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... 

March 2016 Gem Expo: Introduction...

The lights have gone down on another Gem Expo. I started writing this Wednesday (it's late Sunday night now) and as of Wednesday I was still sore and aching in places I didn't know could hurt so freakin' much. Two notable things from this show: Ruth and I puzzled out a new table layout -- which Zulekha assured me I would love (and in the end I did!) -- and I taught a course for the first time.

Because I primarily write these particular posts for people contemplating their first shows, I'll be breaking up this post into several segments as this time I took lots of pictures and came up with several insights and workarounds. A week or so ago I discovered and joined a Facebook group devoted to doing shows. You'll have to ask to join, but it's well worth checking out, because I'm already getting lots of ideas from the participants there to implement for the next show in July.

I'm very grateful for Salim and Zukekha of Blue Sapphire Beads and The Gem Expo who initially asked me to do the shows years ago and now, three years later, kinda sorta pushed me to teach.


Saturday 12 March 2016

Runup to the GEM EXPO... & 2 Stretch Stacker Bracelets

...means I tend to not get much of anything made, just spending time pricing new goodies and figuring out how to coherently display far too much in a too-small space. All of which planning I know will get thrown out the window once I see the exact configuration. A lot depends on where the door is relative to my booth and what I think the main traffic patterns will be.

I did get some particularly nice vintage hand-carved Southwestern style animal fetishes in and I'll have lots of vintage metal doodads, as well, this year. I may or may not get them photographed before I leave for The Gem Expo, but I definitely will be acquiring a larger selection.

Meanwhile, I managed to finish off several orders for market customers and then threw together these two bracelets early yesterday evening -- yes, that is SUN!!! As I said, not a very productive week.

Made with the last lonely bag of the most beautiful pale blue-grey small pony beads. They appear to change colour depending on what is next to them -- and photographing them is next to impossible. If I capture the aqua terra blue, then everything else is washed out.

Top bracelet $20; bottom bracelet $15

Definitely something that looks better in person. Both are available for sale, email me for availability/shipping or come to the market. I'll be there in... about one hour! Woodstock Farmers Market, Nellis Street at the Fairgrounds, 7:00-12:00 noon. I have enough beads to make a few more of these.

Thanks for stopping by!

Tuesday 8 March 2016

Blingy Crystal Earrings & Stretch Stacker Bracelet Sets...

I had to shorten a pair of super-long dangle crystal earrings for a customer yesterday and got caught up in all the bling. Those who know me will be ROTF laughing their faces off as I'm the least blingy person anyone could ever meet. Turns out I have a secret life that nobody ever suspected -- including me.

These came out very nicely -- made richer, I think, because of the addition of the silver-plated topaz/copper rhinestone rondelles (bought on a pure whim from ACC Bead last November at the Gem Expo). I tried putting the bracelets together with both gold-plated and silver-plated clear rhinestone rondelles but they kinda just laid there and went thpppptt.

Gem Expo plug: 
TEN days to spectacular bling, beads & jewellery
Hyatt Regency Hotel
King Street, Toronto
March 18th, 19th & 20th 

Here are the two sets I made before running out of beads. The colours go so nicely together and, with the gold-tones of the AB finish and topaz/copper combined with the sterling silver earrings, you could wear these with just about anything. The earrings are surprisingly light-weight for their length.

Earrings: $18; Bracelet: $40
Set: $50

Again, the silver metal, gold AB finish and the topaz/copper rondelles mean these also will be good to go with just about everything.

Earrings: $15; Bracelet: $25
Set: $35

Both sets are available with earrings and bracelet sold together or separately. Please email me for availability/postage or see me at the Woodstock Farmers Market this Saturday. I'll be getting more of these shapes and colours when I'm in Toronto at the Gem Expo where you can sign up and learn how to make these yourself in my class, Totally Addicting Stretch Stacker Bracelets. If you want to special-order a different colour combo, email or see me at the market about that, as well.

Thanks for stopping by!

Friday 4 March 2016

Sleeping Beauty Turquoise Copper Wire-Woven Ring... A Sorta Kinda Tutorial...

I've been making plain little beaded wire-wrapped rings for kids for the past couple of weeks now, but I'm starting to get a little bored, and last night decided to try my hand at a wire-woven ring.

My usual technique to do anything is to start weaving a few wires together and see where they lead me. If nothing else, this gives me any number of specific questions to find the answers for, at which point I hit the books and Internet. There are many wire-woven ring patterns available (all the books I own have at least one ring tutorial in them) and there are copious YouTube tuts both free and for pay.

For a first effort this came out rather nicely, I think. The most interesting thing for me is how that tiny Sleeping Beauty nugget pops and holds its own -- looking twice its real size -- not overpowered in the slightest by all the weaving around it.

