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Report from Tucson

Dateline: 02/19/01

With tired legs and tender feet (and empty wallet) I report to you on the 2001 Tucson Gem and Mineral Show. First I want to say that I didn’t get to see as much as I would have liked. I only had about a day and a half and if you’ve ever been there, you know that’s not near enough time! I visited The Best Bead Show, The Congress Street Expo (which has moved to Tucson Electric Park, nowhere near Congress St), and the hotels between Congress and 22nd.

I shop retail and I still found terrific bargains. Balinese silver for .45 a gram (at Beads Galore). That’s a drop from last year. Pearls are still a great bargain in Tucson.

I wandered around the hotels between 22nd St and Congress St. It seemed to me that there were fewer vendors in some of the hotels there than in years past and the prices were higher. The "metaphysical hall" at the Howard Johnson was half empty! I was very disappointed. I did see some beautiful faceted gemstone beads from India that were magnificent, but again, the prices (retail) were not that great.

At the Best Bead Show my eyes were constantly bombarded with color and form and beauty! What a great show. Not for bargain shoppers, necessarily, but prices weren’t bad. I bought some incredible steel-cuts from France circa 1904 from Betcey and Mark from Beyond Beadery. They are in the colors of watermelon tourmaline. I could only afford a couple of strands so I’m looking for a special little project for them. As always, Betcey had her incredible "crystal wall" and a wonderful selection of seed beads and delicas.

The other vendors that really caught my eye there were the Japanese lampworkers. Very beautiful and very different than the lampwork I’ve seen previously. I think we’ll see more of them. Beads with chrysanthemums and complicated twisted canes - beautiful!

The Soft Flex demo room was a-hoppin’ since there were several demos going on at all times. One of the folks, Sharon Hessoun, was demonstrating wire crochet on a spool. Remember the crochet dollies? Similar, but much better. These spools make a really nice wire crocheted tube that you then draw through a draw-plate. She has also written a book that shows the various weaves. I looked at several pieces of jewelry she had done and they are really cool.

There were many lampworkers at the show. It was great to see so many of the folks whose lampwork I admire (and own) in one place. I spent some time with Bernadette Fuentes, who is doing the commemorative bead and button for Bead and Button magazine. It is always exciting to see her new and incredible work. I bought a Nancy Pilgrim "crown" bead. Her beads are awesome. Can you tell I love lampwork beads? I saw George and Kevin O’Grady’s incredible glass bracelets and vessels. And Lewis Wilson was buzzing around everywhere making sure all was well. He puts on a great show!

Eventually we mosied over to the Congress Street Expo, which has moved to Tucson Electric Park and I wandered around the main tent for a while. Not a lot of beads except for stone beads which were pretty affordable. I was looking for small carved animal beads from China and saw them at one booth but they were very poorly formed and many were broken. I didn’t get any. My mom got a Tibetan singing bowl. We got a lesson in the art of playing the bowl. I was able to make it sing once, briefly. It sounds so awesome.

My other big buy at the Congress Street Expo was a moose antler for my dear husband, who stayed home to await the birth of our granddaughter. I wanted to get him something special. I had first bought him those killer antique steel-cuts, but I decided he’d probably want the antler more than the beads. (LOL!)

I’m sorry to say that I didn’t get a chance to get to the Whole Bead Show but I heard it was beautiful. I really wish I’d had a chance to get over there.

Saturday night I wen to the Beadwork Magazine get-together. We drove out to the far west reaches of Tucson and invaded Bead Boy Dustin’s suite. It was very nice. They had a lovely spread from Trader Joe’s and lots of fun and laughter. There were several folks I didn’t get a chance to talk to but I did get a chance to chat with Karen Lewis (KLEW) creator of those most wonderful polymer beads!. It’s always nice to see her. She was teaching a class at Beaucoup Conge on Sunday, who, I understand, has got a nice little show going on at his store during the Gem and Mineral Show with various vendors and classes available. I didn’t get a chance to get over there but I heard it was really nice and, of course, Tomas always has beautiful beads, vintage and new. Next year I’m going to make it over there! Next year I’m taking a week! (yeah, right)

We’re really looking forward to Beadwork’s Bead Bash in Lake Tahoe in November. KLEW will be teaching there, among others.

The Tucson Gem and Mineral Show really defies description. There is so much to see and buy there! The reports I heard about the Holidome and Rodeway (both wholesale shows) were that that’s where the bargains are. So, if you haven’t gotten your tax id - - before you go to Tucson, go get one! I’m sure it’ll pay for itself in no time! I know I will have one next year!

Until next time, I remain

Nikia Angel

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