…A Guide For The Aspiring Bead Artist
by Warren S. Feld

Excerpts From This Ever-Evolving Tale.....

I don’t mean to drag a poor Elephant by its tail, kicking and screaming, into our bead world against its wishes. Nor do I perceive the elephant to be a threat, like you might see an Elephant in the boudoir, or the fine china store. And I don’t want you to shut your eyes and pretend not to notice that this Elephant is here, standing shoulder to shoulder with every beader and jewelry maker around.

The Elephant is not a joke. And the fact that it is “Rogue” makes it more important than ever to figure out why it’s here, among size #10 English beading needles, and Czech size 11/0 seed beads, and Austrian crystal beads. It seems so worldly, yet other-worldly, our Elephant. It’s not our muse. It’s not our Cassandra. It has no secret plan or strategy. It does not depend on its size to make its point. It does not hesitate to stomp and chomp and clomp because the beads before it are raku or glass or gemstone or crystal or metal or plastic. But a Rogue Elephant in the middle of our craft room forces upon us a completely different logic, so that we can make sense of it all.|


Containers, Or How To Keep Things Organized

It’s hard to contain a beader’s delight for containers. Boxes. Boxes with lids. Boxes with drawers. Boxes with neatly inset boxes with lids and drawers. Boxes on wheels. Boxes on wheels that fit neatly into the limited space between two cabinets. Boxes that rotate. And boxes that levitate.

There are at least two challenges that every beader faces.

First is finding the best container.

Second is deciding how to organize your beads, and if you keep notes and sketches, how to keep these organized and accessible, as well..

Containers are everywhere. Bead stores have some good ones, but you find the best ones at hardware stores (tool boxes) and tackle stores (fishing boxes) and kitchen and bath stores (organizers). There are many things which make good containers. These include egg boxes, muffin pans, deviled egg trays, cosmetic cases, containers and accessories for lipsticks, nail polishes and brushes, contact lens cases, and tic-tac mint boxes.

It is not uncommon for beaders to completely re-organize a previously well-organized bead work set up, upon finding new and different containers for organizing beads. Containers, you see, are just another excuse for handling beads. And while making a necklace or beading a doll requires exercising the creative mind in very taxing ways, containers and their re-organizing are less so.

Susan found her Ultimate Beading-2000 container set-up at Lowes. It was a large multi-drawer tool cabinet made from red plastic. It had a top that lifted up. It had a pull out work-shelf. And it had drawer after drawer after drawer, each dividable with adjustable section-dividers into 1”x3” spaces – Perfect. The unit even had wheels. She thought to herself, she could easily bring the unit onto an airplane, or in a car, or to the doctor’s office. Perfect.

She bought six of them. And she began the routine of re-organizing everything in her studio. And her studio was vast. Even people with vast studios would think hers was vast-er. After many days of mornings and afternoons, evenings and nights, after diligence upon diligence upon diligence, after conversing with her Freudian mother and Jungian best friend and Horney-ian sister and Bayley-ian cousin, Susan was done. Everything was re-organized. A smile. A satisfaction. A relief. Until, that is, Susan remembered to check inside one more closet and one more desk and a kitchen cabinet and a file cabinet in her garage. Yes, Susan had forgotten about a few beads and findings that she had stashed away throughout her house. Many “few” things. Many, many “few” things. So many, in fact, that Susan had to re-organize again from scratch.

As Susan, and many other experienced beaders know, you need different kinds of containers for different kinds of situations. This amplifies the fun in finding containers. You need containers to store your beads. You need something to carry your beads in your purse. You need containers to hold all your beads and supplies for a particular project, and these usually must fit inside a canvas tote bag. You need containers to bring things with you on a plane. You need containers that help you bead while traveling in car. You need containers to help you sort through things. And you need containers because everyone you know has containers.

Beading While Traveling On An Airplane

Most beaders like to bring their beads wherever they go. Lest they end up in some jail charged with terrorism, today’s air traveling presents special challenges for beading on a plane.

