Monday 29 July 2013

The Gem Expo...

I got back last night from doing the three-day Gem Expo in Toronto put on by Blue Sapphire Beads. This was my first time doing a show in Toronto. To be honest, I was more than a little nervous. Even though I've done the Grand River Bead Society fall show for the past four years, that started out as a one-day event, and then moved to two days, and is held in a much smaller city -- Toronto is a completely different market.

I talked with many people at the show who told me they were beginners at jewellery-making so this is kinda sorta directed towards them. Not only do I sell turquoise, I also make jewellery, and believe me, I'm still learning, too. The great surprise to me when doing any show is seeing it all laid out -- shows are the only time I ever see my turquoise as between shows it all lives in bins.

Since it's physically gruelling to do any type of trade show -- you would not believe how much stuff you have to haul with you -- oftentimes including all your tables and chairs -- I made the very smart decision to go to Toronto on Thursday to hit the wholesalers early in the day, park at the Hyatt by 3:30 p.m. to get off the street during rush hour, then offload and set up on Thursday evening, rather than get up Friday morning early-early, leave by 5:00 a.m., do battle with rush hour traffic and getting to the Hyatt by 7:00 a.m. if I was lucky to start setting up, then do the show from 11:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. and then stagger back to my hotel. That would be brutal. Long story short, I booked a hotel for three nights instead of two, choosing not to drive home each night which is what I normally do when I'm doing the Grand River Bead Society show in Guelph. That's a much easier 45-minute drive on back country roads. Makes a big difference.

Choice of a Hotel
I spent considerable time looking at -- aka dithering over -- hotels and rates. The Hyatt on King, where the show was, was way too expensive for me. I had no idea how well or poorly I would do at the show, so I had to keep my out-of-pocket expenses as low as possible, while at the same time trying to remain within a short walk of the show venue. I found several hotels within my price range in the area, but either they were booked up for the time I wanted or only had large and expensive rooms available. Party of one? You betcha. I even looked at youth hostels. I had no idea you can rent private rooms! But they were booked up and I imagine the noise would be something else. I remembered staying in a hotel about 20 years ago very close to Union Station, so I did a search, rebooted the ol' memory cells and finally recalled the Strathcona. I also remembered in my innocence running up a $75 local phone tab chatting with friends I couldn't meet with during the two days I was in Toronto that time because in those days switchboard-assisted calls were billed at about $1 per minute.

I got my parking spot at the Hyatt, was able to unload my truck early but still had to wait until 7 to set up. I walked over to the Strathcona on York Street and checked in. Yes, the room was a little small. In fact, it was smaller than the freight elevator I had just used at the Hyatt to bring my boxes and bins up to the ballroom floor.

That's the Pub entrance there on the right. I'm not particularly a fan of what I call Streamliner architecture, but I've always liked this place. For some reason my editing software made a moire of the graphics on the face of the building. 

I'm actually standing in the bathroom to take this photo.

TV, coffee... 

Bathroom is clean and functional, comes with a hair dryer mounted on the wall, the shower is equipped with good shampoo and conditioner (except for the life of me I couldn't figure out how to get the shampoo out of the bottle, so I ended up using my own). 
On the website, we're warned that these tiny rooms are located right next to the elevator shaft. But all I ever heard was the very occasional ding when an elevator would arrive on my floor. I slept fine. I also discovered after I had booked that there is a senior discount -- not that I am in any way, shape or form a senior just yet... but sometimes seniorhood is extended backward -- downward? -- to 50, 55, 60... I asked -- and received -- a discount.

Setting up 
Meanwhile, back at the Hyatt, since I would be manning (personing?) the tables by myself the whole time, I elected to not use all three tables. This was also a new setup for me -- I'd always had either a single table or two in a line, not a corner setup. In the end, it worked out beautifully for a couple of reasons.

