Friday, February 23, 2018

A Love Letter to the Tucson Gem Show (Sort of)

Before I headed to Tucson for this year's gem buying trip, I kept getting asked, "Are you SO excited to go?"

I was. And...I wasn't. 

A little background: "The Tucson Gem Show" is actually 40-plus shows, all situated in different locations in Tucson, Arizona. The "show" runs over two weeks; some shows are open for the whole two weeks, some are open for one week, some are open for ten get the point. Every year, in advance of the next year's show, I sit down and look at the dates of each show I want to attend (and I usually hit at least six, sometimes eight, over a three or four day span). For some shows I want to be there for the opening day, for some I don't care about what day they open, but I need to know their duration so I can plan the shopping accordingly (and hopefully efficiently). And every year the schedule seems just a *little* different. 

Beautiful Hubei Turquoise cabochons

So I get the schedule set, and then it's time to look at airfare, car rental, and lodging. Because while there are shuttle buses to get you from one show to another (with varying degrees of success), there's no bus to get you from where you're staying, to the show, or back at the end of the day. There might be Uber, now, but with the huge influx of people coming into Tucson for the show, Uber likely would have long waits, and of course...surge pricing. So honestly a rental is just easier.

Once that's all settled, I start planning what I'm going to be looking for. Notice that I didn't say *buying*, because you can't always plan for what you're going to buy.

Part of the frustration (and sometimes its charm) of Tucson is that you don't find the same things from year to year. Or at the same price. Or from the same place. It's a little like throwing spaghetti at the wall and hoping some of it sticks. ;) 

So I go through my gems, looking at what I might need for the year. Do the Sabi necklaces need more organically shaped gems? And which gems? What colors? Do the squiggles need small but eye-catching gems? I make lists and then I take photos of what I have and note what I want to try and find. I print out the photos and those go with me so that I have a very visual reference to keep me on track with my buying. Because it is so very, very easy to get distracted...or carried away, and overspend. And while buying sheet metal and wire isn't as "sexy" as gem buying, I still need to do that, or the lovelies I find can't become jewelry! 

So that's the pre-planning. And then once you arrive, there's the EVENT. For me, a four- or five-day extravaganza of seeing all these gorgeous gems, alternating with rising anxiety if I can't find what I need, or can't find it for the right price, and have to stop (though you never really "stop" at Tucson, you just process mentally while you're walking from booth to booth) to reconfigure and be open to making changes on the fly. Because there are no "do-overs" at the gem show. You're there and then you wait another year. That can be a little stressful. 

Beautiful, deep purple charoite

It's from 10-6 every day, for me that's usually four days, and you are shopping, yes...but you are also working. Then you get in your car and drive to the next show, looking for parking, hoping you have enough water and food, where are you going to grab lunch if you don't, how much turquoise did I really just buy and do I need any more, should I have gotten that delicious chrysocolla I saw, even though I told myself I have enough right now and don't need it for this year, what else is on the list for the next show, do I have enough cash still...and then when it's six o'clock and it's all over for the day, you head back to your lodging and collapse a little. For me, usually with a cold white wine. And then, if you're me, you sit down and organize for the next day. You make notes about what you bought and what you still need, cross of the list anything that you are NOT ALLOWED TO LOOK AT, NOT EVEN FOR A MOMENT, NO MATTER HOW PRETTY IT IS because you just bought it yesterday...

and then, if scheduling permits, you might grab dinner with a good friend whom you don't see often enough. You do this even though you're wiped out, because those times are special, and you don't know when the next time might be. Otherwise you crash. The next day you get up and do it all over again. While you're trying to be diligent about not catching what is known as the Tucson Crud. It's very, very easy to get sick, either at the gem show or once you get home and your system isn't all adrenaline-amped. Thousands and thousands of people, on planes, at restaurants, handling the gems and breathing, moving, touching,'s a huge petri dish. Hand wipes are critical. As is a good immune system, if you're fortunate enough to have one. :)

So when people ask me, "Are you excited?" Yes...I am. And I'm not. But mostly yes. Because really, when I get home and I open up all the packages and I sort all the pretties and I start laying out gems for designing, it's worth it. It's ALWAYS worth it. But I'm also really happy that I don't have to do it all again until the next year. :)

Stay tuned for more delicious photos of beautiful gems! I've shared some on Instagram and Facebook, but I will be sharing more here as time permits. I'm also full speed ahead on a whole new collection, as some of you know, and will be posting about those designs as well in the near future.

