Michelle's First Trip to the Tucson Bead Shows

My First Trip to the Tucson Bead Shows

I will be blogging about my trip February 2-February 6, 2009.  My plan is to include lots of photos showing you new trends, new beads and beadmakers, and my own bead selections.  The goal is to give you some new ideas and resources to use in your own designs this year.

If you want more coverage of the Tucson shows, sign up for the Colored Stone GemMail or Jewelry Artist Flashcard newsletters.  An overview of the shows can be found in the Tucson Show Guide.

Pre-Tucson Panic:  What to Pack?
January 28, 2009

I'm packing in true beader style–I'm picking out all the jewelry I'm going to wear and basing my clothing decisions around that.  It's a little tough–unlike Stringing editor Danielle Fox who matches her jewelry to her clothing, I seem to have two developed two entirely different color schemes–one for my clothing and the other for my jewelry.  Oh well.  Matching is overrated, right?

The easiest part of my packing?  I packed a little mint tin with beading supplies–needles (tucked into a heavy piece of felt), Nymo thread, and Delicas for a Beadwork challenge project that I'm working on.  (I worried about scissors, but then I remembered the organization tip from Beading Daily reader Betty Neve who uses the cutter on dental floss containers when flying.)  It's probably ridiculous to think I'll have any time for beading, but if I do have some time and don't have a project, I'll be itchy and frustrated.  Wouldn't you be?

February 2, 2009 – Day One

I met designer/author Kristal Wick this afternoon for the first time in person and the first thing she said to me was, "So what's your plan?"

My response?  "Uhhhhh . . . plan?"  

It's a good thing I am traveling with others who have been here before.  My plan, it turns out, is to follow them!  Today we went to the To Bead True Blue show.  I saw a number of fascinating new beads and findings.  This was my first time seing the gorgeous polymer clay jewelry by Yellow House Designs. I didn't buy anything–I felt overwhelmed–and I have a feeling that this may be one of those things that haunts me.  You know what I mean, right?  Those times when you decide not to buy a certain bead or pendant, but you keep thinking about it for months or years.  If only . . .

I did buy a charming little bead from Heather Wynn that says, "If my words had wings."  Maybe it's all the writing I do, but I'm a sucker for beads with words on them!  (To the show, I wore a necklace that has a pendant by Green Girl Studios that has this quote from Thoreau: "Bathe in all the tides of nature, in all her streams and oceans at all seasons.")

This show is held in a combination of hotel and tent spaces.  I'd always heard that there were a lot of shows in tents in Tucson and it turns out to be true.  They really make use of every available space!  The weather is perfect–in the 70s–so the tents are very pleasant to stroll through.

The indoor picture here is of the Nunn Designs booth.  They sell the little bezels and related findings that you can use to make your own charms and pendants.  I find some of the booth displays almost as fascinating as the beads themselves!  I love the little mannequins that they use to display their jewelry.  (And they do sell the mannequins–I asked!)  They also made really great use of their wall space–not that you can tell from this picture–but they did have another wall that had finished pieces in frames, which was really nice.  It made the jewelry easy to see at eye level and after a long time on my feet I really appreciated not having to bend down and look at things.

Tomorrow:  At least two more shows and the Beadwork party!

February 3, 2009 – Day Two

Today I went to the Manning House show and back to finish To Bead True Blue with Beadwork editor Melinda Barta and Stringing editor Danielle Fox.  It's always fun to shop with other people–we always notice different things and I feel like I see and enjoy more of the show.  I'm about to leave for the Beadwork party, so I thought I'd get in a quick post.  The pendants pictured here are by Marsha Neal.  She is using a new technique for these with decals and her drawings/photographs, which she talks about on her blog.  For me, it always makes things more meaningful if I know the creative process that went into the design.

Another cool idea–have you ever thought about coloring brass components?  Kabela Design had examples at their booth of colored brass pieces.  The bottom piece (at left) is an example of what the brass looks like when you buy it; the top is the colored version, created using a variety of alcohol-based inks and acrylic paints.  What do you think?  Can you see the possibilities?

February 4, 2009 – Day Three

The Beadwork party was fun–I got a chance to match up names with faces.  It is such a strange (and wonderful) thing to finally meet those who you've only known through email or through seeing their work in magazines and books.

Today we attended the Best Bead Show (yes, that is really the show name!).  One of my first stops was Beyond Beadery. I bought five tubes of the matte permanent galvanized size 11 seed beads in silver sage, russet rose, rose, pumpkin, and gold.  They are just as pretty as their names imply!  The best part is their finish won't wear off like other coatings.  I also picked up a few new pieces from Off Center Productions–lots of beautiful matte turquoise glazes on their new porcelain pieces.

Our second stop was the Swarovski location with their "Create Your Style" show.  When I opened the front door, the first thing that caught my eye was a huge crystal curtain that hung in front of the window, bathing the entire room in rainbows in the late afternoon sun.  While we were there, we saw all the pieces on exhibit from crystal embellished white shoes (perfect for a wedding) to a laptop covered with flat-backed crystals.  One of the more unusual pieces I saw was this leather jacket which was covered in a range of crystals–all different sizes and shapes.  Maybe this is a way for you to finally use up your stash!

February 5, 2009 – Day Four

Today I went to the Whole Bead show with Step by Step Beads editor Leslie Rogalski, Step by Step Wire Jewelry editor Denise Peck, and event manager Karen Keegan.  They all work out of the Pennsylvania office, so I don't usually get to spend much time with them since I work in the Colorado office.  I enjoyed their company, but my budget did not.  Somehow today I managed to spend more than I've spent the first three days combined.  I was asked to explain how that happened, but I really don't know.  I feel like I fell into a bead trance and woke up with a shopping bag packed with a mix of vintage Luctie, vintage glass, gunmetal chain, copper clasps, lampwork, shibuichi connectors, and one beautiful strand of gemstones that perfectly matches a pendant from yesterday's shopping trip.

Pictured here are some peace signs from Bello Modo.  I saw peace sign charms and pendants in several booths over the last few days and people seem to be buying them.  It definitely seems to be a trend here.  Are you seeing any peace sign jewelry yet in your area?

Tomorrow:  the last day of shopping!

February 6, 2009 – Day Five

We went to the Gem Mall, the Holidome (Gem and Lapidary Wholesalers), and Bead Renaissance today.  I bought lots of chain and also found a silver charm holder from Nina Designs.  The Holidome is the show everyone kept warning me about, as in "You feel overwhelmed now?  Just wait until you go to the Holidome!"  It was quite something to see table after table of gems, beads, and jewelry.  After about six hours of walking the aisles, I was more than ready to go home.  Now the only thing I have left to do is try to pack up all my treasures into my suitcase!

Pictured here are my Tucson treasures.  If you went to the Tucson bead or gem shows, I'd love to hear about your trip.  What was the best treasure you found?


Michelle Mach is the editor of Beading Daily.  If you have comments or questions (or Tucson tips) for Michelle, please post them on the website


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