This was the first iteration, using the three tables in an open C. The problem was figuring out how to use the grids without blocking the view of people in the aisles because I needed them wrap around corners, rather than go in a line along the wall. 

I ended up using two tables slightly offset so that people could kind of stand in the V a bit.  I ended up sitting in the inside of the V and that was where I did my cash. The next time I will allow more space there, as well as have my "office box" underneath or behind me with bags and wrapping paper, rather than having to get up all the time to get to my junk table. 

Another view. The table on the left became the junk table in the end because I didn't use it as my wrapping station. But I did use it to teach an impromptu wire-wrapping class. For next time I have to figure out a better use for that space.

Everything set up ready for the morning when I will lay out all the large strings of turquoise on either side of the display case. 
Pub Grub
I've lived in Toronto for years and know the city well, but you know what? I decided to stick to the Strath Pub, walk there, grab a beer and something to eat after setting up and then go to bed. I know, I know. I'm boring. Tough. I get there and find out the kitchen has just closed. The waitress told me there were many restaurants still open in the vicinity, but I know those types of places -- food's fine, but ginormous portions and long waits. Uh uh, no thanks. Do you have anything at all to eat? Chips maybe? No, sorry. I guess I looked pretty sad. The wonderful waitress grabbed some crackers from the kitchen which kept me going with my beer.

Thursday night:
Alexander Keith's is my favourite beer in the whole world. The problem I've had before with getting it on tap is that it's never cold enough -- but this was icy. Yummers. In keeping with this weekend's theme, you'll notice the labradorite-like refraction on the glass.

Friday night:
Now we're getting somewhere. I got to the Pub just before the kitchen closed, but by now I was so hungry I wasn't. I knew I had to eat, so I picked vegetable samosas with an orange-ginger dipping sauce. They were so good. I have to say I was really surprised. I mean, they may have been frozen for all I know, but they were crispy, hot and flavourful, and the green cress gave a clean little burst of pepperishness -- as well as deluding me into thinking that I really was eating something healthy. Worked for me.  

Saturday night:
Now, this... this is what I had been eyeing on Friday night. I love quesadillas. The Strath Pub's version was loaded with lobster and vegetables and cheese and while sweet potato fries may not be an entirely traditional accompaniment (is lobster traditional to quesadillas?) they were all good. The lemon aioli was yummy too. Vitamin C in lemon. Health food city. Sweet potatoes, hey, more healthy vitamins and they're a member of the vegetable kingdom. Fish. Fish is good. Ice water to wash it all down. 

The show
Friday morning I got to the show early to lay out the beads on the table, tweak my display and finish pricing new items.

I can't even begin to talk about the show. It was so much fun. I met so many, many interesting people I've lost track. I barely got a chance to talk to any of the vendors, and only had time to buy a few things. Although every time I sold something and there was a lull, I'd dash down the aisle and add something to my stash at Najib. There were people there from all over the world, both vendors and attendees. Zulekha and Salim did such a great job organising the event. I'm so happy they convinced me to do this show.

Guess who I saw?
I can't resist including this picture. I saw him only on Saturday morning because it took me that long to realise that the escalators went straight to the ballroom floor and I didn't need to hang around waiting for the elevator.

Prints of the photo are for sale if anyone wants to buy me a present... 

Walking to the venue on Sunday morning
This red brick and copper-roofed building is representative of what much of downtown Toronto used to look like up until the '80s. That darker grey building on the extreme right of the photo is the Strath.

Restaurant Row begins here, extending a few blocks west and primarily on the south side of King Street. It reminded me of Saint-Michel in Paris, criss-crossed with streets where every little building holds a different restaurant, sometimes two or three different ones up and downstairs and barkers stand outside on the street waving a menu in your face guaranteeing you a discount meal. Here, though, polite people stand and wait for you to approach and express an interest. But it's so pretty at night with coloured lights strung everywhere and just about every resto has a terrace with tables.

