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The Business of Beading: Great retail displays

If you want to sell your jewelry at any kind of show, you’ll need a display that stands out with these five properties of presentation.
Diane Hawkey displays cropped

We're so pleased to have Leslie Rogalski share her series, "The Business of Beading," with us on Facet. This series, which appeared in Bead&Button magazine in 2014, has been updated to reflect current trends in the jewelry marketplace! Leslie has her finger on the pulse of what is new and trendy, as she's the Creative Director of The BeadSmith! Learn more about Leslie's teaching schedule and jewelry designs at   --kk

Be sure to check out other parts of the series:

So you want to sell your jewelry!

Backstage in your booth


Putting yourself out there

You have only a few seconds to engage a show shopper and convince them to stop at your table. Success can depend on your display. You want an inviting space that shows your work and enhances your style while complementing — not competing with — your product. There are five key elements to consider: light, height, customization, signage, and concealment.


Lighting is everything. You can find many varieties of lights at any big-box home improvement store. These lights are inexpensive with bulbs and parts that are easy to replace. Use the light to make your space as inviting as possible — after all, who wants to walk into a cave? 

Always check with show organizers for rules about power and wattage. Then consider these pointers from someone who’s seen the good, the bad, and the ugly of lighting: 

  • Lights that clip to your table or display take up less room, but you’ll need some cord management to keep wires neat and out of sight.
  • Lights that stand on your table are easy to position, but they take up valuable space. 
  • Use halogen or LED lights to minimize heat but keep the luminosity. 
  • Flexible lights are a must-have to point lighting just where you want it. Aim to highlight the sparkle and detail in all your work, but especially your showcase piece(s). 
  • Have enough lights to reveal all your work (no dark corners!).
  • Extension cords and a power strip maximize your outlet use in unfamiliar space. Again, check the rules for your show.
Stacy Louise displays
Staci Louise’s wooden crates and small bookshelves are used to create multi-level focal points. Shutters from a home improvement store are perfect for earring cards! 
Tammy Rae Wolter displays
Tammy Rae Wolter created vertical displays out of copper pipes, whose industrial nature enhances her metal and glass designs. 

Raise your table so buyers aren’t bending over — it’s a more comfortable experience for them, plus you gain more storage space underneath your table. Try commercial dorm bed risers for “lofting” your table. I paid $8 for a set of four at a home goods store that sells dorm room décor.

You’ll also want to raise your tabletop displays. Vertical displays are a great way to bring your work to eye level, maximize a small space, as well as make a more interesting showcase. Consider purchasing tiers, shelves, pedestals, and easels. You can also cover or modify materials — such as cardboard boxes, cans, and wood planks — or use natural displays such as branches or stones. Just make sure that the objects you choose fit the style of your work. 

Still having a hard time visualizing your dream display? Pinterest, Tumblr, and Flickr will reward you with a bonanza of inspiring ideas to spark your own adaptations. Home improvement and hardware stores, home décor shops, and garden and kitchen centers are also great places to look for materials for unique displays. 

Of course, not everything in your space needs to be outside the box. Commercial jewelry stands are very effective at showcasing jewelry and how it will look when worn. Neck forms, bracelet forms, ring forms, and more are easily available and affordable in many shapes, materials, and colors.

Jane Praxel displays
Jane Praxel shows jewelry on driftwood and cleverly uses a chip-and-dip tray to radiate her lampworked beads on bike wheel spokes.

Diane Hawkey crafted little house displays (shown above)  to showcase her whimsical beads. Her table fabric complements but doesn’t compete with her work.

Everyday objects can be converted into excellent display components by covering them with fabric, paper, or paint or by modifying their function for your own purposes. But remember — your display elements should be customized to represent your work, and your jewelry should be the starring attraction. Don’t choose displays that distract from what you want to sell.

You’ll also want to customize your display for the kind of show you’re selling at. If you aim for high-end craft shows, less is usually more. Look to such companies as Pro Panels and Dynamic Display Systems for lightweight, modular wall and showcase table components.

Thea Fine displays4_BNBEA1214_Teddi
Thea Fine’s art beadwork really shines in professional cases by Dynamic Display Systems. Enlarged fabric photos of her work make eye-grabbing signage, and check out that dramatic lighting!

We'll talk a lot about signage when you read my article on branding. The branding you choose for your business cards, invoices, packaging, and website should carry over into the signage you use to identify yourself at a show. 

Signage can be a simple banner, which is inexpensive to have produced online at places such as Vistaprint. Or you might want to try something a little funky, like a hand-crafted flag that reflects the personality of your work. Either way, check with the show venue for rules about where and how signs can be attached or hung.

Also, when you’re at a show, take notice of what kinds of signage grabs your attention. What colors are used? How big is the text? How far away can you see it? Use these observations to make your own signage as effective as possible.


Now that we’ve talked at length about what should be a part of your display, it’s time to talk about what shouldn’t, that is, what should be hidden. 

Cover your table completely to hide anything you store underneath — sides, too. Even if a table drape is provided at the show, bring your own. A simple cloth in a solid color or texture is a good start. Pin or tape your cloth so people are not tripping over or pulling on your display. Add personality with accent cloths, placemats, scarves, or papers. And please — iron any fabric. It makes such a difference! 

Keep other items out of sight (but accessible) to maintain a professional look. Conceal receipt books, snacks, pens, mints, and extra business cards. Secure cords and wires, and keep trash out of sight. 

Of course, many of the items you want to conceal are the very things you never, ever want to forget. What else should be on your checklist for a successful show? Check out my article (with convenient printable checklist) on that very subject!