This week – we're holding back the new stuff, as we are making the final push to get the new website ready – and given that we can only do so much with what we have – new stuff for this week will have to wait.
So instead, I thought I'd entertain you with an account of my trip to Tucson – and my sampling of the 40 days and 40 nights of bead shows that are a feature of this time of year in Tucson, Arizona.
One of the things that struck me was massive quantities of beads and gems – rather like some fabulous tale from the Arabian Nights. So, without further ado, I give you:
Scheherazade and her Voyage to Tucson.
And Lo, the Genie lifted Scheherazade onto the flying carpet, and they were transported into the air, and though they were beset by terrible demons that cried “Take off your shoes” and “Empty your pockets,” still, they arrived safely in a new land. The air was warm and all about them grew exotic palm trees and giant cactus shaped like a man, but taller than a man standing on a man's shoulders, and with grotesque shapes and twisted limbs. And the Genie deposited her at a dwelling place and said, “Be here in the morning as the clock strikes 9:30, and I will show you the wonders of this place.” And so, Scheherazade went and rested for the night. Strange beasts howled all night, and in the morning, giant flying creatures screamed overhead – but still, she met with the Genie in the appointed place at the appointed hour.
And they went forth together to a place called the Gem Mall – and the wonders of it were such that it took her breath away. The Gem Mall was a vast tent – not a tent as you might pack on a camel and carry from place to place, but a tent such that you might build a village under and be forever sheltered from the sky. And, wonder of wonders, not just a single such tent, but two such tents, identical in every way. In side the tent there was, in fact, a village -- a village market place, but such as you have never seen before. Each seller had his or her goods arranged as their custom was, on tables, in piles, and all about were strung very bright lights that glittered and reflected from the dazzling goods below, and warmed the air until the tent grew hot.
“Look,” said the Genie, “This vendor is an honourable woman and will give you a fair price. Look upon her goods and choose that which you would have.” And Scheherazade looked, and the vendor had many, many stones of wonderful colours, cut into cabochons and donuts and many other fabulous shapes. She caressed the stones and chose amongst them – choosing from precious Tigereye and Amethyst and Jasper and Fluorite and some stones even so rare and precious that she had never seen them before and need must ask their names.
And then the Genie said, “Linger not here, for we have much else to see” and so they walked on through the aisles, marvelling at all the goods. Vendors called out to them - “Come see our wares,” “I have very fine turquoise.” “Come see my crystal skulls,” cried one – “very rare – no others like it.” But Scheherazade was not deceived, for she could see others like it at other booths, and so she passed on.
“Here,” said the Genie, “Is another honourable man, and he has wondrous beads made from glass in far-away Czech, and many of them have two holes though them, and can be strung in most magnificent ways together, and are called by the name 'Czech-mates.' These beads are new and so I command you to select these and gather them up and we will take these with us.” And then the vendor came out from the booth, for he recognized the Genie and said, “Master, you honour me with your presence. I will not suffer you to carry these – only select that which you desire, and I will convey them to you.” And it was so.
And it was thus that the first day passed, with the Genie taking Scheherazade to sellers that were known to be fair and honest, and together they looked at many, many things. There were piles of gold and silver and copper, and there were strands of opals and turquoise and sapphires and jacinths and rubies. There were treasures enough to ransom all the kings of the land, and everywhere they looked, the wonders of the earth were spread before them.
And at the end of the first day, the Genie said, “I will take you to a place I know and we will feast,” and so they went to a fine place, and food was put before them, and Scheherazade noted that everything they ate had avocados in it – even to being sliced into wedges and rolled in batter and deep fried, but these were wondrous good, and she ate many of them.
And the Genie returned her to the dwelling place and said again, “Meet me on the morrow at 9:30 and tomorrow we will explore more wonders, for we have not seen yet one tenth of the magnificence of Tucson.”
And so on the morrow morning, Scheherazade once again met the Genie at the appointed hour and place, and they went forth again, this time to the famed “I-ten strip.” And here, they found travellers' inns known as “motels” - where sellers had taken a room that opened onto a common courtyard, so as to better enjoy the warm sun, and they had transformed their rooms into tiny stores, every one, with tables draped with rich velvets, and their goods piled high upon them for all to see. And the custom was to wander in and out of the rooms, and so, going from room to room, see all the wares from all the world.
