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).