…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.|





Walking into a bead shop can be very intimidating – especially for a beginner.

Since you don’t know what all the pieces are or how to use them. You never realized before that there were hundreds of different greens and blues and reds. You never knew there were so many different types and ways and techniques for putting beads together into a necklace or bracelet. You can’t visualize in your head where or how to attach the clasp.

So you might find yourself muttering out some words. Mis-pronouncing things to the point the sales clerk cannot understand you. Playing charades and drawing pictures, as if you were overseas and were trying to communicate in a foreign language. Assuming things that aren’t true. Assuming things the store clerk is thinking about you, even though they are not. Full of misinformation.

And beading is not an inexpensive avocation, which can be a little intimidating. While your costs for tools will be low, because relatively few are needed, the cost of materials adds up quickly. You’ll learn to work well, however, within whatever budget you have set for yourself.

Deana hates to shop and loves to shop in bead stores. As she describes it, “Ah yes, the psychological battle with one’s own brain and skills.” Deana points out that shopping in a bead store takes a lot of time. You are most likely not to find everything you want and need in any one shop. And you are likely to find a lot of things you love and have to have now, even when you don’t have a project for them. At least, not yet.

Deana laments her lack of sense of color. She hasn’t been able to teach herself about color, nor does she find relying on color wheels particularly helpful. She hasn’t learned about what goes with what in mixed sizes, mixed colors, or mixed shapes. And so her visit to the bead store can have a certain level of frustration and challenge. But it’s a challenge she loves to meet.

“Soooooooo, when I’m serious and go to a bead store out of the area, (or to 8 beads stores in Houston, or to 10 bead and quilt stores in Seattle), I take a few zip lock sandwich bags with treasures in them. They have the “thread”, the unfinished piece, and sometimes a sketch of what I thought I wanted.”

“It took me two years to finish four of my bead crochet pieces. I found the focal point beads for the yellow lariat in Seattle, the focal beads for the ‘snake’ in Houston, Be Dazzled in Nashville had the other two finishes. I have some cabochons and the book for about four other finishers, and got them locally at a bead show from S & S Lapidary.”

Deana’s daughter will not buy anything until it is complete in the bag, per se, with idea, string, all beads, clasp, and the crimp beads. She only buys kits. She is aware that she does not have the place and space to spend money on “what if” supplies. And only when that project is laid out on the coffee table, will there be any chance that the project will get finished.

I often find that people – especially men -- are intimidated by the very small sizes of all the parts they need. A lot of beads and parts may come in bulk, and not prepackaged. When people need 10 of something – 10 jump rings, 10 clasps or 10 crimping beads -- , it seems like an insurmountable task to count them out. They get confused why the red 4mm plain round beads are not the same price as the black 4mm plain round beads. They become paralyzed when they discover that the “amethyst” beads they were gathering up in their tray, are glass, where the “amethyst” refers to a color, and are not the gemstone, versus where the “amethyst” would have referred to the stone.

It’s important, when bead-shopping, to understand what you are buying. It’s extremely helpful to pick out a lot of your materials in person, rather than through catalogs or online. It’s important to support your local bead store. Their prices might sometimes be a little higher than in catalogs or online, but without these local stores, where would you be?

Have some contingency plans handy, in case you can’t find the exact color you are looking for, or what you need is out of stock, or what you need is otherwise unavailable. And be flexible. Not everything can look exactly like the magazine picture or as in the book.

My experiences in this business is that you get what you pay for. That $6.00 gold-filled clasp in the catalog relative to the $12.00 version that looked similar at your local bead store – it probably has a thinner coating of gold over the brass. You get what you pay for. Those Czech glass beads which were $4.00/strand online and $8.00/strand in your local store, probably were a grade B rather than grade A, with some flat spots on the beads, some colors not consistent within each bead, some chipping at the holes, and other irregularities.

The lesson I’ve had to learn over and over again, not matter how often I try to find the supreme bargain: You get what you pay for. Those $24.00/strand lapis beads which looked just like the $84.00/strand lapis beads are your local bead shop, probably were dyed, and may not have even been lapis, but perhaps howlite which is often dyed to look like lapis. You get what you pay for.

Why do two similar beads sell for different prices? I’m asked that frequently. Usually, it has to do with the color. It takes real gold to make the colors, red, yellow and pink. These colors for the same beads tend to be pricier than those that are blue, green or beige.

Some beads are machine made, some are hand-made, and some start as machine made and are then hand-finished. Some beads have the color go all the way through, while similar beads have a plain core bead and a color coating.

The quality of beads works a lot like the quality of clothing and irregulars. Irregular beads have some imperfections. On any strand of irregular beads, you’ll get some good and usable ones, and ones that are not. But companies don’t label their beads as such. For example, a 6mm ruby red glass bead won’t be labeled irregular or full quality, or grade B or grade A. It will only be labeled 6mm ruby red glass.

Beads are made all over the world. They are subjected to various tariff fees, currency surcharges, acquisition fees. The prices for beads fluctuate all the time. Sometimes the listed bead prices do not reflect all these other charges, but you suddenly find, as you read the bottom of your invoice, a 26% surcharge has been added.

Companies don’t make all the beads and all the colors all the time. For some styles of beads, companies might make the lightest colors first, and gradually make darker and darker colors. When they get to the darkest, they destroy the kilns, because they are no longer usable. When Japanese seed beads run out, they are usually out of stock for 3 months.

Colors change from batch to batch. The color of the bead is affected by the barometric pressure outside the factory when the bead is made. This is something they can’t control, and why there are color differences from batch to batch.

Most beads are not made in large runs. Forty gross (5,760 beads) of any one bead/size/color is a good run. For many beads, this run might meet the current needs of beaders and jewelry makers in the whole world. And some beads are only made once.

Don’t get caught up in trying to find the exact same bead you bought before. Sometimes you can, but often you can’t. There are millions and millions of beads. Every bead store doesn’t have the same selection. And that’s part of the fun.

When you buy beads on strands, you have to re-string these. The stringing materials these come on are not durable. The beads are temporarily strung so that you can buy many beads at a time, not just one.


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