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


Match Your Socks To Your Pants, Not Your Shoes

Words of wisdom from unlikely sources, Vol.II.

Went clothes shopping with my husband the other day – which was a cause for celebration in unto itself. In all the years we’ve been married, I’d say I shopped solo for about 99.9% of the clothes he wears. But he needed a new sport jacket, so I convinced him to shop with me.

Purple Lampwork OOAK Pendant with Sterling Silver Star

(Shopping in Mark’s language means you go into one store, try on maybe 3 jackets and buy one.) But for some reason, he actually allowed the salesman to bring over “accompaniments” that would go well with the jacket. He ended up buying pants, shirts, ties, a belt and even some socks. I was very proud of him.

But, as a card-carrying digressor, I must get back to the point of the story. While I was waiting for Mark to get his jacket marked up by the tailor (note to self: why don’t they have tailors in women’s stores?????), I was admiring the socks the salesman had brought over. But I was puzzled by the color choice. According to him, you are supposed to match the sock color to the color of your pants. Because the ankle/foot is part of the leg.

Now, I don’t claim to be a fashionista, but I always thought most men matched their sock color to their shoe color. Simply put, my fashion world was rocked.

I paused to consider what other misconceptions I’ve been carrying around with me, and how could I use this news to improve the jewelry I make? (Everything eventually comes back to the jewelry.)

And here’s what I decided: just because something has been done a certain way, doesn’t make it the only way to do it…or even the best way to do it.

Zebra Striped Lampwork Bead Sterling Silver Bracelet

Black & White Zebra Striped Bracelet With Stunning Blue Crystal Beads

Take wire wraps. Most experts think that a cabochon should be wrapped in precisely measured, cut and wrapped wire bundles. Certain wires are pulled at certain points to “lock in” the cab. It’s a very time-consuming, everything-needs-to-be-done-just-so type of process. And, certainly, while this can look very nice, it’s also very formal and fussy looking for my tastes. So I am experimenting with my own types of wire wraps. (hint: use the cheapest wire possible when you are experimenting. A lot ends of going in the trash.)

Bottom line? Don’t be afraid to change things up a bit. Break out of your comfort zone. Not everything you do will be a winner…but you just may end up with something really unique and very cool.

As for me, I may not wear any socks with my shoes.


Things I learned from the guy who punches your receipt at BJs and why all craftspeople should take note

(If you don’t have a BJ’s warehouse, substitute Cosco or Sam’s Club. I’m sure the same receipt-punch procedures are followed at all of them.)

I was exiting the store a few months ago, and the receipt-punch guy (who  normally doesn’t  make much more conversation than “have a good one!!”) noted that I had a bag of sweet potato fries in my cart. “You know what goes great with them?” he asked. Too stunned that real words actually came out of his mouth, I just shook my head in the negative. “A little garlic salt and a lot of fresh dill.”

Aegean Blue Seaglass Lampwork Bead Pendant with WOW Charm

Wow. Imagine that. Getting gourmet cooking tips from the receipt-punch guy. I was stunned. And after I thanked him, hurried home to try out what he suggested.

Double wow. Those fries were AWESOME! (I am now a fresh dill-a-holic. Adding it wherever I can.)

Now, no doubt those fries would have been just fine without the fresh dill. (I usually added garlic salt, so that was no biggie.) But with the dill? Took them to a whole ‘nother level.

Which got me to thinking…could I apply that same idea to my jewelry-making? And, it turns out, the answer is yes. All it takes to go from “good” to “great” is one small thing you add, or change. Now the “thing” is probably different for everyone and everything you work on. But the IDEA is the same. When you think you’re done, take a step back and think about what you can add, or change, to make YOUR item different and better than everyone else’s. Make it stand out from the crowd. And often, it’s just something little that’s enough to make it “sing!”

Too often, I think we get into a rut, making the same thing over and over again. We need to break out of the “sameness” by adding a little fresh dill to the mix.

The other thing I got from the receipt-puncher? Open yourself up to advice from unexpected sources. Imagine how much you can learn!


• Frozen sweet potato fries

• Olive oil spray

• Garlic Salt

• Fresh dill, chopped

Place potatoes on single layer on baking sheet. Spray with olive oil, sprinkle lightly with garlic salt. Top with plenty of fresh dill. Cook as directed.  Enjoy!

Gearing Up For Beadfest….literally

Woodland Magic Wire Wrapped Bracelet by fat dog beads

Beadfest is hard to explain if you’ve never experienced it. It’s (primarily) countless numbers of women descending upon 180+ vendors selling beads, bead making supplies, bead making tools, etc. It is overwhelming, to say the least. And exciting. And, it can be very, very expensive if you give into the urge to snatch up every pretty, shiny thing you see. (speaking from experience here.)

But Beadfest is also about the learning. They offer a great variety of classes in everything from wire wrapping to beading to metal smithing and more. There are classes for beginners…and for those with more experience. Each class requires certain materials to bring to class.

Some of the materials are ones you probably already have – such as different pliers, or hammers or bench blocks. Others are specific to the class, and may be ones you haven’t purchased yet.

The first year I took a class, I purchased everything that was on the list. And never used at least a third of them. Since the class, I have used some of these. But others – stuck in an odds and ends tool bin I have, most likely never to see the light of day.

This year, I’ve signed up for two classes. One is an all-day class on cabochon pendants. The tool list was pretty basic. I had all the necessary tools for the class….except one. An automatic wire twister.

I confess to bring a wire twister virgin. Never twisted it manually, let alone automatically. So I went online to find out more. I discovered that an automatic wire twister is actually a type of cordless screw driver…but with a different sort of tip (that of course had to be purchased separately.) A lot of these were pretty pricey. And, while I will pay for something if I know I will use it, i have my doubts about how much wire I am actually going to twist. I was absolutely stressing out about this. (Would I be the only one WITHOUT a wire twister? And what of the manual wire twisters?)

The one online store (yes – amazingly, only one) that carried an affordably price automatic wire twister was out of stock. Oh no! What now?

I emailed the Beadfest people and they put me in touch with the instructor who told me not to worry. She had extra wire twisters and I could use hers.

Whew! Crisis avoided. (For the moment….)

But being prepared for classes is just part of the story if you’re heading out to Beadfest.

If you plan on visiting the exhibition hall ( hello? isn’t that why you’re going????), you need a whole different set of “equipment.” First – you need a list of what items you DEFINITELY want/need to purchase. As with any type of shopping, know your prices. Not everything is a bargain.

If you have a tax ID number, bring it with. Best to make up some business card-sized papers with the number on it, or write it on your own business cards to hand to the vendors.

Bring some sort of bag/suitcase/duffel on wheels. Yea, I know. How dorky does that look? But when you are lugging around a gadzillion pounds of tools for previously-mentioned classes, that bag-on-wheels will be a godsend.

Bring some cash, and one credit card in a small purse or wristlet. No need to carry around your usual 10 lbs of stuff.

If you usually work in a certain gauge of wire, bring a small piece with you to test on various beads. (Can I tell you how many beads I have bought that WOULDN’T fit on my 16 gauge wire?)

Bring lots of business cards. And most of all, bring your enthusiasm! Beadfest is most of all, about something you love. Enjoy.