Bad Blogger Chronicles: 4 Frenetic Days Spent at BeadFest Philly Spring

I overindulged again at Beadfest Philly. Too  many classes. Too much money spent on impulse buys. Too  much information for my little brain to process. And yet, there’s a smile on my face…my worktable is overflowing with lovely new shiny beads and stones. Have to clean out my tool drawer to make room for newcomers. And I am already starting to think about what classes I want to take in August.


• Really, really liked all four instructors. All very talented crafts(wo)men. All wonderfully patient and freely sharing jewelry making tips and favorite places to get great tools, supplies at great prices. Had only taken a previous class from one instructor – so the others were new. Would certainly recommend them and/or take another class from them in the future.

• Vendor area was smaller than in August – and it was easier to re-trace my steps to find the same vendor again if I wanted more of something, or had questions. (note to self: when you buy any sort of gemstone, bead, etc. make sure you write down WHAT it is. Had to go back to two booths the day after I bought some stuff because I couldn’t remember what kind of stone it was. No way I’d remember months from now when I go to pick it up and actually make something with it.)

Gorgeous - but pricey - Quartz Briolettes

Gorgeous - but pricey - Quartz Briolettes

• Saw more chairs on the floor this year. And there was a package check (which I didn’t need to use, since my stuff was in a classroom most days). Both good ideas. Lots of older folks walking around. Chairs were helpful.

• Beadfest organizers actually provided some snacks/water to some of the classrooms. Very nice touch And very welcome.

• The people – whether in class, or on the floor, everyone I met was friendly and helpful.


• Once again (actually – happened twice) – I was in such a hurry to clean up my work areas and leave at the end of class, I left things there. First time, I actually threw out the two pairs of earrings I had made. Luckily, I had the instructor’s cell number. Was able to get her to pull the trash so it wouldn’t be emptied, and I planned on going through it the next day. Lucky for me, one of her very kind assistants went through and found my earrings (YAY!).

Second time – we were making a bracelet with about 7 pieces plus jump rings. Placed all the pieces in the liver of sulfur solution. Pulled them out and started cleaning them. Tossed them in a plastic bag to finish at home, and realized later (much later) that I left two pieces there.

In both cases however, I was able to recreate what I learned in class. So even if earrings hadn’t been found…it would be okay. (Bracelet pieces – they’re gone.) So let’s chalk this experience up to lack of concentration and focus on my part. (When will I ever learn???)

• Four classes in four days is too much. Two of the classes were all day – from 8 am to 4:30 pm. I was glassy-eyed by the end. It was information overload.

• One class was a disappointment only because I already knew at least 3/4’s of what was being taught.  (Note to self: read the course description better next time). I take these courses to learn new techniques, play with new tools, learn better ways to do things.

• I am too easily distracted by shiny things. Need to get better control over my impulse buying.


• Biggest indulgence: a Freitz hammer. It is sooooooooo sexy (yeah. if you have one, you know what I mean.) This is NOT the hammer that will be used to bang in a loose board on my IKEA bureau. I may end up looking at this hammer more than using it.

• Most expensive purchase: I bought a sterling silver handmade bracelet from my instructor – Kim St. Jean.  It is just friggin’ gorgeous!

Kim St. Jean Bracelet Watch

Kim St. Jean Bracelet Watch

• Most questionable purchase: (after the Freitz hammer) – very high quality blue, sea foam and pink quartz briolettes. The crystal ones I found sparkle almost as much for a lot less.

• What I didn’t buy and I wish I did: gorgeous handmade, hand-dyed silk ribbons. I didn’t buy because of the cost. Could buy a sterling silver chain for what the ribbons cost. Hard to justify the cost if I planned on selling the finished project.


• Lots of men walking around at the show. Most with a female companion (not all looked happy to be there). And one man in one of my classes. Not saying men can’t make jewelry. Just surprised to see them in class. (My husband says that is discriminatory.)

• Too many of the same vendors – and was really surprised by the number who didn’t have websites.

• Buy more Swarovski crystals. I have sooooooo many. But oh! how they shimmer and shine at that Mega-Gems (Mega-Jewels?) booth.

Swarovski Crystals

Swarovski Crystals

• Start looking at the August list of classes. Can’t believe I’m about to sign up to do all over again.


It’s commmmmmiiiiing! Bead Fest Philly arrives next week

Hard to believe it’s been 4 months since the last Bead Fest (though technically that was called Bead Fest Wire and was a bit smaller.) And yes, I signed up for more classes and and going to be “oohing” and “ahhing” my way into spending another small fortune on the 300+ trade booths that will be there.

seaglass blues pendant by fatdogbeads

Sea Glass Blues Pendant by fat dog beads

Interestingly, while the show usually takes place over a weekend (Fri-Sun), this year’s event includes extra workshops on Wednesday and Thursday as well.)


• Classes are good. Learning new things is good. 3 or 4 hour classes – very good. All day 8+ hour classes – not so good. (at least for me….definite attention span deficit here.)

• Don’t be so quick to buy all the tools and extras they sell in the class. Take a deep breath and WALK AWAY FROM THE SALES TABLE. If you recall last Bead Fest, I took a class in Soldering. Loved it. Bought a whole friggin’ mess of soldering stuff that I have yet to take out the of bag. Lugged that darn heavy firebrick all over the sales floor with me. And though it sounds way cool to say , “Yeah, I have my own mini torch for soldering,” it would be way cooler to say, “I know how to use it.”

