Bead and Button Show: May 31 - June 7, 2009

by by Tom Triplett, Content Development Manager, Exclusively for Fire Mountain Gems and Beads®

The Bead and Button show is one of the biggest and most anticipated beading events in the country. Each year for one week in June Milwaukee, Wisconsin becomes Bead Central. The show is hosted by Kalmbach Publishing, and is named after their flagship magazine, ''Bead and Button'' and has become the Mecca for beading and jewelry making classes. The schedule of classes included basic beading, wire working, lampworking, metal working and much more. Metal clay seemed to be the HOT topic of the show this year. Instructors for these classes are always notable jewelry artists, eager to pass on their valuable expertise of the subject matter as well as personal tips to help you be the best jewelry-maker you can be.

During the second half of the week, around 200 vendors from all over the world arrived to set up booths for the retail portion of the show. A giant room in Milwaukee's convention center was converted into a beaders' marketplace. Rows and rows of booths were formed with vendors selling everything from original lampworked beads, components, fine gemstone and pearl strands, to findings and tools. This event is where you will find what's new and cutting edge in jewelry art.

Many of these vendors are the actual artists who have made a business out of selling their own creations. It was a lot of fun talking with the lampwork artists as they enthusiastically shared stories about how each piece of art was made. They also loved sharing information and their insights to those who were interested. For example, many of the beads have multicolored designs such as flowers or mushrooms that seemed to float inside the beads and pendants. Another example was the glass spheres encasing complex and mesmerizing vortex designs that when viewed directly through the center, looked endless. There are also artists making very high-quality cane beads. The thing I personally love about cane beads is that many of them remind me of Christmas candy and fond memories of my own childhood.

Other artists were showing wonderful finished jewelry creations from earring and necklace sets, to bracelets and rings. This was a great venue to see what is new and HOT, especially in beaded jewelry. We saw many necklaces and bracelets made with a variety of large beads, surprisingly many made from acrylic or resin. These beads are being widely used now because of the better production quality that is being seen, and, since they are extremely lightweight, they are perfect for the big and chunky style. We also saw natural amber and jet beads that offer lightweight quality.

Bead Dreams Contest Pieces

A team of six Fire Mountain Gems and Beads' employees accompanied Chris Freedman, co-owner with Stuart Freedman, to the retail show. Clad in FMG logo shirts we made our way through the rows of artists speaking with everyone that we could. Many of the artists and vendors were also Fire Mountain Gems and Beads customers. What a great opportunity for us to talk face-to-face with the people who use our products, and actually see those products in finished works of art. It was the perfect environment to get as much feedback as we could about how Fire Mountain Gems is doing as a provider to our customers. We encourage any comments that will help us to better serve our customers. We were all very gratified to know how many people's lives we touch every day in very positive ways.

Proofing and working during our unexpected 12-hour delay at the Denver airport.

The Fire Mountain Gems and Beads' team was very excited to have our own ''Ask the Experts'' host Tammy Honaman with us at the event. Tammy is very well known and respected in the bead world, and she introduced the rest of us to many of the vendors and artists she has built relationships with over the years. She is a jewelry artist in her own right, and hosts the ''Ask the Experts'' department of our website. If you have questions about beading, and you can't find an answer, please submit your questions to Ask the Experts on our website. Tammy and the rest of the Ask the Experts team will do the research and publish the answer on the web.

Friday evening, June 5th, an event called the ''Flame On'' took place. About 25 glass workers gathered around large folding tables and started to make one-of-a-kind glass artwork pieces. We were all amazed to see beautiful works of art being created from colorful glass rods and oxygen torches. For three hours they blew air into the melted glass to form beautiful beads, vases and statues right before our eyes. The really great thing about this event was that all of these new pieces were donated for a silent auction to be held the next evening. Proceeds from the auction went entirely to benefit breast cancer research.

Saturday night, Bead and Button magazine held a social event that was open to all of the attendees of the show. This was a really nice way to take a break from the classes, shopping and networking that filled our days. Everyone was talking and having cake and coffee, and some were even working to finish up their beading class projects. There was also one very notable character helping with the festivities. She was 12-foot tall Carmen Banana, complete with a banana head piece and ruffled blouse and bloomers. Out of costume, Carmen Banana is known as Donna Penoyer, an expert in metal clay jewelry design and one of this year's featured Bead and Button instructors. She helped show the items that were being auctioned off, as well as made balloon hats and animals for the audience. This was a wonderful way to wind down the week.

We also participated in the annual Bead Artists Against Breast Cancer auction at the bead social. We bid on (and won) three Bead-It-Forward Beaded Quilts to display in our front lobby, adding to the collection of seven 2007 quilts. The beaded quilts are also featured in the online Gallery of Designs, showcasing the individual artists who donated one-inch squares to the project.

