…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.|



Every beader has to decide which part of the house will be taken over by beads.

Often it’s the whole house. James is a classic example. James never met a horizontal surface he couldn’t fill up with stuff. So his small beading table blossomed into multiple tables. These blossomed into several TV trays. And these blossomed into piles of stuff on chairs, counter-tops and couches. Stacks appeared in every room on the floors. It was not long before James had six projects on-going in the dining room, one in the kitchen, four in the bedroom, three in the TV room, one in the laundrey room. James salivated about tool boxes, and so he bought tool box upon tool box upon tool box, in every size, with every arrangement of drawers and dividers and sections, in industrial colors of bright yellow, fire engine red, and steel gray.

We built a studio off our house. The studio, at first, was for silversmithing. It then also served for lampworking. And then for metal clay. And fused glass. And more beading. The studio then spilled right back into the house. So James wanted an additional studio room to accommodate yet more obsession.

Years ago, in an internet survey we did about where people beaded in their homes, most people said their dining room or kitchen table was their Primary Creative Place. Meals were banished to the TV or living rooms, lest they be laced with beads. TV trays and cocktail tables were forced into new use. Most families, when queried, could no longer remember what colors the kitchen and dining room walls and cabinets were, as beads took over more and more of these rooms.

Another wrote that she would let us know, once she got things straightened up. She told us, “I don’t actually work there, because it looks like a tornado hit it. I just rush in to grab things, or dump things off, and run out.”

From Kathy Thomason: “I have a craft room lined with shelves and tables. I keep my beads in rolling carts, divided by color with each drawer labeled. I keep all my tools in a basket on one of the tables and I have all my findings in storage containers, divided by color and item and those sit on top of one of the rolling carts. I keep my wires in a drawer, where they are put into small trays and divided by color and type. I have beading trays set up on the tables with a rolling desk chair that can go from table to table. I get everything I need for my current project put on a tray, which I then carry to the living room to do the actual beading so I can be out where the family is.”

Some rooms did double-duty. There was the dining room/bead room. The TV room/bead room. The sewing room/bead room. And the laundry room/bead room. One person wrote that she had to share her bead room with her nursery. This created quite a dilemma in that beads and parts, plastic bags, needles, and threads were not a good fit with cradles and baby toys and baby blankets and, actually, not a good fit with babies.

Some beaders were blessed, however. Their spouses built them special spaces in attics, garages or the once-previously used bedroom. Some wealthier beaders had both a bead room, as well as another room devoted to another craft like sewing.

But most people were forced to take over the biggest table in the house, most often in the dining room.

Every workspace had to accommodate a lot of containers and a lot of room to layout different projects.

Organizing your work space, for some, can mean saving and salvaging their creative lives. Clutter and disorganization is distracting, and can prevent you from making progress on important projects. You don’t want to waste time looking for things. You want to be able to get rid of things you no longer use, without it becoming a major effort to do so. And you do not want to overwhelm yourself with too many half-finished projects laying all over the place.

I remember Ginny telling me about her desk. It just wasn’t big enough. So she abutted a folding table next to it. It just wasn’t big enough. So she got another folding table. Again, not big enough. Plus, at each edge the tables met, they were uneven. So she bought some large pieces of plywood, and hardware to nail them together, and lay over all her tables. She ran molding along the outer edges so that beads wouldn’t roll off. Her expanded table was soon over-run, so she set up another smaller table on the opposite wall, and towards which she could wheel her chair. She found herself working on the smaller table, and used her large table for storage.

Ginny had the best chair. Ergonomic. Great back support. Wheels. It spins. It was a chair she could sink into, relax, wheel herself from one side of the room to another. Heavenly. She could sit on it for hours without getting tired. It had good arm rests that didn’t get in the way of beading or stringing.

Ginny was determined to maximize her work space, any way she could. She attached shelving off the wall, that would fold up, and fold out, depending on how much horizontal work surface she wanted. She took off the closet door, and built in shelves with drawers that pulled out. In three of these drawers, she stuffed fabric she had accumulated from an earlier obsession. She hung a hanging shoe bag off one side of the closet, and stored “projects-in-progress” in each of the shoe storage slots. She put up pegboard along all the open wall space. She hung over-the-door wire storage racks on the entry door to the room – one on the back and one on the front of the door.

She hated clutter. But each time she put into effect another plan to improve the efficiency of her bead room set-up, she ended up with more and more clutter. A jumble. Beads begat beads begat beads begat books, papers, half-finished projects, storage containers and more supplies.

She read a book by Jo Packham called Where Women Create: Inspiring Work Spaces of Extraordinary Women. She looked for beautiful and inspirational and practical ideas so that she could create in an environment conducive for creativity. One of many questions raised in the book, was “Did you like to listen to music while you create?” She did. Where would she put the stereo and the speakers now?

[Another question asked in this book was “Where did you like to work as a child?” Ginny liked to work in her bedroom under a blanket. ]

Ginny failed to anticipate the “administrivia” of it all. She now had to keep records of what she bought at what price. She had sketch books of ideas. She had pictures torn out of magazines. She needed to add two filing cabinets, which she shoved underneath one side of her expanded table. She bought a computer and installed a phone and internet connection, so she could keep up with her bead research as she worked. She forgot to add some space to store all the bead and jewelry magazines she subscribed to and never threw away. She threw them in a pile on the floor in a corner and under part of her expanded table.

Her sister, who visited almost everyday, gave Ginny two hanging plants “for the studio.” Just what Ginny needed. But Ginny was too embarrassed not to find places for these, as well.

Ginny began to realize that her creative energies were getting used up in planning and maintaining her environment. She was too tired to think about making jewelry. So she moved some of her stuff, and her great ergonomic chair, to a table in what today is rumored to have been her dining room, and where she wouldn’t have to deal with it all. …And she moved just a few little things to a tray that sits on top of a throw pillow that sits on top of her living room couch.

As every beader has experienced, the beads take over more and more of your home. Eventually, if you keep beading and making jewelry long enough, you’ll need a second home. Or you’ll be forced to open up a bead store of your own.

As one of my friends remarked recently, in a controlled panic, “I’m out of space, and I have nowhere to go.”



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