Tips and Tricks for the Tucson Gem Show

How are all of the things? Life over here has been groovy and full and sometimes tricky and difficult but a whole heck of a lot of good stuff too. So, it’s been pretty normal, am I right?!

Lately I’ve been engaging MUCH MORE with Instagram. And if you follow me over there you probably already know this. I did a fun series in my IG stories where I shared my thoughts and reflections each day on my trip to the Tucson Gem show. That was what really got me started. I discovered I LOVE sharing what’s going on with Tangleweeds and me via this more organic venue.

But that brings me to the point of this blog post! I wanted to share some pics and thoughts about the Tucson Gem Show and overall how it went for me. I know there's many of you out there who are curious about checking it out for themselves, and I say if you want to go you should! And I’m here to help out with a few (hopefully) helpful pointers. 

Overall, it’s an amazing event where you can load up on supplies for all of your jewelry making needs. But there’s also loads of other stuff - lots of businesses and folks selling finished jewelry, whole shows dedicated to just selling rocks and minerals and even dinosaur bones (crazy!), and more. The Tucson Gem Show is actually a conglomeration of many, many smaller shows that are spread out all over the city that come together to create the big event. Some shows last a couple of weeks, some for only a few days, and some run for the entire month of the Tucson Gem Show. 

Without further ado, on to my tips and tricks for attending the Tucson Gem show! This will be a mix of practical suggestions paired with some more personal takes on things.

1. The first thing I’d recommend is to REGISTER ahead of time for the shows you want to attend. This will make for a much more seamless and quick entry to any shows that require registration. It would make for a blog post unto itself if I were to go into all of the details about the various shows, but you can find a list of the shows here

2. Book your lodging well in advance. Whether you’re going to stay at a hotel or Air BnB it, this shows draws many many people from all over the world and a lot of lodging gets booked up well in advance. I’m already considering booking my hotel for next year NOW.

3. There are some things to consider too, if you’re flying or driving in to Tucson. Gems and beads and all that good stuff can get pretty heavy. I know a lot of folks who fly to Tucson and then have the supplies they buy shipped back home. They find it easier and then there’s less worry about something getting stolen, etc. If you’re driving, obviously you don’t have to be as concerned with things like weight. I made a road trip out of it, but I was only coming form the SF bay area. 

4. With the above said, if you decide to fly, you’ll need to consider how you’ll get around the city, because the show is spread out ALL over Tucson. Many shows are grouped very close to each other, but unless all the shows you want to go to are walking distance from your hotel, you’ll probably want another mode of transport. Obviously, you can rent a car. Your other option: the city of Tucson provides a shuttle for gem show attendees. Since I drove I didn’t use the shuttle. I considered it, but given the heavy weight of what I was buying, and the fact I was getting over my back injury, I wanted to have somewhere to set my things down between shows.

5. The previous point naturally leads into this point of mine: If your goal when you go is to see as many shows as possible, and you’re there to buy for your business, you’ll probably be pretty exhausted by day’s end. I found it very helpful to sort of plan out my show schedule before I left for my trip, and then I made adjustments to that schedule as each day went on. Overall I ended up being able to see MORE than I thought I’d have time for. The point of this point: know what your goal is on the trip. Are you simply there to check things out and scout around? Are you seeking out new stones you’ve never seen before? Or are you there to try to buy most of your supplies for there entire year? Having a focus will pay off in dividends when you’re tired at the end of the day and not sure how much oomph you’ve got left in you!

6. Don’t compare your goals to the goals of others you may run into and have conversations with. There are many folks there who are buying for large companies, or for their own bead store. These folks are buying TONS compared to what I was buying. But I’m buying TONS compared to what a new-to-jewelry making hobbyist will probably buy. Know your goals and focus on that.

7. If you’re not too rushed, and you’re open to it, you’ll have many rad conversations with both vendors and fellow buyers alike. I think the tip in this tidbit is simply to engage with the experience and you’ll enjoy your time so much more.

