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Rebecca’s Bead & Button Adventure

Saturday, June 2nd
After an uneventful day of flying, I arrived in Milwaukee. The Hilton was buzzing with beaders (easily identified by the intricate necklaces they wear.) After settling in my room, in was off to the Hyatt to check in to the show. I was worried there’d be a long line, but there were several stations and the wait was short. I got my show badge, will-call class tickets, and a bag of swag. Nearby there’s an open beading area set-up and two “last minute” supply booths in case you forgot something you need for class. The actually bead show doesn’t start until Thursday night. After quickly browsing the both booths (Knot Just Beads & Eclectica), it was time to hit the streets of Milwaukee to see what I could see.

I wandered over to Old World Third Street which is lined with my favorite type of restaurants – those selling beer, cheese, sausage, and other German specialties. The combination of a beer flight and a cheese plate was too tempting to be missed, so The Wisconsin Cheese Mart and Cheese Bar won out for dinner.

The “Wisconsin Favorites” Beer Flight: New Glarus Spotted Cow Ale, Sprecher Hefeweizen, Lakefront Riverwest Stein, and Lakefront IPA.

“Hot & Bothered” Cheese Plate: Horseradish & Chive Harvati, Mango Fire Cheddar, Smoked String Cheese, and Peppercorn Cheddar.



Sunday, June 3rd

My first class wasn’t until 7pm so I had all day to explore Milwaukee. Whenever I ask people what to do in Milwaukee, the art museum is always at the top of the list. I had been to the Milwaukee Art Museum back in the fall when I was on vacation with Richard, but we didn’t have much time then and had to rush through it. This time I wanted to explore at a more leisurely pace. It’s only about a mile from the Hilton to the art museum and it made for a nice walk. It’s basically a straight shot, but don’t worry if you wander off track. You can spot the place from a distance. The building itself is worth the walk over there. Those wings open and close! How cool is that?

The temporary exhibit featured right now is “Posters of Paris.” I was very excited about that because I was introduced to Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (his work, not the person) when I was studying in Tübingen. I really enjoyed the exhibit and highly recommend that you spring $5 for the audio tour. It had a lot of great information what wasn’t included in the signs.

My first class of the show was “Fast & Easy Wire Kumihimo” with Jill Wiseman. It was a lot of fun! There were 20 of us in the class. We made bracelets using the half-round braid. That’s a braid I already know so I was able to focus entirely on the wire aspect of the class – bonus! Working with the 28ga wire was a lot easier than I had anticipated. I finished my bracelet quickly and was able to get half-way through a second in the three hour class. My head is swimming with ideas for cool ways to incorporate wire and fiber. Expect to see a Wire Kumihimo class on the July schedule.

Karen DeSousa was in the class, too, so afterwards we walked back to the hotel together and hung out having drinks in the Miller Time Grill. Good times were had by all!

Monday, June 4th

Tonight’s class was “No Solder, No Glue” with Gwen Youngblood. It was an intro to metal working with cold connections. This is something that I’ve been curious about for a while, but have been afraid to try because of all the tools you need. What appealed to me about this class when I was browsing the show catalog was that the instructor provided all of the tools and materials… I didn’t have to bring anything.

I had a great time! I felt perhaps a bit rushed to get everything finished in the 3 hour class, but I think that’s because I was determined to get a sample of each possible technique into my piece. Teacher’s nightmare, I know… student way overreaching, but I managed to finish before class let out. I’m pretty pleased with my pendant. The “Rain or Shine” theme presented itself after I used a brass texturing plate on the bottom point of my triangle. I thought it looked like water and immediately thought of some sort of underwater scene; however, after checking out my kit contents I ruled that out. Then I remembered in one of the demos Gwen showed us her favorite texturing hammer and said she thought it made a rain-like pattern. Once I had the concept I ran with it.

Gwen was a great teacher… very organized, funny, and made everything look super easy! I cut my shape from copper sheet. Textured it using different methods. Cut my little silver shaped. Stamped my words. Riveted them to the main shape (the hardest part!). Cut my silver sun. Ruffled it. Riveted my bezel cup. Set my stone. Gwen made it all easy-peasy with her helpful tips and clever tools!

