Thursday, 7 July 2016

July 1st 2016 Canada Day in Southside Park, Woodstock... & More Gem Expo News...

Lianne Johnson (the Vintage Lady at the Woodstock Farmers Market) and I had a great day in Southside Park where we shared a booth. Lianne's grandson Darien helped out. Thanks, Darien, for standing in line for us at the chip wagon. All the food there was so great (and the Latin American guys from London -- oh, wow, fabulous, fantastic barbeque -- if anyone knows who they are please tell me their business name). Good food, good music, lots of entertainment and rides and games for kids. It was a low-key and fun day, even if I was freezing in that infernal wind. Guess it was better than rain, eh? Great fireworks to end it all courtesy of Toyota. I just found out that fireworks displays like that cost $1,000 per minute. Yikes.

From a vendor standpoint, it was very well organised with dedicated vendor parking, electricity -- and as you can hear on the video, all the tents between us and the stage meant we could hear ourselves think. Both of our sales were very good.

For those jewellery-makers and crafters who are considering doing or are yet to do their first outdoor shows this summer, I'll be writing a more detailed blog post of do's and don'ts.

Reminder to everyone: I will be at The Gem Expo in Toronto at the Hyatt Regency Hotel on King St. West next weekend (15, 16, 17 July). Please go to the Gem Expo website, sign up for the newsletter and get $2 off your admission.

As of this writing I have ELEVEN people already signed up to take my Totally Addicting Stretch/Mala Bracelet Course. Bonus with any of the courses offered is free admission all three days of the show. It's perhaps a small show compared to some, but it's packed with gorgeous beads, rocks, crystals, jewellery... and just today I got lots and lots of semi-precious skull beads! I'm also busy sorting and pricing some beautiful vintage hand-carved fetish animal beads, as well. Come and see us next weekend!

Meanwhile, back here in Woodstock, I'll be at the Farmers Market this Saturday, July 9th, back again on July 23rd. Thanks for stopping by!

Sunday, 12 June 2016

Matte Pink Quartz & Aquamarine Stretch Bracelets...

In between all the jewellery repairs I did yesterday (see the previous blog post) I was able to put together a few stretch bracelets, including these two. I really, really like that matte pink quartz. and the luscious blue aquamarine... not to mention, I have some particularly toothsome matte black and gold amazonite on deck for next Saturday's market if anyone is interested...

See you at the next market, or email me here for prices, shipping & handling if you're interested in these or my other bracelets, earrings and necklaces.

Or... you can learn to make these yourself! I'll be teaching how to make Totally Addicting Stretch Stacker & Mala Bracelets at The Gem Expo, Toronto, on Saturday morning, 10:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m. July 16th.

Thanks for stopping by, and hope to see you at the show!

Doing Jewellery Repairs on the Spot: Is It Worth Doing?

I'm forever reading in online forums people questioning how to sell more jewellery. Well, guess what? You know where the money really can be? Providing a service: i.e. in doing repairs. You already have the skills, right? Not to mention the tools and materials. In my experience, this can often lead to new and/or (my preference) custom jewellery sales, rather than vice versa.

This isn't necessarily intended as advice for a one-off one-day or weekend show, but rather if you do a regular weekly farmers market (like I do) or sell through a local venue (meaning you live close by). No point in having to drive 20 or 30 minutes to pick up a repair, drive home, do the repair, drive back with it and then home again. At a market or show, people come to you.

Having said all that, because even one, two and three-day shows have their slow times, you'll probably find me working away on something or other between customers. Bead vendors at the big shows are now sending customers to my booth to have their new string of beads made up into a necklace while they wait.

Typical setup behind my show tables. Once the show starts, that little table will be cleared off and my chair set where the Winners bag is. The stacked bins on either side add more space for supplies.

Print out a small tent card sign for your table or print up some small business cards to hand out:

Your Name
Phone number or email address
I do small repairs (often while you wait): 
restringing, restyling, resizing. 

If someone is new to my table or booth, as part of a general conversation I'll tell them I can do small, simple repairs while they wait. I am very clear about what I do NOT do (for example, soldering or silversmithing type repairs, resizing rings or replacing gemstones in prong settings) but specify what I can do.

Many years ago I got into the habit of always bringing my tools, wire and materials with me. I mean, just ask yourself: as a customer wandering around a craft fair or market, would you really want to investigate a booth or stop to buy while a vendor is busy concentrating on their phone or a newspaper instead of you? Me, I just walk on by. But I am always intrigued when I see someone working on something, whatever their craft.

What kinds of things do I offer my customers? 

1. Everyone loses or breaks one earring, and it's inevitably their favourite go-to pair. Suggest turning the remaining earring into a necklace pendant in a way that it remains intact (because just maybe that missing earring will eventually show up) and make a similar coordinating pair of earrings.

2. Change out cheap or broken earwires for better quality/sterling.

3. Shorten the too-dangly/long-for-that-particular-customer's earrings. Sometimes this can be done by simply substituting a pair of leverback earwires for fishhooks. That 1/4 inch saved can make all the difference.

4. Lots of people today are inheriting a favourite necklace from a relative or finding something yummy at a yard sale, but no way will it ever fit them. Offer to restyle the piece. I take double or triple-strand 1950s style necklaces and turn them into one longer necklace, or turn it into a set: a single longer necklace, bracelet and pair of earrings.

