Daily Wire Tip: How Dale Sets Up and Dismantles Her Jewelry Displays

By on November 27, 2010
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Daily Wire Jewelry Making Tip


How can I cut down the time of unpacking and packing up my pieces? Is there an easier system that you could recommend?

I have just started doing shows and jewelry parties etc. and I was wondering if you have any tips regarding packing and unpacking my pieces. I have found my system to be very time consuming. I would love to get some tips on how to cut the time setting everything up and taking it down again.

Another thing is that I have so much and usually not enough room to display it all. I know I should probably only stick to some samples, but do you have any tips on that as well? Thank you so much, I really appreciate your help.

-Daniela in Elizabethtown, Kentucky


Oh yes, Daniela, setting up a nice booth or home show display can take some time! Although I am sure that other folks will jump in with their methods, this is how I do it.

When I prepare my jewelry for a show, I place each piece in a flocked compartment tray by category (cab pendants, faceted, stone earrings, crystal earrings, etc). Then I write the name of the stone and materials used on a small card (left over from throw-away business cards cut with a paper cutter) and the price. This card goes into the compartment with the piece. When I set up a formal booth show, the card goes near the item in a case, and when I break down, everything goes back where it belongs. When I do a home show I usually do it “trunk style,” meaning the trays get placed around the area I am showing in as they are, and all of the pieces have their little cards with them. When I pack up I simply stack the trays and load them into a case!

As for wanting to display everything, I think we all have that challenge. You never know what to put out and you feel that if something is not on display that it might have sold! The way that I counter this is to label my categorized trays; and as I know what I have, when someone is looking at a certain stone, I ask if they would like to see what other items I have made using that particular stone or color. Often folks will buy from the tray I pull out, as they think no one else is going to see what’s in there – it’s exclusively out “just for them”!

As for earrings, I usually either pay my daughter to card them according to the prices I separate them into, and then hang them on my earring rack, or I card and hang them as I make them. I then wrap the rack in a sheet (so nothing jiggles off) and it’s always ready! Off-season, I wrap the earring rack in plastic to keep things clean.

Seriously, because I never know just what I want to put out, it can take me up to 3 hours just to display my jewelry items, after setting up my booth! But it only takes 30 minutes to put it all away. I look at it like this: your booth is your store. You are only open for a few days and you need to set it up and work it as a store.

I do have to tell you that I go over all of this information as well as: how to choose what to display and when; how to price; how to set up a booth; how to set-up for a home show and how to sell your work in the Definitive Guide. You will also meet several members of the Wire-Sculpture faculty and hear about their experiences as well as learn how they set-up their booths, choosing colors, designing business cards and what I mean by a throw-away card! (And, it has a 365 day guarantee!!)

Answer contributed by Dale “Cougar” Armstrong

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  1. avatar

    Dawn Hill

    November 28, 2010 at 11:26 am

    Plastic wrap is a God Send. They make it on a small roll for packing and shipping-some call it shrink wrap but it does not really shrink. It sticks to it stick only to itself and does not shrink. I made displays from a pc of wood and styro backer board that I covered in velvet. I pin pendants and headpcs and the like to the boards for display. I then wrap these with the plastic when I am packing up. Next time around just unwrap and go. Very fast and easy…

    • avatar


      November 28, 2010 at 6:57 pm

      Cool Dawn – thanks!

  2. avatar

    Karen McCoun

    November 28, 2010 at 11:28 am

    Dale’s “Definitive Guide” has really helped me save many hours of time setting up and breaking down my booth. I watched it last summer and revolutionized my display methods. Thank you VERY MUCH, Dale!

    • avatar


      November 28, 2010 at 6:56 pm

      You are very welcome Karen! The ‘Definitive Guide’ is my heart and soul – years of experience from me and the WS Faculty (and a travel trailer of ‘that used to be a display once’!)

  3. avatar


    November 28, 2010 at 12:06 pm

    I know I don’t write every little thing like I should, but I do put info on the tags. Then I store them in a container with soft towels and washcloths, a towel between each or every two items, and fill one container and put the lid on. I use enough towels and clothes so as nothing gets scratched or damaged. I hadn’t thought of wrapping my earring stands they are so big, I still have to figure that one out. But this works very well.
    JoAnn Goff

    • avatar


      November 28, 2010 at 6:54 pm

      JoAnn, by container do you mean a plastic storage tub? That would work well too, as you could add other display items around the trays in the tub.