8. And, lastly, relating back to #6: set a buying budget for your trip. This will help to keep you on track and keep you from buying things that aren’t really right for your work. I would add this though: have a back up plan for going over budget, whether that’s a low-interest credit card, or simply some money you can pull out of savings. I know this might sound like  the least sound money advice. . . and it may very well be =). But I offer this advice because if you find something that is so perfect for your work and it’s at a great price, but you weren’t planning on it so you don’t have room in your budget for it so you don’t get it, you’ll despair later. Think of it this way: you’re paying all of these other expenses to go on the trip: lodging, transportation, food, etc - the more you can stock up on supplies the more worth while the trip is!

That’s all for now. I could easily write a whole blog series on this trip and show. Overall I had so much fun. And I’m sure you’re wondering - did I go over budget? And I will say, hell yes I did! But I had a plan (low interest credit card that I’m paying back as quickly as I can) and just knew at the time that it was the right thing to do. The only thing I regretted, upon arriving back home and assessing my loot, were the items I decided not to get even though they were great for my designs.

But there’s always the San Mateo Gem Show to fill in the gaps throughout the year. . . 

P.S. If you want to hear more of my thoughts and see more images and videos from my Tucson Gem Show trip, then head on over to my Instagram and check out my stories highlights titled “Tucson.”

Let's Wabi-Sabi this thing called life

And just like that, my blog got reeeaaaallly quiet this year. 

It’s all the usual reasons, life gets busy and things get prioritized and re-prioritized. I know you all know how it goes. But even when things are busy, my blog is always there in the back of my mind, reminding me that I REALLY like writing over here and that as soon as I can make the time to dive back in, well, I’m diving! So, I’m back =). But not with an exact purpose. Mostly to catch all of you up on the goings-ons with me and Tangleweeds. 

me vending at the annual Whole Earth Festival in Davis (this year)

me vending at the annual Whole Earth Festival in Davis (this year)

The month of May marked two years of living in Vallejo. Those of you who follow along with my blog, may remember this post, Moving Hiatus, when I first announced that I would be moving to Vallejo. Since then, I’ve moved my studio space twice, ultimately settling in with a workshop at home in my garage. I’ve pondered where I see myself settling more permanently in the years to come and have definitely decided that I won’t be staying in Vallejo too much longer. Where exactly I’m headed next will depend on many things, but I’m hoping to find a way to move back to Oakland. 

Downtown Oakland

Downtown Oakland

With the current prices of housing that is a TALL order though, and may or may not work out the way I hope it will. This year I’ve put a lot of energy into really cleaning up my finances and taking a long hard look at how I spend my money. I’m hoping to combine this energy with the momentum I’ve gained with Tangleweeds over the last two years towards a healthier financial life for myself. (If you haven’t picked it up I highly recommend the book Worth It by Amanda Steinberg.)

I’m also open to the possibility of moving away from the bay area too though, and in this way I am simply trying to keep myself open to possibilities that I may not have considered. 

Dolly exploring her newest toy. I adopted this affectionate and loving gal at the very beginning of 2018. 

Dolly exploring her newest toy. I adopted this affectionate and loving gal at the very beginning of 2018. 

This is all to say, that while living in Vallejo has really given me many things I need: a home of my own, a secure place to park my craft fair-loaded car overnight, a workspace at home, a yard and outdoor space for my cats to roam around in (and all of this at a price I can afford) it hasn’t really proven to be the community that I need at this time in my life. I know that many people are very protective of Vallejo, and may object to the way I perceive it. And I can relate. I feel VERY protective of Oakland at times, what with the way the city is portrayed on the news. But what I know matters to me is the simple fact that Vallejo does not feel like the place I’m meant to call home for much longer. 

My workbench in my home studio

My workbench in my home studio

By this time next year I hope to be taking the steps towards moving somewhere that speaks to my heart. 

Sometimes, as I’m working towards making big changes in my life, I’ll consider what a younger me might think of the decisions I’m currently making. And I think a younger me would find a way to move MUCH sooner. Three months of living in a city that doesn’t feel like home would feel like an eternity to a younger me, let alone a year! But a younger me was also much more stubborn and much less willing to see the good that came out of frustrating circumstances. That is all to say, that there is much good that has come out of my time in Vallejo, and there is more good stuff to relish in the year to come. 

