Surviving Your First Bead Show


Surviving Your First Bead Show

by Kristal Wick, Author, Designer, Instructor and SWAROVSKI ELEMENTS Ambassador,
Exclusively for Fire Mountain Gems and Beads®

Whether you’re attending The Bead and Button® Show in Wisconsin (the biggest retail bead show in the world) or one in your local scene, there are some survival tactics directly from bead veterans I’d like to share with you. Preparation is key to survival! Like kids in a candy store, the sensory overload of a bead show can traumatize even the best of the beadaholics. So, if you’re a holiday jewelry maker (making jewelry for gift giving), a die-hardseed beader, or you sell your jewelry as a business, you’re sure to find treasures and expand your jewelry-making knowledge at a show!


It’s a close run between comfy shoes and protein bars as to which one is the second most important thing to bring to a bead show. The first is the ker-ching my beady friends! Bring an empty credit card and lots of cash. Some vendors don’t take credit cards and some vendors will make you a better deal if you pay cash (be sure to ask as it can’t hurt!). As far as shoes go, I consider myself somewhat of an expert in this area having worked and walked many huge trade shows, and crocs are the best hands down! Of course they’re not the most fashionable so you’ll want to snazz them up a bit with a clip-on embellishment. Make your own with resincrystals and seed beads or convert old brooches and pendants into shoe clips by gluing them onto the pad of clip-on earrings. Embellishing your shoes, what could be beadier? Check out these great design ideas.

Haul It 

Collapsible purses and totes are a must for your shopping adventure. Keep one of these in your purse and you’ll be happy to pull it out when you’ve slipped so many bags of beadalicious goodies in your purse and the handles are moaning and groaning as much as your feet are! You can bring rolling totes into some shows and they’re a saving grace–be sure to check ahead of time so you aren’t stuck schlepping the tote back to the car.


Pain management is a popular topic although not commonly discussed among bead show attendees until it’s too late! And then, sadly, your feet prevent you from doing even more damage to your pocketbook. Prevent this global bead shopping malaise by popping an Advil® or aspirin before entering the bead show (or get roller skates). Either way, you can cover more ground comfortably.


Some shows offer the tastiest nibbles around but you can’t bet on it, so throw a few protein bars and a bottle of water in your purse, just in case. You can usually find chocolate and coffee readily available. They know you’ll need a jolt or two! Before opening any of your bring-along treats, be sure to check house rules–sometimes you need to enjoy your own fare outside or out of show limits.


Always be sure to check out the classes before you go. Many times they’re sold out and you don’t want to miss out on a great learning experience! Go to the show’s website and see the class line up. They may have demos going on as well, so take a peek at the schedule. If you want to get really organized for your bead show adventure, take a look at the vendor list (if posted) and make a list of all your “must see” vendors and boothsbefore stepping foot in the bead show zone. If you don’t, you will surely get sucked into the delightful frenzy only rows and rows of vials of beads can provoke and you might just forget what you were looking for.


Show programs are super important so don’t just buzz by them as another thing to carry. Circle all your “must see” booths then keep the map handy as a reminder. Write down the numbers of the booths you want to return to. Keep it handy as you’ll most likely fall in love with some beady goodies and want to return to that booth. You’ll think there’s no doubt you’ll remember this booth (especially if it’s early in your shopping day), then by the end of the day there will be dozens of booths to return to and you have NO idea where they are since your eyes are spinning in spirals like Wile E Coyote when the Road Runner bonks him on the head! You’ll also be glad to have this program two months later when that strand of beads that was the only blue you’ve ever seen in those shades haunts you and you wish you’d bought it at the show but can’t remember the booth name and you simply must have it … trust me on this one!


Don’t forget, once you leave the show these pretties need a happy home. Here’s a great article on organizing your seed beads. Nothing is more fun than sorting out your beloved purchases afterwards and fondling each and every beady delight, except buying more of course!



What bead shows will you be attending this year? Have any tips to share with us?


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