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

Related Posts:


Beading Daily Blog
Michelle M.

About Michelle M.

I was the founding editor of Beading Daily (2007-2009) and my now a freelance designer/writer/editor.  My designs have been published in Stringing, Step by Step Beads, Jewelry Gifts for the Holidays, Creative Jewelry, Beadwork, and other magazines. I enjoy stringing, bead embroidery, wirework, metal work, mixed media, beadweaving—pretty much anything that involves beads or jewelry.  I also enjoy exploring new crafts like pottery and felting.  I write a personal blog if you want to see more of my work. 16+ Free Beading Projects: A list of the free projects I created for Beading Daily. Contact Info If you have a question regarding Beading Daily, please contact customer service at beadingdaily@interweave.com or the current editor, Kristal Wick. If you'd like to contact me, you'll find my info on my website:  www.michellemach.com.  You can also follow me on Twitter at:  http://twitter.com/beadsandbooks Pictured here is a pair of earrings I made for the Spring 2010 issue of Stringing in an attempt to get over my fear of designing with the color orange!

16 thoughts on “Michelle's First Trip to the Tucson Bead Shows

  1. If you’ve never been to Tucson in the winter months, you may not have heard about our weather and how to dress. The word here is “layering”. It can get downright chilly at night (this morning it was 32) but by noon it can be in the 70’s. Don’t worry about ‘dressy” outfits. Most places aspire to “Tucson casual”, and do wear comfortable shoes and clothing. Food is readily available at most of the sites, either from vendors or a restaurant nearby.

    You’ll love the convenience of the shuttle vans. They are color-coded and easy to use. Park and ride is the ONLY way to go. The short wait for the shuttle is nothing compared to trying to find a parking place anywhere near your destination.

  2. What a brilliant idea ! Ofcourse, when I saw the picture, I wondered why would you pack a dental floss container in the little mint tin when you should be beading instead of flossing your incisors ? Silly me. Now, if we could get that entire Nymo thread into the floss container, we’d have more space for more little things.

    I’am getting ready for the Bead & Button show in Milwaukee this year in June and I could use this tip while I travelling all the way from Saudi Arabia. Thankyou !


  3. i live 2 hours from Tucson. my first trip to the show was my first bead show. i was overwhelmed. by 5pm i had only spent half my money. my friends said i was a disgrace to women shoppers everywhere! needless to say, i make lists, lists, lists. enjoy our weather. Diana

  4. If you are in Tucson, you MUST go to BK Carne Asada and hot dogs – just google BK Carne Asada, Tucson, AZ and you will have lots of choices to read about the wonderful hot dogs they do there. Don’t miss this! Have to agree with ElsieC – take a sweater. It can be windy and chilly even though the sun is out. If you will be outside much, take sunglasses and a visor. Have a great time.

  5. My first visit to Tucson in Feb. was 10 years ago, and I visited a bead show just for something interesting to do. (I was on holiday from Canada.). I was enthralled, overwhelmed, and totally drawn in–but I didn’t know where to start, so I didn’t buy anything!. I immediately signed up for classes at a local bead store while I was here, and I’ve never looked back. We’ve been coming back every year since! If you visit the To Bead True Blue show, drop by my booth some afternoon (when I’m finished teaching daily classes) & say hello. Marilyn Gardiner

  6. Michelle, You will have a wonderful time here in Tucson. We have only had a couple of days this winter that were below 60, and the nights below 35. The highs have been in the 70’s and even the 80’s, lows in the 40’s and 50’s! We are having “Winter” last night (low’s 29-35) and today (high 67). Winter will end tomorrow with highs in the 70’s and sunny thru at least Tues. If you want a good steak or prime rib, you must go to the Silver Saddle. Consistantly THE best in Tucson. It’s just off I-10 at 6th (where the freeway curves)not far from the Gem Mall and Holidome. Prices are very reasonable. Anyone can also eat off the kid’s menu for $2 more no matter how old you are. Entrees form the kids menu include BBQ ribs, steak, and prime rib and come with choice of potato and all you can eat salad bar and cowboy beans. During the show I would recommend making a reservation. We always take anyone who visits us there, and it has never let us down. Will you be teaching at the show? If so, what venue? I would love to meet you. If I can help you with any info about Tucson, please email me.

