I'm still processing Jesse Reno's class and (shhhh!) haven't even completely unpacked from my freedom jaunt to Santa Fe and Bead Fest. Color me spring fever.
I had a grand time with Sarah and Betcey and Nikia and many friends, and my class with SLK was well worth the bucks. I came home with cool new supplies (Ice 2-part resin, way too many vintage watch faces, oh yeah, and a few beadz).
And I'm not one to cling to the past. But frankly, the magic is gone. It was a fun show, but it wasn't Bead Expo. I reflected on this with many old friends. The Santa Fe Convention Center is new but still has that old Santa Fe charm, and as always the food was great and the vibe was memorable. But this was not the world bead collector's haven that the old Bead Expo show was. Gone are the lectures on Paleolithic bead knapping and Indonesian beaded baby carriers. Gone are the bead sellers from Afghanistan and Java. This was a corporate America bead show.
Nothing illustrated this more, IMHO, than when I was sitting in my bead class and in walked the touring Aspire board members-slash-investors. Here we are in a room full of women -- and I suspect Interweave's readers are 99.9 percent women -- and here comes the all-male board.
Don't get me wrong, I don't expect a 50/50 split. And I remain very loyal and supportive to the company that's published a couple dozen of my articles over the last several years. And I pretty much adore the (all-female as far as I can tell) staff of Beadwork. But don't you think Clay could have scrounged up a woman banker somewhere? It struck me as odd. These guys wouldn't know felt from freezer paper, or a bead from a sequin for that matter.
And I couldn't help but notice (and hear from a bunch of vendors) that the booths were 2 feet narrower than the standard show layout. I don't know whether the facility was smaller or they were trying to squeeze in an extra row, but both the CC and the Hilton were butt to butt booths. When people were waiting in line at Beyond Beadery, where I worked on Saturday, and others were browsing the outside rack at Hands of the Hills next door, there literally was not room to walk between them to get to the end of the aisle. The Hilton, where most of the individual artisans were located, was a bizarre space. You had to walk a mile from the front door to get to the 2 rooms of vendors. Awkward.
Having emphasized the negatives... I did have a great time, way too much fun in fact. I power shopped at Ben Eagle's, splurged at April Melody's, haggled with Wild Things, and grazed through Pema Imports. I loved helping people find matching beads at Betcey's, and met wonderful artisans from all over the planet. The weather was beautiful, and I'm happy the show is back in Santa Fe. The poetry reading was a great idea, but I was way too wiped out by Saturday evening to attend.
Next year I hope they leave a little more room for people. I also hope they make it more of a community event -- and by that I mean, invite the local guilds to have booths in the lobby. There were busloads of beaders from Albuquerque, and volunteers from the New Mexico Bead Society. It would have been prime time for them to recruit new members, who will become serious shoppers before long. And how about supporting a local charity (hint hint, I could suggest one or two)? What if Softflex sold raffle tickets instead of the free drawing, and gave the money -- or better yet, jewelry making supplies -- to a Santa Fe shelter? What if beaders brought a can of food to next year's poetry event? How about a juried show of local lampworking talent? Or demos and talks by some of Santa Fe's fine Native American bead artists such as Teri Greeves and Jerry Ingram?
I just have this sneakin' suspicion if Bead Fest wants to find a home in Santa Fe, their long term rewards -- monetary and otherwise -- just might come from putting down roots in the community and thinking seriously about what makes the City Different and the Land Enchanted.
[EDITED TO ADD: Carol's comment reminded me that another thing I dream of seeing is for a bead show to promote the local bead businesses. Those businesses sell magazines and grow new beaders. And those struggling brick and mortars often take a big hit when a big show comes to town. But there are ways to promote each other and benefit...]