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Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Tucson Gem & Mineral Show How To Advice and Tips

A month or so ago, I was perusing Facebook and saw a thread (probably in a metalsmithing group) about the Tucson show.  (schedule)

This is one of the biggest and most well-known shows in the jewelry-making industry. Days and days and miles and miles of workshops, vendors, buyers, sellers, stones, jewelry components, etc.

Anyway, the person posting the thread inquired about how to prepare for going to the Tucson show, and one of the responses just blew me away.

I reached out to the artist who posted the response, asking if she'd allow me to repost her info here on my blog. It's just too invaluable not to be shared with as many people as possible.

The response came from metalsmith and jewelry artist Jill Sharp.

To see Jill's amazing jewelry, check out her shop by clicking here!  


Anyway, here is Jill's exact post response in the FB thread. I really appreciate Jill for taking the time to post her thoughtful FB response as well as for letting me repost it for all of my followers. If you find this info helpful, please leave a comment. 

If you go, it will help tremendously if you pre-register for the shows you want to see (assuming those shows are wholesale only; there are also many ‘open to the public’ shows that don’t require a wholesale license).

You’ll want to figure out your lodging early. Tucson hotels book up often a year in advance; not only from all the people coming to buy and coming to sell, but some of the sellers stay in / sell from hotel rooms as well. So usually even the inexpensive chains are either booked or quite pricey. You can stay in Phoenix and drive down and back each day, but that’s a 90 minute (at best) commute which adds a lot of time to the day. There may be other places to stay closer to Tucson, but I don’t know about any. I stay with a friend, so hotels are not an issue for me.

As far as “best” options for cabs or beads…that’s so subjective that it’s impossible to say what the “best” would be. Everyone’s preferences will be different. The best thing to do is start attending the different shows and make excellent notes on what you like / don’t like and from whom you buy, so you can plan to buy from them again if their inventory suits your needs. I always go to the Holidome, GJX, and JOGS, and then some of the smaller, open to the public shows too. I used to go to AGTA, but that’s mostly very pricey faceted stones and jewelry, and you’ll have to provide a lot of documentation (and show that you’ve spent a certain amount of dollars on inventory in the prior year) to qualify. So I’ve skipped it in the last few years.

Shuttle vs. rental car: I have never gone to the gem show WITHOUT getting a rental car. The shuttles can be helpful, but you can find yourself waiting…and waiting…and waiting in line for the shuttle. That’s fine if you’re just going for fun and a little spending, but I am buying most of gem stock for the YEAR. I don’t have the time to wait. Also sometimes the shuttles don’t go where you think (or you’ve been misinformed, either by a new shuttle driver or someone else) they’re going. So you can get stuck. I have had this happen, and waited for two hours for the shuttle – that’s utterly lost time for buying. Also I have had to call a taxi when a shuttle just never came back…even before they were supposed to stop running. So I really don’t even shuttle anymore. I just drive. It’s an extra expense – and this you would want to book early too, as I have been to Tucson, picking up my rental car, and heard the reservations people telling folks that they’re all sold out during the gem show – but it’s worth it for me.

What I bring: copies of my business license. Plenty of business cards. I actually make up stickers that have my information already on them – and I give this to the sellers when I purchase (when you’re buying wholesale, the sellers must take your information for their tax records). I simply hand them my sticker with all info and it’s much faster than them having me write my info (name, address, phone, tax id) over and over again when I make a purchase. Checkbook, plus cash. Sometimes (though not always) you can negotiate a better deal for cash. Not if you’re buying like $15 worth of beads, but if I am spending, say $500, I will ask if there’s a discount for cash. And sometimes there is. Especially if I’m a repeat buyer (and some of the sellers – especially the US sellers – will remember you from year to year.)