  7. I am so glad you are doing your blog from Tucson next week. I can’t go but at least I will be able to enjoy the shows vicariously via your blog. A couple more restaurant recommendations: Blue Willow Cafe and Beyond Bread (both have outdoor dining). Also if you have any extra time in Tucson and want to spend some time outdoors after all that time indoors shopping for beads the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum is a must see! Have fun!

  8. Have a great time in Tucson, Michelle! The 30th Annual Contemporary Crafts exhibit is now going on at Mesa Arts Center through March 15. I won the juror’s choice award prize, which entails a solo exhibit there a year from now. Seattle’s Scott Schuldt also has a piece in the show and won a juror’s prize. Mesa is a suburb of Phoenix, not Tucson, but it’s worth the drive. Plus, when you’re in Mesa, you’re not far from the Bead Museum in Glendale!

    P.S. Doing one complete look-around before buying almost never works. Just stay focused (and hydrated) and assess how likely it is that you’ll see that item elsewhere…

  9. If this is your first trip to Tucson, you will certainly be overwhelmed. After the first day, you’ll get a feel for where things are and what you might want to see next. One thing to take with you when visiting each individual show is a small suitcase with wheels. If nothing more, you’ll have a place to put your top layers of clothing as the day warms up. As well as beads, you’ll most likely be picking up flyers, business cards, books, etc. that can be cumbersome to carry. Comfortable shoes and clothing is the key to enjoying the shows. The best overall place that I’ve found for first time visitors to the show is the Holiday Inn/Holidome. They have everything you could imagine in that area. Be sure not to miss the big tents on the hill behind the Holidome. Most of all, have fun – it’s so exciting the first time you go, but it’s always something I look forward to every year.

  10. Seconding Teresa and GrayHen – bring a suitcase on wheels, or one of those collapsible totes on wheels. A backpack isn’t a bad idea, either. Remember to bring/drink lots of water – the weather is deceptive. Even though it’s relatively cool, you can still become dehydrated. Drink lots of water, even if you aren’t thirsty. I’d also advise using a fanny pack for things like business cards (yours and vendors), change, or little treasures that you don’t want to get smushed in the bottom of a tote or backpack. Doing a “look-around” before you buy anything doesn’t usually work too well, because invariably, you will forget where those “gorgeous cream 6mm pearls” were. If you’re going to Mesa and feel like a slight detour to the East, you’re always welcome to come by my store to say “HI! !”. You can give your credit cards or wallet a rest, come in and have a nice cup of coffee or tea or maybe an ice cream bar and chat! We’ve pretty much decided NOT to go to Tucson this year – too many of the vendors have made appointments to come up to see us! If you get “bead overload”, there are other shows in Tucson – you can go to jewelry shows or even rock and fossil shows. Don’t miss the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum, if you have time. It’s not really a museum in the usual sense – more like a zoo. Above all – HAVE FUN!!

  11. This was my third trip to the Tucson Bead Shows. It never ceases to overwhelm me. Michelle, I wondered if you had run across any type of guide that accurately described each show so that you would know if that was something you wanted to attend? For instance, we made a long trip out to the Whole Bead Show and when I got there I realized that it was predominately glass beads, and equipment to make glass. Some shows seem to have alot of manufactured jewelry, which I wasn’t interested in and some were just raw gems and minerals. Also. I was looking mainly for good quality pearls in all sizes and shapes and after going from show to show found a wonderful vendor, U.S. Pearl at one of the shows over by the interstate.
    None the less, I always have a great time, but unfortunately wear out my friends in the process!
    Happy beading,