Visitors to gem and mineral shows always seem to "zero in" on the really outstanding displays and hardly look at some of the others. How have some exhibitors managed to catch your attention and made" you stop and look at what they chose to display? If you look closely at the overall picture a case tries to convey, you may pick up some hints.
Look at the background colors used-are they subtle and do they enhance the case contents? What about pattern and texture-does it distract in any way? Examine the arrangement of the case contents - is there a focal point and a sense of direction for the eye or does it appear cluttered? Does the exhibitor clearly identify the contents of the case or does he/she make the viewer guess? What about neatness-is the case clean or are there smudges all over the place?
Based on years of experience exhibiting and judging other displays, I have developed some does and don'ts for exhibitors regarding showmanship. Although these ideas were originally aimed at the non-competitive exhibitor, they apply equally to the competitive exhibitor whether you choose to display at the CFMS show or the fairgrounds.
1. When selecting fabric for lining your case, subtle tones work best. You should avoid bright colors such as red or green. Suggested tones 'include grays, whites, beige, light blue (very effective with jewelry), pale yellow. It is best to select fabric with little or no texture; the nature of the display items dictate how much texture you can use. A display of large fossils or petrified wood allows use of textured fabrics whereas a display of faceted stones or other small items would not. No shiny fabrics please!
2. Do line the case! Cardboard panels from large packing boxes work well and are generally available from moving companies. Panels can also be cut from fiberboard or thin plywood and then covered with fabric. Although seen at some club shows, a "draped" case has no place in any type of competition.
3. Risers can be as simple or as elaborate as you care to make them. They can be made from wood or Styrofoam and painted, if wood, or covered with fabric. The covering can be glued or pinned in place Hint: curved comers are easier to work with than perfectly, square ones. Covering risers is not easy --don't be afraid to ask someone who has mastered the art to help you.
4. Don't overcrowd your display. A common mistake among beginners is to overfill their cases. How much is too much often depends upon what is being displayed. Some very attractive cases feature a few items. In a noncompetitive situation, a large mineral specimen or lapidary item can BE the display. If in competition, make sure you read the section that tells you the maximum and minimum number of pieces your display must have.
5. Don't leave the viewing public guessing. Make sure your display has labels. These must be neat and of a uniform size that complements the display. What you make them from is up to you. I've seen everything ranging from simple card stock to engraved plastic. Spelling and correct identification do count! In competition don't lose valuable points because you forgot to proofread or put the wrong label 'in front of the wrong item.
Showing off your prized specimens, lapidary and/or jewelry skill is one of the things you can do to promote our activities to others!
SFMS “Lodestar”, Page 12, March 1999
[Lodestar Ed. Note: This article was taken from the February 1999 California Federation of Mineralogical Societies Newsletter, via Desert Hobbyist, Shadow Mountain Gem and Mineral Societies