• Take notes. You really WON’T remember all the little tips the instructor gives out.

• It’s okay to take the same type of class again with a different instructor. (Back to the Soldering stuff again. Figured taking another basic-type class would maybe motivate me to actually take the stuff I bought out of the bag and use it.

• Know your prices. You know how people tell you that not everything you’ll find at an outlet mall is a good deal? They’re right. And that goes for bead shows as well. I am easily amused by shiny objects. I need to pause before I purchase.

• Bead fest this year is having a package check (for a small fee, they say.) I am all about that! But having someone hold your packages does not give you free rein to buy even more stuff. (That’s a note to ME.)

Classes I’m Taking:

• sculpting with Art Glass – not really sure what this is, but looked interesting and is being taught by Paula Radke a renown artisan. I do know there’s something about learning how to fire pieces in a microwave kiln, so that looked new and different

• Omega Bail Wire Wrapped Pendant – always looking for new ways to wrap a stone. This is a 3-hour class. (Yay!)

• Bezel Boot Camp – this is the all day class, but I’m really looking forward to it. Another basic-soldering class (which I desperately need) and learning more about flux and pickle (more to come on them later…. though I do think that would be a great rock band name….)

Anyway, rounding up the required items to bring to class over the next few days. Checking debit card balance. Resisting the urge to buy more beads before the show starts….and I’m OFF!

Watch for Beadfest Philly Part II coming soon!

grape ice and lavender wire wrapped bracelet

Grape Ice and Lavender Wire Wrapped Sterling Silver Bracelet

BeadFest Wire/Philly – Day One, Class One

I came. I flamed. I soldered (a sterling silver circle bracelet with some pretty funky looking circles. But of course, I like it!) See photo.)

Silver Soldered (Sort Of) Circle Bracelet

My First Attempt At Soldering

And no human, animal or object got harmed in the making of this bracelet.

Mind you, this is the very first time I have ever held, let alone used, a hand torch. It was fun. Really! You’ve got to admit it’s the cutest little thing! So cute that I think I will have to name it.  (It is wrong to name your hand tools like you would your pet?)

BeadFest, for those who aren’t familiar with it, is 3 or 4 day event held in various parts of the country featuring anything and everything that has to do with beads and jewelry making. At the heart of it all is a grand exhibition hall boasting almost 200 vendor booths.

First Torch Used For Soldering SIlver

The Cutest Little Hand Torch Ever

But BeadFest is also about the classes. People (95% women, IMHO) come from all over the country to take classes in wire work, metalsmithing, bead work and weaving and more. In my class of 12 today, there were women from North Carolina, New Jersey, New York, Ohio and Florida.

Some of the women were staying the entire four days. I was doing some of the math in my head – and realized what a pricey couple of days that is. First, there’s the cost of travelling. Add in hotel and food costs. Classes run from about $135  up to $235. Some are four hour courses, others are all day (8:30 – 4:30).

Note to self: bring bottled water and some p-butter crackers for tomorrow’s all day class in case there is no break.

A few posts back, I listed a few things you should bring with you if you’re coming to BeadFest. One was a wheeled case. Guess who didn’t get to Whole Foods in time to purchase her wheeled bag?

Uh-huh. That would be me. When I started out this morning, I brought all the required tools in a nice, roomy shoulder-type carry bag. Plus, I had a small pocketbook with me. All was good until I actually got to the registration table and realized the classes were “way over there” in another building connected to the exhibit hall.

Note to self: consider a GPS next time. Or at least, ask someone SOONER where the friggin’ room is.

While I got to the convention center with time to spare, I was the last one to enter the classroom as the class was about to start. Why? Because I walked around in circles trying to find the right room.

The Valley Forge t Center is not just one building, but three that are connected by a long series of windy hallways and stairways that lead who-knows-where. The three buildings are: the actual convention center/exhibit space…The Radisson hotel with its meeting rooms and banquet spaces…and Scanticon.

Please – send me an email ASAP if you know what a Scanticon is. I sure don’t. Or why SOME of the meeting rooms are lettered/numbered, and others are names of Philadelphia area towns and/or historic figures. There is no rhyme or reason for what they are named and where they are located.

Good Thing To Know: while walking past the Guest Registration at the Radisson (at least twice) I discovered they have a free help-yourself coffee service.

Note to self: do not take coffee if they are out of lids. (Yes, sad to report, there was spillage involved.)

As started above, though shoulder bag was a tad heavy, I was managing UNTIL I got the “kit” I purchased from the teacher (Thanks Kieu!) felt like a ton of bricks (actually only one – a beautiful new fire brick to call my own). So there I was after class schlepping my new soldering kit –  fire brick  included – and my filled-with-tools shoulder bag and my little pocketbook.

Note to self: go into hall closet and find the wheeled carry-on bag.

Good thing the exhibits don’t start until tomorrow. I wouldn’t have made it past the first booth without collapsing.  Anyway, not bad for day one. Tomorrow: an all-day class in wire-wrapping cabochons.

(Think they’d mind if I bought my little personal torch with me?)