  4. avatar


    November 28, 2010 at 12:11 pm

    Oh and as for setting up, It does take alot longer as Dale said, this is your little store so to speak, so you do want it to look pretty and have things nicely arranged. I use displays and velvet and some silver shiny satinlike cloths. Good luck to you.
    JoAnn Goff

  5. avatar


    November 28, 2010 at 3:31 pm

    Like Dale I use jewelry trays for display and transport. I always have 6 trays out on the table: with bracelets, one copper and the other silver and gold; pendants, one copper and the other silver and gold, and pins one copper and the other silver and gold. My jewelry carrier holds 16 trays. I use one for working at the show and the rest have similar pieces but in other stones or styles that don’t happen to be out for that show. Sometimes I’ll trade out pieces half way through a show and I always replace a piece that has been sold. All the necklaces that are on easel stands lay on top of the other trays when I’m putting them away or for putting them out. Hope that makes sense.

    I have two additional trays of boxed, prong set jewelry and special stones. These all have delicate sterling or gold chains with them and this way the chains never become tangled. I just put the lids back on when done. (The lids sit underneath and prop the boxes when on display.)

    I’ve got it down to 30 minutes for set up and 30 minutes for displaying the jewelry. Take down is about 45 minutes. It’s critical to put everything away in exactly the way you want to take it out. No matter how tired I am I know it will pay in the long run.

    Hope this helps.


  6. avatar

    Casey Willson

    November 28, 2010 at 6:24 pm

    Since I only do small local shows I’ve started making velvet covered flat “pillows” (either with foam or fiber fill) that stack into cases or file boxes and I use jewelry pins to pin things to the pillows by class and price. I keep a few clear plastic picture frames (the kind with a leg to the back that you slip your signs or photos into from the side) and lean some pillows on them. For rings, of course, I have ring trays. Setting up is a matter of putting up tables, putting on table covers, opening boxes and taking out the pillows and making whatever arrangement seems to suit the day.
    I don’t have as much stock as Dale so this works for me. I also use the cards like she does.

    • avatar


      November 28, 2010 at 6:48 pm

      Nice Casey! Thanks for sharing your pillow idea : )

  7. avatar


    November 29, 2010 at 8:34 am

    I have a few displays that can be closed like a book so I can leave my pieces hanging in them. I just put a sheet of thin packing material in them to hold the jewelry and close. For the rest of my pieces, I lay them on small towels and roll them up. That way I can store them in a box.

  8. avatar


    February 21, 2012 at 6:53 am

    I have my best pieces displayed on velvet covered, padded boards in picture frames. I figure it is “Art Jewelry” so it needs a frame like any art! I put each frame into a pillow case (I get those at the thrift store so they are cheap) and stand them in a plastic bin for transport. I put information about the piece on the back of my business card and tuck it into the bottom corner of the frame.

    • avatar


      February 21, 2012 at 8:08 am

      Great display idea, Bernice – this is also a good idea for utilizing “all” of that expensive booth space!!

  9. avatar

    Jane Elizabeth Duke

    February 21, 2012 at 8:33 am

    The Definitive Guide is an encyclopedia of information on every detail of display, sales technique and how to price your pieces. Done in a very friendly but also professional vein it is a life times worth of info in a wonderful presentation. Anyone and everyone will learn a lot from this detailed presentation! FIVE STARS!

    • avatar


      February 22, 2012 at 8:19 am

      Thanks for the testimonial, Jane :) The Definitive Guide truly is my heart and soul.

  10. avatar


    February 21, 2012 at 11:57 am

    Some display tips my wife and I have adopted to save time. 1. We converted all our garage sale “suitcases to stackable totes (about 22l x 18w x 14h). We know exactly how they fit most efficiently in our vehicle. 2. We developed a routine and overall organisational template for setting up our display: Table leg extensions (an suggestion from Dale) and table coverings first, then I do lighting (15 fluorescent lamps) and Jackie starts the displays. We usually have three 6’ tables or two 8’ tables. We make 2 focal points on each table, ie the ring display, set of riser shelves, our “fancy” bust. All the items and trays we place are oriented in a fan shape toward the focal point. In this way costumers can stand in two places in front of the table and comfortably see the entire display. We think they tend to look longer than if they feel they have to keep shuffling along to see everything. 3. We label totes and storage trays so that we can remember where things are and where they go back. I use heavy cardboard to make custom “egg-crates”. For example: all our flat busts are stored upright in one tote with the jewellery remaining on them, each in its own compartment. 3. I adapted the tops of 2 louvered closet doors to hold our earring cards. (An idea I saw on another blog.) They work great both for display and storage. We simply place a thin sheet of foam over one side, close them like a book and latch them. Still we like to take about 3 hours to set up. Anything less is rushed and we don’t have time to step back and review our display. We can now take down in about one hour. We’ve simply learned to ignore those crafter who can arrive an hour before the show and are gone 30 minutes after the show. This is our store and we are proud of it! And we are still learning and looking for ideas.

