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10 Best Thrift Finds for Art and Craft Show Vendors

How to save money on vendor necessities at thrift stores!

Think about the last time you walked through an arts and crafts show or festival. Which booths caught your eye more?

Was it the booths where you couldn’t really tell what they had going on from the outside? Or was it the ones where the creations and decor were facing you, demanding your attention simply as you walked by?

It turns out that there are a lot of things you can do for your arts and crafts booth to make it an eye-catching and inviting space. Well, besides just making incredible creations that is.

But not everyone can afford to drop a bunch of money into simply creating an aesthetic for their booth, especially after investing in all the materials it takes to make said arts and crafts. *Raises hand*

That’s where thrift stores come in to save the day! There are all kinds of neat and unique treasures just waiting to be discovered that can be used for vendor booth decorations, displays, photo backgrounds, projects, and a ton more.

Thrift store shopping can be immensely helpful when you’re trying to build from the ground up with very little money to work with! Here are my top 10 best thrift store finds for arts and crafts show vendors.

#1 Art and Craft Displays

As a vendor, you want to catch the eyes of passers by just from them walking by your area. Whatever it is that you’re trying to sell usually needs some kind of display to help the pieces stand up, stand out, or make them more accessible to potential buyers.

Excuse all the glare and reflections in this pic but I wanted to show you an example of how I put these thrift finds to use.

Having most of your crafts propped up vs. lying down on the table helps in both catching the eyes of people passing by and maximizing available table space.

Thrift stores have all kinds of helpful baskets, plates, easel stands, bins, racks, and small shelves that can be used for cheap but cute displays. I dug up a few of my favorite ones that I use for craft shows for this pic but I actually have a lot more hidden around my apartment.

Just to give you some display examples:

  • I use the cute silver plate and basket for displaying buttons, stickers, and magnets.

  • The easel stands are for small paintings and framed prints.

  • And the little file rack (or whatever it is) is also great for displaying several framed prints without taking up a lot of table space. I have some bigger ones too to display larger prints.

#2 Unique Frames

Thrifted frames are absolute treasures to me! I have run into all kinds of unique and stunning frames that just needed a good bath and they were good to go.

But I also like to put my own artistic touch on some of these frames with a new paint job to fit my spooky art theme.

This is an excellent way to add more uniqueness to your pieces just by repainting the frames to fit the aesthetic that you’re trying to encompass for that particular piece. I use thrift frames for my:

  • Drawings/paintings

  • Art prints

  • And I love turning them into magnet display boards too! (How-To blog on that coming soon!)

Hands down one of my favorite frames that I’ve ever revamped was this one for my “Deep Secrets” painting!

#3 Camera/Phone Tripod

This one does seem to be a bit of a lucky find but they’re out there! While camera/phone tripods can be helpful at art shows (especially if you’re painting live for an event), these are just handy tools to have in general.

In the days of social media every business, musician, crafter, and artist has to have an online presence to get anywhere it seems.

While you can take nice pictures and videos without one, the content is always cleaner and easier to view when the camera is being held in a sturdy position.

Plus if you get to the point where you need to record from multiple camera angles at the same time then you’ll need to have a few of these on hand.

Take a peep at the price of the one that I snatched up! It’s far cheaper than any I’ve found in stores but I do have to order a smartphone mount for it. Still a worthy thrift find in my opinion!

#4 Organizing Bins and Baskets

This one kind of goes along with the displays. You can find tons of neat bins or baskets to display prints, comics, books, or anything else you want your potential buyers to be able to flip through.

But this one isn’t just for displays, it’s also for storage and organization! Let me tell you, it’s 1000x easier to keep up with all of my supplies, tools, materials, props, and projects when I use bins and baskets to keep everything separated, organized, and in its place. This is true both at home and at art events!

#5 Photo Props

When it comes to taking eye-catching booth photos, product photos, ad photos, or any kind of photos really, you want to create a pleasing background area that helps add to the aesthetic of the pieces without taking away too much attention from the actual pieces.

