold back if it is feeling a little too “ramshackle” for your taste. Mostly, you are trying to remove that brand new look that comes with any recently built structure.

Ferrous Sulfate

If you are creating a primarily wooden structure (not plywood but actual wood boards and timbers) and you want to convincingly age your brand new wood quickly, then you might consider applying a Ferrous Sulfate wash. Ferrous Sulfate, also known as Copperas or Green Vitriol, is a fertilizer that is also a very effective wood stain. Dissolve 2 ounces into a pint of water and apply to any new wood surface and it will turn aged and silver by the following morning. This is a technique used widely by the Disney theme parks to make new structures look old overnight. Be sure to use this chemical with caution, as Ferrous Sulfate is moderately poisonous.

Sunday, June 24, 2012


Now that you understand the fine art of Timber Frame construction, the next subject is how to simulate a convincing, mottled Daub surface. The easiest method for this is by using a paint technique called Rag Rolling.

When painting plywood to look like a plaster or mud surface, it is important to hide any details that might suggest that you are actually using plywood. Lower grade plywood often includes knot holes, or long running grooves or grains that are typical in this material. Before painting, be sure to fill these holes and cracks with Spackle or wood putty to hide these obvious elements that could ruin the illusion you are trying to create.

Once you have covered your plywood with a base coat, pour out a little of the base color and add a slightly darker color to it. This darker color should only be a very slight tint, almost indistinguishable from the base color. Avoid making this too great a contrasting value since it will draw attention to itself. Then, taking a cotton rag (avoid using terry cloth or a bath towel, an old cotton sheet works best) and bunch it up into a loose roll. Lightly rolling the rag roll in the slightly darker paint, then gingerly apply it to the base color by rolling the rag along its surface. Try to do this in a loose and “organic” way, avoiding symmetrical lines or stripes. Crossing the path of your rag rolling will also hide any obvious lines that might appear as to continue to mottle the surface texture.

If for some reason your end result is too busy, usually something that happens when too dark a color is applied to the base, feel free to apply another coat of watered down base color over the top. There is no wrong way to do this, but it will take some trial and error to discover a look that you like the best.

Saturday, June 23, 2012


The easiest way to simulate timber frame construction is to use plywood and apply wood to represent the vertical and horizontal beams. One material that works really nicely for these fake timbers is Bender Board. Bender Boards are usually 1/4” by 4” rough cut lumber that is most often used to bend around the edges of garden beds. Many of these are being replaced with a plastic look-alike material, but actual wood Bender Boards are still available. Coated with a watered down brown paint, applied like a stain, before attaching them to the plywood works best, and makes creating a convincing timber building fairly painless. This allows you to pre-paint the plywood (see Rag Rolling), making your structure complete once the faux timbers are applied.

Use Wood Chipboard with Caution

When choosing plywood for your period structure, it is tempting to use a type of plywood known as Wood Chipboard (although it is called my many names). This is plywood that is created using glue and chunks of waste wood chips and is popular in home construction because it is cheaper then conventional plywood panels.  The very rough surface sounds like it would be a very convenient way to help simulate your plaster or Daub walls. The problem is that even with several coats of paint it still looks like modern Chip Board, and might contradict the period effect you are trying to create. My advice when using Chipboard is to apply many coats of thick paint to the surface, add dirt to the mixture, and even a little plaster, anything to help hide the telltale Chipboard surface.

Friday, June 22, 2012


When recreating the illusion of an English country village during Britain’s Renaissance, it is desirable to try and simulate the architecture of the times. In the mid-1600’s, buildings were most often timber frame affairs, which we often think of as the signature style of the times. Since it is impractical to transport and erect an actual timber frame structure for only several weekends a year, the next best thing is to try and recreate it using present day materials. This is easy enough, but to be successful it is important to understand how timber frame buildings were constructed, because this technique creates a very specific look, one that is all too often recreated incorrectly.

I am sure we have all had the experience of seeing a motel or apartment block that has attempted to recreate itself as an “olde world-y” timber building. This is often done in stucco with boards applied to the surface to simulate timber construction. Timber buildings, often called Tudor, are what we think of when we imagine Olde England, a quaint holiday scene, or even Santa’s house, but creating the effect has a few architectural pitfalls that can be avoided if you understand how timber buildings were actually constructed.

