by Susanne Kathol, Exclusively for Fire Mountain Gems and Beads®

Save time and energy, document successes and be ready to share your talent at a moment's notice with a jewelry maker's portfolio.

What is a jewelry maker's portfolio? Simply put, it's a collection of work designed to display artists' talents and accomplishments. A portfolio is an invaluable tool when presenting your work and yourself to prospective clients and employers, applying for juried artisan fairs or sharing work with others. Documenting jewelry-making projects also allows you to easily reference past designs, whether you are looking for ideas for a jewelry-making class or would like to remake a particular piece. Not only does a portfolio help document past projects, it also serves as a tribute to your successes, giving you the opportunity to easily view your creative works (because now and then we all need a little reminder of what we have accomplished).

I'm sure this all sounds great, but the idea of actually putting together a portfolio can be simple as long as you find the format that works best for you and commit to keeping up with it. You may actually have created something similar to a portfolio already, but might not be looking at it as a so-called "portfolio," or using it as a professional tool. A portfolio can range from a digital document, website or blog, to a scrapbook, an organized shoebox or a three-ring binder. Here's a guide to starting and keeping a jewelry-making portfolio.

What to Include:

The best way to create a jewelry maker's portfolio is to build it as you work; documenting jewelry pieces as you go. Going back in time can be challenging, especially if you no longer have the particular piece, and it can be difficult to remember the details of the work once you've moved on to other projects. Think of your jewelry maker's portfolio as a constant work in progress, something you continue to add to as you create.

The Format
The format is up to you, but the most important thing is finding a system that works and can easily be shared with others. Some designers organize their work by date created, materials used or specific clients. You may also want to consider developing an online portfolio through a blog or website or using online photo programs such as flickr or webshots--they are easy to share and send to others. The pages can be printed if you need to put together a hard copy as well.

Some may prefer to create a portfolio in a book format or three-ring binder. It's nice to be able to take your portfolio with you if needed, so using a format you can take on-the-go is helpful. Never give out the master copy of your portfolio, instead just make copies to share with others.

The Presentation
The adage "A picture is worth a thousand words," directly applies to a jewelry maker's portfolio. Including pictures of your jewelry projects in your portfolio is an easy way to share your successes. These images come in handy if you need to duplicate one of your designs or recreate a similar piece. It can also be helpful if you are interested in teaching jewelry-making classes and want to consider past designs for potential projects.

The Photos
Photograph designs in progress if desired, or just include a picture of each completed piece. You may want to use a similar display/background to photograph your pieces. You can also use a photocopy machine to produce an image of a piece--placing the piece on the glass (be careful not to scratch the glass) and covering the piece with a white sheet of paper for a uniform background.

Consider including the following information along with a photo of each piece:
  • Title of the piece
  • Materials list (a list of every component used in design--include item #'s for easy reference and reproduction)
  • Inspiration for design (for example was there a specific design idea or famous design inspiration for the piece?)
  • Notes about design, including any techniques and/or jewelry-making resources used (especially on areas of the design that are not visible in photo) and helpful hints/tips for recreating the piece. For example, how long did it take to make the design?
  • Name and contact information
  • Copyright notice (including creation date)
  • If the piece has been published, include a copy of the magazine tear-out or a printed copy of the webpage
  • If the piece has been entered into any jewelry-making contests and received any awards, include results
  • Any additional information or notes about the piece you think may be helpful to you or others in the future
Actual Samples
In addition, many artists find they like to keep an actual sample of their work as part of their portfolio. You can easily organize, store, transport and display samples of your work using jewelry-making organizers and displays.

Just remember, the key is to keep up with it. This way you can always be ready to share (and show-off!) your jewelry-making talents.

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Customer Comments

We would like to share some of the customer comments we received in response to the article "A Jewelry Maker's Portfolio," as featured in an email newsletter. Please keep in mind that the comments expressed below are those of our customers and do not reflect the views of Fire Mountain Gems and Beads.

"This article is great! Thank you."
- Susanne

"Great idea--I make a lot of "one-of-a-kinds," so this will help me show folks what I can do, even if I no longer have the piece."
- Carol

"This article is a keeper! I am going to print/keep for reference. This article offers insight that novices and professionals alike may not think of when creating one-of-a-kind or make-again pieces. Thanks so much!"
- Julie

"I like this and other articles, but would like to add them to a list--just like adding items to buy. Please add a button to do this. Thanks"

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