Back from BeadFest

August 23, 2009

All I can say is "What a weekend!"  I did a few things I did not expect to. Met some very nice people. Found a ton of bargains, collected a bunch of business cards from new suppliers, watched vendors hustle, and ate like I hadn’t  done in a long long time.

First things first: What is this BeadFest? It was a 3-day extravaganza for beaders, originally in Ft. Washington, Pennsylvania. After the convention center closed, it moved to Valley Forge Convention Center, (near the King of Prussia mall). I say "was" because this year, it was 5 days. Yes, 5 days of classes, 3 for shopping. This year, metalsmithing classes were added on Wednesday, other beading and jewelry business seminars started on Thursday. I met several people who came in for the entire week. That is dedication. Three days suited me just fine.

Next: What happens there? Well, there are two tracks: classes and the bazaar. Most of the participants took classes this year. They range from beginner to advanced, covering subjects as varied as metalsmithing 101, torch work(or making glass beads), bead stitching (using needle & thread to connect beads into art/jewelry), jewelry marketing, copyright and trademarks (one of the classes I took), and color theory(the other class I joined).

Don’t discount the bazaar however! At least 60% of the attendees come in for a day or two just to stock up on supplies. Or they tag along with a friend just to get out of the house, and BAM! –they’re hooked. Tax ID numbers were flying. Vendors were telling people "get a tax id–next time I can give you a bigger discount". They never told people that before. Of course stupid me left my tax certificate at HOME in a safe place.  But it’s okay–some vendors already had below wholesale prices so it worked out fine. Two huge floors of  vendors, bead societies, and the sponsors, Interweave Press, Beadalon, Cherry’s Beads, and SoftFlex–they had a $1000 gift box up for a drawing. (Wonder who won?)

I found some amazing artists offering items at such reasonable rates, I couldn’t resist. The good thing was, I found everything on my shopping list first. Yes folks, you have to bring a list, or you will buy stuff you don’t need first.  There were a few overpriced vendors, but they did well too so to each her own.  One of my favorite vendors I had to skip because another vendor just undercut them. I felt bad, but the second vendor’s colors and quantity were just too good.  To attest to the second vendor’s quality: Friday, the first day of the show, at around 5PM, the line for her register snaked back almost to the stairs leading up to the hotel.  We’re talking around 100 people, on line, no complaining, no one put down their tray and gave up. (Beaders stack their purchases in trays) One woman had FOUR 2-foot trays of supplies–she got the wholesale deal, and the owner personally rang up her order.

You see, when we go through and choose colors, sizes, and supplies, it’s a pain to put it down and come back later. The colors may not be available, and the line never stopped anyway, so coming back later would have no advantage.

Next question: What else is there to do besides shop and class? This year was the Moonlight Bead-in. Anyone could come to the ballroom with a project, work on it, and mingle with instructors and other beaders. Cash bar, and light snacks.  It was relaxed and fun.
Another event–and my personal favorite–was the Instructor’s Reception (or Meet the Instructors). It was Friday night–in a ballroom, cash bar, but free lemonade, ice tea and some snacks. (Don’t ever attend on an empty stomach folks) But in the ballroom, the instructors had tables offering kits, finished work, and books. Best of all if you liked the instructor, you could sign up for the class, (if they were teaching Saturday or Sunday). I met two of my favorite artists: Susan Nestor (she puts the art in artsy beads) and Margie Deeb.

It’s so cool to see work up close after only seeing photos in a magazine. It gives a greater appreciation for the time and effort to design, and create beaded art.

I met Margie, and she was so warm, friendly and just plain cool. I ran over the the BeadFest table and said, "Here’s cash, put me in Margie’s class Saturday night." Margie Deeb is the color theory queen. Her book "The Beader’s Guide to Color" was the first book I purchased when I began beading. Still have/use it. The class was so much fun! I finally learned the proper way to read a color wheel, what proportion really means, and met some very nice people. That’s the best way to meet fellow beaders, take a class.

Beading is usually a solitary endeavor. So to be able to meet and bounce ideas around with like minded folks is a benefit.

My other class was "Copyrights and Trademarks". That was helpful, yet the class was very small. Shame, the information on how to copyright, and getting protected is so important. And it’s not expensive at all. One can do it yourself through the Copyright office website.

Whoo!! I did not want to come home. But I’m glad I am because now I get to put theory into practice.

Oh yeah, my other plan was to visit the Valley Forge National Park. Never made it–rained almost whole weekend. Ooops.

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