While the rules for what you can and what you cannot bring on a plane seem to vary frequently, you can be sure that scissors, crochet hooks, knitting needles, and many hardware tools, will tend to get you pulled over for a major search, and maybe a major loss of these as well.

Dental floss containers are good substitutes for scissors. And they hold your bobbin of thread in a good, tight way, as well. Supposedly, if your scissors are blunt-ended, they are OK.

Circular knitting needles are usually acceptable. Straight needles made of wood, plastic, or bamboo stand a better chance than metal ones.

Bamboo crochet hooks won’t get taken up.

Keep your beads tightly packaged, and your projects small. You don’t want your beads flying all over the plane. And the seats and tray tables are tight and small.

In case your stuff gets confiscated, bring with you a stamped, self-addressed envelop, so you can have these mailed back to you, instead of tossed in the garbage.

Try to get an EXIT row – more leg room.

You may want to ship your heavy duty tools and materials to your destination ahead of time, instead of playing the odds of bringing them onto a plane.

Part of the art of “containering” is placement. If on a desk or work surface, it must aid the flow of work and not distract from it. If on the floor, it must ideally fit within or under something, or somehow disguise itself as part of the furniture. If to be stacked, each component must rest upon the other in some natural, inherent and perfectly rational way. If there are other containers for items associated with non-beading crafts, these must somehow not contaminate those for beads.

Once the containers are set, (until, of course, you find new more appealing containers), you must decide what goes in them. Easier said than done. In an internet survey I once did, most people wrote that they organize their beads by color. All the reds go in one place, all the blues in another, and so forth.

This creates a slight dilemma. Say you want to do a project with delica beads. Arrangements solely by color will mean that you’ll have to dig through a lot of different styles of beads to find the delicas you want. And you’ll have to do this for each color.

If you arrange by style, then it will be difficult to pull your beads, if you want to use several different colors. If you arrange by materials – glass vs. gemstone vs. plastic vs. metal vs. ceramic – then it will be difficult to find and pull your beads, if you want to mix styles and colors.

You might feel the urge to separate small hole from large hole beads.

You might want to keep letter beads in their own place.

You might want to have additional trays that contain all the beads and other pieces used for your favorite designs, so if you want to repeat them, all you have to do is grab one tray.

Do you mix vintage with new?
Small with large?
Holiday with general?
Beads for bead-weaving with beads for fiber embellishment and sewing?
Beads in-style with beads out-of-style?
Machine made with handmade?
Contemporary with ethnic?
Do you cut things off strands, or leave them on strands?
Do you mix up your tubes, or keep them separated?

And we haven’t begun to talk about stringing materials, jewelry findings, needles, glues, tools, and other beading accessories….

How do you label everything? How do you keep track of what you have and don’t have? How do you keep track of the color name, the color code, and the cost?

As one of our beader-friends said, “I have so many sketch books, that when I look for something, I don’t know where to start.” Moreover, “if I find the sketch I want, I don’t know where to safe-keep this, until I’m ready to begin the project, without losing it again.”

Where among all your containers in your already crowded workspace do you plan to situate the super-computer you’ll need to keep everything straight?


With all the containers I’ll need, and all the organizing that I have to do and keep up with, will I ever have the time to bead my Rogue Elephant? How will I get my containers to the place where I’ll bead my Rogue Elephant? Will my Rogue Elephant stand still enough and not knock down my containers? Too much to think about.

Keep 'em contained

Recently, I decided to organize my seed bead collection. I put the beads in a 64-drawer cabinet and labeled the drawers with the size and color of the beads. I chose to store most of the beads loose because the tubes didn't fit in the drawers Then one day, my husband accidently kicked over the cabinet, and 64 drawers of seed beads spilled onto the floor. (He felt so bad; I just laughed.) So, unless you want several unique color mixes like I have, if you decide to store your beads this way, secure them in little plastic zip bags first.
- Heidi Inskeep, Scottsdale, Arizona



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