Monthly Archives: October 2011

Where are my Beads?


by Kristal Wick, Author, Designer, Instructor and SWAROVSKI ELEMENTS Ambassador, Exclusively for Fire Mountain Gems and Beads®

I’ve long been aware of a couple major types of jewelry makers: the messy ones and the organized ones. Oh, sure there’s a lot of grey in between the two types, but I’ve concluded your DNA is preset in this area and basic cellular structure and tendency is either one or the other. I, myself, fall into a fringe category I call the “wannabe organized jewelry maker.” You know the type that buys all the cute plastic containers with every intention and expectation that the mere purchase alone will forever change a life with these plastic symbols of the organization holy grail…then they sit unopened, lonely and empty in the closet, waiting for divine inspiration to strike and they’ll be beautifully filled, stacked and labeled. Can anyone relate?

This pre-determined trait usually stems back from childhood. My mom was the “A type.” She had to wash a dirty fork BEFORE it actually hit the sink. Her fave pastime was cleaning and you’d find her in the kitchen doing dishes at every party, not just our parties, but all our neighbors’ and friends’ events! This behavior rubbed me the wrong way and certainly wasn’t to be emulated (who wants to be like their mother????). I wondered what would happen if a dirty dish sat in the sink…gasp…OVERNIGHT! Surely there were so many other more important things in life to spend your time on than the task of “dirty dish police.” So, after years of research, I’ve discovered Mother was indeed right!

Fast-forward to my studio today: same principles apply and my studio is living proof of this theory. I’ve found a couple seriously valid justifications for this scenario, #1 Call yourself a mixed media artist and everyone is much more accepting of this messy behavior (notice they never ask what media you work in so all grounds are covered). #2 Declare your passion to be “found objects.” This is a bit tricky as you’ll have to hide any “purchased” items from those questioning eyes. They seem to think you use only “found” objects, and there should be no need to buy anything…HA! (That’s what the trunk of your car is for).

I had a stained glass artist friend who had to completely clean up her studio before she started a new project. Of course I loved visiting. Her studio was so inspiring and cleared the “artistic pallet” so to speak (like smelling coffee beans between perfume sniffs). The downside was she only created a handful of projects in the same amount of time it took for me to create dozens, and was always puzzled as to the difference in our productivity. Proof once again, organize less, messier = more!

Don’t get me wrong. I love working in a clean studio, I just don’t want to pay the price! I enjoy all those magazines and books showing other artists’ magically organized studios (I’m certain some of them have Keebler Elves hidden in the back shed), but when pondering whether to make a new bracelet or get organized, creativity always wins, I channel Scarlet O’Hara, muttering to myself, “tomorrow’s another day,” and reach for my bead box.

After a few jewelry-making marathons at a buddy’s gorgeous studio, I decided to suck it up and try it once again. It felt so delish creating in her studio so tidy, prepped and inviting for the jewelry-making muse to visit. I always feel better and less chaotic after a visit. Bound and determined to change my ways or end up on the Hoarders TV show, I dove in…literally! I dove into the piles and sorted and filled containers and categorized and fully embraced the organizational bug instead of shooing it away again.

I can say in all honesty once I started, it was difficult, no impossible, to stop. My creative life felt orderly and manageable. All was well in this small corner of my world even if chaos reigned in every other corner! I could exhale once again and didn’t even realize I was holding my breath, yet, I was…bracing myself each and every time I entered my turbulently messy studio; with each shameful explanation I was too busy to organize, but someday…; every time I spent precious moments searching for that specific clasp I KNEW I had in here somewhere…well, you get the picture!

I can’t say I enjoy the process (just like exercise), but I do love the results and have committed to scheduling time in each wacky week to see at least a foot of table surface clear of all beady debris on a regular basis. It really DOES save time (which I believed to be a myth). So I’d like to share some of my tips to jumpstart your process:

  1. Chocolate and coffee
  2. Frequent visits to artistic peeps studios for organizational ideas and inspiration
  3. Containers, containers, containers! (below are a few of my fave organizing tools)
  4. More chocolate
  5. Crank those dancing tunes
  6. Let go of any judgmental-shaming self talk – it simply does no good!
  7. More chocolate

I wish you luck and may the tidy force be with you on your journey!