What else do I bring? A small backpack and a wheelie bag. I promise you, your neck and shoulders are going to get tired and sore after a day of bending over those tables and perusing potential purchases. And if you’re buying a lot of beads or metal (bead) or gems, the weight of carrying those around *will* add up. So I bring a wheelie and bottled water, protein-based snacks for those low blood sugar moments, hand wipes because your hands will get ridiculously dirty handling all the gems, and I bring "extras", depending on the weather. I’ve been in Tucson for the show when it was (unseasonably, but it does happen) 40 degrees for the high. And with driving to each show, sometimes there’s a good bit of walking from your parking area to the event. So I bring gloves, a scarf, usually a windbreaker. If it’s going to rain you’ll need an umbrella. Usually I bring two pair of boots, to be able to change them out midweek (I’m usually shopping for 3 or 4 days) to give me feet a break. Mostly boots (though I keep a pair of flip flops in the car for when the weather warms up). I’ve also been to Tucson when the parking lot was so muddy and flooded that you could barely walk through it without boots. I also bring a small travel umbrella. So check the weather before you go and if it looks iffy at all, bring whatever extras you might need.

You WILL be walking a LOT. I have worn a pedometer before, and most recently my Fitbit, and I have logged on some days, 20,000 steps. Usually I’m in the 13,000 to 17,000 range. For many of us, who sit more than we move, your legs and feet (and the previously mentioned neck and shoulders) will be SORE. Bring your ibuprofen, or whatever else you need to manage that if necessary. Be prepared that it’s great fun, but also exhausting. You will get overwhelmed and you’ll stop being able to process everything, and that’s probably when you should stop shopping for the day. Because purchases made when in that state are usually the ones you might regret a bit. Ask me how I know. ;)

Know that there’s the budget, the over-budget, and the “oh my god what have I done”. If you can avoid that last one, great. But it’s not always possible. I have a budget. I usually go over it (slightly). Because there will always be that “once in a lifetime” most amazing gem(s) or price(s) that you just HAVE to take advantage of. So you dig a little deeper and find some extra money (or a little room on your credit card). You’re there, all that yummy goodness is there, and it’s nearly impossible to resist. It happens. Just know that it happens and try to be aware of it when it’s happening.

I usually, every night in my room, go through the day’s purchases and figure out what I’ve taken care of and what I’m still looking for / need to buy. If I don’t do that, I sometimes will overbuy (forgetting that I’ve bought it – or similar – already). I also total up the day’s purchases at night so I know exactly where I’m at for the next day. I keep a guesstimate of what I’ve spent in my head while shopping, but sometimes I’m a little off and it helps to know exactly what I've spent before I start out again.

I have never shipped my purchases home. The cabs and beads (back when I was buying beads) are small and I have been able to tightly pack them into my carry on and just take them with me. I don’t like to ship and I don’t want to pay the extra expense – so I make it work and then I know I have all my items with me. I have, on occasion, been stopped to have my bag manually checked. When that happens, I ask for a private screening. It’s never been a problem to have that done. It’s not like I’m buying diamonds and high value gems, but I still don’t need everyone else in line to see just how much I’ve purchased. I also fly into and out of Phoenix, instead of directly to Tucson, because I have friends there and I stay an extra couple of days in Phoenix before heading home – but I have flown through Tucson in the past and most of the TSA people know that the gem show’s going on and they’re typically very understanding that you might not want everyone to see all your purchases.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

If You're Not Failing, You're Not Trying Hard Enough

Five minutes ago I was in the workroom, nipping and filing some wire to make stacker rings.  Some of my nips were at an angle so I proceeded to file them straight (perpendicular to the piece of wire).

And my mind, in its usual wandering fashion asked, "What if instead of filing the ends of the wire straight up and down, I filed them at an angle?  I'd still be able to solder them together so long as I had two flat surfaces."

And then the other part of my mind responded with, "Yeah, but it's probably not as cool as you think it'd be.  They would most likely just look like you messed up your solder join."

And then the first part gave the response I love: "Maybe, but you don't know until you try."

I love my workshop failures.  They say to me that I am trying.  I'm trying new things, I'm working outside the box, I'm not letting history dictate my work, and I'm eager to innovate.

Both my children played youth hockey and I recall one statement by a coach that really stuck with me.  He said, "If you're not falling down, you're not skating hard enough."  It was a simple and profound message.  If you never fail, you're most likely playing it safe, not pushing yourself hard enough, and "safe" doesn't become best.  "Safe" doesn't create new inventions.  "Safe" isn't a leader.

