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Art in the Professions

It's time to build your treasure hoard.

Furnace Glass Beads by Undistilled
    Beading covers a massive range of applications, from simple pony-bead keychains on backpacks to the most intricate swirls on a bride's dress, from the obvious jewelry to the unexpected dollhouse miniatures. Dipping our hands into a barrel of semiprecious stone beads or running our fingers through the finery of petite seed beads is a wonderful feeling. But, for beaders, finding the right supplies is a challenge all of its own. It would be an epic undertaking to examine each and every possibility in one Project Educate article, so to compensate I'm going to start broad and get more specific as we go. :heart:

What is a bead?

    Beads are literally anything with a hole drilled through it. That could include tires if you were working in a Fallout world making jewelry for Supermutants! In the real world, that actually means the usual materials: Glass, crystal, wood, shell, plastic, clay, stone, pearl, metal, and bone. As long as you can drill a hole through it, it counts as a bead. Because of this simple rule we can even make beads out of 'unusual' materials like paper and recycled items like washers.


Surely nobody supplies all these variations?

    Aye, there's the rub! Becoming a 'beader' doesn't just mean that you get to walk over to the nearest bead store and expect your needs to be met. Heavens no, that would make life too simple! Even the largest bead suppliers fall short of fulfilling every need and none of us can really blame them for it. Trying to use a predictable method (I'm looking at you, Amazon.) that doesn't attempt to personally dive into the meticulous details will leave you wondering where anything can be found to start with.

    When I first started beading, it was just with a little book that showed me different ways of twisting wire to create rings from seed beads. The example photos contained, of course, colors (like pink!) that weren't included with the sample kit of goodies. This was when eBay was still a new concept and living out in a little rural town definitely did not help my search for the beads I so admired. Now, even with the entirety of the internet at my fingertips, I still have trouble finding "that one perfect shade of green" or "those itty bitty size 15s that would match so perfectly here".

    My best advice to you is this: narrow down your goals to start, then become lofty when you're more comfortable. If you're going to be working on jewelry primarily made from crystal and stone I have wonderful news for you! :la: Your supplies are plentiful and there are many, many websites and physical stores that cater directly to your needs. If you're going to be making miniature dresses that require matching size 11 and 15 glass seed beads (like me) then you're going to be hunting the depths of the internet and purchasing things from overseas to meet the demand. :faint:


So how can I find what I need?!

    Once you've decided just what sort of material you're after, I suggest a swift click over to Google to jam in your keywords. If you're not quite sure what you're actually after, just go with something vague. Let's start with my earlier example of wanting pink seed beads for those little rings. How about just a regular search of, "pink seed beads"? "About 4,430,000 results." Yow! Back when I needed this sort of functionality I wouldn't have known how to narrow this to what I actually needed, but you get to benefit from my years of frustration.

    Start with the size.

    Just how big of a bead are we talking here? Is it the supermutant tires? Is it the teeny tiny size 15s rolling in at 1.30mm in size? It's very important for your project! Buying beads that are far too large or far too small will make a dent in both your wallet and the project, so do your best to find out.
    For a long time I was looking for 3mm beads to use for a project I've long-since forgotten. After searching for far too long, I found that plastic fishing lure beads were the perfect 3mm size. What luck! It wasn't until much, much later that I was able to learn that Size 6 glass seed beads come in at 3.3mm each, a difference that hardly mattered to the project and would have been really nice to know ahead of time because I'm probably never going to use the plastic beads when glass beads can be had instead.

    Know your material.

    Looking to sell things to vegans? Perhaps avoid bone in your beadwork. Want something that will melt under an iron? Reach for those plastics! Aiming at a beach party theme? Shell and wood are the perfect choices! Your specific material is going to need a bit of research on your part to find out just what you want and how you'll be able to get it. If you're working with shell you might want to be certain it won't break if it's going to be constantly bumping against crystal beads next to it. If you're working with metal you might want to check how often people are allergic to certain types.
    It was a hard lesson to learn that "dyed" beads are something I should be particularly wary of in my own beadwork. They have their useful place, of course! If you want to use dyed beads in your pieces I don't discourage you from doing so. In my own experience, the constant handling of each dyed bead as I threaded it created not just a ton of excess color all over my hands, but when the piece ended up with a few splotches of water the color started running right off. Eek!