The building technique used in creating a timber building is called Wattle & Daub. A completely finished, freestanding, timber structure is made where vertical columns make up the walls and support the roof, while horizontal and diagonal members stabilized the upright timbers. It is good to remember that the timbers are actually doing all the work supporting the structure and making it stable. Only then are the gaps between the timbers filled to keep weather on the outside of the structure. To do this, twigs and branches (Wattle) are woven between the beams, often in a slot carved into the inner face of each beam. These are then packed with a mixture of mud, clay, straw, and dung (Daub) to act as a sort of plaster.  The timbers would be visible from both the exterior and the interior. In following eras the interior was often coated to hide the timbers inside, creating a “Half Timbered” look.

Most important to remember is that vertical timbers support horizontal timbers, and diagonal timber brace vertical timbers. All too often, faux timber facades ignore this fact and come up with unconvincing results. The biggest mistake is often to create “V” shaped elements that, although decorative, are not at all structural, and can draw attention to the fact that a structure is faked.

Thursday, June 21, 2012


The cheapest building material by far for creating your booth or building is Fabric. Unless you are located in a particularly windy area (you don’t want your booth to become a kite), fabric is relatively inexpensive, is easily transported, and does a fabulous job of defining the walls of a structure, hiding areas of your booth you don’t want people to see or go into, and is great for roofs, awnings, and shade while still allowing light to get into your booth. Many Faires insist that all fabric used in booth construction be certified fireproof before the event opens. This can be accomplished by using pre-fireproofed material, having your fabric fireproofed and certified prior to construction, or some Faires will fireproof your booth for you, for a fee. If you are worried about being around toxic chemicals be sure to research what is being used to fireproof anything in your booth so that you are more educated about what is and is not safe.

No matter what you do to them, bed sheets look like bed sheets

When having to create booth walls, roofs, or awnings of fabric it is tempting to use something cheap and readily available, the obvious choice is to resort to used bed sheets. Although I have seen these used on countless booths, I have to say there is just something about them that cries out “BED SHEETS”! It may be the lightweight material, the color, or perhaps the types of patterns that customarily appear on them, but bed sheets actually defeat the look of a sturdy Faire booth and broadcast a lack of quality that will only cheapen the appearance of your wares.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012


One temptation when designing a Faire structure of any kind is to use stone as a major architectural detail for booths, stages and other structures. True, stones are a basic building material of any period represented by a Renaissance Faire, but unless the building is permanent, stones are hard to transport. The obvious conclusion is to try depict them by painting them on something.  This can give a theatrical effect that could work as part of a set piece in a play on one of the Faire stages, but for use on a booth it only succeeds in confirming that the structure is fake.  When in doubt about the use of stones in a temporary booth, the answer is, don’t. One acceptation to this rule is the use of bricks; another frequently used building material of the period. Although hand painted bricks look as artificial as hand painted stone, there are convincing lightweight faux bricks available that work rather nicely. The challenge with these brick panels is avoiding overly bright or comically colored faux brinks, in favored of the more weathered and highly textured varieties. Even then, it doesn’t hurt to add even more aging to the surface with a wash of watered down brown paint and finishing it off with handfuls of rubbed in dirt. Some of the best brick panels I have seen come from many a winter between Faires stored out in the elements. Faux brinks might actually be the only part of your booth or building that will actually get better with age.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Chapter Seven



When deciding to build a venue for selling your wares, you need to decide what environment will best present your work. The decision to sell from a booth or a cart may be purely budget driven, as booth spaces are customarily “higher rent” then a cart, but ultimately it comes down to what best serves your product. A jeweler might be able to happily present their work from a tiny Gypsy style wagon, or they may prefer the ability to “set the scene” by creating a larger “living room” environment that draws customers in to explore their glassed displays.

In this Chapter we explore the various ways you can display your products, and some of the  best practices to help integrate your booth or cart into the larger Story of the Faire. How elaborate your booth, or how committed your are both financially and energy wise to the ultimate “look” of your environment is up to you. Keep in mind that the more your booth or cart supports the larger theme, and the more it stands out from your neighbors, the better your chances of drawing customers, encouraging return visits, and the higher your potential of making a sale.