Be well and be happy!


Monday, January 8, 2018

A Little Back Glancing

As 2018 opens, I'm feeling reflective. I have a lot of new ideas waiting to be born, and though it's good to have the work table and sketch books feeling bountiful, I also believe in looking back occasionally, because I think that what we create manifests so often from who we are. And who we are is that glorious composite of our roots, our experiences, our history.

There have been so many changes, since I began making and selling jewelry. That was way back in the early 1990s, when I discovered beads and wire. Good thing, too, because the nineties were mostly minimalist and I am many things, but one term "no one ever" would use to describe me is "minmalist".

About as "minimalist" as I got during the decade. Purchased from Nordstrom in the mid- to late-nineties. One of the few non-silver items I own. but it was *that* blue that (literally) sold me. 

So the beads, with their wonderfully diverse colors and shapes, and textures, were my go-to when the clothing of the decade was mostly stripped, of both color and embellishment. Blacks, grays, and neutrals ruled the clothing racks. Jewelry was tiny, delicate, nearly invisible. Y necklaces ruled, for some time. Chokers were a "thing". But overall, jewelry itself was not a thing. Except for me. Colorful bead strands and bangle bracelets and silver rings, where I could find them. Silver was finally overtaking years of gold being the dominant metal!

The kind of thing I made myself during those minimalist years. A Y necklace, yes. But tiny and subtle? Not on your life. :) 

But minimalist or not, beads or cabochons, the one thing that has always informed my own choices (and in everything, not just in adornment) is color. I can't remember a time when I was not drawn to rich, saturated, exuberant color! Why live in monochrome when the whole world is bursting with luscious violet, sumptuous teal, bold and make-your-heart-beat-faster red! 

Of course, I find that the love of sumptuous color informs my designs consistently throughout the years. What used to be in the form of beads, now appears in the gorgeous cabochons it's my pleasure to play with and design around. I don't know if it's partly from growing up in the Southwest, where the sunsets are absolutely amazing color blazes, or the turquoise and coral and lapis and other gems that I regularly saw in Native American work and elsewhere, but whatever it is, it's in my soul. 

Irresistible turquoise (Kingman, AZ) that just lights up my days. 

And I think it's always been there. I can remember as far back as fifth grade, when I would have been nine. My best friend and I got the same hoodie sweater for Christmas. Mine was white, while hers was red. A beautiful, deep, audacious red. And I remember wishing that mine was that color, too. Red just seemed so much more exciting than white! And it still does. :) 

Hoping this year finds you at peace and with many great and colorful adventures ahead! 

All the best,

Friday, July 28, 2017

Tucson 2017 - Montana Agate

Ahem. A bit late with this one; apparently I completely forgot this posting regarding some of my gem show goodies....but here's the Montana. :)

I've not always been a Montana agate lover. Much - so much - of what I see just looks junky to me. Dark splotches across an unevenly clouded surface, with no interesting presentation. For years, I avoided it - with very few exceptions - entirely. But in the last couple of years, some really amazing Montana agates have started to show up (or I've just started to notice them), and I'm finding myself a little captivated.

See that above? It's nice. It's just not exciting (to me).And that's my typical attitude toward this gem. So for years they've just not registered. And then...I don't know, suddenly I had something in my hand, and thought, "What is THIS?". That was about two years ago, and it's all been snowballing from there. 

There were these sweet teardrops, which reminded me a little of my beloved dendritic opals, except these are like water scenes instead of winter scenes (and in fact, the process (mineral inclusions being deposited into cracks and crevices in the stone) is very similar. Except somehow seeming even more delicate and ethereal. 

I didn't buy many; there were quite a few to be had, but again...most of them didn't appeal to me. Too dark, too clunky looking, too clouded over. But I did find about ten or so, to start playing with, seeing how they work with my designs. 

They may not appeal to me on a broad scale, but they're here for now. And we'll just see what happens. ;)

This (bottom gem) was actually one of the first Montana agates I ever purchased. It's exquisitely cut and has golden rutiles in amazing, amazing gem I held on to for several years. Finally last year this dark chocolate-y druzy came into my possession and they were meant to be together. It sold last year to a lovely woman and I am thrilled that once I finally put it into a design, it went to a very good home. :)