Our Story of How We Started Working With Quartz
Mining Quartz, From the Pocket to the Display Case.
Our story revolving around Quartz begins in 2015 in Tucson, Arizona as the desert ends its winter season and enters spring. Its early Feb, and it’s Gem Show time. The Tucson Gem Show is one of the biggest gatherings of crystal, mineral, and fossil dealers in the world. With over 30 venues a year, stretching over a 15 mile span through the heart of the I-10 in Tucson. Tens of thousands of dealers, craftsmen, jewelers, and wholesalers spend roughly a month or more trying their luck at selling their gems at the Tucson Gem Show. Ashley and I were there for a brief moment doing our best to trade our wire wraps for crystals, and that’s where we met Justin and Avant Mining.
Ashley and I just finished our first serious year at wire wrapping jewelry, and we both had mustered up the courage to go out and trade our jewelry for more jewelry stones. One afternoon, in the heat of the sun after a long morning of walking on cement and stooped in awe over pretty crystals, we walked into a booth with the most beautiful quartz we had ever seen. Giant clusters everywhere, huge quartz points lined rows upon rows of tables, and up front was this loud, boisterous, yet charismatic and charming fellow, Justin Manley. The three of us all fell in love with each other instantaneously and our journey into the realm of quartz began in an instant. We ended up spending the rest of the day hanging out at the booth with Justin, talking about quartz, laughing out loud and drinking light beers. We shared stories, and admired all the crystals, and acted like little kids. We traded several pieces with Justin and scored our best trade that year for some large points and a few juicy clusters. Justin also commissioned one of our first custom pieces of jewelry with one of his optical clear quartz points. As the day turned to night, we ended the first day of our life working with Quartz.
2016- Strengthening Our Bonds
The next year at the Tucson Gem Show, we went in early before the main start of the show began. By happenstance, we showed up at Justin’s booth as he was setting up for the Pueblo Show and he seemed very stressed out and a bit worried. He ended up not having enough help to run a tent full of crystals across from his main tent and he figured he would have to just take care of both at the same time… with help from one other person. So, Ashley and I offered to help him out and sell crystals for him. He delightfully agreed, and we spent the next 3 weeks selling quartz at the Pueblo venue along the I-10. We had agreed to enter long days in the heat selling to countless strangers, learning with every moment and every sale new things about the crystal world. We also met James Zigras, the company and mine owner, and quickly learned he has a wealth of knowledge about the mineral world. We learned all about structure, formation, metaphysical properties and more. At the end of 2016’s Gem show, we felt like seasoned salesmen and quartz experts as we became an integral part of the crew, selling for Avant Mining.
Reflecting on 2016, that year brought many challenges as Ashley and I took on responsibility of an entire booth to ourselves. Ashley’s organizational skills and experience in merchandising played a key role our success in 2016. Mixed with my skills being personable and bringing people into our booth, we racked up some incredible sales, helping Justin with a successful year in Tucson . Sales were so good in fact, Justin invited us to go work at the Denver Gem Show in September, which is normally right after Burning Man. We had been going to Burning Man every year since 2011, but in 2016 we decided not to go, in order to go on my first trip outside the US and a road trip around the country. Going to the Gem Show in Denver fit perfectly into our 2016 fall schedule. We also got invited to a 4/20 party at the end of Tucson, which was going to be hosted by our good friend Dusty, with Dusty Rocks. This 4/20 party just so happened to be what locked us in our position with the crew with Avant Mining and secured a future with the company.
The 4/20 party was held just outside of Olympia, Washington 2 weeks after Ashley and I built Lucidity Festival 2016. That year we were an Integral part of building the festival as I became the build foreman of the whole festival, and Ashley was assistant to the build lead. Immediately after Lucidity 2016, we took a road trip to Oregon and Washington as part of our way to scope out property in the Oregon area. We ended up just outside of Olympia at Dusty’s place and we were only able to stay just under 36 hours to enjoy one of the most exciting, yet laid back house parties I’ve ever been too. It was at this party we met Calie Carson, the operations manager at Avant Mining. During the course of the 36 hours at Dusty’s party, Ashley had made very good friends with Calie as they had shared some hilarious and sentimental moments together throughout the party. Unbeknownst to us at the time, this interaction locked us into the crew forever.
Denver 2016 was also a game changer experience for us. It was the first show that introduced us to large sales, bulk sales, and long term relationships with customers. The previous shows we worked with Justin, we just concentrated selling at Justin’s prices and selling like we were in a retail store. We constantly had to go ask Justin on pricing, and how to give deals to those who wanted to buy more. Denver 2016 taught us the art of haggling and how we can reel in customers that didn’t want to pay retail-like prices. Justin gave us more sales power and allowed us to make finishing sales deals, especially on some larger sales over $3,000. We also learned quite a bit about the fine mineral shows where James Zigras has specimen pieces on display. In the previous Tucson shows, we were just sales reps. This Denver allowed us a peek into the greater realm of the Gem world, and how it all really works with collectors, mine owners, and high end wholesalers. Denver 2016 pretty much broke us into what was to come in the next few years of helping out Avant Mining and how we could bring in our real talents and help Avant with who we are as artists.