And they saw such amazing wonders as a dining table fashioned entirely from golden tigereye, and a Parcheesi board also formed from stone, but this being the green stone known as Malachite. They saw crystal balls for fortune tellers, some so large you could have seen the fortune of the whole world in them, if you were so gifted. They saw geodes – split open stones from the ground that contain fine crystals of amethyst growing from the walls of the hollow inside, but so large that a person could climb inside. They found a tent with a young man who had travelled all the way from Ethiopia, with many, many sacks of fine opals, still uncut, but flashing in the sun like a trapped rainbow, straining to release itself. And Scheherazade said unto the young man from Ethiopia, “I would buy some of your opals,” and he said, “Ah good woman, then you are a stone cutter of much good taste.” “Nay,” she replied, “It has been many years since I cut a stone, my good man, and I fear that my skills are not worthy of these fine stones.” “Well then,” he replied with puzzlement, “Why have you interest in these stones, as beautiful as they are, for these are un-cut.” And Scheherazade looked him square in the eyes and said, “Because they are opals,” and the man had no answer for this, and so he sold them to her.
And by and by they came upon a seller with stones carved in many wondrous shapes, horses and dragons and other magical creatures, and they were so taken with them, that they purchased some, knowing that many of their friends back home would also be so taken with them they they would want some.
Finally, as the day came to a close, the Genie took her to a place that was another tent, and in it it was filled with pearls – pearls from the sea, piled high in drifts such as the sea leaves in the sand, and as fabulous as any treasure ever seen, and such that it would have made the mighty queen Cleopatra fall to the ground weeping with envy, tearing her hair and beating her breast.
And on the third day, it was not the same, for this time, though they met in the morning, the Genie did not take Scheherazade to a place of riches, but to a secret place, where they met another Genie, who talked much about his trade and the magic that he could do and the treasures he could cause to have made. And they spend half a day looking at his wondrous treasures and selecting those which they would take home, and even designing new treasures. And this Genie taught Scheherazade a new trick for stamping metal and making a good clean imprint, which Scheherazade tried and found to be impressively good, and she will share it with you all by and by.
And so on the fourth day, it was more like the first, with more sellers and more treasures and wonders, only these treasures were not so simple as beads fashioned from fine stone and glass, but things that are made by skilled goldsmiths and jewellers, fine craftspeople and skilled leather workers. Scheherazade and the Genie marveled together at the wonders they saw: leather as soft and supple as butter; a magnificent skull of a crocodile, glittering and covered with rhinestones as clear as water; clasps for holding jewelry fashioned cunningly to resemble shoes and turtles and other objects; delicate wire spun in all the colours of the rainbow and woven and knitted together in such as way as to make fine fabrics and ribbons for the fashioning of beautiful items for adornment; beads fashioned from clay and glass and heated to make them permanent and strong and beautiful.
But finally, Scheherazade said, “Oh great Genie, you have shown me many wonderful things and I am filled with awe. We have purchased many fabulous items for trade and we will take these back home, and people will be much amazed and desirous to buy these things for themselves, but I have been too long from home and must return.” And the Genie said, “It is so,” and so on the fifth day, Scheherazade was transported once again in the air and so safely home, and by the auspices of the Genie, managed to avoid the perils of a terrible storm, and still arrive home.
And so it was that Scheherazade journeyed for the first time to the almighty place known as Tucson, and partook of the riches there. And it was good, and so she vowed to return again, for truly, one can not see all the wonders that are Tucson in a single visit. And that is the story of Scheherazade's first visit to Tucson.
As always, wonderful things where ever you look! I leave you to explore at your leisure. Click on a link or an image to go straight to the item mentioned above, or go to our massive list of everything, or if that page seems overwhelming - which we freely admit it is! - then try for bite-size portions by checking out these categories: Firepolish, Pressed Glass, Swarovski Crystal, Seedbeads, Stone and Pearls, Preciosa Crystal, Metal Beads, Other Cool Beads, Findings, Metal Clay & Supplies or Books, Kits, Tools.