Live From Lexi In Tucson

Hi Everyone, Here we are in my last day at the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show, just generally known as “Tucson” to those of us who make jewelry.  The big question for the last 3 months among jewelry people  is “Are you going to Tucson?”  Everyone knows what that means. You aren’t going for the sunshine, spas or cuisine, though all are excellent.  To borrow, and modify, a current Olympic expression….”Go for the Rocks!”  And we did.

My buddy Helen and I started out in my husband’s big old 3/4 ton pickup, because with Helen, I didn’t know if I would be hauling back rock cutting equipment or  500 pounds of rough.  For me, I might find a T-Rex  fibula that I couldn’t live without.  We drove from Denver to Albuquerque and spent the night with my friend Mary, a fabulous potter, who is such an inspiration to me in so many ways. The next morning we all started out.  Mary was looking for unusual beads from Nepal for her unique spirit necklaces and goddess figures and urns, so she thought Tucson would be good for her.

We survived the boring drive from Hatch, NM to Deming, though Helen, being a Jersey girl, was fascinated with miles and miles of nothing but sage and yucca, without a tree in sight.  She kept her nose pressed against the window, with an occasional “Wow!” or “Cool!” or “Look at those rocks!” escaping from her lips.  After the awe inspiring ride through Texas Canyon, we came into Tucson, and got excited to see Zee Haag’s advertisement out on I-10 as soon as we arrived.  We were finally in TUCSON!!!

We stayed with our good buddy, Terri, in her beautiful Tucson styled home, along with her 2 dogs and cat, the Spawn of Satan.  Well, his name is Yote, but Helen calls him the Spawn of Satan because of his actions.  He just needs therapy. Then we were off to the show.  Our first stop was at AGTA where we got hugs from Todd Reed, who was finishing up his show that afternoon and flying to Philly for the Rosen Show. (How DO you do it, Todd?)  Then we were off to see the rock guys.  OK.  Helen and I had this margarita bet as to who would buy the first stone.   Well, 10 minutes into the show I spent the first money, but it was for my good Chile/Boulder buddy, jeweler Maria Roditis, who at the last minute couldn’t make it down for the show.  So TECHNICALLY,  that didn’t count.  The first money was spent with one of my favorite couples in the business, Mark and Christa Lasater, at The Clam Shell.  Again, I had to pick up 5 gorgeous amethyst sage stones that Kathleen Krucoff had ordered.  Then I had pre-ordered some equally fabulous amethyst sage, so that didn’t count, either. THEN IT HAPPENED!  Helen and I both spotted THE  new stone of the entire Tucson Show, and Helen pulled out her wallet and bought the stone on the spot.  I bought 7 pieces of the petrified sequoia stone, which was the Smokin’ Stone in the Feb issue of Lapidary Journal, (it’s very, very rare) and  I also bought THE stone.  Well, 2 of THE stones.  More on THE stone later.  Then we caught up with the editor of Lapidary Journal, Merle White, and solved the problems of the world, and were off again.  We rocketed through the place, stopping to see some fabulous new pink Oregon Sunstone from the Ponderosa site, and I could have easily dropped big buckage there, but didn’t.  I mean, it was only  30 minutes into the show and I’d already spent a lot of money.  I was already in deep coprolite!

We crossed the street to the GJX Show, and saw rubies, sapphires, diamonds, finished jewelry, ( ho-hum) but we were looking for cabs and rough.  The only thing I wanted was dino doo-doo and dino bone.  I have plenty of everything else, or at least my patient husband thinks so. Lo and behold…suddenly there was Gary B. Wilson’s booth,  my other favorite cutter.  I immediately picked out more things for Kathleen, and Gary had been holding some matt red jasper, the same stone that was on the cover of the Dec issue of Lapidary Journal.  I found a large round beauty called Hidden Valley Jasper.  It’s has gorgeous colors, looking like pinky gold Aurora Borealis lights.  And I finally got an “8 Ball”!  If you are familiar with Gary’s work, you know what that is.  I have waited years for an 8 ball slice. I bought more of my favorites, Chinese Writing Stone, and jaspers. But still no dino doo-doo.  And that was the only thing I came to Tucson for.

The next day was Electric park…and cold…and rain.  We met up with Mary and toured the tents.  Lots of Kwan Yin statues, Budda Heads, Kent’s Tools in the big tent, and I bought a splendid red and yellow African basket from a Denver guy! There were these wonderful things from Madagascar (Hi Noel!  I will be sending you a list, but get us some labradorite and those large tumbled carnelian stones.)  We talked to these cob-web encrusted grizzled old miners, and met Gator, who is Queen Elizabeth’s 16th cousin. (Aren’t we all?)   In other words, lots of characters.  And finally, doo-doo!  Biff Billings had the coolest stuff.  I got dino bone beads and a gastrolith, and very rare bone and doo-doo beads.  (OK, Mom, coprolite beads.)   He’s a retired archaeology professor, so no wonder I like him  We had lots of friends in common. I had a ball looking thru his stuff. I wanted to spend the rest of the day there, but the proverbial sun was setting in the west, and we had evening plans.

The next days flew by as we shopped The Holidome and  “The Strip”, seeing Anasazi pot shards, legally obtained, we were told, and trays of  repros of old religious objects, and tons of boxes of cabs and slabs, most just carelessly thrown in boxes, some that had been stored in people’s basements for decades. We saw lots of dealers buying from each other, and never once had to stand in line to purchase anything.  I don’t know how the dealers thought about this years show, economically wise.

