Behind the Bazaar.

We've been teasing you with glimpses of Bazaar goods for days, and you're probably wondering, where exactly did these items come from? Who made them? And how did they get to us at betsy & iya? Read Suzy's account of the buying trip that stocked us up for the betsy & iya Bazaar to answer all these questions and more.

Betsy's been going to Tucson for a few years now, attending the annual Tucson Gem Show and checking out the seemingly millions of little markets that descend upon the city to coincide with the gem show.  I've heard tales of these awesome sprawling markets with their amazing goods from all over the world where, if you do some serious digging, you can unearth... well, gems (I'm talking literally and figuratively here, people). During her trips over the years, Betsy's found beautiful goods that she's brought back to the betsy & iya brick and mortar shop - chunks of shiny quartz, brass cuffs, gorgeous baskets.  I was thrilled when Betsy asked me, her Retail Buyer, to join her on this year's buying trip to Tucson... and I worried that I'd go a little nuts with all of the stimulation and blow the shop's buying budget for the rest of the year!

Me basking in the Tucson sun while scouting rugs to bring back to the shop (or...ahem, my apartment).

The first thing that hit me about these markets is that they are all. over. town.  Everywhere. They zigzag along highways and pop up in the middle of what feels like nowhere. Hotel courtyards connect with neighboring fast food parking lots connect with random vacant lots and get transformed into stall after stall of vendors with tons of of goods. It's overwhelming to see the amount of goodness that's all over the city. As a buyer, I took it as a challenge: digest as much as possible, scope out the prettiest, most interesting items, pack it all up, & ship it home. And do it all in three days.

John and his son who hail from Gallup, NM, who are our source for vintage turquoise jewelry and beaded Navajo pieces.

The second thing that struck me is that in the years that Betsy has been attending these markets, she's made some strong connections with the makers and vendors from whom she buys. It was so satisfying to meet the people she's talked about and introduced me to via email - to put faces to the names I write to say, "please send me more turquoise goodness!" and, "do you have any more of the beautiful indigo cloth Betsy purchased from you several months ago?"  And it was moving to hear their stories, like that of Dioum - she sells baskets crafted by women in West Africa and brings the profit directly back to the women in the form of career training and mentoring. handwoven baskets from Africa

Dioum and her collection of hand-woven baskets from West Africa.

Betsy and Dioum.

Betsy, Ebrima, and me.  Ebrima provides us beads from all over Africa and with beaded Fulani necklaces.

We packed so much into those two boxes we had to use our bodyweight to make sure they closed! 

The third thing that struck me?  How much a good margarita (or two) contributes to a successful buying trip.  Thank you for that, La Cocina.  Penca and Five Points Market did their fair share of keeping us sustained, too.

Me, a little shell-shocked on day one, with aforementioned margarita in view.


Betsy, scrolling to pass the time before margaritas arrive.

I'll be working during the Bazaar on 2/27 and am really looking forward to chatting with our guests about all the goods we brought back, about the people who make them and bring them to us, and about how fabulous they're going to look on you and in your home!

Tucson wandering
Group 7