5. If my customer is older I offer to use a larger clasp and jump ring, and show her a selection.

6. Team up with related businesses. At the farmers market and antique shows, I sell next to a pal who sells vintage jewellery. I restring her vintage bracelets where the elastic is old and rotten. Lianne also sends me her customers to do all kinds of repairs. I often swap my work for good quality chains and bits and bobs that Lianne has.

You'll laugh at this, but one time I gave one of the produce vendors some half hard copper wire so he could reattach the muffler on his rusty old farm truck.

7. General restringing using either stringing wire, elastic or leather. People will often buy an inexpensive necklace or choker on a beach somewhere exotic, the string has gotten pretty gungy, but they don't want to toss the necklace because of all the memories. That's a super-easy fix -- especially for men. They're surprisingly sentimental about chokers like that, but have zero idea where to get it fixed -- or that it CAN be fixed.

8. Carve a little space out of your table while you're doing other events, even garage/lawn sales. At the antique shows I do these days I bring small wire-weaving projects to work on while I'm sitting there as it often gets pretty slow in the afternoons. I show people who stop by what I'm doing and have cards ready to hand out.

What's in my toolbox and supplies bin? 

These are the things you'll already have in your home studio. Mine live in boxes, bins and divided trays that perfectly fit into those Winners Tyvek shopping bags that I can grab and go. Okay, yeah, I know... I always bring waaaaaaaaaaaaaay too much with me.

1. Basic tools: round nose, flat nose, bent nose, wire cutters, crimping pliers, hammer, anvil, bead mat, ruler, diamond files, bead reamer, tiny hand drill w different bits, scissors, pens, notebook.

2. Basic stringing materials: a couple of diameters of stringing wire (don't forget the crimps and crimp covers) and Stretch Magic, memory wire, fishing line, 1.5mm and 2.0mm black Greek leather, 1.5mm and 2.0mm black waxed cotton/synthetic cord/rattail.

3. A (very disorganised) selection of jump rings and clasps in various sizes and finishes (silver-plate, sterling, copper, vintage copper, brass, vintage brass, gunmetal). Don't forget there are plenty of guys out there who need repairs done, so invest in a few sizes and finishes of masculine-style clasps (swivel-style works well for this).

4. Wire in various diameters and materials: tinned copper is my go-to for most things base metal silver-coloured; bare copper wire; sterling wire. I almost always make my own head pins and eye pins when I do repairs, mostly because I might have to match the gauge of other wire in the piece.

5. Assortment of beads and metal spacers: tricky, as this can really explode on you. People laugh at how much crap I bring with me every week to the market.

NOTE: Even if it's just a quick repair they'll be waiting for or coming back for after they've done their shopping, always, always, always write down your customer's name, phone/email, and make detailed notes about what needs doing. Don't forget to settle on a price BEFORE starting the work, and write that down as well. Give them your card, too. I found out the hard way to get people's phone numbers especially if they're going to go shopping while their stuff is repaired as a lot of times they zone out and forget, and drive home without coming back to my table.

Sample Prices:

My pricing method has developed over the years and can only be a guide as it's so dependent on the demographics and relative economic health of your catchment area and the types of shows or markets you do and stores you're in. I have a friend who charges more than double what I do for repairs -- and gets her price. But she lives in a large urban area with a much wealthier clientele that I can only dream of.

As anyone gains experience, the making part gets easier and faster. This is what I've come up with as a component part of pricing my original jewellery, and now repairing jewellery (because, obviously, repairing takes virtually no design time, and any replacement beads are either charged for or absorbed into the cost):

$15 Single strand average length necklace, stringing/re-stringing, includes stringing wire, crimps, crimp covers, basic plated lobster clasp and jump rings.
$18+ Longer single strand necklace (see above)
$5-$7 Single bracelet (see above)
$2+ Individually priced larger plated base metal clasp, sterling clasp
$5 Single Stretch Magic restringing
$8 Double Stretch Magic restringing
$3.50 Short to regular length adjustable choker/necklace using black Greek leather
$4.00+ Longer length adjustable necklace using black Greek leather
$2.50+ Sterling fishhooks (pr) -- choice of several different styles and weights.
$6.50+ Sterling leverbacks (pr) -- choice of several different styles and weights

Is it worth doing?

Oh, yes. Definitely. Depending on the repair jobs, as some are maybe a little more finicky than others, I probably make $45 to $60 per hour. It's cash in hand and, really, it's mostly time. It's not tied up in expensive beads sitting a table waiting months for someone to come along and buy.

The other interesting thing is people see this as a service. Which means you can get tips, and a lot of people tip very, very well.


If you have any doubts at all about the integrity of the piece (is the metal cracked or weak?) or your ability to do a particular repair, DON'T DO IT! I've told plenty of people that their piece can't be repaired, particularly because of the metal. We might discuss the feasibility of maybe incorporating it into a different piece, some type of assemblage type of thing, and they may go for that or not. Sometimes I've been able to drill a hole and do some wiring to get various bits put back together, but again, anything structural like that must be cleared with the customer beforehand.

