Bead Show 2012


My girl Nicole and I went to the Bead Show in Milwaukee last weekend. (Do I need to say it? It was awesome.) My annual Bead Show trip is my artistic Janus. Looking back at the past, as Janus does, the beads that I buy at the Bead Show are motivated by last year’s design trends. (My mala type bracelets have sold well this last year, so I look for new beads that will work in new variations of these popular mala bracelets. Things that work! Conversely, I also avoid beads similar to those that I shouldn’t have ever bought. Lesson learned.) But looking towards the future, as Janus does also, the beads that I buy here determine next year’s jewelry collections. These new beads, and new ideas, shape the jewelry I make for the next twelve months.

But the Bead Show is also just straight-up, a highlight of my year. Here’s the run-down.

Bead shopping weakness: metal. I got a lot of metal. Pewter, silver, thai silver, copper, African brass, spacers, cornerless cubes, nuggets, bead cones, bead caps, all lovely. Metal beads are my workhorses and I depend on them a lot, sometimes as centerpieces, and sometimes to stretch a skimpy amount of premier beads for a project.


Best vendors: This is a hard one, but I’m going to go with my beloved Hands of the Hills. These guys consistantly bring authentic pieces, quality beads and sweet relics that I don’t see anywhere else. This year I picked up strands of Indonesian recycled glass and Afghani belt links. (And I didn’t even know that Afghani men wore belts.) But I think they got the Gold Star because they honored a mismarked price sign for me, giving me a hank of Burmese rosewood beads for $1 a strand. So these guys win my top prize this year.

Big Pop count: 2. Again, of course, I was tempted by the beer booth, but I held out until after the show.

Best score: a strand of huge citrine nuggets. Should be gorgeous in gold teardrop chandelier earrings. These are the kinds of beads I just don’t find with my usual suppliers (for a reasonable price, at least). Score.

Most excited about: some dinky-sweet bead frames that I found. I’d been cruising these a bit this year on some of my online suppliers. These look like open picture frames, and the idea is that you string them with a bead (“framed”) in the center. I’m not sure if these will jive with my aesthtic, but I picked up a strand of them of $2, and I think it’s worth a shot. I also grabbed some handmade paper beads from Africa that I think are wonderful. Ironically, these are some of the few beads I can make myself, but I fell in love with the color and form of these pretties and just had to have them.


Trends: the regrettable trends that I saw on the floor were gaudy “Basketball Wives”-type elements (huge baubles for huge hoop earrings), and lots of Chinese crystal. But happily, metal beads, metal stamping, cabochons and bezels are still hot. I also started seeing some painted wood. For my own trend this year, I deliberately looked to buy some artisanal elements. I picked up some heat-patinaed copper and some prettyhandmade raku beads, and really enjoyed talking with the artists.

Times I side-hugged Nicole and said, “Oh Nicole, I’m so happy!”: 4

Times Nicole used the the term “So Stinkin’ Cute!”: I lost count after 40

And where were . . ?: turquoise nuggets. I wanted a whole handful of these babies: yellow, green, brown with blue, and I never did see any that knocked me out.

Best Meal: Do I need to say it? Jose Conejito’s Place. We returned to this Best Little Mexican Restaurant because we fell in love with it last year. We wait to catch dinner until after the Bead Show closes and just as the party starting in this culty little dive. The menu has about twelve dishes on it, the food is insane and the margaritas are just plain perfect. Having a 9 o’clock dinner at Conejito’s also prevents the Bead-Show’s-Over Blues that we could have. But we don’t.

Cause Round Two’s on the way.