Tucson Gem Show
For a couple of weeks every February, Tucson becomes the gem, bead and mineral capital of the world. I've heard about it for years, and this year I was lucky enough to visit.
As we drove into Tucson on I-10, we began to see white tents, huge signs, even tethered hot air balloons, in parking lots that lined the interstate. All of them advertising their bead and gem show. The Tucson show is really a lot of different "shows" located in hotels, warehouses, community centers, and sports arenas. Nearly anywhere you can pitch a tent and set up a food court can become part of the show. One directory listed 43 different shows.
The Kino Community Center and the Kino Sports Complex across the street were two of my favorite locations. Inside the Center were rows and rows of vendors.
We started our adventure at the Doubletree Reid Park Hotel where "To Bead True Blue" had its main location. They were also at the Windmill Inn. The beautiful graphics on their website had captivated me back in November, and I had promptly pre-registered.
The "To Bead True Blue" website said they had over 500 booths, galleries, and displays. I didn't count them, but I believe it. They were everywhere! Inside the hotel lobby and ballrooms, of course, but also outside in the Sunrise Tent, the Sunset Tent, and the Grand Pavilion.
My first stop was at the Christi Friesen booth. I've been wanting to try polymer clay, and she had some very affordable kits. She makes the cutest woodland animals, too. I bought one of her books and a small kit. I missed getting to meet her or take one of her classes, but there's always next year.
I found other treasures at lots of booths here--Green Girl Studio, The Beading Place, Cherry Tree Beads, Clay River Designs, and more. By the end of the afternoon I was exhausted and had spent more than half of the money I had budgeted to spend.
Ceramics were lovely at Clay River.
In addition to the maple leaves from Clay River, I found silver beads from Nepal and art from Lumina Inspirations. I made them into earrings.
The next day we went to the Holiday Inn for breakfast, They also had a huge show located in their Holidome. Unfortunately they were only open to business people. Desert Dabbler didn't qualify this year, but watch out next year. My documents are already submitted; they just didn't arrive in time for our trip.
Since we couldn't get into any of the booths here we drove to the Best Bead Show at the Kino Community Center. I don't know if it really is the "best", but it was great.
We watched the vendors set up outside until they opened the doors. Again there were rows and rows of booths. I found more goodies here, including the beads from Nepal and some beautiful award winning ceramics from Golem Design Studio in Bulgaria. I found out later that they are also located in the U.S. near Tonopah, which is close to Surprise. At least closer than Bulgaria.
Here is a picture of Vladislav Ivanov with his blue ribbon from a Bead and Button competition.
He and his wife are the artists. He had a beautiful selection of beads and pendants, and I was having a hard time deciding which one to buy. When he told me about winning the competition, I knew I had found my treasure.
After we made the rounds here, we went to the Kino Sports Complex for the show there. They also had large tents, but even more interesting were the RV's with outside displays. We met a lot of nice artists here and saw great stones. Many of them were still in the raw stage for people who cut and polish their own.
The most unusual, as well as the biggest, were the huge geodes.
This one sells for $8000.00!!!!
It was huge, though one of the smaller ones that were outside.
I had to limit myself to the small stuff. But since this is only a fraction of my treasure trove, I came home very happy and satisfied with my finds. It will probably take quite a while to turn it all into jewelry. But I intend to finish within the year--just in time for Tucson 2014.