Ask yourself the qualifying questions.

    To follow my earlier example of the "pink seed beads", I know that I want them to be size 11s, made of glass, and not dyed. For me just making a simple ring, this is all the information I cared about. When it came to more complicated pieces though suddenly bigger questions start to pop up. Things like, "What brand are these?", "Can I find matching size 15s?", "Why can't I buy these in America?!", "Do I need special thread for this?", and "Why do the numbers get higher when the beads get smaller?", just to name a few.
    I can answer that last question for you right now though. :D It's because they measure them (roughly) as "beads per inch", so a size 11 bead means that 11 beads should fit within one inch on a ruler.


Figure out your 'thread'.

    Thread doesn't always mean thread, weirdly enough. Thread can also be a verb - like when you thread rope through that tire in your oversized post-apocalyptic jewelry making, or when you thread that headpin into that pile of agate chips. The point of a bead is that you can put stuff through it, I think we can all be in agreement, and there's an outrageous selection of things to use. You might want to use the stiff, easy to keep straight, plastic cord for large pony beads. You might want to use wire (and all its gauges) to wrap around beads and create dangly accents or elements to add between links of chain. For me, Japanese One G nylon is my go-to selection. Fishing line is a popular choice too, and of course if you're going to be doing pearl knotting you'll need some fine silk thread to go with it.
    Don't forget that you're going to need to do a little bit of research on needles if it's not something automatically stiff like plastic or metal. You're likely going to invest in tools like scissors, different shapes of pliers, and wire cutters depending on what you choose and if you're working on the small scale (like those size 15 seed beads!) a magnifying glass isn't going to hurt.

Connect with the bead community.

    There's nobody better to talk to about beads than other beaders! Even if you're an introvert like me, pooling knowledge is a resource that nobody can put a price tag on. Actually, double trust me on this - I've gone through most of my bead experience shuffling awkwardly through Japanese instruction books (while not knowing how to read Japanese) and scraping the depths of the internet to find that one specific material that I could only find on one website that just wouldn't accept PayPal and had to be special ordered from friends overseas to be shipped to me. A lot of my pain and suffering could have been averted had I just stopped being so stubborn and asked for some help! Chances are, somebody out there knows the trick to the question that's been bothering you the most.


That's all for today, if you have further questions don't be afraid to reach out to me and the community.
Good luck and happy beading!
pinkythepink


Add a Comment:
 
:iconxandraclay:
xandraclay Featured By Owner Nov 7, 2017  Hobbyist Artisan Crafter
Good things to know!
Reply
:iconpinkythepink:
pinkythepink Featured By Owner Nov 7, 2017  Professional Artisan Crafter
I'm glad you think so! :love:
Reply
:iconcatswire:
CatsWire Featured By Owner Nov 5, 2017  Hobbyist Artisan Crafter
Great post!

Thank you so much for featuring my Flapper lady, too :love:
Reply
:iconpinkythepink:
pinkythepink Featured By Owner Nov 7, 2017  Professional Artisan Crafter
Thank you~ :hug: Of course!
Reply
:iconundistilled:
Undistilled Featured By Owner Sep 20, 2017
You used my Furnace Glass Beads image at the top of your article.

     Woo hoo!
:love:

This was a good article, but if you think that finding the right glass beads is difficult, you should try making them with consistency in color or size or shape. That can be even more challenging! :nod:

I happen to be one of those people who actually make beads - glass ones, using a torch and a kiln. :)

Here are some photos:

Studio Glass Rods by AJGlass
Studio Torch Oxygen Flame by AJGlass
Studio Skutt GM10f Kiln by AJGlass
Sneak Peek by AJGlass
Frog Eggs by AJGlass

Officially what I do is called "lampworking" but some people call it "torchwork" or "flamework". It can be a lot of fun - provided you don't get burned, or get cut, or the glass explodes, or the beads crack from thermal shock. :lol:

As for actually stringing my beads into wearable items - I leave that to my customers who are bead stringers. They're definitely much better than I am at knotting. :nod:
Reply
:iconpinkythepink:
pinkythepink Featured By Owner Sep 21, 2017  Professional Artisan Crafter
How could I not, your photo was the perfect cherry on top! :love:

What you do is so gorgeous - thank you for sharing such beautiful pieces. :la:
Reply
:iconplanetrix:
Planetrix Featured By Owner Sep 13, 2017  Hobbyist Digital Artist
I've only been beading for a couple of years, and mostly I work with wire and chain (avoiding the minutia of needles & bead sizes -- I can gauge whether something will fit on my wire pretty well by eye).  I really recommend artbeads.com as a general purpose supply, because of their prompt shipping and really good sales prices (just watch out -- they'll flood your inbox with promos) :P.  I also sometimes stop into Joann's (mediocre selection, but the one in my area is usually having a 50-60% off beading supplies sale), and even WalMart for cheap stuff. 
Reply
:iconpinkythepink:
pinkythepink Featured By Owner Sep 13, 2017  Professional Artisan Crafter
Artbeads is a really nice place, I've purchased seed beads from there myself! :D Congrats on your wirework! :la:
Reply
:iconchaosfay:
ChaosFay Featured By Owner Sep 12, 2017  Professional General Artist
Great article!  I've been making jewelry for 25 years and even now am still learning new things about beads. 

My primary "thread" is .5mm cotton cord, but I've worked with .3mm hemp yarn, 1/4 inch and 1/8 inch satin ribbon, embroidery floss, as well as quilting thread.  Why buying beads I usually take the thread of my current project with me if it's a brick-and-mortar store.  I can then see if my thread will fit through the drilled hole, and if it can, how many cords I will also be able to fit through. 

Another fun thing I do is raid garage sales/secondhand stores/thrift shops.  I go in with only cash so I have a set budget, and a general idea of what I'm looking for.  There's a lot of gold old vintage material out there waiting to be found.  I cannibalize a lot of jewelry, taking it apart for the beads and/or pendants.  When I have materials I can't, won't, or don't use I contact others in the jewelry business to see if they're willing to trade supplies (I currently have some beads I'm willing to trade for materials I can use btw).  A friend of mine trades pendants she's made in exchange for the variety of beads I have available. 

Etsy is a great resource as well.  Always read the reviews!  I was tempted to buy from this bead-maker who had AMAZING things in their shop, but less-than-desirable reviews.  It's often that jewelry makers on Etsy have bead shops favorited and will have said favorites available for viewing. 

One online supplier I personally favor is Fire Mountain Gems.  They have different shopping tiers, depending on how many things you buy.  I purchase from them every two to five years because I buy in-bulk, getting up to 60% off my total purchase price.  They've exchanged things for me because sometimes the quality is poor, but a couple times pendants arrived in pieces.  Great customer service, 100% would recommend.  A few times I had considered buying beads I'd never used before, but I had no idea what the drilled hole size was.  They helped me measure it, and sadly it's usually much too small my work.

Hobby Lobby has a very poor selection of beads.  Michael's Arts and Crafts stores have a HUGE variety.  A lot of Joann Fabrics stores also have jewelry supplies, but variety isn't high but the prices certainly are. 

One of my favorite bad types is donut-beads.  They're usually made from stone or crystal, but I've seen them in glass, wood, bone, and metal.  They're pretty heavy most of the time, and the sizes vary greatly.  I love using them for necklaces, and they provide a lot of options for style and use.  Honestly, I could go on for days about these wonderful but underrated beads.
 
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:iconundistilled:
Undistilled Featured By Owner Sep 20, 2017
I buy in-bulk, getting up to 60% off my total purchase price.

Doesn't that sort of make you wonder what the wholesale price is on some of the beads if they can give you that much off and still make a profit?