In my workroom I have drawers and drawers of failed experiments.  These are treasures.  While they're unusable, many were stepping stones to some new technique or some new design element that needed to be worked out, thought through, and practiced.

Without my drawers of failed attempts, I would have no progress.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

My First Jewelry Collection: Part 1

It's true... I've been making jewelry for 15 years and I've never made a collection.

It shows, too.  There is no cohesive look to my shop or display.

My shop...

My gallery display...

Mind you, both of these are WAY better than it used to be, but the bottom line is I like to play, I like to experiment, and I kind of have ADD of jewelry making.  Every time I see a new technique or get a new tool, I want to go off and explore that direction.  I end up with lots of directions and very little focus.

So I decided to put my foot down and actually create my first collection.

I also decided to vlog (video log) the experience, for better or worse... or maybe just to keep me on task.  I'm not yet familiar (in the slightest!) with my new video editing software so bear with me in the beginning please.

This first vlog entry is merely to introduce you to my idea and tell you what my starting point is.  In my next entry, I hope to explore (and show you) some hard core plans for the collection designs.

If you prefer to watch the video directly on YouTube, click here.  And if you feel inclined to leave me a comment or give my video a thumbs up, I just want you to know those are ALWAYS appreciated.  Thanks!

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

My Review of the Black and Decker 15.6V DUSTBUSTER® Hand Vac Model CHV1510

Why a dustbuster review?  As a metalsmith, I find it comes in handy.  Not only do I use it for quick clean ups, I can look in the canister to see if I vacuum up any gemstones by accident.

A dustbuster is, for me, not an entire house vacuum cleaner but rather something for mini vacuuming... spills, a patch of dust bunnies, etc.  I didn't even *care* if my dustbuster held a charge for over a minute.  Trust me, I was finished with whatever I needed to do with it in under 30 seconds. 

But just for the sake of testing (I love research!), I recently started the stopwatch and decided to do continual vacuuming with this until it died. 

Five minutes later, all the crumbs and cat hair were off the floor of two rooms and the thing was still going strong.  I decided to stop there.  There is no earthly reason I need a dustbuster to run for more than five minutes.  [Others may use theirs differently... I'm just telling you that for the reason I got it, it works great.]

My only complaint is that the extension nozzle retracts too easily.  As soon as it touches an object it starts going back into the housing.  IMO, there should be a catch so it stays extended until you purposefully retract it.

Other than that, thumbs up. 

And I leave my dustbuster on the charger 100% of the time except when I'm vacuuming. 

I've had it for about 2-3 years now.

Here is the product on Amazon.  The rating is very bad and had I read those prior to purchasing, I would not have gotten this model.  I'm glad I didn't read those reviews before buying.  It's sad to see so many people having a hard time with it not holding a charge.  Does that mean I got a reverse lemon?

On the other hand, here's a site with a beaming review.

But... on Black and Decker's own website the reviews are terrible.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Kitty Help in the Jewely Making Process

The cats are no longer near my jewelry stuff, but ten years ago was a different story. I was recently sorting through some old photos and was reminded how helpful the fur-babies were.

Here's Ten looking all cute and innocent (notice the awesome ears!).

But not so innocent really, and he'd just finished playing with a necklace and batting half the beads down the heating vent.

Asia is a perfect fit in my bead box... no work until she wakes up.

Can take photos in the mean time.  Jag will help by pulling on the camera strap just as I'm about to press the shutter button.

You know they have to try out every box for size.  Ugh!  It's like me trying to get into jeans... I'll MAKE myself fit, dagnabbit!

"No, you may not take the mail just yet."

"Photo props?  I thought you brought me presents!"

Nothing like a warm kiln on a cold winter's day.

"Wait.  These earrings are out of place.  Let me adjust them for you."

"Yes, it really is comfortable with my face in your bead bowl!"

No computer work until kitty wakes up.

Kitty is awake... and ready for modeling job.  Too bad I need a jewelry model rather than a silly hat model.

"Oh, but your bags of jewelry findings feel SO GOOOOOOOOD!"

At the end of the day, it's just SO exhausting tipping over bead trays, chewing on postage envelopes, and completely disrupting the photo sessions.

Got photos to share!  Add to the comments section.