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Tucson Gem and Mineral Shows, Day 1

This blog post is part of a series of reports by the staff of Bead&Button magazine, and Kalmbach Books during the 2017 Tucson Gem and Mineral Shows.

Late January in Wisconsin can be, shall we say, dreary. Days and sometimes weeks go by without any sign of the sun. So it has been lately. It’s also been on the warm side, and we’ve had more than our fair share of fog and drizzle. We did see the sun briefly one day last week, but it didn’t last long.

As a northern girl, I generally don’t mind the cold weather. I like the brisk bustle a cold day brings. But, I admit that I also enjoy the chance to get away to warmer climes at this time of year. So how perfect is it that I, along with some of my colleagues here at Kalmbach Publishing, get to head to Tucson, Arizona, this week for the Tucson Gem and Mineral Shows? Not only do I get to find new products and spot recent trends but the temperatures promise to be in the 70s and more importantly – the sun will most likely be visible in the sky, not just briefly, but all day, every day.
During the week, we’ll be sharing highlights from the 40+ shows that are spread throughout the city. After traveling all day, we rolled into Tucson at almost 9 pm, so even though we’re staying at the very hotel that the Tucson Bead Show is in, we’ve arrived too late to partake in any of the shopping or activities. But I’ve been here before and know that like most hotel-based shows, this one has fun surprises at every turn. A ballroom off the hotel lobby houses the main marketplace, where beads of every variety, along with all sorts of other interesting goods are being sold. A second ballroom just beyond the swimming pool features more vendors.

But the show doesn’t end with the ballrooms. A stroll into the courtyard reveals vendors set up in the guest rooms. It’s a little strange at first to go into the hotel-room stores but the setup offers a great chance to talk with the sellers and find out what they’re all about. Plus, many of the folks who are set up in guest rooms are not just selling wares -- many of them are also teaching classes. After I dropped my stuff in my room I took a quick spin around and saw there were a few classes still in session. I popped in on the “Rhinestone Jewelry” class being taught by Carole Witt of String Bead and found several women having a grand time soldering cup chain and prong-set rhinestones together into nifty pins, pendants, and earrings. Carole explained that they were "making new things look old" and though the students were trying the technique for the first time, they were creating some truly stunning pieces of jewelry.

Tomorrow, we’ll be heading to the To Bead True Blue show. It’s run by the same show promoter as the Tucson Bead Show, so it also features lots of primo bead shopping, classes, and a bevy of unexpected treasures. Stay tuned for more updates from sunny Tucson!

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