I went to a wholesale bead/jewelry/lapidary trade show (GL&W) and that was a serious eye-opener when it comes to the actual prices to create some of the beads - which are apparently much lower than they're sold for in retail. :O_o:
Reply
:iconpinkythepink:
pinkythepink Featured By Owner Sep 14, 2017  Professional Artisan Crafter
:love: I love all your input, thank you! Donut beads are so difficult for me to find use for. :lol: I keep getting stuck trying to not cover up any of it.
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:iconchaosfay:
ChaosFay Featured By Owner Sep 15, 2017  Professional General Artist
Check out my macrame folder in my gallery.  You can see how I use them and perhaps get an idea on how to not cover them.  I use them primarily for pendants, but smaller ones get used as "beads" in the rest of a necklace.
Reply
:iconpinkythepink:
pinkythepink Featured By Owner Sep 15, 2017  Professional Artisan Crafter
:la: I'll do that, thanks!
Reply
:iconsinistrosephosphate:
SinistrosePhosphate Featured By Owner Sep 12, 2017  Hobbyist General Artist
This is a lovely article! :) 
I don't bead... but my mum is always and forever fascinated by semi-precious stone beads. ^^; Knowing the lingo in the beading world was a real eye-opener! 

Thanks for sharing your knowledge with us! :) 
Reply
:iconpinkythepink:
pinkythepink Featured By Owner Sep 13, 2017  Professional Artisan Crafter
Semi-precious stone beads are soooo lovely! :la: Thanks, Sini!
Reply
:iconsinistrosephosphate:
SinistrosePhosphate Featured By Owner Sep 14, 2017  Hobbyist General Artist
You're more than welcome! 
Thanks for the article! :love:
Reply
:iconhumblemarty:
HumbleMarty Featured By Owner Sep 12, 2017   General Artist
Awesome article. I was wondering though. My mom knits. Our dog eats stitch markers, so I was wondering about making her some stitch markers. They're pretty small and used as a book Mark when counting stitches. What kind of supplies would I need?
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:iconpinkythepink:
pinkythepink Featured By Owner Sep 13, 2017  Professional Artisan Crafter
Ah! :D I actually just learned about these myself, my teacher showed me to just use safety pins. :giggle: I suppose the first thing you would need is some sort of a clasp - like a lobster clasp would work, and then whatever you wanted to decorate it with, if anything. :)
Reply
:iconhumblemarty:
HumbleMarty Featured By Owner Sep 14, 2017   General Artist
Thanks. This gives me quite a few ideas to make it work. Sometimes it's hard to find beads small enough but I found some modeling clay at the store to make some. The only thing I'd have to be careful with though is clay shrinks when you fire it. So, you have to make the beads a little bigger than the size you want them to be and choose the right clay for the weight the beads need to be. If I could get anything I wanted on my budget I'd get paper clay or porcelain because that stuff fires into something pretty lightweight. :)
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:iconpinkythepink:
pinkythepink Featured By Owner Sep 15, 2017  Professional Artisan Crafter
You're welcome. :D Yeah clay shrinking is always a hassle, but it's sooo worth it in the end. Good luck on your adventure! :la:
Reply
:icondragonstar78:
Dragonstar78 Featured By Owner Sep 12, 2017
Love it.

The cross stitch / needlepoint company I currently work for sell bucketloads of Mill Hill beads and treasures, as well as delica beads, bicones, cubes, etc. A friend I used to work with gave me a site for beads a few years back that I have since lost (unfortunately, as they had a lot of the really big, awesome beads for sale).
Reply
:iconpinkythepink:
pinkythepink Featured By Owner Sep 13, 2017  Professional Artisan Crafter
Mill Hill is such a wonderful resource for stitchers. :love: I love that they package things up in amounts that make sense - stitchers just generally don't need ten thousand gold beads laying around. :lol: Shame the sites have been lost, maybe they'll work their way back up eventually. :)
Reply
:icondragonstar78:
Dragonstar78 Featured By Owner Sep 17, 2017
I do recall that the name of the company was fire-something-gems

Found it.

www.firemountaingems.com/?engi…
Reply
:iconundistilled:
Undistilled Featured By Owner Sep 20, 2017
The Fire Mountain Gems paper catalog that they send via snail mail is amazing! :faint:

Total eye candy. :lol:
Reply
:icondragonstar78:
Dragonstar78 Featured By Owner Sep 21, 2017
awesomesauce.
Reply
:iconpinkythepink:
pinkythepink Featured By Owner Sep 18, 2017  Professional Artisan Crafter
:la:!
Reply
:iconerzsabet:
Erzsabet Featured By Owner Sep 12, 2017  Hobbyist Artisan Crafter
Miyuki Delicas are life.