Halfway down the block and across the street is the Hyatt. On the right across the intersection, which I cropped out of the photo, is where TIFF hangs its hat -- that's the Toronto International Film Festival (also somewhere along here the picture of Johnny Depp was taken). For those of you who know this area well, note that I cleverly angled this picture to eliminate the solid mass of condos choking the view of the sky to the east, the south and the west.

In the '70s, I used to live on the third floor of a building at the corner of Howard and Bleeker Streets at the top of St. James Town. It was exactly the same style of architecture as the building here housing Second Cup. I seem to recall these were built in the 1850s. Gorgeous old brick buildings.

North of TIFF headquarters is typical infill style, middish-19th century buildings at sidewalk level (mostly razed but occasionally cleverly incorporated), but then behind them...

...see what I mean by choking the sky?

Last day of the show and the Sunday morning breakfast of champions... I was given this extra bacon. I love bacon. No, I did not eat it all.

Show recap
Friday and Saturday were both pretty slow sales days for me and kind of sparse attendance (and yeah, I was a little worried about making my expenses but I thought I did okay), but it left plenty of time to talk at length with the people who did come. I met many who were just starting out making jewellery and, because it was so slow Friday and wire work is close to my heart, I gave an impromptu wire-wrapping lesson to one of my customers. Ruth asked if there was anything she could do to repay me, that she had bought a 3-day pass and was coming back Sunday. I didn't want to take anything, but she insisted, so I asked if she could bring me some food, as it's really, really difficult to get away from the table. Sure enough, Sunday afternoon at the height of the crowds and crazy busy, she showed up with a fat turkey sub, a coconut drink and tube of Pringles.

Then, to top it off, she stayed on and helped me pack up and load up the truck. Thank you, Ruth! I owe you big time.

On the way home from Toronto, after driving through the northern edge of a monsoon that soaked Paris, I just missed photographing the fattest double rainbow I have ever seen. Had to drive a bit further on before I could safely pull over and only one rainbow remained. I'm choosing to interpret this as a harbinger of great things to come.

It was a great, great weekend, and in the next couple of days I'll post pictures of the goodies I bought for my table and to make jewellery -- as well as the Tibetan turquoise that arrived in the mail shortly after I pulled out of here. Oh, yeah -- in addition to all the turquoise people bought, I sold a couple of the new necklace and bracelet designs I've posted in the last two weeks and several pairs of earrings! If you are looking for anything in particular, either via email/online sales or upcoming shows (GRBS Show & Sale in Guelph in October or The Gem Expo in November), please let me know as I will be acquiring turquoise, fetishes, recycled glass and chevron beads over the next few months.

If you have any questions about the mechanics of doing a show, please ask. Oh -- I must add here -- my Square credit card-taking gizmo which I've now had for three weeks worked perfectly. I cannot recommend it highly enough. It's perfect for small "itinerant/intermittent" businesses like mine.

Thanks for looking!

Wednesday 24 July 2013

Off to the Gem Expo in Toronto in a few hours...

I've been packing all day -- I am (almost) only going to be selling turquoise at The Gem Expo, but how is it my truck is packed with more bins and bags than I take to the market? And all of which have to be hauled around by moi.

Unless I can lay my hands on a computer I won't be updating the blog until I get home, but I will take lots of pictures -- and yes, I have remembered to pack my phone -- and charger.

Now to get a few hours of sleep. If I wake up at 3 or 3:30, then I might leave by 4:30 to beat the rush in... or I might say... well, I might just roll over and go back to sleep and leave here around 8. Given that we can't get in to set up until 6:00 p.m. and I can't get into my hotel room until 3:00, that's a  lot of hanging around to do.

Check these out:

I'm still looking for a good map of mine locations in Mexico.

Later, 'gators... and see you there! Should be a great weekend.