Here are some of my favorite containers:

Bead tower – I am a huge fan of the entire Plano® Creative Options® line of organizers. They all match and are super convenient to travel with. This baby goes with me on the plane frequently!
Rolling tote – I do a lot of traveling so this comes in handier than anything else I own. Easy to fill and zip for a visit to my BBF’s (Beading Best Friend) studio.
Plastic organizer – These are a seed beaders’ paradise! All the tubes stand up so you can see all your colors at a glance; much easier to plan your next beading project using this. I also like to use these for my small crystals and gemstone chips. I’ll take 10 please…
Storage system – I call this my Big Bertha; perfect for keeping all your jewelry-making delights together.

Customer Comments

We would like to share some of the customer comments we received in response to the article, “Where are my Beads?,” featured in an email exclusive. Please keep in mind that the comments expressed below are those of our customers and do not reflect the views of Fire Mountain Gems and Beads.

“Kristal… OMG you are so funny. I was dying laughing as I read your article. I know I sure could relate to the clean freak mother and I in turn am just like her. Better now that I’m old : ) kids are grown, I don’t move so fast anymore… you get the picture. I’m a bead Hoarder too I must admit. I really enjoyed your article I want the organizer Elves to come do my Bead room too!!! Thanks for making laugh,”
– Sherry

“Love the humor, style and content!”
– Susan

“Loved Kristal Wick article on getting the studio organized. It was like a God Send for me, as that is my task this weekend. I am on my way to get

  1. Chocolate
  2. Chocolate
  3. Chocolate
  4. Merlot (for when the task is finished!)
  5. I already have containers!”

– Gloria

“Love the ”Where are my beads” article! It was relatable and inspirational at the same time. Glad I’m not alone with the messy table–and I will use some of the listed excuses until I break out my label maker. Thanks!”
– Lisa

“I loved it! More importantly, I really needed the kick in the pants it gave me!”
– Karen

“I loved the article! I identified with everything she said. At least I don’t feel like I’m crazy anymore. Nice to know us beaders all have similar issues and we are all working hard to organize ourselves.”
– Mary

“I try to keep color families together with various containers, too, but one focal bead will challenge me for design ideas, and then there is a nest of beads of various sizes and colors sitting together waiting for creation. I wish I had a studio! My dining room table has lost its original function!”
– Fletcher

“Wow! An organizational article that I can actually relate to! Thanks for the hints (especially the chocolate and coffee one–just the impetus I need to get going. Love your article, Kristal, Keep up the good work and the tidy studio. Maybe someday, I will join you. Kind regards,”
– Jill

“This was totally delightful and perhaps even helpful?”
– Barb

“This article was well written and very relevant. The writer is realistic and makes a wide variety of suggestions. I enjoyed it and gained ideas! Thanks!”
– Kristy

“I have to tell you I laughed so hard it was like the pirates of penzant. (watch pretty woman movie-the opera scene.) Looking at my stash that I have moved from an apartment to a one bedroom cottage I just might tackle the supplies purchased during various trips when hit by it’s talking to me. I need it!

Thank you again for this vignette for all things bright and beautiful. The good Lord made them all. Thanks be to God! Blessings (and tell her to write a book)”
– Jeanne

“Love the Krystal Wick article. Can so relate. She has a great sense of humor also.”
– Ce

“Keep ’em coming! This article on organization validates the time I spent in trying to get organized. It’s a process, not an event. The more the pros share, the more time I save in learning. The ”hit-or-miss” school can be very expensive.”

“As a newbie to the business, your newsletters are an invaluable resource. Fire Mountain Gems provides in-depth info about beads and any treatments they may have received. Attempting to work with natural products for metaphysical benefit, knowing how the stones changed from the time they came out of the earth until they get to gives me confidence that my projects will be honest.”

“So thanks for all the extra work in being a terrific source of education–not to mention being a great source of quality product. In addition to those two critical elements, your clearance sales and such along with your flat-rate shipping make me a loyal fan. Much obliged,”
– Ashley, Gaia’s Gems

“Great article–I can totally relate to the whole thing! Great suggestions for organizing!”
– Leslie

“Inspiring–from another ”wannabe””
– Lisa C.

“Kristal Wick,

I did not know there are two of us in this world ! LOL !Our Mom’s sound much alike and I confess I too take the easiest way out. (Referring to “Where are my Beads”) But you sound like someone I would like very much.

As we have a nonprofit for American Indians and usually have a beading class – for everyone – the storage of beads is a great issue with me. Especially as I also need to keep track of those lonesome ones that escape busy hands and land on the floor.

