On Friday, I went to a couple of the gem shows here in Tucson. I set out with my friend Helen, who I've been teaching how to bead. In the process, I've gotten her quite addicted to beads themselves, so we were both eager to get out and get some new supplies.
To my knowledge, there were 4 shows here this September. G&LW had the Holidome and the Rodeway, ABC Direct had a show by the Holidome, and The Best Bead Show was at the Tucson Community Center. Having limited time, money, and energy, we decided to stick with just the Holidome and the Best Bead.
We started out at the Holidome, a show which I avoid like the plague during February. It's basically considered THE wholesale show, and as such, it gets packed full of shoppers, some of whom can be quite rude. My only time there, I found the prices to not be worth the hassle.
The September version of the show was smaller and more managable, although it was still crowded. There was one booth which was so popular that I couldn't even see their wares past the wall of shoppers! I had to squeeze my way through several aisles, and at one booth I was shoulder-rammed by a woman who wanted to see something that was in front of me. Here's a little hint for gem show shoppers: The words "excuse me" will serve you well.
Although I found most of what I needed -- More Swarovski 4mm bicones for my popular bracelets, and tons of findings that I was running low on -- I found the show to be pretty disappointing overall. I expected to see a lot of the exotic stone beads that I saw in NY. Instead I saw the same stone beads that have been available for as long as I've been beading, plus the ever-popular but way too expensive briolettes, and one or two new-ish stones. I did score a strand of green goldstone chips for only $1 from a very nice vendor who treated Helen and I like valued customers despite our small purchases.
After fortifying ourselves with some tasty lunch, it was on to the Best Bead Show! This is the first year for their September show, and I was interested to see how good it would be, since I didn't recognize most of the vendor names.
The TCC is a lot roomier than the usual Best Bead location, which made for nice, wide aisles and comfortable shopping. The show wasn't too crowded -- I hope that for the vendors' sakes, things really picked up on the weekend. It was nice to be able to get a good look at the booths of Green Girl and Leah Fairbanks, which are usually pretty crowded in February. I was going to take advantage of this lull to get a few Green Girl pendants, but after getting ignored, I decided I'd come back later, and then I forgot to. I guess I'll fight the crowds in February.
I saw a lot of great beads, but because of how much I had to spend to stock back up on crystals and findings, I kept myself on a tight rein. Overpriced leaf beads and whimsical lampworked fish alike were resisted in a surprising show of willpower. My one concession was to buy a lampwork bead from fellow Tucsonan Margaret Zinser. I just love Margaret's beads, and the fact that she's so friendly is icing on the proverbial cake.
A huge disappointment was the almost complete lack of seed beads at this show! A few vendors had a smattering of seeds, but no one had a booth dedicated to them. As Helen and I both primarily weave, it was a big disappointment to only be able to get findings and accents, instead of the backbone of our work. Seed bead vendors, if you're reading this, Tucson needs you -- especially in September!
It is my hope that this September show was successful enough that Best Bead will be back in following years, but not so successful that everyone else will come, too. February is already an overgrown monstrosity, with too many shows crowding into one city and stretching a jeweler's dollar until it breaks. These September shows had a much more leisurely feel to them which made for a pleasant shopping experience.