Shows – Suzanne Tate

27 11 2007

I think it is very hard for an Australian beadmaker to get their head around the concept of a Bead show, the way they are held n the US.  We just don’t have the population to support something so specific on such a big scale.  It was an absolute eye opener for me to see the bead bazaar at the ISGB Gathering in August. I imagine it is still quite different from the regular shows that are on across the country, but it was an absolutely amazing experience to see a huge exhibition hall filled with artisan beadmakers selling their art. If I wasn’t forced to narrow my focus throughout the day, by selling at various booths, I think my head would have imploded – there was just so much amazing art to see and fondle, and amazing people to meet and share with.

The first actual ‘bead shows’ started in Australia about 3 years ago.  The Bead and Gem show.  I went to the first one in Melbourne, at Flemingtom racecourse, and was quite disappointed. Crowded overheated exhibition space, and a majority of gemstones and imported beads, with a handful of glass artists. But what a great opportunity, to finally meat several Australian beadmakers I had talked to online, some from as far field as Perth.  I started my real bead collection that day, purchasing a beautiful Chevron bead from Anne of Glass Manifesto in WA. The shows were planned for all the major capital cities the next year, although several had to be cancelled due to expected low numbers. But the Sydney Bead and Gem show has turned into a large successful event, and even attracted overseas beadmakers this year, with Larry Brickman running a class.  Perhaps I will try and make the trip to Sydney next year, as I still have my doubts that the Melbourne show will live up to it. Although, I am very casually considering whether I should be aiming for a booth there next year. But they are very expensive, more than I currently make selling beads over a year, in my hobbyist status, and quite frankly, I think I’d rather put that money to a return trip to the USA for another Gathering.  But it is tempting, to get my name out there with Australian jewellery designers, as currently most of my customers are from the US.

For me personally, a ‘show’ has a very different meaning.  Every year I attend the Australian Blacksmiths convention as the only glass artist.  I demonstrate to the public all day, and sell beads and jewellery.  I love the opportunity to educate the public about what I do and to see a crowd of onlookers get so fascinated in the process.  That is when I am ‘on show’ as a beadmaker. We often have a radio or TV reporter drop in, and every year the Blacksmith’s Association make a DVD of the event.

In Australia, there are not a lot of venues for selling your beads.  Online, weekend craft markets, and tourist galleries are really the only options. I got started mainly selling to friends and colleagues, and it grew from there.  Now online venues are my market place, and I wonder how much time and money I should invest in the ‘real world’ – will a booth at the Melbourne Bead and Gem show recoup my expenses …and can I make enough stock to warrant it?  But it can only be good for beadmaking in Australia, that there is a growing movement towards bead shows, which in turn will educate and inspire the buying public to consider Australian made artisan beads.

Suzanne

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One response

30 11 2007
joolzbylisa

Great article Suz!

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