Beaders are their own breed. They'll spend hours sifting through bins at flea markets, antique shops, and specialty stores to find a few eclectic baubles that might become a pair of funky earrings or could simply end up in a pretty box with other "special" beads, waiting for just the right craft project. If you are a bead freak or aspire to become one, this weekend's International Bead Expo offers 65 workshops on wire working and bead weaving and embroidery, as well as more than 150 vendors from as far as India, China, Tibet, Japan, and Australia with beads, tools, and jewelry-making supplies for amateurs and professionals.
"I'm like a black crow; I like shiny things," says Giesela Happe, director of Bead Expo. "I love gemstones and pearls, glass beads, crystals, and ethnic pieces, like Tibetan beads." Happe's passion started about eighteen years ago, when she would visit flea markets and buy funky beads. "Then I met this hippie girl with dreadlocks and a pregnant dog, who lived in her van," she laughs. The girl (who went by the name Free) stayed with Happe for about six months. "She taught me how to do seed beadwork ... and she'd trade things, like beads for a shower." Happe soon became a bead-shopping fanatic in her town of Santa Fe, New Mexico, and landed a volunteer gig with Bead Expo, which led to a full-time job. Bead Expo is produced by Recursos de Santa Fe, which is a nonprofit organization specializing in educational symposiums and conferences in the arts, sciences, humanities, and letters that concentrate on Southwest culture and history. "We are the oldest bead expo and the only nonprofit show," says Happe.
Highlights from this weekend's bead fest include a "Meet the Instructors Night" Thursday, May 19, from 7:00 to 9:00. For five dollars you can enjoy refreshments as you meet the crafty teachers and see what types of pieces you can create in their workshops. And if you want to learn more about the beads themselves, you can attend "An Introduction to Bohemian Beads," a free lecture and slide show by Karlis Karklins on Friday, May 20, from 7:30 to 8:30 p.m. You are also invited to attend the Society of Bead Researchers general meeting Saturday, May 22, at 7:30 p.m., which is followed by Phila McDaniel's lecture, "Tibetan Nomad Beads and Ornaments," from 8:30 to 9:30.
Once you have a project in mind (or are just ready to shop), head over to the International Bead Bazaar to stock up on beaucoup beads and all the doodads you need to create your own jewelry. Be sure to stop by the Soft Flex Company's (softflexcompany.com) booth for free wirework tips and handy tool demonstrations. Just think, you can spend all summer making cool holiday gifts for your friends.
The 13th International Bead Expo runs Thursday, May 19, through Sunday, May 22, at the Hyatt Regency at the James L. Knight Convention Center, 400 SE 2nd Ave, Miami. The Bead Bazaar hours are 10:00 to 6:00 Friday and Saturday; 10:00 to 5:00 Sunday. Admission is $8 per day or $20 for a three-day pass. Workshops are offered throughout the weekend for $65 to $385. Call 800-732-6881, or visit www.beadexpo.com for a complete schedule.