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Making display fixtures from Zero Landfill materials

Whether for a booth at a craft fair or your dresser top at home, you can make easy and inexpensive necklace displays using upcycled materials
Upcycled Display Fixtures
When I first started planning out Upcycling Month, I had a few goals. I wanted to showcase ways to make jewelry from found objects and repurposed materials, but I also wanted to take a look at the hundreds of ways to create display fixtures for your jewelry from unexpected items. 

Now I know that not all of our readers make jewelry to sell, but for those who do, finding a fresh way to display jewelry in a way that is eye-catching but also portable can be an enormous challenge. Think about what catches your eye as you walk through an art show or a craft fair. You want a clean, fresh display that shows off jewelry without any fuss or distraction, but you also want to be unique and different from the other sellers around you. 
more from zero landfill

In May, I attended an event in Chicago put on by an organization called ZeroLandfill™. From their Facebook page: 

ZeroLandfill is an award-winning upcycling program held seasonally that supports the supply needs of local artists and arts educators while reducing pressure on local landfill capacity. Since 2008, the ZeroLandfillChicago team has partnered with the architectural and interior design community in identifying, diverting from local landfills and re-purposing back into the community over 500,000 pounds of expired specification samples that hold value for other audiences. 

All of the materials at this event were FREE. There was a warehouse-sized space filled with hundreds, maybe thousands of interior design samples -- fabrics, carpet, tile, window treatments -- in all sorts of colors, patterns, shapes and sizes. Most of the people "shopping" were either artists or classroom teachers. I chatted with several people and asked what they'd be making with their finds, and most people had no idea! But you could see the creative spirit coming to life, as people got ideas, held fabric up to the light, consulted with a friend or stranger about a color combination. There were engaged conversations about what tools could be used and promises to share finished projects on Instagram. I loved the community spirit and the commitment to upcycling from all of these wonderful Chicago artists and teachers! So inspiring. 

I wanted to grab everything, but I tried to be thoughtful about it and see what I could actually use to make jewelry. I came home with two sample books of fabrics, about two dozen cards with small samples of textured materials for window treatments, and a box full of super nice TILE. 

tile from zero landfill
I will have some future projects coming up using some great textured fabrics, but first, let's talk about that tile. When I saw these pieces sitting in a box next to each other, I could see the possibility for a display fixture right away.

Clearly all samples of the same product line but in several different colors, these titles are a nice muted palette, textured but not too distracting, a matte finish, and just about the right size to display a single necklace -- about 5" x 9" (some a bit taller). It's a ceramic tile so it is sturdy but not as heavy as, say, marble or granite. Carrying a box of ten tiles plus the bases to and from the car would not be back-breaking. 

I played around with my new tiles for quite a while before I decided what to do about building a base to hold the tiles upright. My first idea was to just use a standard piece of 2' x 4" scrap lumber, and cut a groove in the wood for the tiles to rest in. But I do not have the right power tools to accomplish that; I would have needed a router. 

Stumped, but knowing that this idea could work somehow, I went off to one of my very favorite places: Menard's. 
vinyl brickmould
I wandered around Menard's for a good long time exploring some different options. Hampered by my lack of major power tools (all I have is a small table saw, a drill, and regular jewelry tools), I had to get creative. I looked at maybe glueing two different sizes of wood together, I found some great patterned molding strips that I will use in a future project, but then I spied something interesting from across the way.

This white stuff, called "Vinyl Brickmould," seems to be used on exteriors, possibly to hold your gutters in place? I don't know, but it is a vinyl product that I could cut easily, it had a nice deep channel to rest the tiles in, and an 8-foot length was on clearance for $5.98. SOLD. 

Here are the easy steps that I took to turn some tile samples and a piece of vinyl molding into these lovely jewelry displays. 
three pieces
1. I took my piece of random molding home where the mister, who doesn't trust me with his table saw, cut the strip of vinyl molding into a few different lengths. 
from the top
2. Although this molding is flat on the bottom and did stand up on it's own, I made the decision to shore it up with some scrap wood cut to matching lengths (I think this is 1" x 2" -- left over from some previous project). 
backs of three
3. We used wood glue and also drilled in some wood screws to hold the two pieces together. 
4. I did put a quick coat of white paint on the entire thing; the white vinyl material didn't really come clean and I thought it would look nicer having the scrap wood camouflaged. I just used acrylic craft paint. I plan to glue some felt to the bottom as well. 
wine corks
5. For my final bit of construction, I added some wine corks (cut in half) to the back of the tiles -- just glued them on using E-6000 adhesive. 
back of upcycled display fixtures
6. Putting it all together: the tiles rest in the channel from the original molding. A necklace is draped over each tile. You can wrap a necklace chain around the cork glued to the back, or use a bit of tape on a longer chain just below the cork, to hold a necklace in place. 

I made three bases from the vinyl molding, and I have ten tiles. The tiles can be arranged in any configuration or color combination; I can put two tiles next to each other to accommodate a wider necklace or just use one tile alone to create an eye-catching centerpiece. Arranging the tiles in groupings of twos and threes, perhaps at alternating heights, creates a clean, fresh, modern display that is eye-catching but also doesn't distract from the actual jewelry. 

Upcycled display fixtures 2
upcycled display fixtures 3

For pricing, you could attach stickers to the backs of the tiles (so you can see them) or on the front (so your customer can see them. You could also hang a tag from the front of your piece or on the hidden chain of the jewelry, whatever you prefer. 

These fixtures also can be packed easily, an important consideration for artists who need to pack and repack for craft shows every weekend. 

My total expenditure for these display fixtures was less than ten dollars. Of course, I had the scrap wood, and some paint, but even if I had needed to buy them, that would have only added a few dollars to my total. So for the cost of one store-bought necklace form, I have the ability to display ten or more pieces of jewelry in a creative way that would set me apart from other vendors at a craft fair. 

If I had needed to purchase the tile for this project, that certainly would have added to the cost. But remember to look at chains like ReStore, which is run by Habitat for Humanity, thrift stores, garage sales, or other businesses dedicated to upcycling home improvement materials. Maybe just ask at your local tile store what they do with their samples. You may not be lucky enough to find samples that are just the right size, but maybe a neighbor has a tile saw! Be creative, find out what's going in within our community on recycling initiatives, and only good things can happen. 

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