Monday, January 29, 2007

Beads...and more!

After having read the Gem Show posts, you may be asking yourself, "What does this woman do with all of those beads?" Good question. Back in '96, I started making jewelry for myself. Although my life-long motto has been, "There's no such thing as too much jewelry," I found that making jewelry grows your jewelry collection exponentially. I also found that I receive many, many compliments on my jewelry and questions about retail outlets for my creations. In addition, after several years of regular Gem Show attendance, I had LOTS of beads.

In 2003, I started my own craft business--Wind Dancer Design. I make and sell jewelry and Wind Dancers. What is a Wind Dancer, you ask? It's a beaded hanging. I combine wood or heavy wire with glass, stone, gem, and bone beads; crystals; and bells to create hangings for walls, windows, and car mirrors.
In addtion to bead art, I also make faces. OK, you make faces too, but you haven't found a market for your frowns? No, not those faces. I make faces and other designs from clay and clay mosaic. Here are some of my designs. Currently, I'm selling my work at three shops in Tucson: Bohemia (voted best gift gallery in Tucson), Butterfly Gallery and Gifts, and the Tucson Museum of Art Gift Shop. Watch for future posts about shows and studio tours.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

African Art Village and More at the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show

OK.... as always, the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show was a blast today. The first weekend generally is the same as Super Bowl weekend, but this year the Super Bowl falls on the second Sunday of the show. No matter, regardless of the hype the Super Bowl receives, the game won't put a crimp in the foot traffic at the show!

Alex (my daughter) and I really wanted to go see the African Art Village. I parked west of Interstate 10 off of Congress because I also wanted to poke around at the motels (see previous post). I had looked at the maps online and saw that the Africans were south of the motels, but WOW I didn't realize how far south they were. The African Art Village is south of 22nd Street. It was quite a hike from the parking on Congress Street. If you're going to see the Africans, there is parking south of 22nd Street, right next to them.
The Africans were wheeling and dealing-- beads, wooden and brass statues, beaded chieftan head gear (above), beaded arm chairs (amazing), baskets, hats, African food, very cool drums, kalimbas, gourd percussion instruments, original African paintings, $5 tubs of shea butter (often in fancy $20/tube body lotion at Bath and Body Works), you name it. I bought several different types of brass beads for necklaces (ranging from $7-$10 per strand), some recycled glass beads ($20/strand for thin beads-- lots per strand), and some smaller glass beads for $5/strand . The Africans deal some but not too much. Also, now some of them take plastic and checks. The African Art Village used to be primarily cash.

In addition to spending hours in the African Art Village, Alex and I visited a few booths at the Howard Johnson, the River Park Inn (formerly the Pueblo Inn), and the Days Inn. At the River Park Inn, I bought 300 feet of .015 Beadalon for about $10; this is the price for 100 feet in town!!!! I also bought 50 long headpins for $3.50 (very cheap) and a large bag of crimp beads for ~$13. At another booth in the same motel, I bought some really nice coral for $4/strand and beauthful abalone strands for $3 each.

In the yard of the Howard Johnson's, there were some great lapis lazuli deals and plenty of belly dancing gear! I bought a really nice lapis necklace for $12 and matching earrings for $2. I also bought several lapis and brass pendants (very ornate) for $2 each!!! Alex bought a fancy seed beed bracelet for $2. All of these were made in Afganistan. I liked the prices (obviously), but this made me feel sad. Those poor people. Imagine how much they were paid for such beautiful work! This is worse than Wal Mart.

Star sitings at the Gem Show: remember the TV show Dharma and Greg? I swear I saw Dharma's mother in the African Village. It was her hair and voice. Also, near the Afgan lapis, there was a guy who looked just like Hamid Karzi (Afgan president). He had the hair, the beard, and the clothes, but not the hat. I wanted to go up to both of them, but I didn't. So, these are unconfirmed sitings.

Anyway, now it's time to make some jewelry and some wall hangings! More on the Gem Show later. I didn't find everything on my list.
Tucson Gem and Mineral Show
The 2007 Tucson Gem and Mineral Show started on Friday. I adore the Gem Show. I have lived in Tucson since 1981. For the last 10 years or so, I have been going to the Gem Show one or two days each year.

In the early 1980s, the Gem Show was primarily fossils. OK, interesting, yes, but fossils didn't draw me to the show each year. For 15 years or so, I didn't go to the Gem Show at all. What changed my viewpoint from "somewhat interesting" to "gotta go"? Beads!

In 1996, my friend Ann turned me on to the bead shows at the Gem and Mineral Show. Her favorites were the wholesale shows in the funky motels along Interstate 10 (Days Inn, Sheraton Four Points, Pueblo Inn, etc.) Beads from Tibet. Beads from India. Beads from China. Piles of beads. Strings of beads. Finished jewelry. I was hooked!

A few years ago, the more established bead vendors along I10 were joined by a few African bead and knick-knack vendors. The African beads are often made with recycled or found materials, such as recycled glass, cow bones. Now there is an entire African Art Village near the motels. It is sooooo cool. They have not only beads but also many home decorating items--statues, masks, rugs, furniture. I love buying direct from these African vendors. Within the past year, Target introduced home decorating "themes"--including Chinese/Asian, African, and others. (I guess they figured out that not everyone wanted to buy red plastic and glass.) Their displays are interesting-- for a big box store. But why buy African knick-knacks that were made by Chinese children when you can buy direct at the Gem Show?

About five years ago--after several years of religious I10 motel Gem Show attendance--my friend Merrill introduced me to the Holidome Bead Show. WOW. More beads, yes, but the Holidome Show also has beading supplies--Beadalon wire, findings, tools. After having found the Holidome, I was destined to go the the Gem Show twice a year--not once a year.

Well.... today's the day to go see the Africans! Gotta go.....