Saturday, March 16, 2013

Berks Bead Bazaar - The Little Show That Could

by Joan Miller

When I was asked to do a guest post on "Love My Art Jewelry" it was right before the Berks Bead Bazaar in Reading, PA.  I have been running this show with my friend and lampwork bead artist, Louise Mehaffey, since 2002.  I started to think about the history of our show and how many people we have been a first for over the years.  I took a little survey at the show and found out it has been a lot!
 Patti Cahill Lampwork Beads on 2013 postcard. 
First a little history of our show.  I had been working the art/craft show circuit for about 10 years with my line of porcelain jewelry.  I had started to make more of my own beads to use in my work and Louise had added lampwork glass beads to her long repertoire of glass techniques. We were both ripe for a change.  Not one to wade slowly into the shallow end  I had already talked myself into a spot at the Best Bead Show in Tucson coming up in Feb. 2002.  July 2001 while exhibiting my jewelry at the Guilford Handcrafts Expo in CT, I kept having ladies ask to poke through my bead boxes.  They wanted to buy beads. One of these ladies told me about the Ct Bead Society show in North Haven, CT coming up in Sept.  I thought to myself it might not be a bad idea to at least do one bead show before jumping on a plane and going to Tucson so I grabbed Louise and off we went to our first bead show............with one minor hitch.  The bead show was Sept. 15, 2001. Four days after Sept.11.  What do we do? Do we go?  The bead society had decided to carry on so CT hear we come.  It was surreal looking up river from the Tappan Zee bridge and seeing the two columns of smoke rising from the towers.  We were not expecting much.  Our husbands thought we were crazy. The bead show was about 20 tables in a banquet room at the Holiday Inn.  Not the 10x10 full booth set-up deal we were both used to at fine craft shows.  What a breeze.  We sold lots of beads, had a great time and travelling together with a few cases of beads was a revelation.  We were so excited on our way home we planned the first Berks Bead Bazaar.  Hard to believe we just finished our 12th year!

Not quite sure how this happened but the BBB has been a first show for many successful bead vendors.  In the early years it was to fill the show and later it became more of a mentoring situation.

Probably one of our happiest accidents was our very first year.  We had a bunch of artist friends that had been informed by Louise that they were giving us $40 and were showing up with some kind of bead inventory.  We had NO commercial vendors.  I had put our show on every free calendar listing I could find and somehow Renu and Serita who were selling finished jewelry at the time found our listing and called us up the week of the show.  They have gone on to run the very successful Innovative Beads Expo as well as continued with their stone and silver business, Expo USA International and their brick and mortar store, Beads Mosaic is their latest addition.

Another of our firsts, Alice St. Germain.  This is not a direct quote but I do remember her saying something to the effect of "This beads for money thing is working out well."  Sadly we missed Alice this year due to the flu.  Alice has been with us every year since the beginning.
Lisa Peter, Joan Miller, Staci Louise Smith

In 2007 Lisa Peters joined us for her first BBB.  She claims she did everything wrong and ate leftover Chinese food reheated on the coffee pot burner in the hotel room for two days.  Thank goodness she remembered the two bottles of wine.  What I do remember is that Lisa was so busy saying goodbye to everyone at breakdown that she left two shopping bags of her stuff directly in the middle of the floor and drove off.  

We were thrilled to have Staci Louise Smith join us last year for her first bead show.  Staci says she attended the show as a patron first and then stalked us until we took her.  Very stealthy Staci.  I never even knew we were being stalked.  
 Leslie Pope of Twisted Sistah who arrived her first year saying "I'm Twisted Sistah and I don't know what to do."  I think she figured it out.LOL
Marti Brown has also been with us since year one.  A long time friend from the craft show circuit she remembers us plotting our first BBB over dinner in Tucson. 
Dona Jones takes a brief break from the craft circuit every year to join us in the bead world with her wonderful torched copper charms. BBB was her first bead show.  

Jennifer McGinithin is one of our newer recruits and counts the BBB as her first and only bead show.
BBB was also the debut for MyELEMENTS by Yvonne Irvin.  I remember meeting Yvonne for lunch at Chili's and she showed me the new stuff she was working on........of course she had to come and join us :)
Meg Maxwell Filmore almost didn't make the list.  I forgot her humble beginnings when she started with us selling beaded scarf kits.  Bead My Love still sells the scarves but they are now known for so much more.
And I of course can't leave out our youngest first, 8 year old Julia Smith, assisted by Chloe Minutella(with the spider on her head.) 

There are others who have come and gone over the years and if I have left anyone out please add yourself in the comments.  Thanks "Love my Art Jewelry" for letting me blather on about the show that is near and dear to my heart.  Beading really is a community and I think we have built a show that embodies it. Every year(especially since moving to FL) I question whether its worth the hassle of running a show but by the end of the show I am ready to sign up for another year.  The next  Berks Bead Bazaar will be March 1 & 2 , 2014 at the Inn at Reading, 1040 Park Rd., Wyomissing, PA


stacilouise said...

Best little bead show ever! such a great time, such creative and fun ladies. I am honored to be a part of it. thanks for your post Joan!

AliMc said...

I was a first time customer this year at BBB, great beads and even better people :).

Artisan Beads Plus said...

Okay, I just check out how far Reading, PA was from Homer, NY and it is only 3.5 hours!!!! I think I am going to make a plan for some personal days next year so I can go...... It sounds great!!!! Thanks for sharing all of the pictures. I loved them!

Louise Mehaffey said...

Great post, Joan! The vendors have become like family, and we always have a great time! Who knew way back when!

Joan Miller Porcelain said...

We do have a great time and its especially wonderful for me now to see my Northern friends!

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