This weekend I am teaching a workshop at my home studio, "Let's Get Knotty", focusing on perfecting the art of knotting gemstones and pearls on silk thread. I love this technique because the softness of each silk knot really highlights the beads and the spaces between each bead allows the piece a gentle movement.I love sourcing gems from all over, but I especially love getting my inner Gem Geek on by going to the gem and rock fairs around the Portland area that pop up in County Fairgrounds and other quirky locales. These Fairs are often held in parking lots encircled by chain link fences and featuring other glamourous trappings like craft tents and fry bread!This weekend will find me at one such event, the Tualitin Valley Gem Club show, where my Gem Geek will be raging and my wallet will be frequently opening to purchase some really special gems and stones.Ordinarily I would give you a hyperlink to the show here, but these Rock Hounds are so serious about their rocks and gems that they simply have NO time to update their skeleton of a website. Anyway, if you want to go, meet me there on Friday, Saturday or Sunday at the Washington County Fair Complex!
It is at these fairs that I really learn about the stones I am buying. I can usually see an example of the stones in their natural form and I can often meet the people that carve the beads and stone pendants themselves. This proximity to the stone's source adds a great deal of character and connection. Then, when I am stringing the beads or knotting them on silk, I have a better idea of the journey the bead or stone has made to get to me, and then to the buyer of the piece I am making. Another wonderful place to learn all about stones and gems is the fantastic Rice Northwest Museum of Rocks and Minerals. I was first introduced to this cool and extensive museum located in Hillsboro (very near the site of the Tualitin Valley Gem Club show!) on a 5th grade field trip with my son's class. I think I had the most fun of all the kids, seeing the endless rooms of a former private home in the forest encompassing vast quantities of examples of all kinds of fossils, petrified wood, huge meteorites, amazing fluorescent rocks, and a wonderful agate gallery. My personal favorite is the display of giant chunks of amber with real bugs inside! One of the highlights of the museum is "Alma Rose", the rhodochrosite from the Sweet Home Mine in Alma, Colorado. Rhodochrosite is one of my favorite stones, having a lovely pink hue and many shades and forms to choose from.