If you browse through my shoppe you can see that I’m still struggling to find my happy place with this one. I usually use too many props or not enough of the right ones to create the aesthetic I’m going for.

I’ll get there eventually but one of my favorite examples for perfectly-placed photo props is Gloria Aitken Art!

I’m always excited to see new stuff from her, not just because I love her work but her props are always spot on and that creates the kind of aesthetic that feeds my spooky addiction.

I’m an absolute sucker for well-placed props and you can find a ton of unique ones at thrift stores!

#6 Vendor Table Decorations

Just like with your crafty product photos, you can add some simple decor to your booth table to help accentuate your aesthetic.

Adding a little bit of faux ivy, neat knick-knacks, or even decorative price signs (like that little yellow chalkboard that I’ll eventually repaint) can make a huge difference to how eye-catching your entire set-up is.

Setting up with a whole canopy? Finding some cheap lights to wrap around the top can definitely help bring attention to your area.

You know where you can find a plethora of these types of decor for a few bucks or even just a few cents? Yep, those nifty thrift stores!

#7 Work/Display Furniture

Thrift stores are one of the best options for finding great furniture for immensely cheaper prices than anywhere else! I’ll get a good pic of some examples for you guys later.

But you can find excellent work tables, booth tables/stands, desks, even little display shelves for some of your pieces!

If reupholstering or repainting furniture is your craft then you probably already have a love of thrifting. You can find endless furniture projects to work on or experiment with from thrift stores!

#8 Fabric

Whether you need some fabric for craft projects, to create backgrounds, or to make clothes, thrift stores is where it’s at!

You can find all kinds of neat patterns and textures to work with and some for just about every occasion too.

I just recently came across the deep red velvet piece you see in the picture and I already love using it for my backgrounds! But I want to give a huge shout out to TKN Fashion who I’ve been following lately.

At the time of me writing this blog, she’s been making her own clothes for less than a year only using fabric she found at thrift stores. Let me tell you, her designs are jaw-dropping! Jaw-dropping!!! They make me want to go out right now and see what kind of sewing machine I can hunt down.

#9 Experimental Projects

This thrift find is more just in general rather than specifically for art show vending.

We artists and crafters are always getting new ideas for things that we want to try and tinker with. It’s a much better idea to find these experimental projects for a small price at thrift stores rather than to buy something brand new to try a new idea with.

This way, if your experiment doesn’t turn out the way you hoped you’ve only lost a few bucks.

I’ve already mentioned a few project types that you can find at thrift stores but the possibilities are truly endless here! Here are some more experimental projects to thrift:

  • Furniture (such as small tables, dressers, armoires, stools, school desks, etc.)

  • Fabric

  • Canvases

  • Picture and canvas frames

  • Wreaths

  • Clothes

  • Figurines

  • Blank mugs/cups/dishes

#10 Seasonal/Holiday props

Last but not least, let’s talk about everyone’s favorite topic: holidays. I don’t just mean the end-of-the-year holidays though, I’m talking about all of them.

I’ve talked a lot about creating aesthetics today and this falls right into that same category.

When you’re setting up at a holiday-themed show or trying to advertise your products around any widely-celebrated holiday, fit the aesthetic.

Well, let me say that the trick is really to incorporate your own aesthetic in with the holiday aesthetic.

I’m a spooky artist. I like making spooky stuff throughout the entire year. Halloween all day, every day if you know what I mean. So I usually do a Creepmas type thing or a Bloody Valentine thing and find odd or unique props to accentuate that.

The best part about thrifted holiday props is that you can find them any time of year! This is actually immensely helpful since you will more than likely need to have your holiday or seasonal themed photos ready well before the season actually starts.

Plus they’re a lot cheaper than the decorations department stores put out for the season.

Final Thoughts

There are all kinds of helpful tools, props, and projects just waiting to be discovered at thrift stores. Finding and using these little treasures can help you out immensely when you’re trying to build from the ground up with very little money to work with. I hope you’ve found these thrift finds helpful and can use some of these ideas in your own crafty journey.

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