Let´s first talk about how to organize the stash. This is a problem we all come across when we decide to start beading whether it is as a hobby or professionally. Some people find creativity when they are immersed in a big ocean of beads and like to have them all over the house, inside whatever imaginable, even old shoes. (I don´t wanna think about the smell of that jewelry). Others prefer to store their stuff in plastic bags sorted by type, which by the way, is a method we don´t recommend. Plastic bags are prone to snag and rip at times, not to mention how much of a hassle it is to pick them all up when it eventually does break.
Another way to store your beads is to put your stash in glass jars. We see two big inconveniences with using glass containers. Firstly if you need to work on your project somewhere else you can´t take them with you easily since glass is just too cumbersome. Secondly there´s always the possibility you drop the jar and it breaks to smithereens. What a drag! Some people use old mint or candy tins in order to avoid breakages. That´s good, but you can´t see what is inside so you have to label them which is double the job and no fun at all.
There are other ways to store beads. If you are one of those fortunate people who work cozily at home and have a designated space for beading, you can set up shelves or a bookcase, or even use a medicine chest.
Sorting the stash is never an easy task. We ourselves had decided to organize our beads and tools many times only to find ourselves later wasting time looking for that single bead to finish our project.
Before getting started to organize our materials we had to take in consideration sizes, colors, material, shapes and quantities. The more creative we become the bigger the variety of beads we needed. So, in order to give free reign to our creativite muscles and avoid hair-pulling frustration, we believe it absolutely necessary to plan out how to store the beads that have accumulated over the years.
Also, having proper storage for your beads allows you to keep your most coveted pieces well preserved. Items like Glass beads, Semi-precious stones, seeds, etc. can change color if we don´t protect them from the elements like sun and dust. As we know now trends go in a circle (I shouldn´t have thrown those golden delicas away). Sometimes when we purchase a lot of beads that turn out not to be very successful, they make a very strong come back in the future. You must see your beads like a long term investment.
My wife and I have figured out throughout a lot of years of beading, designing and selling jewelry, that the best option is to use the plastic storage boxes with a lid, like this one, from Fire Mountain Gems.
They are highly affordable and you can find them easily anywhere. I think most retail/craft stores have them as well. They come in different sizes and they are easy to manage and take with you if you need to work at your booth in a craft show. The translucent plastic facilitates allow you to see the content without having to open them up. This saves a lot time and effort when you look for an specific kind of bead. Believe me, it´s just incredible the amount of time you save having your stash in these containers. We could work on projects and handle customers at the same time. At different craft shows we’ve been to it has turned out to be our best option. Before sometimes we only had little space to work in our booth and we were forced to put our materials on our knees or on the floor. Having our beads in these containers, helped us to be more efficient and to avoid a big mess.
Of course, I am from Mexico and this kind of container is all you can get over here for a small budget, but I am amazed with the huge variety of plastic containers you can buy in the States and Canada.
We do also use plastic Ziploc bags but those are only for our wires, pins and metal stuff that don´t fit in the little compartments. In this way there is no need to bend the frail materials.
You can check discussions about this subject in almost all web sites related to beads and see that every one has different ways to store their beads. I found some very interestings solutions online, for example; Jill MacKay offers a smart way to store seed beads, and Cate Prato of Quilting Arts suggests a way to cut down on garbage by using packaging as storage solutions as seen here.
Be sure to read the comments too. There are good suggestions like this one:
“Visit the fishing tackle and gear department or any sports store and you will see at least 20 sizes and shapes of clear (or milky) plastic boxes all divided into compartments just the right size for beading and embroidery equipment. They stack well too—a label on one edge and you are all set.”
I think she means something like this.
Hope these tips were useful to your jewelry making and make your job more pleasurable. But if you are one of those who find creativity with beads all over the place, let us know how you do it!