Tuesday, June 5th

I took it easy in the morning just hanging out at the hotel working on this blog. In the afternoon I wandered over to the Milwaukee Public Museum. It’s only about 5 minutes on foot from the Hilton. Other than its close proximity, there’s no reason to go there unfortunately. It hasn’t been updated in a long time (probably since the ’80’s.)

My class Tuesday evening was Magnetic Focal Clasp with Adrienne Gaskell. That’s the peyote stitch clasp you’ve been admiring on the ready-to-wear kumihimo necklaces that Unicorne sends with their trunk show. Very clever construction…

Wednesday, June 6th

Wednesday was my first all day class – Beaded Kumihimo with Focal Bead taught by Adrienne Gaskell and Linda Richman. Although I already knew how to add a focal bead to a beaded kumihimo, I had never really braided on a maurdai and was very excited to learn. I got a little maurdai last year for my brithday, but had always struggled with the set up. Adrienne and Linda had lots of great tips for making set-up a snap. The biggest time saver of the day was the fact that Adrienne and Linda had already pre-strung all of the beads for the first half of the necklace so all we had to do was braid.

I always knew that braiding on the maurdai would be faster than braiding on the disk because you do two moves simultaneously, but I never imagined just how efficient the movements could be. Adrienne says that even her most complicated necklaces never take her more than 3 hours and than most can be finished in under 1 hour. I believe her! I was just poking along on my first ever marudai necklace and I had braided the first half and strung the rest of my beads before lunch.

After lunch at the Miller Time Pub, I returned to class to add my focal bead and braid the second half of the necklace. I left giddy with excitement! Oh, the possibilities! What fun!

Later that evening was the “Meet the Teachers” reception. The teachers aren’t required to attend, but pretty much everyone was there. It’s a chance to meet & greet and to see all of the cool projects that are being taught at the show. Most teachers are selling kits, directions, or finished jewelry so if there’s a class you wanted, but couldn’t fit it in your schedules, that’s your chance to snag a kit. Don’t be late! Popular teachers were swamped and the kits were selling out fast.

Thursday, June 7th

Adrienne Gaskell, Rebecca Combs, & Linda Richman

Thursday’s class was Two-in-One Kumihimo Necklace with Adrienne Gaskell and Linda Richman. This one I signed up for rather last minute. It was listed as advanced and required all students to be proficient braiding with beads on the marudai. Having never done that before, I skipped over that class and forgot about it until I was working on my trip itinerary. Only then did I realize I had the beginning marudai class the day before. Assuming that one class was enough to qualify as “advanced” I added the “Two-in-One” to my schedule.

Adrienne started off the class by warning us that NO ONE would finish in class. I, of course, took that as a personal challenge and braided like crazy all day long. It was intense. First I had to braid a 12″ section with size 11/0 seed beads. Then 7″ with size 8/0 seed beads. Then there’s the whole business with getting the spiral around and attached to the main braid. Then I had to braid the two side sections with size 6/0s. It came down to the wire, but it finished it before class let out! Well, I finished all of the braiding anyway… it still needs endcaps. Boy am I glad that I bought a new marudai that is table height instead of using my little one. My back was pretty stiff at the end of the day (I ignored the advice to take frequent breaks) and I can only imagine how much worse it would be if I had hunch over the short marudai.

I did pay attention to how they handled the students who didn’t finish in time. I now know how to transfer a braid from a marudai to a disk and how to secure a braid to the marudai for transport.

Richard arrived that afternoon and he met me at the end of class. I was so happy to see him! We went to grab and early dinner and then off to the show floor. Thursday is the preview shopping night for pre-registered buyers and class participants.

Friday, June 8th

So the big plan for Friday was to work the show floor – meetings with vendors, chat face to face with people we normally only talk to over the phone, and scout out cool new products for the store.

The Bead Smith is one of our major vendors and we spent a long time working with our sales rep Paola. She showed us how to use Crystal Clay to make a ring and a charm. Very cool! Look for that to arrive at Design & Adorn next month. Also be on the look out for Rick’s Beading Loom (only two warp threads no matter how wide your piece!) and new styles of endcaps.