The Gem Expo, July 15th to 17th, 2016

If you're in the Toronto area this summer and have repairs that need doing, or just want to buy some incredibly cool beads, pendants and fetishes, jewellery and crystals from me and, I dunno, about 25 other great bead, jewellery vendors, we will be at The Gem Expo in the ballroom of the Hyatt Regency on King West, July 15th to 17th. Sign up on the Gem Expo website and get $2 off admission.

Register for a class and get free admission to the show all three days. I'll be teaching a class Saturday morning, too -- Totally Addicting Stretch Stacker/Mala Bracelets.

Really hope to see you in Toronto!

Monday, 6 June 2016

Finally completed: Backside of the Moon Wire-Woven Pendant...

Took a bit longer than I'd expected, but Saturday morning at the market I finished the pendant. I mentioned in the last post about moving that little bit of wire at the top of the pendant to wrap around the single wire coming out of the bead. I think it really cleaned up the piece.

What it looked like before, with too many waves and curls. Even with pendants, I still adhere to the old magical "3" used in design:

What it looks like now:

Note also that I tucked that single hammered curl on the right in much tighter: it's there, but not.

And the "front" side before, where you can see that weak (to my eye) wave effect pretty much emphasising the single bare wire coming up from the bead:

And after:

I'd considered making a woven bail looping into the top of the pendant, but it looked too busy, so I did end up using jump rings after all. I thought using three would spread any wear along those fine weaving wires. Also, using three jump rings echoes the three woven base wires of the pendant top, as well as the three curved and hammered wire ends.

I also discovered the hard way that you don't want to be hammering curls like that if there's any weaving in the way. About 1/4" of the weaving ended up breaking into tiny pieces and falling away.

I decided also that a plain black adjustable leather cord would work best, rather than a wider leather lace or even a copper chain. I for one get so caught up in the fine details while working that I lose sight of how the pendant will read at any distance.

This is naturally oxidising, by the way. If you are interested in buying this piece and want it patinaed, let me know. This pendant is for sale: $50 plus shipping & handling. Please contact me by email if you're interested.

You can see it in person at the Woodstock Farmers Market every Saturday morning from about 5:00 a.m. (when I get there) until noon -- the market officially opens at 7:00 if you're not an early bird. I'll (maybe) have this and many similar pendants for sale at The Gem Expo in Toronto at the Hyatt Regency on King Street Friday July 15th to Sunday July 17th.

Thanks for stopping by -- and see you at The Gem Expo!!! It's a great show with lots of classes, beads, finished jewellery and an immense amount of knowledge on offer.

Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Backside of the Moon Copper Wire-Woven Pendant...

...finally got back to it on Sunday while sitting at the Nostalgia Show & Sale and then finished it today. This is the pendant I started well before Christmas -- you can see above on the masthead how far I got. Then the proverbial shite hit the fan and life became a monstrous blur for several months. One foot in front of the other, and don't look down. Then six or eight weeks ago or so I got absolutely deluged with typing which only let up on Friday.

Last week I'd set up a table outside to sort items for the Nostalgia Show and decided to leave it up all summer. Truth is, I'm too lazy to take it down and heave it back into the house. Today I cleared off accrued tree spit and whatnot and finished that pendant... almost. It looks okay in my hand, but as soon as I edited the photos I saw it wasn't reading, and figured out what needs to be fixed. I'll do that tomorrow. Let it percolate overnight in case I see something else needs tweaking. Of course I'd completely forgotten what I'd planned for the bail... and now there isn't one. That's something else I have to sort out. I think jump rings might wear away at the fine weaving wires, but I like the simplicity of the pendant as it is now. I may just string it on soft leather lace as is.

My outdoor studio, complete with deer flies, the big black ones with festively coloured eyes that you don't feel landing, only when they bite. For some reason they were biting me through my clothes, not my skin, which I found very strange.

Last December's photo, and Sunday's progress:

On Sunday, I'd remembered that I wanted to do something like that double curl at the bottom of the pendant, but the rest? Boh. So I started weaving and entwining... What I was definitely mindful of was producing a fully reversible pendant (this being the nominal front).

The back...

NO POINTLESS TWIDDLES this time, please and thank you! I did get quite ruthless in the end and hacked away.

Now to work:

Worked on hammering those lovely and elegant curvy curves that I admire so much online. This is when an anvil comes in handy, versus a plain bench block.

These are the two sides finished. This was supposed to be the back; yet again it looks better than the front. Not sure about that single curl in the lower right area... might disappear that tomorrow, too, or at least curve it into that woven bit more tightly. It's a structural piece that locks the two sets of weaving together. .

A little overexposed, but this photo of the front shows off the bead quite nicely. See that kind of "wave" dipping across the top of the bead? That's going to be gone tomorrow. It will wrap around and hide the wire coming out of the bead and I hope make the overall design stronger.

I'll post the finished pendant tomorrow. Might even sort out a bail. Thanks for stopping by!

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Hammered Copper Swirl Connectors with Mexican Turquoise Button Beads...

Yikes, almost a month has gone by without making anything new and I've totally abandoned wire weaving for now. Along with a crazy amount of typing, Nancy Mac and I are packing up and closing our antique mall booth as of this Friday and have begun supplying an online auction and antique & collectibles store in the next town. More on that next week!