    • avatar


      February 22, 2012 at 8:16 am

      Yeah Adrien!! It sounds like you have really come up with a great system!! Thanks so very much for sharing all of the details with us.

    • avatar


      December 23, 2014 at 3:46 pm

      Wow here in the UK some craft fairs only give you a six foot or eight foot table to display on – and the outdoor ones you sometimes have to supply everything including a canopy to protect your stock on case of rain – and that is a major challenge to get a decent display on – and outdoors on a windy day …..

  11. avatar

    Rhonda Chase

    February 22, 2012 at 12:46 pm

    These are some great ideas!

    The weather is so good where I live that most shows are outside. It seldom rains, but the wind can be terrible. I’ve had to figure out displays that don’t blow over – even solid busts go down! I put my jewelry on small easel back displays, but rather than opening them up, I lay them flat in flocked trays. Then I prop the whole tray up at a slight angle. I usually group the trays into sets of 2 or three and have three sets on a table. I also try to have a couple of things that add height, but will stand up to the wind, like my earring spinner or a small heavy pedestal.

  12. avatar

    Wendy Rivers

    April 1, 2014 at 9:24 am

    Each time I transport, set up and tear down, I learn new ways. For me it was trial and error. My favorite way is to put the top of the box under the bottom and leave the boxes open. I purchased photo boxes at a craft store at 5 for $10.00 and just place the boxes in the box. I can fit 16 boxes in one box. When taking them out all I have to do is lift and put into place. The types of bracelets I want to put out is put in separate boxes. I don’t duplicate my items so I normally put them all out. I have found that people are less likely to try on a bracelet if they have to take it off a roll. So I do the boxes. My earrings, I have taken an older frame with a white background and placed screening n the top, I then hook the earrings through the screen to keep them in place. That way clients can see them without turning a turn style hanger and they stay in place when packing because I place one of my table clothes over the top of them. My special wrapped gems, I made a board with a canvas board, painted it, added wall photo hangers. I have found I am able to display my necklaces in a fashion that draws attention. of course I have my busts for my more delicate necklace. When breaking down, the boxes are just lifted and placed in the larger boxes, the board with the necklace and earrings get table cloth covering and the necklaces are layered in a box covered with bubble wrap, the busts in a large shopping bag. All boxes are placed in my craft bags with wheels and off I go. I am always getting complements as to how I set up. I am often asked by other vendors on how I made the frame for my earrings. Yet, I don’t think there is any easier way to do your tables.

  13. avatar


    May 14, 2014 at 8:12 am

    My latest \”bright idea\” I saw online using a bi-fold door. I had an unused one in my basement. I painted it white. It\’s really easy to take my \”easeled\” boards right out of their trays and slip them right onto the slats: pendant board, snap clasp boards, easel busts… The jewelry just stays on the boards. The board easily slips on and off if someone wants to look at an item more closely or try it on. It also works great for using the clear plastic, free standing frames for any signage needed – they also slip right onto a slat. The back is rather unsightly so I usually put it in the back corner with the open V facing into the tent. Depending on my neighbors\’ booth arrangements I can sometimes put it on a front corner angling it so the back faces out the side. Now with outdoor shows: uneven ground, wind, etc. requires the center of the V to be tied to the leg of your tent.
    I also use tray liners with my pinned jewelry that I just remove from their trays and lean against a low covered shelf on top of which are my solid busts. One of my favorite time savers for earrings – nylon cording strung across hinged frames. My earrings are hung on folded business cards and slip onto the cording. The frame also has a latch for closing. Voila earrings are kept safe opened or closed for transport.
    I have 2 small rummage sale soft sided suitcases that hold my panne’ velvet table liners – while panne’ was a bit pricey in the beginning their care is sooo easy! They don’t needed to be folded, can be squished into the suitcase, be just thrown into the washer & drier, still don’t wrinkle and look awesome.
    Now I just need help with how to display my bracelets on something they can stay on for transport and I\’ll be a really happy camper!