Please keep up the good work and know you are not alone! Sincerely,”
– Carol

“Thank you for sharing Kristal Wick’s article on workspace organization (and lack of it)!

Believe it or not, I was brainstorming again today about how in the world to get myself organized. Just as Kristal mentions in her article, I was wasting so much time looking – rummaging is more like it – through all my plastic bags and boxes of jewelry supplies for something that I knew I had, but couldn’t for the life of me find. I, too, have many containers just waiting to be put to good use.

It was so nice to read that having everything in plain sight for the inspiration and/or ease is not really more efficient than being organized. Thanks to this article, I am actually looking forward to organizing instead of remaining the same “wanna be” that Kristal describes. Again, thank you!”
– Joan

“I found this article on being organized very helpful. I’ve often wondered what systems/items others use. I like to be organized; my only problem is actually room space for the containers themselves. But the different items shown in the article got my imagination going–perhaps I’ll be able to work something out. I really enjoyed this article. Thanks! Sincerely,”
– Ms. Nicole

“I just sent this message in response to Krystal’s excellent article today:”

“Here’s a suggestion for you. Your product H20-2558PK would work for headpins and eyepins, but the slots need to be deeper or the pins will fall down. If you sell empty short seed bead containers, they will work. I just organized my pins using an acrylic lipstick holder that is similar to your product. I was able to get in 36 different types of pins, 3 per lipstick slot, by using a package of Boba (Vietnamese tapioca tea) straws. I cut the straws into thirds. Obviously, you won’t want to tell people about that, because there will be no profit for you, but I might have bought your holder and your seed bead containers from you if you were selling the containers. I could not find short containers of the right size at a reasonable price. I needed to buy a case of 500? Not something I could afford. Your holder would be even better than my solution. Providing you sold the containers. Because all the head and eyepins would have their own slots. Also, the containers could have caps on them so that the pins would not have a chance of falling out. Best wishes,”
– Susan

“Loved the article–made me feel I was not alone and that the sign I have posted in my kitchen really does signify I’M CREATIVE I CAN’T BE TIDY TOO!!”

“My daughter always used to get frustrated with me saying there was more to life than housework–yep I was one of those women that had a regular routine for everything and if it wasn’t done my world was out of whack–not anymore though, my work space is now the cluttered space that I just could not function in and was very frustrated by others leaving my work space thus, when I was in a paid position.”

“Loved the organizing article. Boy, can I relate. Here I go, AGAIN, giving organizing a try!!! Thanks,”
– Marcia.

“This is such a wonderful idea… now if I only can find the time, hum”
– Jackie

“Kristal Wick–what a delightful read! What grace, style, and humor!”
– Margaret

“Loved this article ! I really think the disorganization hurts my creativity–I know I embarrass myself. Love knowing chocolate will help! When won’t it?”
– Barbara

“Thank you for the inspiration to get my work area organized. I, too, tell people I don’t have time to clean, but I know I would be so much more productive if I could just find everything without looking for it for forever. Thanks again!”
– Linda

“I am in the midst of organizing and appreciate the reminder about labeling the beads with the size and price. And what else is important for button people is labeling country of origin. I don’t have room to hang beads up in my “creative spot” so I use zip lock bags and and clear containers with snap on lids. My primary focus is buttons so I have them sorted by color and in zip lock bags. I found gorgeous boxes to store the bags in at a clearance sale. The boxes are so pretty that it won’t matter if I decide to leave them rather than finding a cubby hole to stick them in. Those clear containers that stack on top of each other are ideal for rhinestones and small buttons that I don’t have a huge quantity of. I have about 5 jars with my favorite colors that are on the bookshelved just because I like to see them. My focal point buttons and beads are stored in the clear organizers with built in dividers.

My main goal was to keep everything centralized in my loft area so that I don’t have things spread around the house since I aspire to be neat and tidy but live another style. LOL! Also my buttons (and beads) invariably end up on the floor and become a slip and fall hazard so I try to keep myself confined to this one area. I do have a portable case for projects that I have already laid out so I store the “to be completed” pojects in zip lock bags inside these cute little bags that look like one of those roll up bags for traveling. I fell in love with them because they are in this line called “everything Mary” and that’s me.