Crafts & Food That 
Supports the Period

A lot of effort goes into insuring that crafts people create products that help support the period a Faire is set in, it should be stressed that the food that is sold has an equally important role in supporting the larger Faire experience. As we discussed earlier, certain craft purchases can become a tradition and an integral part of a yearly visit to the Faire. The same is true of the food. Having that annual turkey leg, or the meat pasty that they can only get a the Faire is often reason enough to go each season. Food vendors have the unique opportunity to offer tastes and smells that are not easy to come by during the rest of the year. Although not every customer will have an adventurous pallet, you owe it to them to be able to experience the Faire with their tongue as well as their eyes. Sometimes more common foods can be made period with a slight twist. Why serve cherry pie when you can offer “The Queen’s Cherry Tarts”?

Monday, June 18, 2012


Future Faire participants usually started as guests, and many lifetime visitors to the Faire come so they can “dress up” and Play Faire. The usual order of events for a first time visitor is that they purchase some fun, often inexpensive accessory to help them “join in the fun” of Faire. For girls this is often a wearable flower wreath, and for young boys a wooden sword and shield. The next year they may come back with a desire to dress up just a little bit more, maybe add a long skirt or bell sleeved shirt. Shopping the craft booths, they may pick up something else to add to their growing ensemble, and so the process begins.
What Faires do well is promote fantasy, and encourage those that participate in that fantasy. Crafts people that help this process of accessorizing will find unexpected sales, and potentially create a bauble, necklace, or other item that may become a Faire “must have” for all the participants. Often I can tell a fellow Faire participant in the isle of a local grocery store, not for their 21st century clothing, but by a necklace or pin that I know they could have only purchased at the Faire.

Wearing the Other Vendor’s Crafts

The Faire isn’t just a make believe village, it IS a village of people who depend on each other for the success of the larger event. While the Main streets of most American towns include businesses that are desperate to grab customers away from their neighbor’s establishments, our little family is built on mutual support. One way to support this is by choosing to wear and use the crafts made and sold by other vendors. Sometimes your sale may have come from a Faire visitor seeing your product around the neck of another craftsperson, and you can do the same by proudly displaying the work of others in your booth and on your person. Of course there are limits... potters may be reluctant to display the work of another ceramicist, but that doesn’t mean they can’t wear a beautiful cloak, drink from a pewter goblet, or accessorize with a lovely necklace made by another Faire vendor.

Sunday, June 17, 2012


One of the hazards of conventional arts fair is the creation of an invisible barrier between the seller and the buyer. This is a wall that causes many to walk right by your booth, maybe only glancing at the objects or services you are offering. This may have little to do with the quality of your work and everything to do with the belief that your space is private or unapproachable. Although a jewelry seller may not want guests wondering around behind their counter, there is not reason not to create spaces that encourage visitor to explore and hang out a bit. The more activity in and around your booth the more curiosity and visitors it will attract. If you are lucky enough to have a tree adjacent to your booth space, spend a little extra money to place a few hay bales around its base that the public might use to rest their feet. Although not specifically related to your booth it helps perforate that invisible barrier and suggest that the Faire is happening inside your booth as well as in the streets and byways. Your products and booth should spill out into the world, no tuck back from it, and coming up with ways to attract the attention of your audience and welcome them in will only help your popularity and eventual sales.

Transporting Your Audience

In the end it is your efforts that will support the overall story the entire Faire is trying to tell. You are just one part of the big picture that will transport your audience into the time period. You may be shy about your talents as an actor, but a kind “Good day malady” or a “Good morrow kind sir” can be the extent of your old English accent, but may be just enough to make your audience feel welcomed into the larger play that is the Faire. Take advantage of cheering when a parade is passing, or boo if a group of Spaniards appears near your booth. Ask customers if they have had the good fortune to see the Queen this day, or if they have tried a meat pasty or sticky bun, it will only help make the story more convincing. Still, if these efforts are just too much work, or just too embarrassing to perform, at least dedicate yourself to not purposefully popping the illusion by whipping out a cell phone or surfing the web on a tablet when in front of the public. Your actions go a long way to supporting or undermining the overall experience and pleasure of your guests and customers.