Meanwhile, every week at the market I've been doing more and more jewellery repairs and restringing for my customers, as well as fixing broken jewellery for Lianne the Vintage Lady in the next booth. I taught her how to make stretch bracelets out of repurposed/recycled broken jewellery, and I think she's made close to 50 in the past two weeks.

Here is my latest redesign dilemma: remaking a really, ummm... "nice" necklace bought on a Caribbean holiday, but my customer is not into purple: each of these beads and the sterling hummingbird component were dangling from multiple ends of a long and very purple leather lariat. Beautiful hot beachy colours had somehow lost their hot beachiness up here in the cold light of... a cold and grey and dreary winter.

What to do???

My customer had certain requests. We discussed using brown leather lacing and basically replicating the original lariat, but she liked the idea of a firmer, adjustable black leather cord, if for no other reason that she thought she'd get more wear out of something black versus bright purple (or even a brown) and she really liked that it's adjustable. She also liked the idea of a clasp in front from which she could add or subtract items.

My immediate problem was -- and still is -- dealing with the hole orientation of the turquoise beads. Much as I love the shape, wheel and button beads are a bit tricky to utilise flat.

I came up with these hammered copper swirl connectors, but now that I've put it all together, I'm thinking the swirly bits might be a bit too competitive, although the bright copper will eventually tarnish, so it might not be too bad. The clasp might have to be swapped out for a larger one, as well.

In silhouette, how the dangles would look together:

Another option would be to suspend the turquoise bits from chain that would hang behind the hummingbird -- and all of them would be attached to the clasp. Now if only I could remember where I put a very nice vintage-style blackened copper chain that would be perfect.

The other thing I have to keep in mind is overall body proportion. My customer is of average height and quite slight. Another option would be to split all the components up into two necklaces, hummingbird on one, and which would be worn shorter, and the dangles on the second cord.

Closeup of the copper swirls. This is the first time I've tried doing this, and they're surprisingly secure. This would be a great way to make a necklace or even bracelet, and the free movement between the links is really nice. I used 20 gauge dead soft copper wire, keeping hammering to a minimum where wires crossed. I first tried it with tinned copper, in order to pick up the silver colour of the hummingbird, but the turquoise needs the copper.

Definitely a work in progress. I'm currently waiting to hear back from my customer, but in the meantime please let me know what you think.

Remember, I'm at the Woodstock Farmers Market every Saturday morning from 7:00 a.m. until noon, but if you're an early bird, I'm usually there setting up by 5:00 a.m. I restring and can redesign just about any bracelet or necklace, swap out dodgy old earwires for new sterling fishhook or leverback earwires (usually while you wait/do your shopping) and of course I have all kinds of neat and interesting semi-precious, crystal, sterling and pewter pendants, necklaces, earrings for all ages and tastes, and all make great Mother's Day, Father's Day, grad, birthday gifts. Or even just because. It's finally spring, we're safe from killer hydro and heating bills, and it's so nice to treat yourself for a change. If you can't make it to the market, please email me for any requests.

Thanks for stopping by, and see you at the market!

Sunday, 27 March 2016

The March 2016 Gem Expo: Packing Up & Good Bye 'Til Next Time...

I blinked and the show was over, and sitting here now writing these posts, a whole week has gone -- but already I'm buying new goodies and planning my table for the next Gem Expo in July.

The show ended at 5:00 and by 7:00 we were packed up and waiting for a big dolly so we could load everything in one go and take it all down on the freight elevator. After I moved my van to the loading dock and got back upstairs, we had to wait... and wait... and wait.

An hour later I finally figured forget it. No way with my back the way it was could I manipulate a heavy dolly around anyway, so I moved my van back underneath the hotel, got my own small dolly and we started loading up and hiking stuff down to my van.

Our biggest thrill was getting stuck in a broken elevator for 20 minutes.

Finally at 9:00 we were almost ready to go. Last load.

Off to the Elephant & Castle for reeeally good French onion soup made with beer instead of wine. Except... they'd only just closed the kitchen due to how quiet it was that night. Nooooo... I told the waiter how much we'd been looking forward to their soup. He asked if that was all we wanted, that maybe he could convince the cook to do those up for us (I assume they just needed nuking). Came back a minute later to seat us, we got our soup and were able to sit in relative peace and quiet for a good hour playing with beads.

Then it was time to frap la rue. A clear night and quiet and fast drive home, but since it was below freezing, I had to unload the van. Took me another half an hour. I could barely move on Monday and was so sore for a couple more days.

Some of the goodies that I got from the Gem Expo:

Purple Chalcedony from Brazil, which I'd never heard of before. So pretty.

Carved Jade bead, either a koi fish or a dragon... Depends which side of the bead you're looking at, I guess.



Still haven't sorted or priced all the beads I got, but off the top of my head, I got matte pink quartz, lots of black tourmaline and other beads in three sizes, 6mm, 8mm and 10mm; raw citrine, some 10mm carved white flowers, some carved Indian jasper flowers, matte labradorite rounds which are quite amazing, no blue flash but pretty watercoloury greys; and many, many other neat colours.

Final Thoughts in No Particular Order:
I primarily do bead shows, but I also do a weekly farmers market, I share an antique mall booth, buy and sell collectibles and estate jewellery and occasionally sell beads out of my house. I also have a real job.