Carmen Banana (aka Donna Penoyer)

My balloon hat and matching sword

The trip was a truly memorable and moving experience for the Fire Mountain team. We believe it made us all grateful to work for a company that has such a positive reputation in the industry, and to be a part of keeping up the good name.

Customer Comments

We would like to share some of the customer comments we received in response to the article "Bead and Button Show 2009" as featured in an email newsletter. Please keep in mind that the comments expressed below are those of our customers and do not reflect the views of Fire Mountain Gems and Beads.

''Your description of the Bead and Button Show made me sorry I haven't ever been. Now I know I will try very hard to get there next year.

Hoping to see you there,''
- Nancy

''Thank you for giving us an update on the Bead and Button Show! For those of us who couldn't make it to the show, it was good to get a first-hand view of events and also the latest new trends out there! I have learned so much from you all. Thank you!! ''
- Donita

"Hi, Tom Triplett,

It was fun interacting with you at the Bead and Button Show's Bead Social and Auction Night. I was the "hostess with the mostest," Carmen Banana (on stilts), who made your balloon pirate outfit (which you wore so well!).

I'm pleased to have been included in your article in the Fire Mountain Gems newsletter, but disappointed that you didn't use my name. Besides being a professional stiltwalker, I am a jewelry artist working in metal clay who taught five workshops at this year's Bead and Button Show. That information was included in many of the B and B marketing e-mails, as well as in the class catalogue, so it was readily available.

Again, I'm thrilled to have been featured in your article, and I'm honored to have had the chance to wear a couple of different hats, so to speak, at the Bead and Button Show. If you have the opportunity to describe my stiltwalking in the future, please mention my name and refer to my character as Carmen Banana, who is not an impersonation of Carmen Miranda but a larger-than-life character all her own.

Many thanks, and all best wishes,"
- Donna Penoyer
Stiltwalker / Party Starter

Handmade Fine Silver Jewelry

Response to Donna Penoyer:
Hello Donna, or should we say, Carmen Banana! What a wonderful presence you made at this year's show. We are down on our knees begging your forgiveness for leaving your name out of the original article. We know all of our readers are going to love learning about you in your upcoming jewelry-artist success story. Again, thanks for your understanding.

PS. Can we get a picture with you next year?

"I didn't attend the show and I can't tell from the photo, but I think the "Carmen Miranda" stilt walker is Donna Penoyer, not just a performance artist but also a well-known jewelry artist within the metal clay community. She's also known as "the whistle lady" because she makes unique whistles out of metal clay. If this is actually Donna, you should use her name in the photo credit. Here are a couple of links for more info:

I don't know Donna personally but I think it would be important and appropriate, if you're using her photo, to give her proper credit."
- Claire

Response to Claire:
Thank you, Claire! You are absolutely right - what an oversight! We have contacted Donna, aka Carmen Banana, and she is the woman in the photo. We have updated the article to give her credit. What's more, we will be providing additional information about her on our website soon.

"I loved the article you sent out about your Bead and Button Show experiences. I've wanted to go to the show for years, and may actually get to next year. I'm sending in some of my ideas for classes. Yippee, I hope I'll get to go. In the meantime, it was so nice to read about all the inspiring parts of the show you enjoyed. I learned vicariously, and I'm so glad that Fire Mountain Gems is celebrated nationally so much. I love FMG too!!!"
- Melanie

"I loved your article on the Milwaukee Bead and Button Show. Even though I'm a Milwaukean, this was my first time at the show. I was blown away! Unfortunately I had limited time to spend there but I already have my calendar marked for next year. What an experience!!"
- Wendy

"The article about the Bead and Button show did not include the date, time, or place. It was useless to me."
- Patricia

Response to Patricia:
The specific show dates have been added to the article (May 31 - June 7). Thank you. Next year, the show will take place June 6--June 13, 2010 at the Midwest Airlines Center in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. We hope to see you there.

"Re: Show Article: loved the article; a personal touch is nice! I have my friends tuned into your website and even people I meet who never heard of FMG. My friend and I started out beading, and now there are 5-7 ladies who come to bead. This is addicting!"
- Clare

"Thank you for sharing your trip...sounded Greatttttttttt..... wish it were longer. As a 65yr old widow, rainy days in Florida, these pages from you each day make me smile, thanks, and I keep on beading. Love it, Love it."
- Carol

"Just wanted to say that Tom looked like he was having a ball with the balloons. Please give him my best.

former Vegas Beads customer,"
- Ruthanne

"OH, just LOVED today's article you sent over to me!!! The gallery of designs and the many 'how to' instructions available!! Sooo many to enjoy and get me motivated!! Thank you!"
- Kathy

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