-There is something special about Tucson. Something not so tangible. More conceptual. It's a place to find your truth. Find your courage. Find your you.
As I'm writing this I still cannot believe that I made it to Tucson, Arizona for the Tucson Gem & Mineral Show. This has been a dream of mine for so long! I thought I'd share a little bit of what it all looked like. My goal was to squeeze as much as I could into two days of shows since I would be spending one full day at a beading retreat.
We arrived in Phoenix, Arizona late in the night and drove the final leg to Tucson. The first thing that captured my attention on the drive was the amazing show of stars in the dark desert sky. They would have been nice on their own but I was lucky to witness a beautiful shooting star that made my day! Even though we were exhausted it was a great start to our trip and I took it as a good omen of things to come. We stayed at a really cool little place called Hotel McCoy. It's a 60's motel that was given new life as an art hotel. It a really cool spot with local artwork adorning almost every wall.
With over 40 gem and bead shows it was really difficult to choose a starting point, but I knew I wanted to go to the African Market and at 125 or so vendors it was a "small" market by Tucson standards so we decided to start there. It did not disappoint! Everyone was so friendly and happy to answer any questions. You could find everything from hand dyed fabric, woven baskets, carvings, clothing, pure shea butter, tons of beads and paintings too. I picked up some beautiful beads from Ghana including recycled glass, brass, glass trade beads, a small woven bowl and even a few strands of ancient Roman glass. There was a really neat vendor with antique locks, hand carved wooden stamps, and a large carved wooden door on display.
We ended up stopping at a gem show we randomly spotted and saw some really cool things. Giant quartz points, an Amethyst table and a huge carved stone bench. One of my favorite finds at this show was a huge tent filled with freshwater pearls. They had everything from $2 strands right up to $2,000 strands! We passed by a turquoise dealer that was set up inside a glassed in, air conditioned "tent". It was like a luxury mobile boutique filled with glass cases of turquoise beads and cabochons. I didn't go in because I could tell it was very high end but there were a few people inside browsing. Proof that there is something for every budget (or lack of budget) in Tucson. Word of advice, the budget goes out of the window.
We headed to the Casino Del Sol to take in a huge bead show with hopes of heading to Saguaro National Park afterward for a sunset view of the cacti. With all that time spent shopping I needed a boost from nature. The casino was only a short drive away from the park and although the clouds did not cooperate with the sunset we still enjoyed the beautiful cacti lining the roads and hills. I definitely recommend visiting if you ever have the chance.
The highlight of my trip was my day spent with the talented and fun Candie Cooper at her annual Tucson Retreat. I first started following Candie during evacuation in May of 2016 and it was an incredibly hard time in my life where I felt like I may never make another thing again. Watching her live videos kept me going and provided so much inspiration, proof that you never know who you are inspiring! I met so many nice people that day and made friends with fellow Canes, as they call themselves. We painted, stamped, anodized metal, worked with wire and I came away with beautiful new jewelry and a gorgeous swag bag filled with goodies. It was truly a dream come true!
The final day was spent at another huge show trying to get the final things on my list of must haves. You really can't imagine the size of these shows until you are there. I knew they were big but in person its crazy! Endless rows of gemstone beads, pearls, Czech glass, Native American Turquoise, wood beads and cabochon stones. As much as I loved to see all of the beautiful beads and gems it was really about the people and hearing from the artist themselves about why their beads are so special. Its always the history and story that captures me.
After shipping two boxes of goodies home I still came away with an overweight suitcase and carry on bag! This trip was a jam packed whirlwind that I'll never forget. The only problem is that now I need to go every year! I hope you enjoyed hearing a bit about our trip and I look forward to showing you what I create with all the new treasures I picked up.