Saturday, June 16, 2012


When creating a booth it is often helpful to create a story that supports the wares you are selling, the food you are offering, the games you are presenting, or guild environment you are creating. Are you are poor vendor that builds his booth with twigs and branches, or a rich merchant that offers her wares out of a timber frame shop? Are you are candle maker that allows the public to enter your shop to create their own products, or a blacksmith demonstrating what a craftsman looks like when they work? Any personal story you can communicate with the design of your booth will only help your sales and the experience of your visitors. If you are a nomadic seller of merchandise scavenged from far off places, drape your booth with exotic rugs and textiles that look like they just came off the back of a camel. If you are dying fabric for clothing, include a few half barrels of colored water, or better yet actually dye fabric in your booth! Supporting your products, services, or performance space with elements that support its theme will add even more depth to your audience’s experience and encourage them to look, watch, and buy.

Experiencing the Faire from Behind a Counter

There are many ways to experience a Faire, one of my favorites is from behind the counter of a booth. Whether you are selling jewelry, turkey legs, ale, or souvenir maps, a place behind a counter affords you a unique window on the ebb and flow of people, costumes, and street entertainment. Having a booth means you have a home base from which to venture out from and safely return. You have a one-on-one relationship with many of your patrons, and when the Faire gets crowded, a place safe from the crush of humanity. Although you are technically working, you are also visiting guests, fellow participants, and best of all, playing. There is nothing so nice as to have friends sit with you in your own private living room, watching the spectacle of a Faire parading past.
Some of my fondest, and earliest experiences of the Faire was spent shoveling ice into glasses of tea and feeding them through a window to the counter help. As behind the scenes as this job might appear, I have a framed window of the Faire that allowed me to focus my experience on just a few yards of dusty street where I could watch all the faces of guests and participants as they came to the counter. One thing I also loved was seeing some of the better knows performers quietly drop their daylong roles, just long enough to order a drink, connect to the counter person, and then launch themselves back into the crowd. It was these moments that made me feel the most included in this much larger event, and yet I was just an ice shoveling individual sitting at the back of a booth.
This can also be true of participants that create a theatrical Inn-Yard, or Guild Yard. These are themed environments, often with seats, dinning tables, and structures that face out to the crowd. Actors and guild members Play the roles appropriate to the environment, and whether peasants or members of the Queen’s Court, they act as a living tableau. The only danger comes when a group so identifies with their own small universe of players that they forget or even ignore the audience separated by only a few hay bales or length of rope. Any opportunity to pull the audience in, if not physically emotionally, will only make your experience and theirs more enjoyable.

Thursday, June 14, 2012



Why should I go through all the trouble?

This is a good question. If you are used to doing conventional crafts fairs, it can be hard to imagine the reason for the additional expense of building a themed booth specifically to sell the same products at a Renaissance Faire. Unlike a contemporary fair, Renaissance Faires are a theatrical experience as well as a craft event. The success or failure of the overall theme of the event is largely due to the collective efforts of its many participants. The entire theme of any specific area can be enhanced or destroyed by the appearance of a single booth.

Many visitors to European cities comment on just how “clean” they look. A lot of this is due to the collective efforts of its inhabitants and an understanding that each is responsible for the appearance and upkeep of their individual homes and businesses. This is not only because it reflects on their property, but also on the overall appearance of the entire community. The same is true of a successful Faire. The experience of your guests is greatly enhanced by the appearance of the Faire and the individual dedication of each booth owner to do the very best job they can.

“Buy a piece of the magic”

Renaissance Faires are unique in that their guests often purchase products as a way to take some of the magic of the Faire home with them. Faire guests shop with an eye to accessories their costumes and their lives with the items the purchase at the event. I have often encountered guests and participants that save up for years for a cape, sword, or costume element that they have had their eye on. They do this because the act of buying something actually enhances their experience of the Faire. It is not a mistake that theme park designers place merchandise shops at the exit of many of their attractions. Having just come off a themed ride makes you want to take some of that experience home with you. At a Renaissance Faire the entire event IS that ride, and purchasing some of that is just a natural extension of that experience. So you see, the more your booth supports the illusion of a Renaissance village, the more sales it may generate, purely because your products help your customers live that illusion when at the event or when they return home.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012


As the creator of the Faire, you will find the need to supply many structures who’s purpose is not always relevant to the theme of your event. Offices, a Pass House, security, and bathrooms are just a few of the structures you may find yourself building on top of the large, and more thematically important stages and main gate. When ever possible these buildings can be placed out of the sight of your paying customers, but when that is not possible they will need some themeing to help hide them from the rest of your event. Rented construction trailers are a good place to start and they can be draped in burlap, covered with simple plywood panels depicting murals, or faux period walls. In the case of public toilet, and very specifically portable commodes, it is important to fence them off from sight from within the Faire. Our 21st century willingness to suspend our belief when it comes to using a modern toilet makes it unnecessary to theme each one, but no guests wants to herald the Queen of England as she passes a bank of port-a-potty’s.


