Monday, November 22, 2010

Your First Tucson Gem Show? Lessons From My First....


Every year about this time I like to go backwards...this is from the first Tucson Gem Show I attended ....you never forget your first! The enthusiasm is palpable - there is nothing like the first time!

2007 Tucson Gem Show :

I want to put this info down on paper...first for me because I want to remember every minute of this amazing trip, and second because I think that it may inspired some people who are sitting on the fence when it comes to making the decision to take the trip!

Let me dispel some of the misconceptions I had...
1. The Tucson Gem Show is this giant show with tons of booths...not quite...the Tucson Gem Show is actually 46 separate shows and each individual show can house 50 to 500 vendors.

2. After reading the Show Guide and seeing where the shows were located, I figured I would need a car...don't do it...I probably spent a total of $150 on taxis (you would eliminate this cost totally if you stayed at a hotel near one of the venues). Tucson is undergoing a 5 year freeway renovation project and the traffic is a pain, aside from the fact that finding parking near most of the venues is very tough. The city of Tucson provided (FREE) a system of shuttles that went to the various shows, so if your hotel was near one of the shows - you had free transportation from 8am to 7pm every day.

3. You have to have a business license and re-sale number (one show actually required letters of reference from companies you've purchased from in the past) to get into (and buy) at most of the shows...as a student this was a huge fear for me as I no longer have a business. Most of the shows will admit Students without question, some want a student ID. The majority of the venues offered "Visitor" passes and you can buy from most of the vendors.
The vendors that are "Wholesale Only" or required a "Minimum Purchase", display that info prominently.

4. You can get amazing prices that will beat the LBS and your Bulk Buying Groups...True and False! If you are going to Tucson as a designer of one-of-a-kind pieces, while prices will definitely beat your LBS, you aren't likely to get any great deals. If you have a beading supply business and can afford to purchase multiples, most vendors will offer deals by the gram, kilogram, or pound. You need to do your homework - most of the vendors deal in millimeters, centimeters, grams or kilograms, know your weights and measures, nothing says amateur like messing up a weight. One way to get your bearings is say an item is priced per carat...get the vendor to weigh out and price a medium size of the stone you are looking at so you will have an idea what you can find in your price range. At the bead vendors watch them weigh out a kilogram of beads for someone (most will let you mix and match and one vendor gave a $100 in free beads to anyone with business ID)...it will give you an idea of whether this is a deal or not.

5. Looks Matter - you know, the more I dressed down the easier it was to talk to some of the vendors...there are shows that I feel that "business attire" is necessary(the AGTA, GJX & GLDA Shows in particular). But the bottom line on the dress code is "business casual" - if you are like me, you are going to do alot more walking than you have done in a while (and it is continuous day after day), so the most important piece of wardrobe is your shoes!!!
I think the easiest way to do this is by venue...so, come on everyone here we go!


AGTA at the Tucson Convention Center:

This is probably the most high-end and popular show...it will truly leave you breathless. Most of the people I talked to didn't go into this show because they felt it was just faceted stones and diamonds...while that is a big portion of the show it also included beads and pearls (a shape I didn't find anywhere else) and due to the larger market presence and budget of the companies represented, this show is key to learning trends and directions in fashion. When you go into the main Gem Hall and see a strand of emerald beads you have an example of what AAA Grade Emerald Beads should look like. While they may be way out of our price range it gives you an ideal for shopping at some of the other venues.

Trends I noticed at AGTA:

Cuprian Tourmaline: no matter how controversial this stone is, it is beautiful and it is everywhere! In the "Paraiba" color and a range of new colors (I am especially fond of the strong, almost neon quality of the violet) from Africa.

Micro-Beads: these tiny (most are 3-5mm) little smooth or faceted rondelles are HUGE...most vendors are carrying them...but buyer beware the quality varies from vendor to vendor and from strand to strand. These are being shown in Emerald, Ruby, Sapphire, Mixed Corundum (Ruby, with Blue and Yellow Sapphire), Emerald with Mixed Corundum and Diamonds (all colors, blue, champagne, yellow, cognac, milky white and clear white).

Diamonds: not only in the micro-beads but also really cool looks using natural rough diamond crystals. These came in a variety of styles and looks from 1ct crystals caged in 18kt gold to nugget beads chained together - Rosary style!

Pearls: I must say that pearls were in abundance with strands of every color, shape (crosses, biwa, mabe', keshi, coin, potato, rice, button, even faceted) and size (micro 3mm to 12-16mm). Several vendors are showing the keshi pearls in new shapes...some have the ruffled lettuce-edge, some shaped more like leaves, side-drilled, center-drilled...I guess I'm saying if you like keshi - it is still big. I really felt I had probably seen every shape when I saw something that was really unique. One vendor (I didn't see them anywhere else and I am kicking my self for not picking up a strand) had really beautiful champagne pearls that were a nice round pearl (approx. 9-10mm) with just a little of that "keshi" lettuce edge coming off one side, they really were beautiful...ah well!

OK let's do a quick tour of the AGTA Show at the Convention Center:

After checking in (which BTW I would suggest you do before going to Tucson - most shows allow you to pre-register) you walk down a hall filled with photographic displays and individual booths manned by all of the various trade organizations that support the Jewelry Industry (both in the US and Internationally) and all the major schools and testing laboratories are also represented.

