HOW I ORGANIZE MY BEADS AND WIRE

HOW I ORGANIZE MY BEADS AND WIRE

I have loads of gemstone and sterling silver beads. I go through fits where I go down to the wholesaler and just buy anything that strikes my fancy at the moment, and, when the bead show comes to town, I buy whatever strikes my fancy, because I won’t see that kind of thing again (how come only one bead show comes to New York City? We are so deprived!!!!).  Then, too, once in a while, I go to Ebay and bid on things from sellers I like and trust, or go to an on-line supplier.

Sometimes, beads go right into a piece, but, often, they may languish a bit before I finally have the right thing to use them for.  As a result, I need a reasonably effective way to organize all my beads, wire, and findings, so that I can find them relatively effortlessly when I am ready to work and I know what I need. Because I have all these beads, fortunately, when I start to work, I have can usually focus on a particular item I already have.  Other times, I know the color, and I just go there (okay, sometimes, I have to go to my supplier).

Now, it is important to explain that I live in a small apartment in New York City, and I share it with a room-mate. I do not have a specific space for my work.  I usually work in the living room, which we do not use much, except to walk through, but we do want to keep it nice, and it is a shared space.

I have fishing tackle boxes organized by color, i.e., blues/turquoise, pinks/reds/oranges, .greens; grays/blacks/beiges, sterling silver beads, chains, and charms, and my collection of tourmaline (which spans the color spectrum).  These boxes have spaces which can be customized to a fair extent with movable plastic pieces, so I have larger spaces for the stones I have more of, and smaller spaces for the smaller amounts).  I keep silver wire and beading wire in a special box. All of my brass and gold-filled things (beads, wire, elements, findings) are in another box.  I stack these boxes in a cabinet in one corner of the room (and, if I am working a lot, sometimes under the coffee table I use as my workspace).  I do also have a box of things that didn’t work or have broken, which I revisit from time to time to rework a piece or to recover elements I need.

Within the bead boxes, I keep the stones in the same plastic bags I put pieces in for sale. I get them from my wholesaler, but I have seen similar bags at Walmart.  When I buy beads, I put them in bags as I select them, and mark the price on the bags, to help the cashier.  This also helps me later.  When I get home, I write the name of the stone and/or the size of the bead, and, possibly, the supplier, on a piece of painter’s tape and stick it on  the bag. (That way, I can reuse the bags until they fall apart, simply by removing the tape and applying another one).  When I buy things on-line, they normally come in little plastic bags, which I label as soon as I open the package.  Once everything is clearly identified as to what and what size it is, where I got it, and what it cost, I put it in the box it belongs in.

I am rather conservative in my designs, i.e., I do not combine many colors in a given piece (unless asked to), so, when I set to work, I pull out the box with the color range I am thinking of, and then the wire box, the findings box, and the silver bead box.  I find what I am looking for, remove the bag(s), and get to work.  I keep the boxes under my table, so it will be easy to return the bags with leftovers quickly and then put everything away.

When I am working, I use a very neat, disposable system.  For a given project, I get a paper plate and a Viva paper towel (I like Viva because they are soft and smooth, and the beads do not run around on them; I can keep different beads in different areas of the plate easily.)  This system works well for me especially when I am working on more than one project:  if need be, I can stack the plates carefully off to the side.  I can also stack them on a tray I keep just for that purpose, and move them easily to storage, if we are having guests.

I have just returned from a lovely vacation in the Outer Banks of North Carolina (aaah!).  My system worked so well for me that I was easily able to select two rings which I wanted to rework, and some beads in twos, in case I wanted to make earrings.  I put all of the pieces in a mega-pillbox (it has 30 1-1/2″ spaces for pills!), put the wire I expected to need in a large ziploc bag, put everything in a small plastic shopping bag, and stuffed it in my carry-on (the airport security was curious about the wire, but, when I offered to remove the bag and put it in a bin, they lost interest).

13 responses to “HOW I ORGANIZE MY BEADS AND WIRE

  1. i’m a jewelry designer too and just stumbled upon your blog while looking for somewhere to run out and go buy jewelry price tags. great (and definitely) smart ideas! thanks!

  2. Love the paper plate idea. Gotta borrow that one. Need help. The cotton in the white gift boxes gets all over my jewelry. Any suggestion what I can use instead? Please email me with your creative idea. Thanks.

  3. glad you liked the paper plate idea. I have found that Viva paper towels are the best on the plate, btw.

    As to the “cotton stuff” in the boxes: A store near me sells cardbord “velour-like” pieces for earrings, and small necklaces, which fit earring and necklace boxes. My morning coffee reading is catalogs: Rio Grande has a lot of box inserts of that sort, as does FireMountainGems. Check out their sites, and/or request their vendor supply catalogs. I just love drooling over the things in those catalogs over my morning coffee. Every time I look through a catalog, I find something new that I haven’t thought of wanting before.

  4. I, too, had issues with cotton. Use a pinking shears and cut a piece of fabric at least an inch larger on each side of your box. Then simply tuck the the fabric under the cotton and your jewelry rests on top of the fabric. The cotton in the boxes I purchased was “tarnish resistant”, but the chemical impregnated into the cotton was causing it to scratch beads. I chose an inexpensive shiny polyester fabric and it looks like it was meant to be and everybody wins.

