Organize Me, Please!

a jewelry artist’s
storage and organizing solutions

by Kathy Reading.

Purple swarovski copper hoop earrings

Purple velvet swarovski copper hoop earrings
by Kathy Reading.

If there’s one thing I know for sure about being an artist who works with beads, it’s that you can never have too many!

In my studio, there are beads and beading supplies everywhere.

Beads, buttons and findings abound along with vintage necklaces and earrings from the latest flea market or yard sale purchases

And then there are the temporarily strung strands from the latest bead show waiting for transformation. Soon storage becomes an issue.

How to Organize It All?

It’s easy to become overwhelmed with the amount of jewelry supplies that have taken over your studio or workspace, and just as easy to organize it all.

It’s finding (and taking) the time to become organized that’s the problem.

Like me, you probably have several jewelry projects in various stages of completion, along with what I call “stuff” (beads, buttons, findings, charms, etc.) all over the place.

Pink button bracelet.

Vintage Button Bracelet in Pink
by Kathy Reading.

I know, I know – all you really want to do is make jewelry (me too!)

But if you decide to take a stab at organizing your beads and jewelry supplies, here are a few ideas:

  1. Organize a little at a time – It’s too overwhelming to think that you will get everything organized in a few hours, one day, or even the weekend.Agree to clean up one small space or area at a time, and before you know it you will have everything in its place.
  2. Everything has a place – So make sure you put everything in its place – i.e., always keep your tools in the same place. That way you don’t spend time looking for them.I find it also helps if I put away any leftover beads or supplies as soon as I complete the project and not let them accumulate; that way my work area stays neater.Find a storage system that works for you and use it.
  3. There are many ways to store your “stuff” – There’s a huge array of organizers: plastic bead caddies, bead storage boxes, nut and bolt storage containers with little plastic drawers, plastic shoeboxes, plastic containers and reclosable storage bags of various sizes.I have all of these throughout my studio.Most have labels on them to identify what is inside, either a sticker label (Brother P-Touch) where you type out the contents, or for the plastic containers, a plain old Sharpie works great.
  4. There are also a lot of ways to store items waiting for sale – For the items destined for my web page, I put them in a reclosable storage bag and then use a Sharpie to write on the bag.Then I put them in a plastic shoebox that’s easy to carry over to the computer.
  5. Combine storage with display – Another great storage idea, one that is perfect for artists who sell at craft shows, home shows, etc. are (Showcases to Go [no longer in business – try online searches for “portable jewelry showcases” or “portable jewelry display cases” instead. ~ Rena]). They offer beautiful wood storage cases that open up to display (and store) your jewelry in a very professional manner.The cases fold in half which makes them easy to transport, and especially easy to just open up and set on the table for a fabulous display.

Take a few hours this weekend to put some organizational skills to work using these ideas, and you will soon be organized – at least until that next package of beads arrives from the post office!

Author Kathy Reading of Catju Designs is a self-taught jewelry designer who has been creating unique pieces for over 13 years. Her jewelry is made with vintage Swarovski crystals, beads, components, findings, and buttons. Inspired by artistic, vintage, and art-deco items, many are one-of-a-kind and limited-edition pieces.

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  • Rose Barden says:

    Well, I finally got organized. Pulled everything onto the middle of floor and went from there.

    Now, I have a Section for books and Magazines, a Postal section, the work section, an area for taking pictures with my light box, (which by the way is making my pictures look very good), a computer section for uploading pictures and placing them in online stores, a section for at ready components, and storage to keep components contained, organized and keeping the craftroom neat.

    I create the jewelry from idea, lay all items needed to making jewelry,(one design at a time) take pictures in light box, post to online stores. Then I check to see if Items are sold, I then go to my treasure box, (is where all my finished pieces are stored), and package them it up, and take it to post office, for mailing out.

    If that’s no a great system, I don’t know what is, lol 🙂 Well, at least it works for me. Everything has it’s place, Finally!