I do have to go to a larger area for working on shadow boxes and assemblage art (for jewelry). But everything is stored in such a way that I can just grab up boxes, my ephemera collection, etc and put them in a basket for changing location or going to a friend’s house to work.

Thanks for the inspiring article that came at just the right time!”
– Mary

“Thank-you for your tips on being organized. The most important things I pack when travelling on holidays is my rolling tote bag packed with my craftmates storages as these are absolutly fab. And I can carry quite a bit of stock. As my husband is retired we seem to do a lot more travelling these days and i like to have tools etc. on hand for our stay at home days. Happy beading everyone.”
– Beryl

“This was a great article from Fire Mountain Gems! I would love more of this type of articles from you. I found it very useful and it gave me multiple of ideas on how to organize my own beads. Thanks,”
– Lynn

“It was interesting. I only like containers that I can see into, for the most part. I used to have oodles of them until our house burned down last year, so I had to completely start over. Friends were amazing… jewelry making and art supplies, clothing, furniture, you name it, showed up for months. One friend who is a watercolor artist gave me her beads AND containers, which were the “fishing lure” type plastic ones and I like those.

Having limited funds, I use translucent pill bottles, dollar store “8 for a dollar” little containers, small glass jars… whatever I can come up with–my “stuff” is pretty well organized but I never have been and probably never will be… once I start working on something, I end up in a mess, every time!! But the beads and findings are organized!

I buy a few things from Fire Mountain every month, to build up my inventory. Love your website!!”
– Karen

“I’m going through the same thing. Made a lot of sense. I am a beginner only 7 weeks and I fix it today and start something, get busy with a project and I look around and there is the mess. I know exactly where everything is but with a mess. I live in a very small condo and there isn’t enough room for a hobby closet so I make a mess and I pick it up all the time. Thanks for your advice”
– Mary

“I’ve found my sister! Loved the write-up. So glad I am not alone. MUCH rather create than clean up. But a snow blower only does so much. Thanks for the bright spot in my day.”
– Lindy

“I read the entire article and enjoyed it but must say I have not found products at Fire Mtn to incorporate into my system. My best find was Walmart–a plastic box with rect fliplid boxes inside, 24 of them. Just large enough for rocaille (size 15) leftovers, even size 11 in smaller amounts and small crystals. I love that they are transparant. And I use tictac boxes although not as pretty. I probably have 100 of them. I could go on and on but I won’t. Best wishes,”
– Barbara

“Love love, love it. OH so true. I love the one foot of empty space on my beading table!!” But I can find things easier and be more creative when I can see all my choices.”
– Judy

“I loved this article, I have the same problem with organizing. No one in my family understands that I am not intentionally messy, it’s just a work in progress. If I clean up, the project stalls. I don’t have the time to “do jewelry everyday,” but I have time to do jewelry a few hours or minutes everyday or so. Do I clean up and put away everytime I am through for the day? If I do, I am stalled for several days, because other family duties take priority. I wish I could have my own space that no one in my family could see unless I wanted them to, so that I could walk away when it was time to do other things. In my life, this is only a dream. Someday”
– Gayle

“I just got around to reading my email from Fire Mountain, and, I want to say how much I enjoyed Kristal Wick’s article entitled “Where Are My Beads?” I am going to print a copy and hang it in my room. My own productivity has been greatly hampered by the perceived need to get organized first. I’m not the neat anal person. (I’m anal in other ways.) Organizing has been complicated by the fact that we moved into a smaller apartment. I also do more that just beading so my multipurpose space is overwhelmed. Kristal’s article struck home with me. I’m going to make some working space and get back to work. Maybe add a table and get to the real business of what I love. Thank you for letting me know that I’m not alone, don’t have to feel bad, and can get back to work. Perfect organization not required.”
– Sonja

“Relate with all my beady lizard brain, dear lady! Good thing is that when I want to compose a piece the beads fall into my hands by osmosis. (Same with the yarns for my loom and the thread for… well, you get the idea. remember with your heart and your head and fingers will fall into play… 8~)”
– Denise

“I loved it! It made me reflect on my own studio. I can’t get much done when its such a mess. Just reading this article by Kristal has been refreshing. I look forward to more articles written by her. Thank you again!”

“Thank you sooo much for this fabulous and witty story, I am actually going to share it with a very disorganized friend whose office is not unlike Kristal’s former space. And ALWAYS remember, our Moms were always right! Thanks again”
– Dawn