Designing Displays for a Craft Show – Display Boards Part 1

Last time we talked about some of the challenges that we can face running a craft booth at an outdoor event. One of the very important issues outside, is how to build display boards that will not blow over in a gusty breeze. Clumsy or careless customers knocking over displays can be an issue at indoor events, too. One of the things that I learned quickly was that if one display board falls over most customers will run for the hills, whether it was their fault or not.

When I started selling jewelry at outdoor craft fairs, I used the small necklace display boards that are often used in mall jewelry shops. But it didn’t take long for me to realize that I needed to make better use of vertical space. “Going up” lets you show more items in the space. From that first outdoor event I learned that my display boards needed to be very sturdy to withstand whatever the weather could throw at me.

Before you build your display boards you need to consider what size they should be, how you will hang your items on the boards, and whether you want to always hang the same things on the same boards. Alternately, you could have more flexibility in terms of board layout. Once you think you understand these facts, then you need to choose the display board materials and what it will be covered with.

Whenever I think of display design, I remember a very wise teacher that I had once in a class on booth design. He basically said “Ladies, don’t ask a male friend to build your displays. We will build it. We will use two by fours and 1″ plywood, it will weigh a ton, and require a large team of sturdy men to set it up.” He then recounted a story where he and some friends used recycled solid antique doors to create a display space for a friend’s paintings. It looked awesome and worked very well. BUT, with each door weighing 80 to 100 pounds and eight doors in the display, it took a small army of sturdy men to set it up and a truck to haul all of pieces.

Consider whether you’ll set up the display by yourself, how far you may need to transport it, and what sort of vehicle you will need to hold all of the pieces and any tools needed to set it up. Most convention center environments have strict regulations about what you are allowed to bring in yourself and what you have to pay someone to haul for you. These contractors are often hired by the convention center and can be quite expensive. Make sure that you investigate what the rules are about you bringing in displays. How far away will you have to park? Will you be allowed to use a dolly or wagon to bring in your displays and products? Most, but not all, outside venues allow you to drive to your booth to do set-up. When you are considering applying for a show, READ the rules first. Most will tell you when you are allowed to set up, and how you can do it. If you have questions, contact someone at the show to make sure that you understand the rules. Violating the terms for set up, especially at large convention centers (even if it’s a small show) can delay your setup significantly.

Next time: More on building display boards and other display issues.


Dealing with Sterling Silver Jewelry Shapes that are Difficult To Polish

Dealing with sterling silver jewelry shapes that are difficult to polish can be challenging.

Yesterday I was working on a large sterling silver jewelry project – a coronet for a friend who is a historic re-enactor. There are a LOT of differences between working on small pieces of jewelry, and working with something this large. And that reality prompted me to make a couple of quick tools to make the polishing safer and more effective.  As I was working, I realized that a couple of the things that I had figured out might be of use to others, so here are two quick tips for polishing large objects.

The sterling silver jewelry piece that I was working on was challenging because it was large with lots of pointy bits that made it waay too dangerous to polish on a big polishing wheel. The opportunity for it to catch in the wheel and either do damage to me or the piece was a serious concern. So that meant it was time to haul out the flex shaft for finishing! But how to hold and polish the piece at the same time? The piece is essentially a large oval, made from a strip of sterling silver one inch wide and 25 inches long. The band is decorated with sterling silver annulets (think donut shapes) and a specialized form of a sterling silver cross with a pointy bottom and exaggerated pointy arms. The annulets are completely soldered flat to the band, but the crosses stick up above the top of the band with all of their pointy goodness just waiting to hook onto any polishing wheel that comes near them. I often polish smaller pieces by simply holding them in my hand, but that was NOT going to work for this large piece of sterling silver jewelry (well it’s more of an accessory than what we think of as jewelry). I am fortunate enough to have a jewelers’ bench in my Studio, so I put padded bench pinthe bench pin into the front of the bench. Now for those of you who don’t have something like a bench pin, well, I would probably lay a chair down on the floor on its side, sit on the floor or a stool, and use one of the legs as a support. The chair leg can serve the same function as a bench pin in this application.

I always have a pile of those white terry cloth shop towels in my Studio. They are inexpensive, and handy for everything from spills to padding, which is exactly what I used one for! I folded the towel in half, wrapped it around the bench pin   and then held it in place with some masking tape. Now I had a clean, slightly rounded and padded, non-scratch support (a temporarily modified bench pin) that I could rest my massive sterling silver jewelry on for polishing. If I were using a chair leg, the towel would protect the chair and give the same kind of padding ( I would NOT do this with grandma’s valuable antique chair, just in case). The piece, remember it is a large oval, could literally hang on the towel-covered bench pin (or chair leg) and easily be held in place with one hand while I polished it with the other. There is another seriously important aspect to this arrangement. When it coronet on padded bench pinwas time to polish the tops of the sterling silver crosses, even the flexshaft wanted to hook onto and dance around the piece. Solution? Press the top of the crosses down into the towel just slightly. The polishing buff could easily do its job on the front of the crosses without catching the edge of the piece. It does get the towel dirty, but that is what those towels are for – they are called shop towels for a reason!

My goal when I whipped up this quick little modified bench pin support was three-fold – protect me, protect the piece, and allow me to polish the piece until the sterling silver gleamed. Mission accomplished! I hope this gives you some ideas for making your own workshop safer and more productive! I’ve included a picture so you can see my “high-tech” support system and what the sterling silver piece looked like while it was being polished. Enjoy!

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