After the Denver show, we took a road trip down to Arkansas for the first time for both Ashley and I. We stayed there for almost 3 weeks helping Justin mine crystals and organize his scores from the Denver show. Our first night there, we all got so excited to see each other, we ended up at the mine, around a bonfire, staying up all night catching up, drinking, laughing, and enjoying the best parts of life. As the bonfire lit up the area of the mine we were at, I immediately noticed we were surrounded by crystals EVERYWHERE: on the ground, in the walls, in the water, in buckets all over, and on boulders. It was like nothing we’ve ever seen. Ashley and I parked our truck literally at the top of the mine and spent the next 2 weeks digging for crystals, sometimes all night long. There’s this fun energy that takes over the body the second you find a “pocket”, or a spot where crystals grow. Once you start pulling crystals out of a pocket, you get this unreal surge of energy that seems to last forever, because all you want to do is find crystals. Near the end of our stay, we even found a pocket of Smoky Quartz, which for this area of Arkansas was extremely rare. This was definitely my pinnacle moment digging because we literallyemptied out a small pond to work in this pocket and we had to step on boulders to allow us to work in the area without sinking into thick, wet clay that swallowed up everything. We were working on the face of a wall about 10 feet under where the water just was. And it was during this dig we pulled out a small smoky cluster worth over $20,000, due to clarity, location, and quality of quartz. So at this point, we had proven that we could sell quartz at the shows, and now dig the quartz at the mine. Life in the quartz world was really looking up for us.
We also furthered our relationship with the company as we assisted Calie in figuring out the numbers of the Denver Gem Show. We spent several daytime hours in the warehouse going over numbers and sales from the Denver show, and figuring out better systems that allowed for smoother transactions in the future. Ashley again was a big help as her history in merchandising and store management allowed her to suggest several things that would help drastically improve the young Avant Mining’s current systems. We were once viewed as “The Hippy Kids” who knew how to sell quartz, now we were making moves to really make a difference and soon got labeled “The Cool Kids”, which I kinda find funny since pretty much everyone that works with Avant Mining is right about the same age as us. Who would have known that our knowledge from previous jobs would have helped out so much. But it did! And from here, it only gets better.
2017-Current: To Infinity and Beyond!
2017’s Tucson show we took a break from working with Avant and spent the duration of the show helping out our friend from India with his booth. After our US road trip in 2016, we traveled to India to visit our wonderful friend Shram, who has ties to some of the most incredible gem cutting and jewelry making facilities in India. We spent 3 weeks with him traveling around India, practicing our haggling skills( because its a big part of Indian culture), and learning from Shram’s crews at the Gem and Arts Emporium in Udaipur, India. We also taught his crew the basics of wire wrapping, and even got to visit an indigenous tribe where we taught some of our permaculture techniques. We spent many, many hours in India dreaming up ways to improve Shram’s booth In Tucson and agreed to help him out for Tucson 2017.
At Shram’s booth in Tucson, we sold high end silver and gold jewelry directly from India, along with a very large variety of faceted gems and cabbed stones. We again got to fine tune our haggling skills and spend quite a bit of time grading faceted stones and a ton of Star Rubies. Learning the scope of the faceted gem world has helped us quite a bit for our jewelry and the knowledge will stick with us probably for the rest of our lives. Tucson 2017 was our first year networking for our Jewelry business, Craftyfingas. We spent a great deal outside Shram’s booth trying to draw in customers, and in doing so, we met a great number of people, many of whom we are still in contact with today. We learned the great value of networking, as we didn’t sell a ton of jewelry, but again made connections with people that led to much greater experiences down the road. That value of Networking still plays in our favor today.
A few months down the road, we received a call from Calie, asking if we were available to help during the Denver show of 2017. We agreed with all the excitement in the world, but shortly realized that 2017 was going to be our most intense year to date. We were moving out of our house in Tahoe, we were building Oregon Eclipse Festival 2017, building at Burning Man 2017 and then straight to Denver Gem Show 2017, back to back to back. Between OEF and BM, we had less than 24 hours to unpack, clean, pack and arrive at BM. And then between BM and the Denver show, we also had less 24 hours to unpack, clean, pack, and arrive in Denver. We literally had 6 weeks of non-stop packing, unpacking, and building, and then 3 weeks of super intense festival life before the Denver Gem Show. We really didn’t know what we were getting into, but when things only appear in your life once, you gotta take life by the reigns and go all out.
Denver again proved to be a wonderful experience. This time, we ran pretty much the entire main booth. We got to Denver and immediately started unpacking crystals and setting up our space. Calie managed what went where and talked to all the high end clients while Ashley and I ran the booth with our wonderful friend Kaja. In running the booth by ourselves, we had a bit of freedom to run things as we saw fit, which allowed us to more fully understand the selling of Quartz. Our knowledge of deal making increased with every sale and literally took our sales to new heights. Running the booth also allowed us to network heavily with artists, gem wholesalers and crystal dealers, which still plays into our jewelry game today. Denver was our best experience in sales at the time. Our ideas on how to better our sales continued to flourish and managing the show got us ready for Tucson 2018.
Tucson and Denver 2018 were both expansions of all our experiences combined. Our sales and networking get better and better with every show, along with our knowledge of quartz and other fantastic minerals. Ashley and I have become an integral part of Avant Mining’s crew, so much so that we’re now inviting our friends to come work with us when positions open up. We’ve been opening doorways into art world and exchanging grandiose ideas on how we can integrate crystals into other facets of life. The future holds so many wonderful possibilities and part of our job is to harness those possibilities. As everything grows and gets better, so does our love for quartz. As abundant as quartz is, and huge number of minerals that exist on this wonderful earth, quartz remains both of our favorite mineral. With Avant Mining, Quartz and all the possibilities we have in store for it, we will be going to “Infinity and Beyond”!