Since we are discussing important structures that are the necessary evils of any event, we need to talk about shade. It is hard to find a Faire site or event venue that includes all of the attributes we might want, and although the site might have a good location, great parking, and enough land, often existing shade trees are sacrificed for the other three. Your booth vendors will be constructing enough shade for themselves, and potentially their immediate customers, but most of your customers will be out in the sun if there aren’t enough trees for them to congregate under. I have been to many Faires that are located in flat open fields where customers wearing period appropriate, but weather inappropriate, costumes are roasting in the sun.

If this is the case with your Faire, then you will need to take on the expense of building that shade yourself. The “easiest” solution is to construct shad structures. These can consist of telephone style poles driven into the ground and a large tarp, or more period appropriate dyed burlap can be raised like a circus tent over the audience. This is most important in spaces like theater seating, but in the case of areas where people are likely to congregate, like near food booths, shade structures are a must. Shade can be easily rationalized as not always important, but trust me when I tell you that visitors will choose to not return to an event where they have been overheated and miserable.

Monday, June 11, 2012


Often Faire promoters will choose to be one sole provider of beverages for their event. This is a smart move, and whether you chose to offer alcohol or must non-alcoholic drinks, you will become the provider of a much sought after commodity. Locating Ale Stands throughout your event, especially near food vendors, will insure a lucrative income for your event, one that can’t always be achieved with admission prices alone. Ale Stands should be designed with as much counter space as possible to allow for as many customers to be served at a time. Your Ale Stand will be popular, and you don’t want long lines to suggest your guests reconsider their thirst. Ale Stands can also be a centerpiece of festive frivolity, noise, and boisterous revelry. Including a large bell that is rung whenever someone tips is a great way to add ambience, and encourage additional tipping by those waiting to be served.

Saturday, June 9, 2012


Information Booths are often the responsibility, and opportunity, of the Faire creator and promoter. Apart from giving information and acting as a place to offer souvenirs of the event, Information booths can be as iconic addition to your other themed Faire structures. Often placed at a crossroads or entry area, these buildings are your connection with your audience. What can be learned here can be used to improve and grow your event. As the owner of the Faire, you can also offer merchandise that is unique to your event. Maps, clothing, souvenir books, and branded glassware are obvious choices, but also consider showcasing unique crafts made by some of your vendors, and have them specifically promote your event. This will add class to your Faire, help promote your vendor’s work, and avoid the obvious choice of stenciling your logo on wine glasses undoubtedly made in China. Your event isn’t Walmart, so an opportunity to rise above that lack of quality will only help your Faire and its participants.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

BUILDING an INN-YARD (a Stage for Guilds)

If your Faire has Guilds, there is an opportunity to build themed home bases for Guild members to congregate, store their belongings, and rest between scheduled activities. Many Guilds choose to create an Inn-Yard, or open gathering place that is themed to the Guild’s status in society. Inn-Yards were the yards in front of Inns that acted as a place to gather, and became the fore-runner of our modern theater. In the case of Guild Inn-Yards, these are fenced areas that allow members to socialize in-costume and in-character to add to the depth of the overall Faire experience by becoming another form of entertainment for passing guests. Many Guilds treat their Inn-Yard as a theater space, scheduling large meals, musical performances, and other events that are as much an opportunity to entertain themselves as the guests that walk by their Guild environment.

A word of caution. Guild Inn-Yards can become exclusive and have been known to treat onlookers as “not part of our little party”. This is a mistake, and a missed opportunity. Although physically separate from the passing crowd, it is still a part of the larger “stage” that is the Faire. Whenever possible, offering a place for non-Guild visitors to come enjoy the sheltered ambiance of the space, perhaps stay for a little conversation, and even a game, will greatly enhance the experience for both guests and Guild members. Inn-Yards are a very special part of any rich Faire experience, especially if they are open to sharing their unique environment with everyone.

