A little dilemma

My week ended like this:

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It started with a little dilemma.

The problem with selling jewelry is how to display it. There’s a fine line between being boring and ho-hum, but the jewelry stands out…and being interesting and eye-catching, but not so much it distracts away from the jewelry.

My displays at the renfair have seen 20+ years of use with me, and they were used velvet commercial displays to begin with. Plus, being outside, we have additional issues with weather and dirt. Looking a little tatty, to be kind. I’ve been working on replacing them the last couple of years.

Ideally, I’d like to make them instead of buying, because of the expense (commercial display costs are outrageous). Also be somewhat easily replaceable (my current ones aren’t made anymore and my display will look like a hodge-podge flea-market with too much of a mix. Replacements have to be able to be complete or blend in very well. I don’t want to have this mismatch issue again). And critically, they need to work well outdoors at the renfair atmosphere and weather.

My wishlist for new displays:
-weather resistant (moisture, dirt)
-inexpensive to make
-heavy (cheap necklace displays sail like kites)
-won’t shop-wear easily
-easy packing/unpacking (daily for us)
-easily replaced/reproduced (my dilemma now)
-not overtly modern-appearing (renfair, remember?)
-not an enormous time-investment to make
-unique if possible, particularly appropriate to me
-distinctive if possible (eye-catching but not distracting)

Not a lot to ask, right? Ok, just weather-resistant and cheap, but not cheap-looking, would be lovely.

I’m expanding a little on some ideas I started last year, and finally have come up with what I think will be a solution for nicer individual earring displays, and pendant/necklace displays that a gust of wind won’t send sailing off the counter to get bent hitting the floor. I’m sick of taping and nailing stuff down.

This last couple of weeks, along with stock and other renfair prep (it starts in a month–ack!), I’ve been making more of my normal displays and also some prototypes for the new display ideas.

Speaking of prototypes…

…this followed me home from the hardware store the other day. The clerk by the giant rolls of wiring in the electrical department looked at me a little strange when I asked for a couple feet each of solid-core copper in heavier gauges (10-16awg). He especially looked at me a little strange when I was test-swirling the ends in pretty little loops.

I’ve had an idea for a free-standing earring display. In the past, I hadn’t worked out the balance problem (base either needs weight or size so it isn’t tippy, plus it needs to be in my skills and tool availability to make). Plus, whatever goes in the base needs to be sturdy, easy to make, and fit with the look I want.

Now that I’m taking clay this past year, bingo! Clay: has weight, any shape, reproduceable, low cost, weather-resistant, reasonably sturdy, doesn’t take too much time investment to make, and unique.

Yippee! And using clay as a medium opens doors on several other solutions to display design challenges. Now, to figure out the top, since that affects the design of the base. And the bases have to be done this weekend so they’ll have time to be fired and finished in time.

I get the test-wire home, get my tools out, and ooooh boy, this isn’t the kind of wire that’s meant to strip easy. Had to do 1-2″ at a time. Took 30 minutes to do enough to bend for the test-run idea. And has a gouge at every cut spot. Will need to source bare wire if this works, since I estimate needing 30-50 feet. For the time involved, I’d rather make jewelry than strip wire.

It works! The 12-gauge turned out to be the right combination of strength, so it won’t get bent easily, and bendability, so that I can shape it like I had in mind. I like the shape a lot. Functional, but pretty. Free-handed, so each one will be a little unique. Basically, the design is a magnified version of the swirly-viney jewelry I do, and made out of wire, too, so it’s particularly appropriate. For extra strength (well, and it’s pretty) I hammered it a bit on my bench block with one of my chasing hammers.

With a successful design and clarity on the amount and gauge of wire, I located an Internet supplier that had what I needed for the tops, plus some copper sheet to experiment on for the other display I’m wanting to make. A few clicks and a couple of days later, we have the picture at the top of the post. Thanks, Internet!

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At clay class, now to design the prototypes for the freestanding earring bases, and also for bases to hold the backs for pendant and neckpieces (think glorified recipe card holder, but heavier).

For the earring bases, the urgency on making the wire prototype earlier was because it affected the clay design: how big of a hole for the wire size, how deep to be secure, how much clay for the base and the shape it needs so it won’t be tippy or too fragile.

For the look, I wanted something organic, like a little mini-mountain, versus clean and structured. The swirly top echoes my wire jewelry, and a bottom shaped like rough-hewn rock echoes that earthy part of my jewelry. My counters have vines on them and my current display colors are earthy and natural (browns, blacks and greens). With each base uniquely shaped but easy to match, later additions are easier. I’m planning on raku-firing these with a matte copper glaze that will show off the underlying texture and shape. I think the unique results and serendipity of the raku technique will also be very fitting with the overall theme.

In the picture above, the copper swirl is standing in the test-base. The bright yellow rib is in the other base (the final insert will be about the width of the yellow rib, but taller and made of copper too…a coming post, that one.)

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With successful prototypes, I made a bunch of earring bases. I only made a few of the other style for pendants since I’m still working out the insert prototype, but it’s close. Need something to test. More if it works. If not, back to the drawing board. It’s only mud after all.

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