Back in 2013 I took a notebook of sketches to a hardware store and loaded up with supplies to construct my version of display panels for my EZ-UP tent. The price tag on manufactured walls to display art was way too high and I just didn’t have the budget to stomach it. My solution worked and has served me well over the past few years, but there were some issues. The biggest issue was that I couldn’t fit the panels, my artwork, a toddler car seat and my old lady in the same vehicle. Lucky for me, my father-in-law was always willing to help me haul my crap (6 panels, tent, and four 50lb sandbags) allowing me to carry as many paintings as would fit in the back of my small SUV.
This fall we purchased a slightly larger SUV and I decided I had to come up with a different solution that would allow me to drive my crew, my set up and my artwork in one vehicle. I spent some serious hours on the WWW looking for some kind of solution that I could take apart and consolidate in the limited amount of space I had without breaking the bank. I knew that meant searching for common everyday materials and repurposing them.
The hardest thing to source for the project was poly netting that would have enough tension strength to hold the paintings with the smallest weave. I checked the major box stores and while they had poly fencing, it was nowhere near heavy duty enough for what I needed. This meant I was going to have to buy something sight unseen which was a gamble because the fencing comes in fairly expensive rolls. There were not a lot of retailers out there, but everyone seemed to stock the brand Tenax. I looked up Tenax distributers and found a company called Deer Busters. They stocked a special heavy-duty fencing that was meant to block deer and elk and it had a tension strength of 1000lbs! That was the strongest I had found without being intended for industrial use. I called and talked out my plans with a really helpful salesman named Brian and decided to give it a shot. Then I let it set in the garage for a month and waited until I got up enough courage to test out my idea.
My plan was to create a structure that fit inside the walls of the tent that would hold the netting in place like a skeleton holds skin. The skeleton would be made of ½ inch PVC pipe that I could break down in sections. Then I would use heavy strength zip ties to hold the PVC to the frame of the tent as well as hold the poly netting to the PVC skeleton. I spent a lot of time reviewing my structure options, making measurements and running back and forth to Lowes for fittings. Finally I started cutting pipe and made three identical structures.
Lying in bed that night happy with my days’ work, I realized a major design flaw. In the back of the tent there is a zipper that allows access into the tent without taking your sides down or opening the front of the tent. This is critical in the early morning hours on festival days for setting up without opening up. My original design would make that entrance inaccessible. Luckily I hadn’t glued anything yet and I could make some adjustments to separate the two panels in the back. I also came up with the idea to add the 16” feet that hold the PVC skeleton up off the ground. The 16” clearance would help keep water from damaging the work and allow me to put my tent weights down around the four legs of the tent. The feet would also support some of the weight from hanging PVC from the top of the tent.
This project has been in the works for months now and I am happy with how it turned out. The PVC pipe is super easy to put together and the fencing worked great. Plus, everything fits into an extra 10×10 tent bag for super easy carrying and storage. While this setup has not weathered its first festival yet, I don’t feel like it will be a problem. The poly fence is tough and when I zip tie everything together it feels sound. This may not be the set up that I use forever, but for now it makes me much more mobile and allows me to consider doing more festivals in other states. My next project is to create a system to haul the artwork better than what I am doing now. I don’t know what that looks like just yet, but walking around the hardware store I might just come up with something.