Here are a few more notes and tips for people contemplating their first show:

1. Wear layers and comfortable shoes. Outdoors, the weather will always do something you don't expect, and indoor venues become hotter and stuffier than you can imagine with all the people and the lights blazing at all the booths.

2. Outdoors under a tent, TRY to get a site where your tent opening is facing east. You do not want the afternoon sun hitting your booth. You will cook and metal jewellery in particular will get really hot. If there's nothing you can do about the direction you face, bring some gauzy curtains that you can hang and lower easily to follow the sun and attach to the tent flap with bull dog clips. I used a white cotton shower curtain one year which was perfect because it already had holes along the top and I used S-hooks to hang it up from the tent frame.

3. Bring lots of water with you. Have lemon or lime in little squirt bottles to put into the water; makes it very refreshing.

4. Bring food that is easy and clean to eat and handle and doesn't stink; wet wipes are a really good idea. Guaranteed, someone will come up to your table just as you've taken a bite of something.

5. Bring extra light bulbs, power cords and power bars.

6. Be aware that there is a rhythm to a show. I primarily do two or three-day bead shows, and the first day it's usually mostly jewellery-makers who show up to buy beads, and the people who sell finished jewellery do very little business. It's the reverse on Sunday.

7. I sell zero at craft shows, so I stopped doing them years ago.

8. Always, always, always push to get an answer out of "artisan craft show" promoters as to whether they're allowing party people in as vendors. Since when is Tupperware an "artisan craft"? I've had show organisers bald-face lie about party people to my face when I've asked who will be there and I know other people have, too. It's a different crowd that comes to those shows and they are NOT artisanal hand-crafted jewellery buyers.

9. Demand to know how many jewellery vendors will be in a craft show versus other crafts. I've done craft shows in the distant past where a full half to two-thirds of all the vendors were selling jewellery (see #7). People will look at the first four or five jewellery vendors' tables inside the main door, and after that they will walk on by, no matter how good, inexpensive or wonderful your stuff is.

10. Make time to get around to at least a few of the other vendors in the show near you, introduce yourself, see what they sell, let them know what you're selling. If you're in this for the long haul, these people will become your friends. You'll bail each other out when someone needs another extension cord, or a light bulb blows, or take part in a coffee run. If I don't have something, I can send a customer to someone who does, and vice versa.

11a. Always say hi to the customer, give them a few seconds to look, then ask if they're looking for anything in particular. If they have a little bit of that deer-in-the-headlights look (fearing a hard sell) explain to them them that if you don't have something, maybe you know someone at the show who does and you can save them some time. That usually gets them chatting about what it is they do and what they're after.

11b. Someone who's carrying a lot of things, ask if they want to take their coat off or put their stuff down for a minute, and if you're having a great conversation and there aren't other people there, ask if they'd like to sit down. Offer them a bottle of water.

12. Never ever ever get caught up in gossip.

13a. Be positive even when you and everyone else are facing financial disaster and there are no customers at all. It happens: could be atrociously bad weather, could be other events going on. There's no predicting it (just like there's no rhyme or reason for a crazy successful show). That kind of negative atmosphere can be felt like a physical punch in the face when people come through the door. Been there, done that.

13b. For the times when there's a lull, bring something to do so your hands are busy (and the show isn't a total write-off). Don't sit there with your face buried in your idiotPhone or a book. Show people who do stop at your booth what you're working on. Most of them have never seen anything actually in the process of being made and they'll be fascinated. I've sold half-finished things many times (or sparked someone to ask if I could make something else for them), so it's definitely not a dumb thing to do.

14. Buy the sturdiest dolly you can afford with bigger rubber tires, but also make sure you can lift it by yourself in and out of your vehicle. Don't get a cheap spindly one with tiny wheels. It'll shake itself apart and the wheels will collapse on cobblestones or brick lanes or humping over door sills, not to mention they're impossible to manoeuvre across gravel roads or lawns.

15. Always bring your tools and put together a little kit of jump rings, clasps and maybe some extender chain. It's amazing how many jewellery-makers don't bring their tools to shows. There are always adjustments that need to be made that could literally help you make a sale.

16. Oh, yeah. My first two bead shows? I sold zero. Not. One. Single. Bead. ZERO.  I still have shows and markets where I don't even make my table, let alone the hotel or gas. It happens.

See you next show!

The March 2016 Gem Expo: Teaching For the First Time...

...The Totally Addicting Stretch Stacker Bracelet Class.

Oh, boy. I have to confess I was utterly terrified at the prospect of teaching this class. Yes, I've been making jewellery for coming up to 9 or 10 years, I've taught a couple of life drawing classes over the years, plus graphics programs on Macs and ESL in Italy so I'm used to standing up in front of people. But teaching a small group of people (if anyone even signed up) how to tie a knot, knowing that they each paid 50 bucks??? Now that's pressure to deliver. What on earth was I thinking?

L to R: Leslie, Moyra, Deborah, Lawrence & Sue

At 10 a.m. Saturday morning FIVE people sat down and we began. I deliberately started everyone out on small 6/0 seed beads because they're the most difficult to get the tension and the knot right. I'd encouraged participants to bring their own beads, plus I had a variety of different beads for sale. I also offered a 10% discount at my booth if they wanted to buy anything later.

