In Tucson, Ariz., the past week, the sun was shining, the birds were chirping, and the beads were glinting as more than 500 artisans, manufacturers, and others gathered to show off their stuff at To Bead True Blue. I had the great privilege to attend the show this year (for the first time!) on behalf of AllFreeJewelryMaking and was blown away by the breadth and abundance of exhibitions the show had to offer. From artisans and designers displaying their hand-crafted creations to manufacturers and distributors demonstrating the latest products on the jewelry-making scene, there was much to take in at To Bead True Blue.
I had only two days to try to cover as much ground as possible at the show, but I could have easily spent an entire week surveying the shiny spectacle of all the beads and baubles on display at To Bead True Blue as well as The Tucson Bead Show and all the other various gem shows going on across the city. If you are a lover of beads, jewelry, gemstones, and all things sparkly, you truly must put To Bead True Blue on your bucket list.
First off, I had to make sure I checked out what was new at the Alacarte Clasps & WireLace booth where the talented Linda Hartung was demonstrating her latest brainchild, WireLuxe. A luxury, metallic knit wire product, WireLuxe is at once structured and soft, making it light and comfortable to wear, but also sturdy enough to hold its shape and allow embellishment. I was so impressed by the way it could bend to form elegant, undulating designs as well as provide a sturdy foundation for beadwork and other components.
Another of my favorite exhibits was Starman, where the very accommodating Jennifer Schroeder showed me their latest bead products. One of the biggest trends and hottest new items I noticed while at To Bead True Blue were two-hole beads. These seemed to be the “big new thing,” and when I visited the Starman booth, I could see why. Their cleverly named CzechMates are a two-hole bead system that allows for more dynamic, dimensional beadwork than is possible with your typical single-hole beads. Available in Tiles, Bricks, Lentils, and Daggers, these beads are all designed to be used together seamlessly, and I was in awe at some of the structural, layered beadwork pieces they had on display. (I was also a big fan of the new mini Rose Petal bead, a daintier version of an old favorite!)
There were also some notable new tools I got to see in action (and even try for myself!) to help you put all those beads and goodies you accumulated at the show to good use. At The BeadSmith booth, the big new item on display was the exclusive Ricks Beading Loom. If you’ve ever seen loomwork done before, you’ll know that the number of loose strings you’re left with on the end can be a bit…confusing. Well the patented Ricks Beading Loom eliminates all that stringy mess and leaves you with just two simple strings to work with. I tried it out for myself, and it couldn’t have been easier to use. It definitely makes loom beading accessible to beginners.
Another favorite was the Easy Knotter which I got to see in action at the Designs by Reenie booth. I know from experience, making knotted bead necklaces as not as easy as it seems, which is why Reenie Oliveto came up with this nifty little tool to make knotting a piece of cake. The Easy Knotter helps you keep a tight knot while also allowing you to keep uniform spacing in your design.
I also got a quick demo of the Xuron Brand Micro-Shear Flush Cutters in The Beadin’ Path booth which make a nice clean, close cut and even retain the clipped wire end. And for all your bedazzling needs, the Crystal Katana by Kelly DeFries of Crystal Ninja is a hot new little tool that picks up rhinestones, and even beads, completely effortlessly, avoiding the trouble of having them stick to your fingers.
Other hot trends at this year’s To Bead True Blue? Spike beads were everywhere, and were one of my favorite new trends. These cone-shaped beads make for elegantly edgy bracelets, cuffs, and other accessories, and hopefully AllFreeJewelryMaking can find some patterns utilizing these new beads soon! Miyuki was debuting its new Long Drop Beads and “Luminous Color” seed beads; the elongated version of the seed bead seems to be a popular trend right now, and neon colors have finally hit the beading world!
I’ve hardly scratched the surface of this gem of a show with the products and trends I’ve highlighted here, but there was so much to do and see, I couldn’t possibly touch on it all! I ran into people from all over the country (and even from other parts of the world) at this show, so if this is any indication of the size and influence of To Bead True Blue, I expect next year to be even bigger and better, and I definitely won’t be missing it!