My body aches. My feet hurt from standing up on concrete upwards of 10 hours a day for three days.
But it was worth it.
I just got done exhibiting at the International Gem and Jewelry Show, a huge bead and jewelry show that travels the US and provides hyperventilation-worthy moments of beady goodness to jewelry and beading fans alike.
Most people who make the same sort of jewelry I do look at me like I'm a little touched in the head when they hear about me doing this show. After all, where jewelry is concerned, there's basically two different types at Intergem -- cheap imported stuff (think $5 and under), or very expensive set-in-gold gemstones, like diamonds, sapphires, etc. The in-between, there's not much of. Artisan jewelry, virtually nil. And the place is overrun with beaders, both hobbyist and professional and everything in between, dashing about buying beads, beads, beads.
Many of my friends warned me against doing this show. It's super expensive, for one. I'm used to paying anywhere from $250-$550 for a booth at a good juried show, which many already consider high. This show, the real estate is $1450. Oh yeah. You read that right. Obviously, it's not the same kind of show as a craft show, is extremely competitive, and I wouldn't start doing a bunch of them. But done strategically, they can be surprisingly lucrative.
I already had one Intergem under my belt (Baltimore, Spring 2007) , so I sort of knew what to expect, and knew what to put out. It was very gratifying to see people walking by and the SCREEECH on the brakes when something caught their eye and they had to walk back to take a closer look. That was cool. It helped that my booth looked NOTHING like any of the hundreds of other booths -- I stood out and was easy to find again.
Of course, I did get quite a lot of jewelry designers stop by the table, asking how I made this, that, and the other thing, where did I get my supplies, etc, etc.
Now, there are Some People who get really offended and downright testy when asked those questions -- after all, we as the Artist/Crafter are being asked to explain how to Do What We Do, and Doing What We Do is often what puts food on our tables and pays the mortgage. We've spent countless hours researching suppliers, experimenting with techniques, screwing things up, FINALLY getting it just right -- and then someone comes by our table, picks up that lovingly created item, looks at it, tosses it down, and says, "I can get that at Walmart for a buck".
Oh, the humanity.
Now while I've never, ever had anyone say they could get my jewelry at Walmart, I HAVE had many people ask me "where did you get those beads/where do you get your clasps/how do you do this-or-that". This show, even more so, because by its very nature, there were hundreds more beaders there than at a craft show.
So, I told them!
Here's my logic.
Certain techniques are public domain. Chain maille, for instance, has been around hundreds of years. LOTS of years. If someone asked how to get started with it, I helped them out. I don't hold a patent on how to make a Byzantine chain.
Some techniques were created by very generous, giving people who created classes and tutorials and offered them to the masses and said, "Go now and Create." Two people immediately come to mind -- Eni Oken and Stephanie Sersich. I've been fortunate to know both ladies and learn from them both, and anytime I make something using their technique, I make sure people know who taught me. I don't know how many times this weekend I wrote down their web site info for people. They'll visit their site and see amazing jewelry, hopefully buy a tutorial, and they STILL might buy jewelry from me, or Eni, or Stephanie -- especially when they realize that it's really not all that easy! Besides, every artist puts her own spirit into her piece, which is one of th reasons why I collect and wear other people's jewelry. For instance, I own a bracelet of Eni's, and I'm saving up for one of Stephanie's necklaces.
As for sharing suppliers -- for the most part, a quick Google search will get you anything you want to know. I do have a few that I keep to myself, but even they aren't impossible to find. If I can encourage a new jewelry designer, great. Not everyone who sets out to make jewelry is going to go the many, many miles it takes to turn it into a full-time business. There is SO much more to it than making pretty things -- that's actually the easy part! So sharing techniques and suppliers is nothing, really. Why be nasty about it? Good Karma makes for happiness all around!