We also saw some demos at the Vintaj booth. The new made-for-metal patina paints are already on their way to our store.

Saturday, June 9th

Richard and I each had class this morning. Richard was taking “Conquering Aspect Ratio” with Rebeca Mojica and I was in “Kumihimo Braid #2” with Linda Richman.

In Richard’s class they went through a series of math problems and calculations to learn how to use aspect ratio to create graduated chain maille designs and how to scale a design up or down. They didn’t actually make anything in class. The class included an earring kit, but Rebeca advised that that since they’re taking an advanced level chain maille course they already know how to do the weaving and their time would be better spent on the math and on picking her brain.

My class was booked for 6 hours, but after my last two marudai classes I figured I should be able to finish up by lunch. I was right… The most time consuming part of the project was the bead spinning, but I’m really fast at that and Linda had done most of it for us in advance. We only had to spin two warps in class. This beaded braid was different from any other I had done because instead of dropping the beads into the center one at a time to make a beaded rope, the beads were kept under tension on each warp and braided as a continuous strand of beads. I really like the look of it. I didn’t like the endcaps I had brought with me so I ran out to the show floor and picked up some purple glass endcaps and a TierraCast heart toggle. Love my new necklace!

I texted Richard after class, got no response, and figured he must still be in class. I pack up my stuff and went to stalk him outside his classroom. The doors were shut and I could hear muffled voices so I lingered in the hall. After a few minutes someone came out and said that class was over so I wandered in. I wanted to meet Rebeca Mojica. I got a chance to ask about her most popular styles and sizes of rings. I was glad to hear that we already stocked some of these and I made a list of the ones we don’t so we can expand our selection over the next few months.

Sorry I forgot your name, Steve (brother-in-law), Kate (Richard's sister)

Richard’s parents live in Wausa, Wisconsin (only three hours away) so they drove down to meet us for lunch. Richard’s sister and brother-in-law live in Minnesota, but just so happened to be in Milwaukee with several of their friends for a Brewer’s game so we got to see them for lunch, too. Kate and Steve picked Mo’s Irish Pub: it’s a pick-up point for the Brewer’s shuttle bus and only a short walk from our hotel. Richard’s mom, Val, had just returned from a study abroad trip to China and Korea so she had lots of great stories to share.

Richard, Rebecca, Paul (Richard's Dad), Val (Richard's Mom)

Richard’s parents were going to visit with us until dinner so we had all after noon to relax. We talked about going to the zoo, but first Val & I wanted to go back to our hotel room so she could show off the goodies she brought us from her trip. She had picked out lots of gifts, but because she obviously loves Richard and me the most, we got first pick. We got a cute embroidered swan scene (Get it? We’re the Swanborgs…), some Koren black tea with lychee, very very yummy Korean honey candy, a business card holder with Korean alphabet on the front, a nice tourist map of Seoul (she picked that out just for me!), and a lovely woven basket that is the perfect size for my kumihimo disks.

By the time we were finished looking at all the treasures, the time for the zoo had come and gone. I decided to torture my in-laws by taking them to the Bead & Button Show (sorry, Paul!) It was great seeing the show through the eyes of some who is new not just to bead shows, but to beading in general. Val found a neat cuff bracelet that was ready-to-wear with an interchangeable snap-on focal piece. After the show we had dinner together at the Miller Time Pub and then had to say goodbye. Great seeing you, Paul & Val!

The day was drawing to a close and we were this close to calling it a night, when I spied in the show brochure and ad for the Bead Social and Auction Night. Hmm… watch some TV and go to sleep or have a little night on the town? Ok, hurry! Get dressed! It’s about to start!

We zipped over to the convention center (I’m so glad out hotel is attached via skywalk!), bought our tickets, and got our bidding numbers. So here’s how it works: there are several tables with silent auction items. Just write down your bid and your number and then circle like a vulture to watch for others bidding on your items. There’s also the table with live auction items. That one is trickier. My plan: write down the item number of things I want and my Maximum bid. Hmm… How to choose. The budget is limited… I can’t get it all. Plus other people will be bidding. Very tricky.

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