    Rose Barden
    Moving ahead
    and staying wired
    Riverview, Florida

  • Mary says:

    Well done for organising all your ‘stuff’. Something I have yet to do! Always putting it off until ……….

  • Nallery says:

    This is the one thing I keep struggling with. I have thousands of beads of various colors, types, etc. And I don’t know how to organize them. I finally organized all my jewelry making components but the beads are going to be the struggle. What is the most efficient way to organize them? Some of them I can’t even tell what they’re made of so even if I wanted to label them it’s going to be hard. Then writing the price on how much every single bead would be on what they’re stored in is going to be a hassle in and of itself. Also, since swarovskis are expensive, I sometimes don’t know how to tell them apart from the less expensive non swarovskis that are mixed together. This goes for the Gemstones I’ve purchased. How can I actually determine what type of gemstones I have and whether they’re real or faux? I’ve accumulated so much throughout the years that sometimes I see things I didn’t even know I had. Help Me Please!!

  • Hi Nallery! You’re not alone with having a stash of mystery beads and no ideas for identifying and organizing them!

    Fortunately, we’ve got a lot of great tips and ideas for these issues. Below are posts here on Jewelry Making Journal where we’ve had good discussions about identifying and organizing beads.

    Important: For each of these posts, be sure to read the comments below the main post, because that’s usually where the best tips and experiences are shared!

    Here are some posts here on JMJ that cover identifying the beads you have in your stash:

    Identifying Beads

    Bead Identities – How Do I Find Them?

    How Do I Find Out What Types of Beads I Have?

    Anyone Have a Good Resource for Stone I.D.’s?

    And here are some JMJ posts on how to organize and store your bead stash:

    Organizing Beads

    Storing Jewelry Supplies & Tools – Rena’s System

    Claustrobeadia – Need Bead Storage Advice

    How Can You Store and Organize Your Beads?

    Good luck Nallery! Let us know how your sorting and organizing project goes! 🙂

  • Nallery says:

    Thank you Rena. I read over all the information and it was very helpful. I took notes of all the resources mentioned. I’m going to follow up on them as soon as I have another chance to do so (Daughter needs a bath). I now feel both excited and yet a little scared of the task at hand since there’s so much to do. But it must be done. It gets depressing to feel so unorganized. Now I feel that I can fix the problem without spending money and by being able to up-cycle things around the house. Thank you for all the help. Love this Blog!! I’ve been reading it for years.

  • You’re very welcome, Nallery! I’m glad to hear you’ve got a plan and a place to start this task now. And thank you for the lovely feedback on JMJ! 🙂

  • Just FYI…”Showcases To Go” are out of business. Just checked the website today. Disappointed!

  • Thanks so much for letting me know they’re out of business, Gothic Gourd Girl!

    I just now added a note in the main post (above) that Showcases to Go is out of business but an online search for “portable jewelry showcases” or “portable jewelry display cases” will turn up some interesting possibilities for that type of storage / display case for jewelry. 🙂

  • Mary kirsch says:

    I live in a quad living situation where I have my own room but I share a kitchen and a small living room area with three other senior citizens. My room is 16 x14 so not much space. I keep all my different crafts including jewelry making in the big rough totes have several different storage containers for all my different beats and then I have my tools and those reclosable Ziplock bags that are in my beading buddy so I always know where they’re at.

  • Patricia L Hess says:

    How do I stay organized with projects in progress?

  • Hi Patricia, here’s how I stay organized with multiple jewelry projects in progress. I have dozens of black plastic stacking jewelry trays (most jewelry suppliers sell them – they’re about 8″ x 14″ size). Each project has its own separate tray – all the components, info, everything for just that one project goes into that tray. You can have several projects organized that way with the stacking trays – and nothing will get mixed up. Stack the trays so that the top priority project is in the top tray, and so on down through the stack. I hope this helps! 🙂

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