Hi, all! At some point very early on in our bead obsession we realized that we'd have to store all those tiny globes of perfection! Anyone who knows me knows that (1) I'm
a cheapskate thrifty. (2) I try to use what I have whenever possible and (3) I've been known to make my own storage. Beads, beads, wonderful, life-consuming, invasive but oh-so-cherished beads!
(I'll interject my disclaimer now that my methods are what work for me and may not work for everyone else! There are lots of cool, high-dollar systems out there but I choose to spend my hard-earned $ on beads, not boxes... also, you know what they say about opinions. These are mine and should be taken as such). :) Sit back and enjoy the
long picture show!
Yummy! Metallic Preciosa beads!
As I was saying, I've got different systems for different beads. It's partly because I have collected beads and storage systems over the years so now I know what works for me and what doesn't. I started out with Ziploc bags, which is fine if you're short on space because you can squash them into drawers. However, I like to SEE my beads. I hate digging through drawers so I only keep my less-often-used ones in drawer units. They are useful, though, and under $20 at big-box-stores (read: Walmart).
My favorite new way to store and sort and display beads is: ~fanfare~ Test tubes! That's right! They aren't just for liquor shots anymore (according to Amazon, these things are popular with the party crowd)! I bought a boatload of tubes in various sizes recently and I think my total cost for them from Amazon was $20 (including shipping). I love them, mine are all full, and I plan to order more soon! I use the tubes to hold roundels, 4mm and 6mm beads, crystals, pearls and druks.
I use plastic ones, of course! All my floors are concrete and glass tubes would not be cool. I bought these from a medical supply place on Amazon. They're very easy to find if you search for plastic test tubes. It works for me! I like that they're portable for my classes and bead meets and I like that the blue tops will hold an entire strand of 4mm fire polished beads. How do I display them? At the moment I use a $5 shoe rack from Walmart with clear plastic pockets. I have a few and they hold tons of beads.
You do have to cut the pockets so they are shallower but hey! I go shopping for beads for a project and I can see what I have. There are some great systems for holding bead tubes out there but like I said, I'm
This here is another cute idea! I found a wine rack at a thrift store for $5 (and got it for half off, yeah!). I put large glasses in it that were in my kitchen cabinet. I use this to store most of my 8/0 and 15/0 beads. :D I'd love to find a larger rack with more holes!
My precious Koi Kitty is guarding my hoard of 15s.
Next up: How I store my 10s and 11s. If I like a bead, I'll buy up a few hanks. There's nothing I hate worse than running out of beads on a project! Tiny tubes irk me so! Here's my wondrous solution for my hanks-a-plenty: Dollar store (Family Dollar, to be exact), spice boxes that were packaged 8/pack at $1/pack. I bought like 10 packages, yes! Each box (I call them bins) will hold a tight 100 grams or a comfy 90 grams of seed bead goodness! As you can see, I also write the lot number, vendor, etc. on the lids with Sharpies. Alcohol takes it right off if I change boxes, which I tend to do.
I generally use red lids for 10s and white lids for 11s.
Oh, and joy, they come in round, too, which I use for my tri-cuts.
Now, I have bookshelves a-plenty but I disliked having a "back row" of beads that I couldn't see. Remember, I like to see them all! So I took scrap wood that was given to me and I made a little, shallow shelf just for my beloved seed bead bins. It cost me nothing at all! I had everything I needed in my studio and I used cardboard and typing paper for the backing (I told you, I'm resourceful!).
This was taken when I built it... the poor thing is overrun now and there's no more room. I'll need to make another!
OK, on to another obsession of mine: 3mm beads! Oh, how I love them! I use 3mms like nobody's business. My local bead shop had to re-stock them just for my classes and because I passed the love on to my students. :) For my 3mm beads and Rivolis, I love these little round organizers! I screwed a metal plate to the bottom of a dowel and I stack them on the dowel when not in use. They're $1 at Walmart, the lids snap firmly in place and the beads don't mix. A bit more about that later.
These types of organizers, below, are OK for my not-very-often-used beads (again, I like to see my beads). I store anything larger than 6mm in these drawer-types. You can kind of see the beads but the drawers aren't very portable for taking to my classes. Still, it's nice! I have a column for gemstones, one for cabochons, one for pearls, crystals, bugles, etc.
What other containers do I use? Well, let me show you! For most of my small gemstones and chips, I use cute little paint pots from Hobby Lobby. You can get like 6 for $2 (round with lid, below). Those big, rectangular bead bins? Those are nail polish boxes, believe it or not! I forget the brand, sorry... but the lids are nice and secure. The huge tube that you can barely see, full of mixed color seeds? That was a tube full of Nymo spools.
The multi-section box in the back is where I keep findings, vintage beads and wood beads (I have a lot of wooden beads). I buy those in a 5-pack from Walmart (they're around a bucket?) and toss the bucket. I like that these have a securely locking top and the beads don't mix. I use tiny flip top boxes for my metal beads (front, below) and I have some small boxes for other gem beads, too... but the lids stink on those, seriously. They wear out with time so I store my not-often-used beads in them (far left).
Which brings me to my next thing: Those tackle box-type things you can buy really cheaply at all sorts of stores. I used them when I started beading. People like them when they're short on space but... I hate them! Let me tell you why:
(1) The lids aren't secure. Drop the box and you're in trouble.
(2) The beads mix. The compartments aren't that secure... the beads get all mixed up.
(3) I prefer portable boxes to grab a color and go, which is why I have thousands of little, tiny boxes all over the place (see above photo). My house is full of drawers or shelves stuffed with boxes and bins of beads.
They're great for floss, like below. Bad for beads. Trust me!
So, that's about it! I have a peg board in the studio to hold some of those boxes with hanging tabs, but really I mostly use shallow shelving like the one I showed you.
Thanks for sticking with my incredibly long first post! :)
What would my ideal bead storage system be? My dream one? An entire wall of narrow shelving holding thousands of tiny boxes full of beads. Remember that I like to see my goodies! I'd arrange them by type, of course... maybe color! Apothecary jars or nice-sized, clear plastic spice jars would be fun, too! Or... remember those old-fashioned, slatted windows? I'd love to find a bunch of those and make glass shelves (really... slats of wood, dowels, presto! Shelf supports! I'm rather handy with a hand saw and tools.) Shine a light from above... magnifique! If only my house were bigger... that wall would be a reality.
If you'd like to read more of my zealous joy of beads, check out my personal blog! http://vcartisanoriginals.blogspot.com
What is your ideal storage system? If you just had tons of money and time, what would you do? ~Val