TAFA: The Textile and Fiber Art List

Monday, February 6, 2012

Afghan Tribal Arts at the Tucson Gem Show

Afghan Tribal Arts in Tucson
Howard Johnson's, Room 149

Every year, for many decades now, the city of Tucson hosts one of the largest gem and mineral shows in the world.  People from many nations come with their rocks, stones, fossils, minerals, beads and jewelry and set up to sell to other people who also come from all over the world to buy.  It's quite overwhelming as big tents are set up with different themes all over the city.  Hotels, like the one we are at, remove the bedroom furniture and make room for temporary shops.  We are in an area where most of the vendors are selling big rocks, barrels of them, along with fossils and other minerals.  A block away is the African Village.  Down the street I have heard that there is some guy with some great stuff from Nepal.  I've pretty much been hostage to my little corner as Abdul was set up at another hotel with a show that ended tonight.

Outside we have a display of textiles, wood and show specials.  We only get to have one table in front of the room, while others have long selling areas.  We're in a fire lane, so we have to be contained.  If you look down the street, you see the others with their rocks:

Inside, we have beads along the walls on grids, then textiles and jewelry on tables.  It's quite a beautiful little shop except that the sun is so strong outside that it takes a minute to adjust to less light in the room.

So, as you can see, it's a little shop.  An expensive little shop!  $2,000 for the room for two weeks, $3,000 for a truck and gas, food, etc.  Traffic has been slow.  Old timers talk about the good old days when buyers squeezed by, shoulder to shoulder.  Now, you get little bursts of action and then quiet.  But, the connections made can be extremely valuable and if one does not take the risk, then it is like giving up on the whole business.  

It's been a fascinating time for me as I get to know my neighbors.  The guy next to me lives in Siberia and does not speak a word of English.  He expresses himself through smoke signals as he puffs at endless cigarettes and mimes his needs.  How can one sell like that?  Then, there are a bunch of friendly Mexicans and Germans living in the Dominican Republic, all in the mining industry.  They barbecue every night and tonight I was invited.  Such stories!  Next, a Polish woman from Chicago and her beaded jewelry.  Around the corner, a slew of Brazilians who have gobs of gems.  They are party hardy and I haven't had the guts to introduce myself (I grew up down there).  They are the black leather, gold watch, night-club scene and I am just a peasant from Kentucky now.  (Ha!) 

The most fun for me has been another Afghan, Shah Ji, who is around the corner closest to me.  Very sweet and great sense of humor.  We both roll are eyes in our heads....  Tomorrow Abdul will be back here full time and the real fun will start as he is the story teller and the true salesman.  I get to take the day off and traipse around with my friend, Joyce, from Chicago.  And, I got to meet a couple of TAFA members here and will do something with them in a couple of days.  So far, all I have really seen of Tucson is what is in front of me:

A bunch of bushes separating the hotel from an empty lot now inhabited by Rainbow Children....  Oh, I also got to see Petsmart and Walmart at night.  Woo hoo!  Petsmart?  Yes, the highlight of this trip, so far, has been finding little Tor, a new addition to my crew at home.  A chihuahua we found, abandoned at a truck stop in New Mexico.  More on him later...

Read all of the Tucson stories:  Click!


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