I wove a couple of inches in the middle of the wire I'd cut (3 base wires 20 gauge dead soft copper 7-8 inches in length, weaving wire 28 gauge). I picked the particular pattern just because I like it. It might be the Aztec weave. I checked for length on the mandrel, wove a bit more, then slid the bead on one of the wires.

Then I continued weaving 2 and 3 wires at either end, at the same time wrapping and overlapping the woven lengths around the turquoise bead just like making a rosette ring. I didn't want this to get too big and bulky, so once the turquoise was firmly ensconced, I STOPPED. No extra twiddles or anything. I trimmed and tucked all the ends underneath.

And there you have it, a copper wire-woven ring, size 6, Sleeping Beauty turquoise nugget.

You can see how red my middle finger was getting from the wire; my right hand was worse. Time to start taping my fingers to protect them. Or build up some honkin' calluses! (The black spots are from ancient hammer blows, maybe three or four years old.)

I've put the offer on Facebook here, first person who contacts me gets it (determined by time stamp) or it will be available at the market tomorrow. Guess I should put the price, eh? $30, plus shipping.

Thanks for stopping by!

Your First Summer Shows & THE GEM EXPO!!!

A couple of comments especially for newbies making stuff for their first summer craft shows:

1. The simple wire and bead rings I've been making are turning out to be great sellers. They're easy and fairly quick to make, too, once you get going. But... because they're so freakin' CUTE, not only do the kids love them (and can afford to buy them with their own allowance), the mothers and grandmothers love them too -- as pinkie rings.

Definitely make a few in slightly larger sizes. Mine are running 2.0 to 3.0 in quarter sizes for the kids, 3.0 to 5.0, again in quarter sizes for teens, and 5.0 to 8.0 in half sizes for adults. I've started dividing them out in little bowls right up front, otherwise nobody will ever find their size.

Mother's Day is coming up soon (as well as Father's Day, Grad, etc.). At Christmas I was surprised by the number of really young kids I was getting at my table wanting to buy something -- anything -- they could afford for their moms and dads. Along with your higher end jewellery, it's worth it to have a selection of small, inexpensive but well-made items available for kids to buy as gifts for their friends or for themselves. They're a very under-served consumer segment in terms of quality, if nothing else, and they deserve to be acknowledged and treated with respect. And listened to: I don't have kids, but I'm learning a ton about kid culture and what's important to them. I also get fashion tips (and of course this is very regional, what's fashionable here, ain't even on the radar elsewhere). There's nothing more humbling than to have a 7-year-old girl very gently tell you that "nobody wears feathers anymore". Oh. Anybody want to buy two bins of feathers?

2. First bead show of the season up here in Ontario: The Gem Expo is opening in two hours and two weeks (as of this writing) and all of the vendors will have heaps and heaps of new beads and findings.

March 18-20
Hyatt Regency Hotel
370 King Street West, Toronto

3. ....aaaaand I'm teaching a class this time:

Totally Addicting Stretch Stacker Bracelets
Saturday morning, 10 a.m.-12 p.m.

All the detes are here -- don't forget you get a 3-day pass to the show included in your course fee. These are great bracelets for absolutely everyone to make -- if you can tie your shoes, you can make these bracelets, so this is a perfect class for beginners. There's no limit to the style, size, colour or blinginess of what you make, and anyone can wear them, guys, girls, kids, adults. Plus they're so easy on/off they're great if you have arthritis or are tired of fiddling with itsy-bitsy clasps. These are great sellers for me at the weekly farmers market I do.

The cord we'll be using is called Stretch Magic, and it's wonderful stuff -- lasts a long, long time and doesn't bag out the way all those cheaper bracelets do. When I say they're Totally Addicting, I mean it. I made about 50 in two days over Christmas and only stopped because I ran out of the particular beads I was using.

I'll have a small selection of glass beads to get you started (with fancier beads available to buy), but feel free to bring your own beads. Plus -- there's a whole ballroom full of more beads. Sounds like a perfect reason to get up and out early on a Saturday morning to me. Bring your go-cup full of coffee and let's play.

These bracelets were all made with beads that I sell at the Gem Expo:

4. Another hint: some beads are really expensive, so if you see something you like at the show, ask one of your bead pals to go halfsies on a string. The way my friend and I used to do it was we'd find a string of over-the-top beads that both of us liked, we'd each pay half, then divvy up the string over coffee. The winner of the coin toss would choose the first bead and then we'd alternate choosing the rest of the beads.

Or... you can come to me at the show and buy single beads or partial strings.


See you at the Gem Expo and don't forget to check out all the great classes!