Saturday 20 July 2013

White Pearls, "Black" Pearls -- no, not the ship -- & Turquoise

I had a commission to do for today's market, riffing on a so-called black (aka a dark iridescent purple) and white pearl necklace with plain zinc spacers that Nancy had designed before leaving town and me to my own much less creative devices. I substituted these mini-bump spacers for no other reason than I'm almost out of the plain ones.

Then I wondered what these very pretty 5mm pearls would look like with the same Kingman turquoise chips I've been playing with for the past week or so. Needs more work in the colour-correcting department, but I think it came out okay.

Thanks for looking!

Thursday 18 July 2013

Lapis Lazuli & Quartz Crystal Bracelets...

I was rather pleased with the way the glass skull looked combined with the enhanced lapis lazuli the other day, but fearing that people might not share my love of skulls I made two more bracelets in the same style but substituted faceted quartz crystals for the skull.

Enhanced lapis lazuli, pewter coin flower beads, brass spacers and a faceted quartz crystal bead.
7-3/4" in length, $55.00.

Enhanced lapis lazuli, pewter coin flower beads, pure copper spacers and a faceted quartz crystal bead.
8-3/4" in length, $69.00.

If you are interested in buying or commissioning a bracelet, necklace or earrings -- or the beads themselves -- please email me.

I hope everyone is staying cool these few days until the heat breaks -- which is supposed to be on Saturday. There have been some pretty interesting stories in the news this week about the ferociously high temperatures we're experiencing -- at the same time as it got to below freezing in Alberta. This is the latest:

A cop bakes cookies in his car while he's at work:

A few years ago, they tried to roast a roast in a car. Scary hot temperature inside the car even if it wasn't quite successful:

If this infernal heat is getting you down, meditate instead on cool ocean breezes. This picture of the Islay Mist was taken July 5th by my brother's friend -- who my brother was picking up. Talk about customer service. Contact my younger, smarter brother Jim to book a cruise off the west coast and go hang with some whales...

See you at The Gem Expo at the Hyatt in Toronto next Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Thanks for looking!

Wednesday 17 July 2013

Campitos & Kingman Turquoise...

Made more bracelets today using up odds and ends of beads, playing with colours, but trying not to think too much and see what happens. Three cheers for's photo-sharpening feature but I still can't quite get the colour right. Literally these colours should be a degree or two warmer, but I can't seem to make it happen.

Large Campitos nuggets interspersed with Kingman splinter chips, sponge coral rondelles flanking a Southwestern-style pewter cross bead.
8" in length; $79.00

Fat Kingman turquoise nuggety chips and more of those gorgeous crab fire agate rounds from Nelson Gemstones flanking a "flying" pewter bird. These Kingman nuggets here and in yesterday's bracelets are all from a string of slightly paler and bluer turquoise than the others that I've been using.
8" in length; $39.00

One side enhanced lapis lazuli rounds and the other pale green so-called new jade (possibly dyed serpentinite?) softly-rounded wheels flanking a "flying" pewter bird.
7-3/4" in length; $43.00

Enhanced lapis lazuli rounds, pewter flower beads and tiny brass spacers flank a glass skull bead.
7-3/4" in length; $45.00

Closeup of the glass skull.

A closer closeup of the glass skull.

Email me for availability or to commission a custom piece -- or even if you see some beads you'd like. I design these so that I can lengthen them a bit without too much trouble; as well, there's always the option of restringing a particular design and adding a bead or two -- or taking something out.

Thanks for looking!

Tuesday 16 July 2013

Five New Bracelets...

The day's production...

Five new bracelets (the plain Kingman turquoise and flying bird one in the middle I'd made several weeks ago and used it to riff on)...