Then it happened. And it brought tears to my eyes.   The thing that got to me was the scarcity of my favorite stones, Chinese Writing Stone, Picasso stone and palm wood.  There is a limited supply of good cutting material of any stone.  There were many cabs from China, cut there because it’s cheap.  So many cabs were crudely cut, or chipped from being thrown in a box. The words of Jeff Wise came to me so many times…”Who will speak for the stones?” To me, these are the gifts of our Earth Mother, who has cradled these treasures within her bosom for years. They deserve to be respected and honored.  They are the history of our home, our planet. To see people scruffing thru boxes of stone cabs, chipping or breaking them, marring their surface as they scratch against other harder stones touched me deeply.  Each stone deserves to be cut to it’s most beautiful shape and polished to bring out it’s natural beauty, and presented for your enjoyment, not tossed in some dirty old cardboard box.  I learned I don’t have to go to Tucson to see the most gorgeous stones.  I already buy from the best cutters out there, men who respect the stones and work hard to bring out each stones unique beauty.  And that’s why I continue to buy from Mark Lasater (The Clamshell) and Gary Wilson.  They are true artists, with the heart and spirit of the artist.  Their life and love is the stone, the backbone of The Earth Mother, our Madre Tierra.   I don’t mean it to sound snobbish or elitist, but the stone deserves this.  And when you make your piece of jewelry, present the stone to best best of your ability.  Make the stone proud of you.

Tomorrow I will reveal THE stone, what several of us have decided, in our unscientific poll, what was the new surprise this year.  And forgive me for my soap box stance. Just give it some thought. As jewelers, we have the power to stop what is happening.

From Tucson,

Lexi

Advertisements

Thank you, everyone, for the wonderful welcome.  I’ve had a great time reading your responses.  I’m still learning how to do this, not being a  computer oriented person, but again, Kathleen has been wonderful. If you ever get to meet her in person, your life will be greatly enriched.  Those of you wanting to learn to solder, I  hope we will be able to help you.  If you live in or visit the Southwest US, I’ll be teaching soldering at the Lapidary Journal’s Jewelry Artist Beadfest in Santa Fe in March.  Please come join us.

We’re getting ready for the Denver Gem and Mineral show right now.  It’s the 2nd largest gem show in the US, right after Tucson.  In some ways, it’s better.  The Tucson show is HUGE.  It has megatons of rough stone, if you are interested in cutting your stones yourself, and lots of the Big 4, (diamonds, rubys, emeralds, and sapphires).  But the Denver show has more cabochons, and the top cab cutters in the world are here.  My favorites are Gary B. Wilson, Mark Lasater from The Clam Shell, Joe Jelks from Horizon Mineral and Michael Hendricks from Minarex.  If you follow my work in Lapidary Journal’s Jewelry Artist magazine, almost all my stones come from these 4 cutters because their quality is the best and their designs are easy to work with.  They have fabulous stones,  some hard to find things, and the unusual…like a sliced cue ball that makes a cool necklace, or reflectors from an old inventory of 1930’s tricycles. (giggle)

As you look for stones,  you may find a beautiful specimen, and you may be swept off your feet with the colors and patterns in the piece.  You may not think about the actual shape of the stone.  Later, in your studio, when you get ready to design with it, you find  it’s difficult and bulky to design around.  These guys cut stones with us, the artists, in mind.

When you go to pick out a stone, think about these things:

1.  If you only buy stones you fall madly in love with, you will never sell those stones.  (And how would I know this?)  If you can, purchase 2 of them, one for you and one to sell.  This works for beads, too.

2.  Don’t forget to buy small stones, even though they may not knock your socks off, you need small accent stones, especially if you are working at 3 AM and realize you suddenly need a 4mm black onyx to finish the piece.  Have a small supply on hand, always.

3.  Make sure the stone is flat on the bottom if you are doing a cabochon set.  Stones with a curved bottom will never set right..

4.  If you are a beginning stone setter, stick with rounds and ovals.  Squares will take more practice.  Those with very sharp points, though beautiful, will be difficult, and you may break off the point.  Save those for when you are more advanced at bezelling.

5.  Don’t shy away from large stones.  They make stunning focal pieces, usually worn up high on a simple neck wire or omega chain.  Watch what is being worn by the women news announcers on TV. They only have a small area in which to show jewelry, and its usually a gorgeous necklace that just shows under a collar.

6.  You may have your own organizational techniques, but I put my stones in Riker boxes, the glass topped flat boxes, and group them according to the cutter.  That way, if I need another Chinese Writing Stone, like I recently did, you have them grouped with all those from the same cutter, so you can call him and ask for more.  The quality and the finish will be consistent with others you have.

I hope these ideas have helped you with stone selections, and hope you get to go to some fabulous gem shows and find treasures.  If I learn how to post photos I’ll send pics of the Denver Show.  Kelly Bly is flying out from PA.  She’s one of my students from PA, and still flies out to have fun and deplete her checking account. Several writers from Lapidary Journal are coming.  We will all meet and share our goodies,  have a cold adult beverage, “ooooh and ahhhh” over each other’s finds, and then rush off to buy more.   So this is an open invitation to you all to come visit the Denver show.  There are 8 different locations in north Denver, and shuttles between venues.

And if we’re standing at The Clamshell, fighting over the same stone, tell me who you are.  I’ll be happy to let you add it to your collection.

Lexi