One of the HUGE benefits of moving my workspace home has been the fact that this guy wanders in and out of my garage studio pretty much all day long =)

One of the HUGE benefits of moving my workspace home has been the fact that this guy wanders in and out of my garage studio pretty much all day long =)

And in the meantime I intend to start dropping in here more often. I don’t have much of an agenda right now. I’ve written many series for this bog, from my Creative Tenacity posts for fellow creatives to my Listening-Wearing-Making posts to my Handmade Love series where I featured fellow creatives’ work. While all of those series are fun for me to write and were created for one simple reason: these were the things on my mind that I wanted to share with all of you, currently I’m in a more reflective and organic place. Which means, at least for the time being, expect more “wabi-sabi” like posts. A Tangleweeds journal in the truest sense of the word.

Thanks for reading and I hope you all have a wonderful weekend!


Creative Tenacity: Doubt and Her Cousins

Excerpted from Rosanne Cash’s memoir, Composed:

T-Bone Burnet, an old friend, once told Joe Henry, “Don’t stop working, just stop worrying,” advice that Joe passed on to me [Rosanne Cash] that has since become my silent mantra. Now, even when I do worry, I keep working. Work, I remind myself, is redemption.

Let’s talk about doubt - about self-doubt for a moment. 

The truth. I can be terrible about following my own advice: the advice that it’s pretty much no good to anyone to compare yourself and your work and your accomplishments to the creatives around you. 

You see, I am continually inspired and pushed to do more by looking around and seeing the amazing things coming out of the amazing women in this creative world around me here in the SF bay area. And most of the time it gets me revved up and feeling super lucky to say “hey, I know that woman!!” 

But, sometimes it can make me feel like I’m not doing enough. Leaves me wondering when my big break is going to come. Or when it’s all just going to get easier.

The other day I was listening to this bio series about Oprah on KQED. And it was riveting. To hear her talk about her team’s strategy as they worked on maneuvering Oprah from being a sensationalist talk show to one that was about how to live your best life. “You have to keep your eye on what you’re doing. You have to wear blinders. Don’t look at other folks’ ratings. Don’t look at what others are doing and think “I need to do that.” You have to stay in your lane and keep looking ahead, because it’s when you start staring at the other folks, in their lanes that you start to slow down.” (that’s a rough quote of what Oprah said.)

I heard that and I was like “uh, huh! Yes!” So many good ways this can apply to creative entrepreneurs. 

I have my own take on this advice, of course, one that’s a little more inclusive and more involved with the people around me, but I definitely took that advice to heart.

Part of that stew is the fact that I am a woman, and in so many ways programmed to look towards others for advice and validation, to look towards others for the “okay, yes, keep doing what you’re doing” high sign. That way of making decisions can be self-sabotaging though. As you run your handmade business you’re going to need to develop the strength to make many decisions on your own. That will only be harder if you need your decisions validated by others. It may even keep you from making decisions that you need to make, and possibly that you need to make quickly.  

Doubt, self doubt, second guessing yourself, not feeling confident, low self-esteem about the way your business is going, these will all be things you’ll deal with if you decide to turn selling your handmade work into a business. You will not be without these things. And while too much of these feelings will drag you down and keep you form doing the work that needs to be done, an occasional dose of doubt and it’s cousins will help you to keep trying new things and pushing forward with your work. 

You can’t outrun the doubt. It will be there. Even if you manage to grow your business into something that is successful by anyone’s definition of success, the doubt will always come eventually.  

There’s a Rumi quote that I especially like, that I feel is relevant to many of the harder things in life. I think it’s relevant to dealing with your “doubt demons” too:

The wound is the place where the Light enters you.

Basically it’s the difficult stuff in life that’s in someways a gateway or a path to the more transcendent things we reach for and grow towards. I think when I was younger I thought that the point of living “successfully” (whatever the fuck that means!) was that eventually I would wake up everyday fully confident in everything I was doing, that there would be no second-guessing myself, there would be no DOUBTS. I also thought that eventually I would only create work I was 100% happy with and learn to always say exactly what was on my mind in a perfectly clear way that the person I was speaking to would understand. I had a lot of learning to do.