Kingman turquoise nuggets, tiny pewter beads and crab fire agate -- aren't these the perfect colour!? I got 'em from Nelson Gemstones, my go-to for rounds -- all flanking a Southwestern-style pewter cross. I need to remake this using more of the crab fire agate.
8" in length; $39.00

Amethyst rounds, Peruvian amazonite rondelles, Tibetan crystal beads and pewter beads flank a faceted, high-cut amethyst bead.
7-3/4" in length; $49.00

Hand-cut Tibetan quartz crystals interspersed with pewter beads.
8-1/2" in length; $37.00

Enhanced lapis lazuli rounds and a pewter bird bead "flying" on faceted zinc spacers.
7-3/4" in length; $44.00

Kingman turquoise nuggets, hand-cut Tibetan quartz crystal and a pewter bird "flying" on zinc spacers.
8-1/8" in length; $42.00

All of these bracelets are for sale. Please feel free to email me if you're interested any of these or in a custom bracelet -- or necklace -- made especially for you. These can easily be made a bit larger by the addition of jump rings, or they can be restrung and extra beads added.

Thanks for looking!

Monday 15 July 2013

Finally, great customer service X 2!!!

Remember this chair? Coffee on the deck in the morning? Dinner and a book in the evenings?

Since nothing is ever perfect, perfect country living on the banks of rivers comes with local pestiferous neighbours: sundry, assorted and hungry mosquitoes with me as breakfast, lunch and dinner all rolled into one. But, I have found a solution that doesn't stink, isn't all gooey wrecking my clothes and everything I touch. And, oh, yeah -- it really works...

...Mosqui-go-way body soap by Bear Elements, who sell their own line of body lotions, face creams and soaps every Saturday morning at the Woodstock Farmers Market, and which can also be purchased online. I've been using their products for two years now. There's also a Mosqui-go-way spray, but I think I prefer the soap.

I conducted a very scientific study yesterday: I sat out for an hour reading and eating dinner and the mosquitoes wouldn't leave me alone. Came in here, washed my face, neck and arms with the soap, and sat out bug-free for at least another hour, until 7:30 or so, which around here on the river is mosquito PCT (Party Central Time). Aaaand no more mosquitoes trying to crawl into my ears at night.

I'd be really interested in hearing from people up north where the mosquitoes are so big they carry you off to devour later, see if this soap would work for them.

And....... for several months now I have been on a quest for a decent pair of walking shoes and some sandals. I have everything wrong with my feet (plantar fasciitis, pronation, weak ankles, toasted knees and back), and I am prepared to pay good money for good shoes. Like Microsoft 8, these damned shoe manufacturers can't leave a good design alone. Whatever happened to the original Nike Airs? Or the Air Walk brand board shoes I bought for $20 three years ago that fit perfectly?? Not anymore. And now EVERY pair of running/walking shoe on the market has this stupid, dangerous, physically destructive "rocker toe" or "rocker sole" or whatever the hell they call it. And while I'm in full rant mode: what's with carrying no shoes less than a D width? Arghhhhhhhhhhhhh...

I've spent months dragging around to all the shoe stores I can think of in several local towns, from discount "designer" stores in out of the way/next to the highway malls to take-your-breath-away, nosebleed, full-price stores on the main drag. I've been to stores where I tell the salesperson I'd like a plain, simple, flat walking shoe and/or slide sandal in black, white or some combination of neutral. Tasteful, in other words. All they show me is over the top glitzy crap -- with heels! Clean out your ears, people! Or I get a very helpful salesguy [Hello, Sears!] -- who brings me a box with entirely the wrong shoes! "Well... they look exactly the same. [So, like, what's your problem, lady?]" That's a quote. My whole life I've been a person who, wherever I live, buys local and eats local whenever I can. But this -- this is ridiculous when no matter how hard I try, I CAN'T spend any money.

Yesterday, having a day off, I went to Kitchener. I confess: I get a kick out of Winners -- especially the food and kitchen gadget aisles -- and once or twice a year like to wander around the big box Winners on Fairview there. In all the years that Winners has been around I have never found any of this "designer" stuff they maintain they carry. For sure, I haven't found a single designer anything that fits me, just the food. Funny how that works, eh? Definitely one size fits all with food! But yesterday, for the first time I did find some Clarks. Love Clarks shoes. Great price. And every single pair too small or too big.

