So, I may have mentioned that a selection of my work is currently being shown at Birmingham’s RBSA Gallery (once…or twice…a second…all summer…!), and I found it quite difficult to whittle down my designs to a cohesive collection of just 15 pieces.
When I was choosing what to include, I couldn’t find a huge amount of advice online on how to make the collection hang together whilst showing the best Tiding of Magpies has to offer.
So, here are 5 useful things I learnt about putting together a collection from your body of work:
1) Start with your favourites
These are the pieces you love, the ones you’re proudest of, the first ones you’d show someone if they asked ‘what’s your jewellery like?’. These could be old or new designs, but they should make up around 1/3-1/2 of the collection, depending on how well they fit into the theme of the exhibition.
Here are a few of mine…
An exhibition is also an excuse to get creative and show off something brand new, like this beauty I designed for the exhibition, which is probably now my all-time favourite:
2) No ‘throwaway pieces’
I mean, technically speaking, none of your designs should be ‘throwaways’, so let me explain what I mean by that! It’s actually an idea I got from Project Runway (because, of course I did). When the designers show their final collections, Tim Gunn always tells them to get rid of ‘throwaway’ pieces which are just in there to fill space in the collection.
These pieces can sometimes be a bit less interesting than the rest, or include multiple repeats of ideas that crop up later in the show. What this means in a jewellery context is, consider whether you want to include multiples of the same design in different colours, or popular designs you’re less proud of (we’ve all got them!).
3) Try and have a relatively even spread of jewellery types & price points
Although my overall body of work is largely made up of necklaces and earrings, I made sure my display collection featured three rings as well, to demonstrate the versatility of my designs and create a more pleasing and varied overall display. If your designs skew more to one type of piece, it’s a good idea to try and even up the numbers a bit in a limited-size collection.
It’s also wise to mix it up in terms of price points; galleries might allow for a higher overall price range, but it’s still worth including some pieces on the lower and middle ends of that scale to tempt casual purchasers or gift-hunters (especially at this time of year!).
4) Echo shapes or materials, but not both at once
This one’s fairly self-explanatory, but as an example, I put these two pairs of earrings into my collection:
The same overall shape signals that they’re part of the same collection, but the different metals, stones, and stone shapes maintain interest and variety.
5) Think about the theme of the exhibition
If it’s your first time exhibiting (or even if it isn’t), jewellery exhibitions usually feature multiple artists, so there will be an overall thematic link rather than the theme being that of your collection alone. You want your collection to stand out in a good way, but to also have a visible link to the theme of the exhibition.
The display Tiding of Magpies is currently part of is titled Stellar, and themed around the sparkliness of space. In response, I made sure my collection included some of my designs which feature star shapes, as well as themed stones such as moonstone (duh) & lapis lazuli (which looks like the night sky, with its blue colour and gold flecks).
Now all you have to do is avoid the inevitable over-thinking and wondering if you put the wrong pieces forward!
What other aspects of jewellery design would you like to see posts on? Let me know in the comments…