The first major Hall was the "Designer Pavilion" housing work by people you have only seen in the pages of glossy fashion & society magazines along with the 2007 AGTA Spectrum Award Winners (AGTA Spectrum Awards is an annual natural colored gemstone & cultured pearl jewelry design competition.). You can see the winners here:http://www.agta.org/consumer/spectrum/2007winners.htm

Next you visit the Main Gem Hall - literally aisle after aisle (17 rows back to back) of some of the most spectacular gems I have ever seen...most humans will never in their lives see gems of this quality! There was also a small display of some of the museum-grade gems that have been donated to GIA's private collection and small grouping of items from the traveling exhibit from the Smithsonian Institution.

Gem Hall II housed the new "Colored Diamond" area and very interesting and surprisingly affordable "Estate Jewelry" area all along side several rows of Metals, Findings and Tools vendors. Tucked in the corner of this room was a surprise that I wasn't aware of MJSA was offering a series of seminars called "At The Bench..." each subject was different but in total gave a great representation of the industry. For a list of seminars see:http://www.agta.org/consumer/tradeshows/gfseminars.htm

"At The Bench..." Seminars:
I don't know about you, but when I go to hear someone speak to me about a topic I research the speakers background so that I am sure that they know the topic they are speaking on. So I thought I would provide that info for you. The two sessions I was able to fit in follow:


Tips and Tricks for Working with a Flex-shaft
GemHall II, 10:30 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
Karen Christians, Metalwerx.
Discover how to get the most out of your flex-shaft, from selecting the right system to using the latest accessories and attachments. Based on the "Orchid in Print" book, Making the Most of your Flex-Shaft, published by MJSA Press.

About The Speaker (excerpt from her website): Karen Christians earned her BFA in Metals at the Massachusetts College of Art in 1997. In 1998 she started Metalwerx with her friend, Jennifer Bowie. In 2002, she began to run Metalwerx solo, while her partner began the contemporary craft gallery, Picklepot Studio in Salem, MA. Currently, Karen is the Executive Director of Metalwerx.

Karen teaches workshops throughout the US, is very active in www.ganoksin.com, and recently has authored the book, "Making the Most of Your Flex-shaft".

The Presentation: Karen's presentation had a major problem in that her demo materials never made it to Tucson. I have included part of her post to the Orchid Forum.

"I would also like to thank MJSA for hosting my talk at AGTA on the Flex-shaft. Although my demo materials decided to take a little holiday in Wilmington, CT., I was forched "wing" my talk, relying on a Power Point presentation which included slides I shot for an upcoming article. It was the best talk I have ever given, finding my voice and passion and connecting to a standing room only audience. I remembered at that time, why I love to do what I do, and how I can relay my passion of teaching to others. I think the success from that lecture set the tone for the days to come."

Excerpt from [ORCHID] 2007 Tucson Report by Karen Christians - Metalwerx -http://www.metalwerx.com/ http://www.ganoksin.com/orchid/archive/200702/msg00177.htm

This was indeed a "standing room only" presentation. First there where handouts...a really well written article abput working with your Flex-Shaft. Karen did a short presentation and presented several new 3M polishing products and the best way to use them (in her words they all like to come to the party - stack your polishing wheels for a better polish). She also introduced a new nasal filtration product she worked on called Better Breathers see:http://betterbreathers.com/

Then she opened the floor for questions and discussion...and there were lots. She announced her Demos at the Rio Grande Catalog In Motion and invited everyone to come over to get an autographed copy of her book.


How to Price Your Work
GemHall II, 10:30 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
Michael David Sturlin, Designer.
Pricing is a key factor in ensuring you can profit from your work. Michael will present an in-depth examination of pricing strategies and how to develop a formula tailored to fit your own specific situation.

About the Speaker (excerpt from the Revere Academy website): Michael David Sturlin is an award-winning designer, goldsmith, and master marketer. His aggressive public relations strategy resulted in Michael’s work appearing in many magazines including AJM, JCK, Lapidary Journal, Modern Jeweler and Professional Jeweler. Michael teaches Marketing. For more info and to see Mr. Sturlin's work, visit http://michaeldavidsturlin.com orhttp://www.goldcrochet.com

The Presentation: Mr. Sturlin gave an extremely detailed program on pricing your work, this is just a small portion of a 6 hour seminar he teaches at the Revere Academy of Jewelry Arts in San Francisco, CA.

Two things really stuck with me from this program. First, was his take on determining your wages. To paraphrase he basically said that you should look at what it would cost to have any trained or certified trade (ie. plumber, electrician) provide services to you...your salary should be large enough that you can afford to hire a plumber without it threatening to break you!

The second thing was his suggestion for keeping track of the time it takes to complete a project. By using a stop watch on your workbench you can punch it to start your project and then as things come up in your day (someone at the door, a customer, the kids) you stop the clock, restarting it when you return and pickup where you left off. This gives you a more realistic idea of the time it takes for a specific project.

He gave detailed info on which parts of your business should go under which headings and the means to simplify the headers into an equation that works for each individual artist.

For those who might be interested I have enclosed info on the class Mr. Sturlin teaches for The Revere Academy of Jewelry Arts:

Marketing Designer Jewelry - 6 hours 9 am - 5 pm $165 + $15 kit This class offers priceless information for jewelry designers, craftspeople, artists, manufacturers and entrepreneurs as well as those entering the field. Topics include product development, image, pricing, advertising, press releases, copyrights, trade shows, sales reps, consignment, credit, competitions, crafts fairs, photography, display, security, catalogues and more. Bring examples of your work and promotional materials for discussion. Instructor: Alan Revere or Michael David Sturlin http://www.revereacademy.com/courses/classdescriptions.html
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