To Tucson: With Love, Sara

It's a long haul from Knoxville, Tennessee to Tucson, Arizona but it's worth every layover, pocket of turbulence and airline snack! Tucson never disappoints. It's been a few years since my last Tucson adventure and I'm happy to report, not much has changed. From the cactus' greeting you as you exit the airport to the enormous mountains that are kissing the clouds, Tucson is just as beautiful as I left it. 

Tucson has a rich art scene with inspiration at every turn. What better place to spend with one of my favorite people?

Good morning, Tucson! 

We spent our first waking hours at a cute little coffee shop, busy as always, fueling our caffeine addiction, taking social media picks and mapping out our plan of action. There's no rest for the creative. Breakfast - check! Time to get a move on.

Next stop, Colors of the Stone at the Casino del Sol Resort. 

We spent time with the rest of my beady family at the Beadalon booth. Facebook Live, anyone? Our quick Facebook Live session turned into an impromptu wire project using some of Beadalon's new Multicolored Artistic Wire. This stuff is gorgeous!! I'm already planning future Facebook Live projects with it! We had an amazing lunch in the casino, and of course, a brainstorming session for the books! We have so many amazing plans in the works. Tucson is already working it's creative magic on us - and the timing is perfect because I'm going to need all the creative inspiration I can get for our next stop. 

Ready. Set. Create! 

Beadalon's 2020 design challenge, hosted at the Whole Bead Show was a fast paced, creative competition between myself and 22 other talented artists from our jewelry making community. 

We each received identical items that were all revealed at the same time. All the items were provided by many of our favorite industry partners including : Ava Motherwell Collection, Beadsmith, Bollywood Bead, Dakota Stone, John Bead, Swarovski, TierraCast and of course, Beadalon and Jesse James Beads! We were given 1 hour to create a design using the items that were provided. So how did I do? Well.. let's just say, I let the pressure get to me. I started out strong with a clear plan in mind but...we all know the saying, "Man plans and God laughs". With 11 minutes left on the clock, I abandoned my original idea completely and put together a simple but lovely pair of Swarovski earrings. I won't be winning the bragging rights this year but I still had an amazing time working with my creative friends, laughing and being silly. A great time was had by all! We ended the night with a wonderful dinner with many of our industry friends - sharing drinks, appetizers and lots of laughs.  I was definitely feeling the love. These are truly my people.
Coffee me! Tohono Chul, here we come! Tuesday was a full day of classes in the beautiful Sonoran Desert. What an amazing place! Not only were we surrounded by the amazing natural beauty of Arizona but the friendship and creativity that we all shared was overwhelming! Classes, friends, swag.. does it get any better? Add food! We had an amazing lunch provided by the Tohono Chul Garden Bistro, including the most amazing prickly pear lemonade I have ever tasted! How can I get this stuff back home?? We all had an amazing time. Thank you to everyone who came and spent the day with us. It was a day that I will not soon forget. 
Sarah and I had a great dinner with some industry friends at a restaurant called The Hub in downtown Tucson. It's a cool little place with amazing food - and ice cream! It was the perfect way to end a long but satisfying day. 
Wednesday was my last full day of my Tucson adventure and it was a full day of creating, shopping, and teaching! First stop, breakfast and coffee. Have you ever seen a breakfast sandwich this big? Wowza! 
I also had to stop and take a picture of this amazing mural on the outside of a nearby building. Tucson is full of murals like this. I could make myself at home here. 
We headed back over to Colors of the Stone at Casino del Sol and spent the morning, shopping, talking to old friends and making new ones. We stopped at XAZ Bead Company, Golem Studio, Dakota Stones and many more. We looked at beads, findings, clasps, leather.. so many things to see. We made a few purchases for upcoming projects and a few personal pieces as well. I can't wait to share all the new project ideas we have coming up. You guys are going to love the beads and findings Sarah picked out! I need a pocket sized Sarah James to do all my beady shopping with! 
We stopped for sushi on our way to the Beads of Courage : Designing with the Stars event. This fast-paced design party was a blast! Five designers teaching five jewelry designs in fifteen minute increments for a great cause! The skill levels ranged from absolute beginner to seasoned professionals. Sarah and I taught a fast paced bangle bracelet project featuring beautiful Jesse James Beads and Artsy Wire bangles made from Beadalon wire. Everyone learned how to create a wrapped loop to create beaded dangles to embellish their bangles. Everyone left our table with a beautiful finished piece, a new skill to take home with them and a full heart knowing how much their contribution to the Beads of Courage means to a child. The night was full of fun, learning and friendship.
If you are not familiar with Beads of Courage please take a minute to check out and read about this wonderful organization. "Every time a bead is given, courage is honored, suffering is alleviated, resilience is strengthened, and the experience of human caring is affirmed." - Beads of Couragewebsite 
I cannot begin to put into words how deeply I was moved by being a part of this wonderful night. It was truly a beautiful experience and one that I will forever carry in my heart. 
Sarah and I ended our night with a wonderful dinner at the Kingfisher where we literally closed the place down. We were the only table left at the end of the night and I think our waiter was happy to see us go home - but not before we had a few oysters, ceviche and hummingbird cake! The next time you are in Tucson, check this place out. The food is delicious! 
And just like that, it was time to go home again! Thursday morning came in the blink of an eye and I found myself back on a plane to Tennessee. I had a quick stop in Chicago and left just as a snowstorm blew in. My trip to Tucson was a whirlwind of fun, love and inspiration! I've slept since my return and I'm finally feeling back to myself energy-wise but I still have Tucson on the brain - sending messages to my newly made friends, and sending safe travel wishes to old friends on their journeys back home. I can't wait to go back again. I've already marked it on my calendar. Tucson 2021 or Bust! 
With Love,
Sara Ellis



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