Long story short, two hours went whizzing by and, after some initial oopsies, beads flying and a lot of restringing, all five had turned into bracelet-making machines, and they all told me that finally learning the secret to tying that pesky, stupid knot was worth the $50 course fee alone. Every one of them had been so incredibly frustrated watching YouTube video after YouTube video, reading tutorials, trying different types of stretch cord, even going so far as gluing the knot to make it hold -- and nothing worked.

Silly bobo me forgot to get everyone to put on their bracelets so we could do an arm candy portrait.

Stay tuned, I'll be offering another class at the July Gem Expo. No idea what, exactly, but I'm interested in comments and suggestions of what you'd most like to learn, the only caveat being that the project have a low barrier to entry (i.e. few to no tools, minimal fiddly bits and moving parts) and be able to be taught and several items successfully made in under two hours. Leave your suggestions here or email me.

Oh, yeah, if anyone in southern Ontario wants to set up a class and have me come to teach your group how to tie that knot and make beautiful bracelets, please email me. I would love to do that.

Many, many thanks to Chantal for baby-sitting my booth while I taught the class and to Blue Sapphire Beads (aka Salim and Zukekha of The Gem Expo) for loaning her to me!

The March 2016 Gem Expo, Setting Up Part 2: Friday Morning...

A night with zero sleep. Many things were worrying me, not the least of which was wondering if we'd have a good turnout because this show was at the end of March Break and many of our customers in previous years (when the show coincided with the first weekend of March Break) had let us know in advance that, so sorry, going away the whole week; catch you at the summer show.

Friday morning, 7:30-8:23 a.m.
Got out of the hotel by 6:30 a.m., hit Tim's on the way (should've gotten a large latte, or even two, but kinda forgot). I was at my table by 7:30 and dove in. First thing was to change the angle of the shelf on the outside corner of the booth and straighten the cloth so they were more or less aligned:

Bead bins are laid out and aligned. I have to play with them quite a bit to sort out this two level business.

...but by 8:30, they're in a configuration I like, some with lids up and others turned backwards with lids facing down/out towards the edge of the table so I can put out the glass beads in a rainbow. I should note here that two price tags are on the inside of each compartment so they can be viewed easily from either side.

Friday morning, 8:46 a.m.
The entire loose bead table is pretty much done. I've decided that miscellaneous necklaces and all my bracelets will go along the top shelf. Very soon, the bin of large shell and Mongolian Jet rondelles in the middle there will go on the other (fetish) table.

The turquoise corner is pretty much done, as well, although both trays ended up trading places with other smaller bins and trays. Note to self: All these trays, bins, boxes and T-bars WILL be pre-loaded and covered in Saran wrap before I leave for the next show. 

Friday morning, 10:00 a.m.
I found extra room on the fetish table and moved items that fit better thematically from the bead bin table to here.

I have lots of small items that I pin to stretch velour-covered boards. At the Grand River Bead Society show in Kitchener last fall I saw people who'd put kits or necklace/earring/bracelet sets on cards and stacked them vertically in kitchen pot cover holders. I found an antiqued bronzy metal one at Winners and I have four boards stacked in it to the left there. They were easy to flip through and pull out for interested customers, but stayed out of the way and weren't tippy at all. I knew I should've bought the other one that was there. The other board leaned against the top shelf and blocked some of the view of my junky work space in behind.

You can see here and in the next photo how the trays got shuffled around a bit from the previous photo.

By now, I'm reeeeally in love with this two level setup. I have a ton of very different items and it's so hard to display things logically, especially since so many things blend seamlessly and overlap distinctly -- and very possibly disturbingly: fetishes, skulls, estate sale items, turquoise, Roman glass, pewter, copper, silver... vastly different materials and techniques. It's a walk around the world and through millennia, and I am so in love with weird.

The turquoise corner is pretty much done. But oh, do I ever need tall lighting here. Yikes.

Filled the extra room on the bead bin table with the best of my copper wire necklaces laid flat and the rest on a T-bar. All my smaller turquoise necklaces you can just see on the left up behind the loose turquoise bead bins.

I ended up with a lot of empty space on this side of the booth. The reason I am so concerned is there's nothing to stop anyone's eyes from straying to any of the booths across the ballroom. Not to mention it's wasted real estate. More busts, more lights... all are on the checklist for next time.

Friday morning, 10:18 a.m.
An hour and a bit to showtime. The top shelf is still awfully messy. Need to clean that up and tackle tightening and tweaking the other table. All extra boxes, bins, whatnot at this point will be banished into hiding under the table where I can never find them again for the rest of the show.

Friday morning, 11:00 a.m.
Well, I'm done. I have half an hour to go visit (aka bug) other people who are trying to finish setting up.

The show opened at 11:30 and went until 8:00. The whole day passed in a blurrrrrrrrrrrr... Wonderful day, could not believe the number of people that showed up and the type of people -- kids, families, university students in particular, so many different people. Every time I ducked out to the lobby there were people lined up to pay their admission. Afterwards, Ruth, two of her friends (my new friends now, yes?) and I went out for dinner at the Thai Princess just to the west of the Hyatt, where we'd gone during the last show in November. Great food and very attentive service.

