How to Organize Bead Supplies
In the wonderful world of beads, it can be easy to become overwhelmed (so many beads, so much wire, so many findings!), especially if you are just starting out. Here are some tips on how to organize all the beading supplies you have–and those you will acquire.
Everybody has his or her own style of organizing, so yours can be as unique as you are. Do what works best for you but following a few guidelines might help to streamline your creative process.
Assess Your Storage Needs
What You Have
Figure out exactly what you have and how much of it you have. Pull out all your supplies and put them on the table. Get out a notebook and write down what you have – beads, pliers, wire, glue, findings. If you have several main categories of beads, write those down – for example, seed beads, Swarovski crystal, lampwork beads.
What You Need
Looking over what you have, is there anything major missing that you want to acquire within the next year? Add those items to your list.
How Your Collection Will Grow
Some parts of your collection will stay relatively the same (i.e. you only need so many pliers). Beads, and perhaps findings, will keep growing. Put a star by the items in your list that will expand over time.
Write down any needs your storage system has to meet, such as being able to fit in a certain space or being portable. Do you have a dedicated space to work, or do you need to put your beads away each time you finish working?
Know Your Storage Options
Work In Progress Storage
Bead trays, ice cube trays–work in progress storage are open and let you see what you are working on.
Tubes, vials, screw-top containers, flip-top canisters, storage boxes, plastic baggies–there are many small container systems you can buy to sort and store your beads. Some are stackable, and some come within larger boxes that keep them organized. The benefit of individual containers is that it is easy to pour the beads out of them. The downside is that it takes more opening and closing to get to your beads, and it can be harder to see them all at once.
Divided Storage Boxes
These boxes have multiple compartments where you can see all your beads at once. Make sure the ones you buy are made for very tiny objects like beads–meaning the dividers go all the way to the bottom, and when the lid is closed, beads cannot shift from one compartment to another. Be extra careful with seed beads–they almost always do better in individual containers, both because they do not shift around, and because you can pour them out.
For tools you want to have on hand, like your chain-nose pliers or wire-cutters, a rack is a handy option.
If you go to an office supply store, or a hardware store, you can see various kinds of pull-out shelves, from the ones made for nuts and bolts, to ones made for paper. Any of these might be useful for organizing tools, wire, or your individual containers.
Decide On An Organizational Scheme
It makes sense to keep your findings separate from your beads, but then what? How do you organize all the many types of beads?
It’s up to you, but here are some ideas:
- By quality – You may want to separate your fancy bead-store finds from your run-of-the-mill craft beads.
- By color – Since most jewelry design revolves around color, organizing by color can help a lot when you are working on a design.
- By type or size – Seed beads generally require a different sort of storage anyway (see above), and you may want to separate glass beads from gemstone or wood beads, or small beads from large focal beads.
Keep Your Stuff Visible
If you're an avid beader, it can be easy to lose track of supplies even when they're properly stored. Take advantage of wall space and mount jewelry making tools and wire on pegboards, making it easy to spot the type you need. And use clear storage containers, like mason jars or watchmaker's cases — small, round aluminum tins with glass lids you can see through — to make locating the perfect findings & components a cinch.
Keep It Pretty!
If you are making jewelry, you are likely someone who is very visual. And when you are visual, clutter can disrupt and distract from your creative process. So aside from making sure your jewelry-making space is neat and clean, think about how you can turn it into an attractive place. Using glass jars is great for visibility and showing off your pretty supplies, whereas not-so-pretty tools can be tucked in a drawer so they're out of sight.
Put It All Together
Now that you have a thorough idea of what is available to you, set it aside for a day or so, and let your unconscious mull it over. Then come back to it with fresh eyes, and start thinking about what fits for you, your needs, and your personality.
There is no perfect system for everyone, and your needs will evolve over time. The key is to make thoughtful choices and re-evaluate periodically to make sure your choices are still working for you.