Why You Should Be Going To Bead Shows.

9:00 AM

Why you should be going to bead shows.

In my case and I can't speak for everybody, my hobby – beading, stringing – was a solitary affair for a good number of years. I didn't spend a lot of time in bead shops or surrounding myself with like minded people. I typically found what I needed at Hobby Lobby or WalMart. I had a set of beginner tools and beginner wire and designed for myself. Given the material I was working with or my experience at the time, I found my designs were prone to breaking and falling apart rather frequently.

I was an outsider for a number of years. I did not know there were much better places to buy my tools and wire. I did not know how easy it was to find a bead store and I had no idea how many bead shows crisscrossed this country. And I never had a clue how many people shared my love for beading.

That was then.

Today, I am working on nearly a decade of being on the road and seeing hundreds, perhaps thousands at this point, of wonderful bead shows and getting the chance to visit bead shops around the country. My hobby is no longer something I do solo. And I am surrounded by people much smarter than me, offering advice and tips.

I love local bead stores, they are the anchor for our community. Bead stores keep our community together, but there is something to be said about a bead show. Bead shows are a convergence of vendors and customers from all over the country – or world, depending on how large the show is. Shows are truly a gathering of various and dissimilar talents meeting under one roof.

Walking around a show, especially a slightly slower show, a beader has the opportunity to converse with other interested beaders. I have networked with many people I would never have met had I not been away from home and in a strange town with a bunch of strangers with a similar passion for jewelry. And beads become an instant conversation opener. I have left shows with many easy friends after chatting about our favorite gemstones and designing techniques.

Shows, larger ones, anyway, typically offer classes. Lots of them. Featuring instructors that are published or well heeled on the beading circuit. Shows also offer opportunities to meet members of local bead guilds and posters on forums you may frequent. They are always a good place to schedule meet-ups with people you would never otherwise have the opportunity to meet in real life.

Bead shows are a wonderful place to find deals. If you spend more than a few moments with a vendor, admiring their work and complementing them, it isn't hard to work a discount up – they may even offer one just because a pleasant conversation is always a welcome break. If you need to buy in volume, a great way to make the most of your money is to shop with a friend. The more you and your friends spend at a booth – the more likely it is that the vendor is going to start offering discounts on your purchase.

Shows are a great place to see the inventory of online shops. Nobody likes to buy something sight unseen. We try to bring a lot of items that are typically available on our website to the larger shows. We often have gemstones and newer products out that we do not offer online – yet.

About ten years ago, bead shows were at the peak of their attendance. Tucson was such a crowded city  for gem and bead shows that it was almost impossible to find a hotel room anywhere in town if you had not made the reservations years prior. Over the years, the economy has slipped and stumbled. A lot of the larger shows have lost some attendance and moved to smaller venues. There has also been a disappointing number of bead shops and glass artists that have had to close up and look for work elsewhere. Bead shows need support. Unless there is a massive turn around in the economy, it isn't hard seeing a near future where bead shows are a thing of the past.

Support your local bead stores. Support bead shows. This hobby is a thousand fold better when there is a large and mixed crowd of enthusiasts. If you are interested in attending a bead show, but have kept putting it off, there is no better time than now to plan a vacation and visit a show. There are tons of forums for meet-ups or hotel sharing if you cannot foot the bill by yourself. If you cannot make it to a distant bead show, keep your eye and ears open – there are often local shows that might not be huge, but it is still a great place to support the artists you love.

If you have any questions about bead shows, feel free to contact me.

Blog contributor Thomas Soles is the Trade Show Coordinator for Soft Flex Company. His favorite stones are Lapis and Pietersite. His favorite hobby is day dreaming. And his favorite mustache is Tom Selleck's. As you can see, he has a healthy (or possibly unhealthy) sense of humor. You can write to him at

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3 fabulous thoughts ...

  1. I've worked at Shipwreck Beads for quite a long time and I am a little ashamed to admit, I have never gone to ANY bead shows. Ever. It is definitely a goal of mine for the next year. I love jewelry design and want to learn everything I can. This is such an informative post. Thank you so much for sharing!

  2. Great post, Thomas! I loved reading your point of view and seeing all the wonderful things shows have to offer bead enthusiasts.

  3. Thanks, Kristen!

    Kelsy, thanks for the kind words. You should definitely try to find a show to visit. Bead and Button and Tucson are fantastic if you want to visit a big show. But there are heaps of smaller shows that are just as fun. I have been to some good shows in the Pacific Northwest, probably not far from where you are - check one out. Your first show is bound to be a little dizzying, there is so much to see it can be hard to take everything in. It is a fun way to spend the day for sure.


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