Saturday, May 7, 2016

My History of Bead & Button Show

It's hard to believe that I'll be in Milwaukee playing with fire and metal in less than a month! I suppose I should check my class requirements, see if I have emails unread from the instructors, and try to get my items gathered together for the trip.

I'm grateful that I drive to Milwaukee. I don't have to pack
my tools for an airplane trip. These days with the restrictions
about flying, I'd be better shipping my tools ahead of time
and packing light. 

When I first started attending the show in the mid-1990's it was a small, almost intimate gathering of beaders from around the nation. It was a rotating show - being held in a different location or city each year for several years. It started out in Austin, Texas, then went to Houston, Texas and then again to Austin. That's when I started attending and I fell in love. It's where I met vendors I've known for decades, now, where I met artists who worked in glass, and where I purchased amazing beads.

I bought my Loren Stump bead early in the show's history. My
Loren Stump bead is one of his OJ Simpson White Bronco bead.
It's an outstanding work of miniature art of glass and flame. 

The show moved to Sacramento for a year. That's where I met my friend Pam, a fellow beader who ended up as my roommate for more than ten years and many trips. We were in Portland (even had two shows there one year) until we outgrew the venue. That's where I started teaching for the show and began designing and publishing articles in the various magazines.

They updated the Convention Center after we moved to Wisconsin, but
it's a wonderful building in a beautiful part of the country. 

The Portland Convention Center was a wonderful place for the show. Hotels were accessible, there was a wonderful oriental grocer across the street with some of the best bento boxes I've ever had for a quick, nutritious lunch, and the Portland weather was perfect in early June. But the show got large - too large for the Center's facilities and available classrooms.

The Milwaukee Convention Center's rooms and halls are filled
with beaders, vendors, and classes. Spillover also takes classroom
space in the two host hotels - the Hyatt and the Hilton. 

The show was moved to Milwaukee in 2000. First managed by a management company, then taken over by Bead & Button Magazine completely, it's grown and grown. This year is the 16th year of the show in Milwaukee. There are more than 700 classes available and more than 300 vendors. Now the show extends for two weeks, spreads across the Milwaukee Convention Center and a nearby technical college, takes most of the rooms in the downtown area and brings in thousands of attendees, teachers, and vendors. It grew from a small gathering of similarly-minded people into big business.

The Milwaukee Hilton Downtown was opened in the 1920's and
still has much of its art deco styling and artwork. It's a gorgeous
hotel. I'll be staying there this year. 

Every year I wonder whether I'll bother attending again because it's changed so much - it's not the comfortable place where I was able to meet and share meals with leaders and top designers any more. But it's also like returning home and I love that aspect. Going to Bead & Button Show every year is like returning to a vacation home that started out in a small town and had the town grow into a tourist destination around it. Oh, wait, I've done that one too. But that's a story for another time. Enjoy your weekend and Happy Mother's Day to all of the mothers out there.

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