What’s Tucson got to do with beading? It’s where every February, over 55,000 people shop with over 3,000 vendors of beads, stones, tools, jewelry and related items. Other countries hold similar shows and advertise them as “The Tucson of [insert city or country name here.]” Tucson is THE place for everyone who’s serious about this business to shop.

Well, that happened last February so why am I writing about it now? For starters, I didn’t have a blog back then and I really wanted to communicate the gem show experience to our customers. Also, I learned SO much that I am still applying the new information to events and projects around the shop.

Getting there: I personally love to fly, and always look forward to layover time as a great excuse to do some beading or read a good book. I was using frequent flyer miles and was very limited when scheduling my flights and as a result had plenty of stops and layovers. No complaints here because I just see that as plenty of time to work on beading projects!

Staying in Tucson has been wonderful these past 4 years as I am so glad to have good friends to stay with. They are not only perfect hosts, but great fun as well and I look forward to seeing them every year. I’ve heard many different reports on hotel accommodations, from great deals to high prices during gem show. Some vendors with large staffs attending will rent a house and share it.

Getting around is easy with a rental car and a good map. Parking is plentiful at many centralized lots, and taking a shuttle from those lots is sometimes the only way you can visit some of the venues. In one case I was able to find parking right at the front door of a venue, then one of the vendors there gave me directions on how to walk through the alley to get to two more! My little rolling bag squawked at the rough terrain, so I left that in the car in favor of a shoulder bag.

If you go…plan ahead of time so you can get the flights you want, and a convenient hotel room. Bring comfortable shoes, a bag on wheels, a shoulder bag, and cash. Many merchants take credit cards, but many do not. If you plan on attending wholesale shows, register ahead of time, and bring plenty of resale tax ID documents along. Prepare for any weather – some years I have gone it has been cold and rainy and sometimes hot and dry. And, sometimes it’s been both on the same trip!

Beading while traveling: Seed bead weaving projects are wonderful travel companions. The tools needed are minimal, it doesn’t take up much space, and the TSA hasn’t declared beading needles a deadly weapon yet.

Here’s a simple project to take along on your next trip: Beaded Beads. Using two colors of size 11 Delicas, string a base row 16 beads long in this order: 4 color A, 8 color B, 4 color A. Work flat peyote stitch for a total of 10 rows, keeping the same color pattern. Zip together into a tube and secure thread ends. Repeat often, changing the colors as you make each bead. String these together with 4mm glass beads in between them for a bracelet, or necklace depending on how many beads you made (these make great stretchy bracelets!). One of our Delica Starter kits would be great for this – it includes 8 colors of color coordinated beads, two needles and thread. Pack that, plus stretchy cord, 4mm glass beads, small scissors, work surface and conditioner into a small pouch or box and you’re good to go!

beaded beads
Coming soon: Tucson 2009, Part 2, which venues to shop at?