Oh, yes, I almost forgot: THE BRACELET DONAIR©. Easy-peasy to store and transport bracelets in order, as I prefer to lay them flat and overlapping on the table in a rainbow versus displaying them on a triple T-bar, which I had been doing until I ended up with well over 100 of the little suckers. I either have to sell more, or buy a second holder.

What is the Bracelet Donair©? A paper towel holder. I had originally thought to display bracelets on my market table this way. So easy to see what I have and dig through to the one you want to try on. Phhht. Yeah, right. BUT... for transportation, it can't be beat. Some of you might know a donair as a gyro; some of you might have led sheltered lives. Whatev: tasty, delish and addicting, just like the bracelets.

On to Part 3... The Saturday morning class which I have been dreading since I offered to teach it: The Totally Addicting Stretch Stacker Bracelet for Beginners course. Because who in their right minds would pay 50 bucks to learn to tie a knot, right? Well... stay tuned.

The March 2016 Gem Expo, Setting Up Part 1: Thursday Night...

Lots of notes, lots of observations. More notes will be at the end of this post.

What I had no way of knowing was how crazy the table setup was going become this time. I almost didn't bring my tablecloths and I almost forgot my big wooden type tray full of fetishes because there was no bin big enough to pack it in so it was sitting wrapped in Saran wrap on a table right by my front door where I couldn't possibly help but see it and grab it... right? Hah, hah and hah.

Check and double check your list. Make your list by mentally setting up your table and double-checking to make sure each and every item is indeed in a bin and in your vehicle before you leave home; also mentally walk through a couple of sales in order to make sure everything you need is in your office box. Do NOT rely on other people's word that something has been stowed in the vehicle. Trust me on this. Make sure the power cord to your phone is with your phone and you can see both of them on the front seat of your car.

Try to plan for help at the show, even if it's a friend who can only come for an hour with coffee or food or just to sit for a few minutes while you get some air or a bathroom break. Failing that, make friends with your new pals on either side of you.

I've been very fortunate doing these three-day shows in Toronto as Ruth was originally a customer at my first Gem Expo back in July 2013 and subsequently has became a wonderful friend. She helps me stay organised, reminds me to eat and drink water because once the doors open it can get completely crazy and hours will go by with no break.

The best thing is we're both food fanatics, and contemplating which new restaurants to try and emailing suggestions back and forth is a big and fun part of every show run-up.

I packed most of my van Wednesday night. But I did learn the hard way years before that if it's going below zero to not leave glass, metal or organic beads and findings in the vehicle overnight as, respectively, they will crack, sweat and rust/corrode or go mouldy. Same thing in the summer: the heat will cause plastic bags and bins to sweat and the mess is indescribable. Good way, though, to find out who's been telling little lies about the composition of their metal findings.

I finally got away around 9:30 Thursday morning, taking the back roads as far as I could before dropping down onto the QEW at Guelph Line, and drove at speed into Toronto. Encountered only one instance of braking for hallucinations and saw just one or two people playing dodgem, starring in their own personal video game.

First things first when I get to Toronto where I can't park at the show venue right away: find cheap and reasonably secure centrally-located indoor parking in a crazy expensive city primarily because all vehicles have to be off the main streets by 3:30 or 4:00 p.m. For me, it's Winners' underground parking on Queen West near Bathurst, $12 all day, which is also near to most of the bead stores I want to go to. From there, it's a short streetcar trip to the restaurant where Ruth and I are meeting for lunch at, a tiny but so delicious buffet at Little India, Queen West, just west of University.

We stayed here for several hours hanging out and making a couple of trips to the buffet, then we walked over to the Strath so I could check in, then we headed back to Queen West where I stocked up on gauze bags and goodies for my Saturday market customers.

We got to the Hyatt Regency shortly after 7:00 p.m. to start setting up only to discover that there was another event going on in the second ballroom and they had commandeered almost all of the tables. I do have my own tables, which could save me money instead of renting, but they are heavy, awkward, and kill my back to heave them around, so I usually elect to pay a few extra dollars and save my energy for things that matter more.

I was assigned two 8-foot tables (not the 6 footers I was expecting), and while an extra four feet of table space is to be welcomed, it meant that it threw the show floor plan alignment out the window, plus my own mental map of where everything was going to go -- not to mention these were not normal tables, they were long skinny tables that pushed together would make a normal-width 8-foot table.  Zukekha told me, "You'll love this layout, trust me," but all I could think of is I now needed 16 bed risers and I only had 12.

Okey dokie, let's see what kind of alternate reality we're dealing with here. First order of business is to get the truck emptied. Umpteen trips up and down the elevator later...

Thursday night, 7:30-8:30 p.m.
Normal setup is two or more vendors around a pillar with larger vendors and single-table artisan vendors lining the walls.

You can see the split tables I'm talking about and the green tape marker, and just how far off the mark we were going to have to go in order to allow room for the other tables to line up. In fact, we should have come out even further, but the other vendors didn't show up until the next morning and it was too late to do anything about it. I heard that at some shows people are spitting nails and throwing snit fits if tables are out of alignment by even a centimetre. I was more concerned because I was seriously impinging on aisle space by this point.