Doubt will be your bedfellow if you venture into this creative business world. She will tag team you at craft fairs, she will sit on your shoulder when you’re creating new designs, and she will sometimes keep you from doing some really stupid things. But if you let her take the reigns too much she will keep you from ever doing the work you truly want to do.

I think self-doubt and believing this story that doubt is telling us (Because it is a story, anyone who has become really good at telling themselves that their work rocks and they are awesome is also telling themselves a story. This is neither good nor bad, simply helpful to remember so we don’t put too much stock in these narratives.) goes hand-in-hand with the rabbit hole that many people fall down into. The wanting to wait until it’s all perfect rabbit hole. This also sometimes sounds like I just want to wait until I’m ready. Ready to launch a new product, or take a business course, or simply to try to start selling one’s work. 

The key to reaching for your dreams is to get comfortable with taking steps towards those dreams even when you don’t feel ready. 

Now, that is going to look different for everyone. Everyone is going to have a different threshold for the amount of uncertainty and unpredictability that they can handle. Some of us thrive on it, others need to parcel it out so as to not go into complete overwhelm. As a personal example: I was (relatively) comfortable with quitting my day job well before my business was making much money. It was profitable, but barely. I had reached a tipping point where I felt like working another job was taking too much time away from my biz. I accepted that money would be tight and that things would be a bit uncomfortable for a while. But I was more willing to accept that than say, continuing to work at the day job while working on my job into the wee hours and losing sleep. We all compromise where and when we can. And you will learn to too. 

I wrote this slightly rambling Creative Tenacity post about doubt because when I reached out to my fellow makers, creative business cohorts and my blog readers, this was resoundingly the topic most of your were interested in. I hope that it helps some of you through what may be a dark period or moment of questioning what you are doing. When you get to that place, just remember that it is not necessarily a sign that you are doing anything wrong and that even the most successful amongst us struggles with doubt regularly! I would say even daily. 

I’m going to leave you readers with these points, in summation of this slightly stream-of-consciousness post about doubt

Get used to feeling a bit uncomfortable, or outside of your comfort zone.

Develop a healthy habit of pursuing things and starting things before you feel 100% ready. Doing the thing or starting the thing will make you ready.

Learn to sit side by side with doubt and her cousins. Accept that doubt will never go away. You will simply learn to live with it. 

Lastly, I wanted to include a short list of resources that I find to be helpful when my doubt demons start to get too loud, or I’m in need of a personal pep-talk of sorts -

Stephanie St Claire

Marie Forleo

Tara Mohr

I also find that talking to a fellow creative when you’re feeling especially low or full of doubt can sometime be the best balm of all. 

Keep pushing and keep making your beautiful work everyone!

Full Circle ~ Things Evolving

This past week seemed to have the theme of "things evolving." From refining my display for craft fairs, to starting down the path to some new designs for Tangleweeds (to come out in the fall), to doing a complete closet overhaul. I think this year has been a period in my life where I've had a desire to refine the things already present, rather than seeking out lots of "newness." This is in part coming out of a place of satisfaction and happiness with much of what I'm doing with myself these days. But it's good to acknowledge when things need to evolve.

The above photos are from the last week, as usual. The couch was simply a couch left on the street in the Piedmont neighborhood of Oakland. I have an affinity for couches left on the street. In my magic-minded self I often wish they could become communal stomping grounds for our neighborhoods. 

And that last photo is my sewing corner at home. I don't sew nearly as much as I used to, but every now and then I do make time for one repair or alteration project or another. There's a dress in that pile that has this awesome cat and bird print that I want to shorten in an attempt to make it a little less marm-ish. Maybe my next project?

I'll be updating my events on the website later today. Most of my events for the rest of the summer will be going up along with the early fall ones. I always love seeing my customers in real life =)

I hope everyone's week is off to a great start!