I left my bead hoard in the US in my storage locker, and I've already started a new one here! Plus I should still have one with the stuff that was at my grandma's. In theory. I have always loved beads!
Reply
:iconpinkythepink:
pinkythepink Featured By Owner Sep 13, 2017  Professional Artisan Crafter
:love: Honestly I need to work more with Delicas, I have a whole stash set aside for working on mini beaded food and have yet to dive in. :la: I hope one day that you'll have space to have your entire hoard in one location!
Reply
:iconerzsabet:
Erzsabet Featured By Owner Sep 14, 2017  Hobbyist Artisan Crafter
Me too. One day! Actually I have the space for the beads, it's everything else I don't have room for lol.
Reply
:icontwystedroots:
Twystedroots Featured By Owner Sep 12, 2017  Professional Artisan Crafter
That was an excellent article. When I first started experimenting with beads, I used to buy used mixed ones, normally from ebay or people selling locally just to experiment with. The trouble with doing that of course was if I found something particularly amazing that I wanted more of, it was as painful as you described, trawling the internet using any variation of keywords possible that might get me a bit closer to what I was after. And of course I never thought to ask anyone either - I didn't have anyone *to* ask. 
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:iconpinkythepink:
pinkythepink Featured By Owner Sep 13, 2017  Professional Artisan Crafter
Thanks, I'm glad it helped you! I totally sympathize with being unable to replace the things you've used, what a pain in the neck. At least now you have a community here, better late than never. :love:
Reply
:iconjustbelievecreations:
JustBelieveCreations Featured By Owner Sep 12, 2017  Professional Artisan Crafter
This is a great article!

For those looking for a bead source in the US (especially for seed beads and delica [cylinder] beads), try looking at fusionbeads.com It's were I get all my beads from. I used to get them all from Hobby Lobby, but they're bead section is seriously lacking now, especially in beads I can use for bead boxes.
Reply
:iconkaidayinthyme:
KaidaYinThyme Featured By Owner Edited Sep 14, 2017  Hobbyist General Artist
I use Fire Mountain. Massive selection of seed beads. www.firemountaingems.com
Excellent  article. :D
Reply
:iconpinkythepink:
pinkythepink Featured By Owner Sep 13, 2017  Professional Artisan Crafter
Thank you, I'm glad you liked it! :la: Fusionbeads is a great resource, and - yeah - hobby lobby, joann's, michaels... they've all seriously reduced inventory.
Reply
:iconillydragonfly:
IllyDragonfly Featured By Owner Sep 12, 2017   General Artist
Amazing works and amazing article, as usual!
Reply
:iconpinkythepink:
pinkythepink Featured By Owner Sep 13, 2017  Professional Artisan Crafter
:love: Thank you, I'm glad you enjoyed it!
Reply
:iconinthebackground:
inthebackground Featured By Owner Sep 12, 2017  Hobbyist Artisan Crafter
Very well written!
In my experience I'd like to add - "If you see a bead you love, buy as many as you
can because chances are it will be discontinued one day." :angry: 
Reply
:iconundistilled:
Undistilled Featured By Owner Sep 20, 2017
"If you see a bead you love, buy as many as you can ..."

That's exactly what I tell my customers about the glass beads that I make.

Replicating the same beads again in the same exact color, size, and shape can be impossible. :(
Reply
:iconpinkythepink:
pinkythepink Featured By Owner Sep 13, 2017  Professional Artisan Crafter
Thank you, I'm glad you enjoyed! :love: And amen, hahaha, such difficulties we have to live through.
Reply
:iconinthebackground:
inthebackground Featured By Owner Sep 14, 2017  Hobbyist Artisan Crafter
You're very welcome!

Yes, hard times indeed :lol:
Reply
:iconfeynaskydancer:
FeynaSkydancer Featured By Owner Sep 12, 2017  Hobbyist Artisan Crafter
I second that! -I've learned that lesson the hard way...Oh Noes! 

And excellent article Pinky!Panda Bunny Neko Misc Emoji-07 (Applause) [V1] 
Reply
:iconperiodicfable:
PeriodicFable Featured By Owner Sep 12, 2017   Writer
Heart Clap 
Reply
:iconpinkythepink:
pinkythepink Featured By Owner Sep 13, 2017  Professional Artisan Crafter
:love:
Reply
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