Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Bead Fest nee Expo...

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...]


  1. Mary, I hope you sent this to the Interwaeve folks. I think they do want Sanra Fe to be the best show... I do Portland Beadfest and know some of the folks from Tucson and I think they are trying.. they need to hear your very excellent feedback. I am making my decision right now as to whether to be in next year.s show so it does matter what you experienced. Thanks, Joan T

  2. Well, I live no where near there. But let me tell you, the show you are describing is not only a vender event but a patron draw. They are definitely missing the boat. You should make a pitch to the powers that be. You said it all so elequently.

    The mood is right in this country to promote a helping hand. How often have we heard OBAMA say that. If not a $1 for a raffle ticket, a can of food.

    Our unemployment rate is high here. Obama brought us to national attention. Food and $$ poured into our pantries from all over the WORLD. Huckabee jumped on the bandwagon and brought his show here.

    These promoters are missing the boat on what will make a show more enjoyable and attendable. It shouldn't just be about selling beads. It should be more about promoting the ART .

  3. Joan -- I think you should come. Selfishly, so I can meet you LOL!

    And Carol, no I haven't sent it but I might.

    And I forgot to say that another thing that would be good neighborly is to promote local bead stores (who sell the Interweave magazines and grow new beaders).

  4. Please, please send this to The Powers That Be!
    I think that "we" (as a society) are moving into a "village" mentality, and the show you're descriobing is one that would benefit not just Santa Fe, but would be a model for other promoters to follow..and LA would be all over that!
    (And let's not slide into bead never know what kind of heart beats under a suit.) ;-p

  5. Mary I don't live near so I could attend this event, but you comments are so true to what is happening. I stopped going to bead show in Ohio as I've noticed that the booths are smaller, and no local bead stores are attending. Like you pointed out, you do need to get the community involved if you want people to come to the show &/or participate. My friend runs a doll makers conference (Artistic Figures in Cloth) here in Columbus. She has a huge doll display & invites the public to attend with a small contribution for this & the vendors with ALL proceeds going to our local Hospice chapter.


  6. Thank You Mary... the first year I could go was the year it didn't happen. I passed this year with the fear that it wouldn't be the Bead Expo but another totally commercial venue. Please pass your well thought out comments on to Interweave.

  7. Hey all, I don't mean to say it was a bad experience or the event people were evil meanies -- the Interweave staff was *very* friendly and outgoing. But yes, it was a more commercial show and the magic of the "old days" is gone. I'd like to see more magic come back. But as I waited on customers for Mark & Betcey, I noticed how happy everyone was to have the show back in Santa Fe. Parking is a breeze now with the underground parking lots, too.

  8. Mary, I would come to Santa Fe as a vendor if you would come and hang out at our booth and share stories to pass the time.Fun...

    new blog:http://www.awildpatience.blogspot,com

    Joan T

  9. I've only been to one Bead Expo in Sante Fe, and it was back when it was still a Recoursos/Peter Francis event. Bead Expo was a unique bead show, in part because of the gorgeous setting (what was the name of that amazing old hotel that hosted it? The main one?) but because of the focus. It had an awesome vendor/market, but the big thing was the classes and lectures. Something about the event and the venue really conveyed a sense of community and a collective passion for beads.

    I love bead shopping as much as the next gal, but the hyper-commercial environment of most bead shows really turns me off (and gawd, how many shows are there now? can you say "oversaturation"?).

    I think Interweave is awesome, but I was really sad when they took this event over, because I was afraid of exactly what you've just described :(

    I know you had a great time, and got to reconnect with wonderful people, and that piece is fabulous ... however, I agree that it would be really nice if this one show could stay true to its original spirit, and focus on the bead COMMUNITY rather than the bead INDUSTRY.


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