This weekend, the Bead Mercantile Show came to Raleigh and so did I! Raleigh is about 90 miles away, so it's close enough for a quick day trip. And it's as close to a bead show as I'll get, I suppose. I went to the Gem and Bead show there last month and picked up some pretty "rocks", but this one was geared to seed beads, crystals and czech glass primarily. I brought a couple of my "rocks" to try and match, and I hoped to find some czech glass flowers and leaves. My dear friend Linda came with me in search of some seed beads for some Native American beadwork her husband is working on. It was a pretty modest show, but I was a kid in a candy shop!
It's really tough sometimes to find the right colors of seed beads to accent the gemstone cabochons I work with, and there are a few colors that seem to me much more difficult to find just the right shade: Cream (most have too much yellow), Turquoise (ya got your greenier tints, ya got your bluesier tints), Green (olive, emerald, teal, kelly, forest...too much!), and Brown (dark topaz, especially transparent, just doesn't get it - and don't get me started on rust/russett). And once you have the color and hue figured out, well now you have to work through the finishes and types.
First, I should say that I work primarily with size 11o seed beads (with a little help from the 8, 6 and 15's here and there). Since I'm apparently something of a magpie, the shiny, bright and colorful beads always capture my eye (silver-lined, rainbow and AB), but they are not always appropriate to what I'm trying to acheive. My favorite finish right now is a simple opaque luster (also can be called a "Ceylon" finish). Not so much sparkle, but still catches the light. I don't have much use for simply transparent beads; it seems like instead of adding light and luster, they suck the light out of a piece. But transparent rainbow or AB (aurora borealis) give enough reflection to make a good blend. Color lined beads (generally transparent colored glass with either a white, silver, gold or copper lining) can be a little iffy to work with, though I do like the silver/gold/copper lined beads to add just the right touch of sparkle. I've begun to really appreciate the matte rainbow/AB finish as well for it's elegance and blending ability.
As far as type of beads, it kinda depends on what you're doing. If you're working an intricate peyote or loomed pattern, you really need to use the Japanese cylinder or Delica beads. Their total uniformity and huge array of color choices helps create a nearly perfect final product. My "go to" bead choice has been Fire Mountain's "Dyna-Mites" Japanese beads by Matsuno. The have a pretty good uniformity at half the price of the Delicas. I also prefer their rounded (donut-like) appearance and texture in a finished piece as opposed to the very flat cylinders. The color selection with the Dyna-Mites is somewhat limited, so that's when I turn to the Czech seed beads (Jablonex is one of the primary manufacturers). Czech beads have that nice donut shaped texture and come in a vast assortment of colors and finishes. While not completely uniform in size, I still find them very nice to work with, and in bead embroidery, uniformity is not terribly important.
So, back to the bead show...I went a little (OK a LOT) crazy at the first table I came to. Bead Biz had a huge selection of Jablonex Czech seed beads as well as other Czech glass items. They also had wholesale prices after a certain amount. Yep, I went for it and I'm not gonna tell you the amount. But I was able to find all the colors I was looking for and added a few 13o charlottes to the mix. I've always wanted to do something with those little 1-cut faceted beauties. I came away from the show with a great selection of Czech leaves and flowers as well. I'm not a big crystal fan, so I left most of those behind. I thoroughly enjoyed rearranging all my bead boxes and cabinet to fit all the new treasures in. Now I'm anxious to get started on the next project!