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ILLUSTRATION: COLIN HAYES
The Dos and Don'ts of Fabric Exhibits
Lightweight, undeniably versatile, and easy to install, fabric structures are stylish alternatives to traditional hard-wall exhibitry. But despite their advantages, tensioned-fabric booths pose their own challenges. So to help you sidestep a few fabric fumbles, heed these tips from Elissa Decker, fabric product manager at Moss Inc.; Matt Rawdon, vice president of marketing for Transformit Inc.; and Jon Weingarten, president and CEO of Dazian LLC. By Travis Stanton
1 DON'T: Get down and dirty.
Maintain a clean environment during installation and dismantle to prevent dirt and debris from coming in contact with your materials. Even hands that appear clean can transmit natural oils that attract dirt. I&D crews should wash their hands prior to handling your fabric or wear clean, white gloves while doing so. And never lay fabrics directly on the floor ndash; especially if your flooring is covered with Visqueen, as plastic sheeting attracts dirt via static.
2 DO: Treat your fabrics.
Even minor blemishes and fading can cause major color-matching problems when you have to replace a fabric panel. Thankfully, many suppliers now offer exhibit fabrics that have antimicrobial properties to prevent mold. You can also add a nanotechnology coating to many fabrics that will increase their resistance to dirt and stains. And if your fabrics are likely to be exposed to ultraviolet light, consider purchasing UV-protected fabrics to prevent fading.
3 DON'T: Let wrinkles ride.
Packing-related creases may simply "fall out" within a few hours of your fabric being installed. If they don't, steaming is a viable option for most materials. If you opt to iron your fabrics, use the permanent press setting and place a sheet of ink- and wax-free paper between the iron and the fabric. Keep the iron in constant motion and away from silicone edging materials. And be sure to ask your fabric supplier for care instructions before your new exhibit makes its debut.
4 DO: Treat stains on site.
Removing stains before packing can help prevent additional damage, since stains that haven't set have a tendency to bleed once the fabric is packaged for transport. If you do need to treat a stain on site, there are some amazing products available, such as Gonzo stain removers, Mr. Clean Magic Erasers, etc. A can of high-pressure compressed air can blow dirt and debris off of fabrics without you having to touch them and risk transferring additional dirt or oils to the material.
5 DON'T: Forget about the temperature of your warehouse.
Since heat and humidity promote mold, exhibit fabrics should be stored in a dry place at temperatures ranging from 40 to 80 degrees. If your fabrics will be stored in a south Florida facility without temperature controls, for example, you're going to need to take far more care with your fabric selection and packing. And keep in mind that while some fabrics meld when exposed to heat, others grow brittle in extremely low temperatures.
6 DO: Pack with purpose.
Different fabrics require different packing and storage techniques. For instance, some fabrics retain creases and require special folding practices, so consider your material's propensity to crease before making a final selection. Also be sure your staff is aware of any supplier-provided tips and tricks to properly pack the specific fabrics you choose. For example, if your fabrics feature printed graphics, it's best to fold them so the graphics are facing inward.
7 DON'T: Ignore fabric care.
Most synthetics can safely be machine washed with mild detergents (no bleach) on a cold-water setting, and lightweight mesh fabrics can typically be laundered in net bags to prevent abrasion. But many fabrics will scorch or melt if machine dried, and some fabrics will practically disintegrate in a washing machine. So before laundering any of your exhibit materials, consult your suppliers for instructions and be sure that all of your staffers heed their advice.
8 DO: Buy extra material.
Matching new materials to existing fabrics can be difficult considering variances in dye lots. And since fabrics are dyed in lots, colors often vary from one lot to another. So if fabrics from two different lots are installed side by side, you're likely to notice at least a subtle difference in tone. As such, if you know that you may be adding fabric pieces to your exhibit inventory over time, you may want to buy extra fabric and have it set aside to avoid any dye-lot differentiation.

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