Each Guild may use their Inn-Yard differently. A military Guild might stage drills for their troops. A musician’s Guild may encourage unscheduled jam sessions of period music, and an upper-class Guild might be a venue for entertaining royalty, which on occasion can include Faire guests. Inn-Yards are also the perfect stage for recreating the making of a period craft, the cooking of food of the time, or a place to stage interactive lectures and lessons for guests of all ages. Though the Faire is large enough to offer many experiences, your Guild could give a guest the very best experience of their day, so build that into the culture of your Inn-Yard and everyone can enjoy your hard work.

Monday, June 4, 2012


As the presenter of a Faire, you are often responsible for the design and building of many of  your core event structures. While your vendors will build the bulk of the booths that will represent the backdrop for your Faire, you will build the entry gates, stages, and other support facilities, but you also have the opportunity to build smaller iconic elements as well. This will help not only support the historical story you are trying to tell, it can also add depth to the experience, and act as themed landmarks to help your visitors navigate your event.

A Market Cross is a good example of one such iconic structure. Traditionally built in the center of a small village, the Market Cross defined the market square, and the location for weekly produce and livestock to be sold. Iconic elements like this can help establish the theme of an area, act as a visual landmark that can draw visitors to it, and become an obvious meeting place for guests who have separated from their party. Other iconic structures can include a washing well,  Wicker-man sculpture, gazeboes, and barker towers. These elements make great “wienies” but they also act as a great centerpiece for street theater. The washing well is the perfect backdrop for peasant performers to interact, gossip, and fling sopping wet clothing about, splashing passersby.

In the case of vendors, any opportunity you have of building an iconic element into the design of your booth is worth considering. You want your booth to stand out, so why not build into it elements that will help draw attention to it. Having your own fountain, tower, wagon, or even a mini stage will act as attention getters, and help your customers more easily find you again when they return. Iconic structures are also great elements to add to the Faire’s promotional Map. Including these unique visual elements into the Map’s design will also help customers orient themselves while exploring your Faire.

Saturday, June 2, 2012


Apart from the investment of building your opening gate, Stages will be one of the more expensive structures you will need to build. Although there are a wide variety of types of stages you can build, your Main Stage will need to be monumental enough to allow for a fair bit of pageantry. This is where the Queen (or with some Faire’s King) will be at some point during the day, and it will need to be large enough to accommodate country dance performances and large scale period theater. A Main Stage is the perfect place to get your performers off the ground and into a balcony or elevated platform. Your Main Stage can be a character unto itself, and set the overall tone of those events scheduled on it. Other stages throughout your layout can be as small as a few hay bales and work their way up from there. A good way to think of building a new Stage is to consider it as a once-a-year addition. Each Faire you can invest in building one new Stage, or enhancing or upgrading an existing one. Stages are where the bulk of your more formal entertainment will appear, and your audience will spend a lot of their time scrutinizing them. As a rule it is always better to start with less, until you can afford more. A poor painted plywood backdrop might be less effective then nothing at all. It is prudent to avoid a cheap stage and wait until you have the funds for a proper one.

It is also important to allow for some sort of “backstage”area as part of your Stage construction. Having even a small area to rest between scenes, as well as store props and belongings, will make it easier on your performers and help them “own” the stage they will be using during the run of your Faire. Even a little pampering goes a long way to insuring your talent is happy and doing a great job. Having a stage manager or security person is also important so that props and personal belongings do not disappear.

Friday, June 1, 2012


While you are designing the layout of your Faire you need to keep an eye one on what the experience will be on the ground. Your audience is going to be navigating your labyrinth of booths and stages and always quietly asking themselves, “Where am I, and what is my relationship to this place?” Any opportunity that you have to help them get their bearings will make the experience more pleasurable for them. We have more fun when we feel safe and can relate to our surroundings, and always feeling lost is not fun at all. Best of all, once your audience understands where they are the more they will “own” the Faire and feel at home within it. One very powerful way to help people relate to your Faire site is to create thresholds, archways, and doorways, at each point where there is a thematic or geographic change. If I now that going under the banner labeled “Traders Market” will mean I am now in Traders Market then I can relate to both the theme and its relationship to the other areas of the Faire. If Traders Market is where your guests can find crafts and food from exotic places, they will find it easier to rediscover those wares and edibles if they wish to return.