  5. Thank you for sharing your tips! I have about 10 tackle boxes now of beads and findings, and I just acquired a large amount of new items for a customer project I was working on, so I’m struggling with how I will introduce them to the collection. To work on, I purchased felt-velcro presentation boards which work really well with the beads not moving too much, but they don’t have that border like the paper plates do, so I will try that next time. (and I am already firm believer in Viva!)

  6. I’M LOOKING FOR SUPPLYS TO MAKE BIG ERRINGS.

    I would suggest Fire Mountain Gems (firemountaingems.com). They have just about anything you would want, at really reasonable prices, and the more you buy, the cheaper it gets.

  7. I use paper plates as well! Its great if you have 2 little BOYS (ahh!)
    running around. One thing I do is add 2 or 3 strips (about 1″ or 2″‘s) of double-stick tape to the inner edge of the plate. This has saved me from losing what might have been that last bead or the thought of that tiny crystal beyond reach under the trim and past the sheet rock! Haha! Out of foam core board,made a litttle 3-tier cubby to fit a project (or 3 / only 6″ ht), threw cute wrap paper over it w/ faux metal corners and stuck it in a free cubby space we had :-) .. Paper plates and your site – both great! Thanx 4 sharing!

  8. I absolutely LOVE what you write, especially all the info about wholesale jewelry outlets in NYC. If I lived in the city, I’d find a way to meet you! We sound like the same person. Because of you I went to Metalliferous yesterday & took a friend. We even met David there! I am visiting the city now but about to leave. So glad I stumbled on your info. Thank you for all your insights & generous sharing of ideas.

  9. i got a high end bead kit when i was to young to care about anything like organizing all i did was make jewelry for family and birthdays. Now i would like to start selling somethings and making a profit off it. but iam stuck with a corner of my room that im scared to vacuum and is covered with beads and findings and strings and little baggies. the idea of using tackle boxs sounds wonderfull just cant find any at a decent price in my area…. any diy ideas about organizing that works well? and how to get started?.
    thank you !

  10. Check out Walmart – if you don’t have one near you, you can order online – just key in “tackle box” and you will see a lot of choices. KMart also has a number of different styles.
    I like tackle boxes because they are very sturdy. Still, you can find other kinds of containers at containerstore.com
    If you live in an American city near a river, lake, or ocean, there is probably a fishing store near you, and you can browse what they carry, compare the prices on-line (don’t forget to factor in shipping) and see if it is cheaper to buy locally (and support local commerce).

  11. PLEASE – I NEED HELP!!! Just got done ordering most of what I need to start my jewelry/wiring making home business. I used egg cartons and ice trays to hold many of my products. My problem is: I have ordered MANY new beads, etc. When each came in, I’d open them, leave feedback in eBay, and have my husband write the seller’s name/date on the pkgs., and set them aside according to date, thinking I could go into my eBay info to find more about them later, when I needed too. However, being new to eBay as well, my “Purchase History” list only shows pictures of items rec’d to a certain point. Now, I must look through ALL of them to find the bead I’m looking for from then on, to (ready for this) find out who sold them to me (my husband neglected to tell me he stopped writing the seller’s names on most of the pkgs.), what size/type/color/price, etc. etc. etc. of everything I have rec’d! OMG – does anyone know a simpler way of doing this? I feel so incredibly embarrassed I didn’t think of this ahead of time (lesson learned). I’m am overwhelmed, discouraged, and scared. Any input would be obviously greatly appreciated. Gypsy

  12. I use indelible pens (sharpies) to write any info not listed by the seller on the bag. If I later transfer the product to another bag, I write the relevant info on the new bag. (I used to put a stick-on label on the bag with all of the relevant info, but it turned out to be cheaper to write directly on the bag (if I can re-use the bag, I line through the previous info and write on the new info)

    If you want to remember exactly what ebay or any other seller said, you can either print that info, or create a PDF file of the page where the info is, and save it to your hard drive. This way, if the on-line info goes away, you will have captured exactly what it said.

    Another way I have used is to keep a binder with pictures of what I have, what it is, who it came from, and prices (if you have more space, you can use a filing cabinet, and create files in whichever format you choose (I would save files by stone, because that is where my interest is). If you do this, you should print off a copy of what it said on ebay, and annotate it with the date bought/arrived, the properties (i.e., what it is, and anything else that interests or concerns you). If you are more computer-oriented, you could make files on your computer, but I find it easier to go to the file, see what I have, where I got it from, how much it cost me, what it looks like, etc.

  13. Just found your great site, loads of useful info! Do you have the JoAnns, Michaels or Hobby Lobby stores in your area? Or you can find them on-line. They have the perfect plastic storage boxes for beads in several sizes. They cost less ($1.99-$14.99) than the tackle-box ones and some have non-tarnish dividers for silver. Love them and the uniform sizes stack perfectly. Even hold and organize finished product so you can see what you have available to SELL.

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