At the big box complex next door was The Shoe Per Store. In ten years living in this area, I'd never been in there. Walk in. A saleslady -- I think her name was Kat, or Kate, maybe? -- was there at the door and greeted me. Talk about customer service to the MAX. She actually paid attention to my whiny tale of woe about my sore feet, took me all over the store, showed me styles, brought me different sizes. Yes, unfortunately, all of their running shoes had those stupid rocker toes, but I bought three glorious pairs of shoes, including Mephisto walking shoes for -- get this -- less than half price. Ditto Naot sandals. And some silly black canvas board shoes with hot pink trim for faffing around. They'll definitely need arch support insoles in them, but they're cute. Will they make me look cute? Uhhhhmmm... that's a negatory.

Bonehead move of the day, though: I get to the cash desk, open my wallet -- and no debit card. I had booked my hotel the night before for the Gem Expo -- only a week and a half away! -- and forgotten to put my card back. Gaaaaaaaaaaaah... 40 minutes to drive home, make a sandwich while I'm there, 40 minutes to drive back.

But I finally have happy feet. Now I can go out and walk off some of this awful weight that I've put on since Max died.
The late, great Max the Chinese-Crested-pot-bellied-pig dawg.
Hard to believe this was taken just over a year ago.
Thanks for looking! And definitely get some of that soap!

Friday 12 July 2013

Mixed turquoise bracelet...

I'm trying to get packed up here so I can load up the truck for the market tomorrow. Every time I uncover a layer on my table I get an idea and stop and make something. I had a bag of mixed turquoise that I've been eyeing and here's what I came up with while at the same time trying not to think too hard about how the beads should go.

I need to find someone who will wear this and give me an opinion as to how it feels on. It's designed so that the curved metal part will snug into the shorter curvy side of one's wrist so that the turquoise will stay in place across the top/bottom.

I've used Kingman boulder, lovely pale green Kingman nuggets, Sleeping Beauty nuggets, Ma'an Shan and some miscellaneous Chinese turquoise of unknown provenance.

Note: This item has SOLD, however, I can make variations on this: email me with the length you require.

Thanks for looking.

Raw Kyanite Pendants & MOP Drops with Shell Pendants...

Do you ever have those weeks where you're busy-busy and yet feel like you have zip to show for it? That was this kind of week. A lot of typing did get done Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday so it wasn't until yesterday that I started to make anything with my new goodies that I got last week from Beads of Colour in Dundas where I always find something that I gotta have. Definitely not a same-old, same-old kinda store -- which have their place, don't get me wrong -- but surprises I love.

My big score was a string of raw kyanite and here are three variations on adjustable black Greek leather chokers:

I got these shells several weeks ago from Beads of Colour and just received the mother of pearl drops from Arton on Wednesday. I suppose it's a cliche, but I think it's cute.

Here's a version with a single shell...

And here's a version with a double shell...

Still playing with turquoise. I never get tired of the endless colour permutations. What I do get tired of is trying photograph it and keep all the colours of all the stones true at the same time. These iridescent purple seedbeads I'm using are a case in point and driving me nuts. They really are a blazing purple! I've tried everything I can think of to capture it, including different backgrounds and light to using the camera on my stupidPhone, and all I come up with is this dark blue. Imagine that flash of purple iridescence all over and you'll get a sense of the true colour.

Ah, well. The day is awasting and I have to get busy getting orders ready for the market.

Thank you for looking!

A big PEEE ESSSS: My pal Lynn in Arizona just sent me this link:

Let's compare this...

With this...

The purple is a bit better -- I will have to play with the colour for sure -- but that "sharpen" feature, that's simply amazing. Oooh, I do like that lots.

And now the kyanite picture, then I gotta roll...

Nnnnnnnnn... mebbe not. Back to the drawing board!