Once we're finally happy with where the tables have been placed, the bed risers go under the inner tables... us two levels of display space with that doinky bit of top table sticking out.

Thursday night, 9:05 p.m.
It's a little difficult to see, but the grids are in a T-formation (I use zip ties to keep the grids together, but only because I forgot the reusable green "Gumby" ties I use, aka garden plant ties), and since beads will go on the "outside" of my table, I need a little extra space between my neighbour's table and myself so people can come into the aisle between two tables to choose beads. You'll see what I mean in a few minutes.

The grids are up, but we have a little problem. We need the tablecloths to reach the floor but they were made to fit each of the long narrow tables.

Thursday night, 9:25 p.m.
White tablecloths come off, we put my black cloths on the lower tables, and the white cloths go back on. FYI, for reference, this table is the fetish table, the other is the bead bin table.

Just wanted to point something out here: see how the black cloth in the front corner is puddling on the ground? That's a serious tripping hazard, especially when you have a lot of people crowding around and shuffling along close to the table.

This is where bulldog clips or even safety pins, work great. Bulldog clips are very useful for all kinds of things (including clipping table covers onto lights and shelving at night -- mine are always slipping off at one end while I'm down at the other end) and make a very clean, square professional edge for your table.

Small shelves go up on the fetish table utilising recycled glass breeze blocks (thanks Door Store, aka Re-Store). Note the diagonal placement of the shelf in the sticky-outy doinky corner -- very awkward placement. This is where my turquoise will go, and I ended up turning the shelf 180 degrees the next morning, which opened up the whole corner, making the doink almost invisible.

Thursday night, 9:52 p.m.

Lights are up, brackets go onto the grids, the beads, which are stored in bins on curtain rods between shows, go up on the grids still on their curtain rods and we're done (this is done in reverse when we pack up). I can set this part up in five minutes, takedown ditto. It used to take at least an hour when I used to hang each bunch of beads on the grid individually (they're gathered up with metal shower curtain hooks, 12 for a buck at dollar stores).

A selection of the brackets I use. I also have large ones that I use to project beads and sometimes necklaces out over the table where you can see that rainbow of glass bead strings. (My grids and brackets come from Lovers AtWork, London, Ontario, but you can get them at any retail store furnishings suppliers.)

Thursday night, 11:00 p.m.
Everything comes out of the bins that will be going onto the table: the "furniture" (T-bars, racks, boxes, risers, trays and beads still in their bins are all roughly set in place and the lights have all been checked (always bring extra bulbs and different lengths of extension cords and power bars).

I've talked before on other sites and forums about using something from show to show that becomes your signature and an easily visible landmark, making you easy to find by people who may have forgotten your name. Some people use a tall banner, but I'm too often strapped for space behind my table (and a banner going across the front of the table can't be seen from any distance once there are more than a few people in the aisles, let alone if you're on a corner -- in which case you'd need two banners).

I bought the woven blanket in the San Giovanni Market in Rome in 1996 and have been hauling it around ever since -- and now that I sell turquoise, it works thematically. It drapes across the outside corner if I have two tables, or diagonally across the front when I only have one table. The turquoise beads always go up in whichever is the most visible corner of the grid with a light on them -- and can be seen across the ballroom.

I'm now a big fan of clear plastic boxes to use as risers and to hold items and clear T-bars these days (Jacob brand from Winners). Ambient light becomes magnified and any items on them appear to float without blocking what's behind them. I also like a certain look of towel rack which I find at thrift stores and garage sales. Trays are a little different matter, as sometimes I need something to provide contrast against whatever is in them, or to provide a visible partitioning from other items. I have plain dark wood, a lighter relief-carved wooden tray and a glass "lake" tray which is lovely for sparkly anything. This also reflects light back up onto whatever is on it.

Gross and messy, but this is what my table/booth usually looks like from behind (the blue Winners bag and red bag will come out and I haul a chair over and sit there:

Bringing along a small folding table is extremely useful for doing your cash or wrapping things. I do a surprising amount of stringing for my customers while at shows and sometimes other vendors will often send their customers to me.

I've seen people with two 3-drawer bins on wheels that had contained all their beads, and once they've finished their table they put a board across the two bins and make themselves a table. Mine sits neatly just under the table when it's on risers, I'm close enough to say hello to people, but still do work and keep an eye on things. Obviously, I stand up when talking to people.

Believe it or not, THIS is me being tidy. I'm a less is more and more is always better kind of person, so I bring far more than I could ever put on the table. I hate it when someone asks for something and, "Yeah, I have that -- at home."

Okay, 11:00 p.m., it's time to find food and go sleeeeeep because I'll have to be back here around 7:00 a.m. to finish setting up. I have long plastic tablecloths from Dollarama that I use to cover my tables at the end of the day.

Food. Moan. What really happened: we walked down to the Elephant & Castle and -- whoopeee!!! (we thought) -- scored the last table. It was St. Patrick's Day, which I had forgotten about, and the streets, bars and restos were jam-packed with crazy-happy and very noisy drunks. The reason we got that last table? It was situated directly underneath blasting speakers. We got up and left. Sigh. No food. No ice-cold beer. Bummer. Ruth hit the subway and I continued over to the Strath and bed too exhausted to search further.

On to Part 2...