Three Secrets of the Seed Bead Stash

Eleven years ago a small rectangular tin seemed like the perfect (and large!) container to hold my seed bead stash. Then I added square baskets and plastic tubs stacked on shelves. Not too long ago I lovingly re-organized my seed beads with a system that allows me to stack locking bones by color and size.

The process opened my eyes to three secrets of the seed bead stash. Read on to see if you agree.

#1: In seed beads, as in life, you gravitate to what you love

My stash grew organically. In a new city? Buy some beads. I also bought favorites at shows and during special sales. When Susan moved from Albuquerque to Chapel Hill, South Carolina, she gave me her seed beads. Friends who have grown tired of the little round discs gave me tubes to add to my collection. A fellow artist offered me her Delicas. Beads left over from another project added to the accumulation.

Seed beads, those small cylinders of joy, are not the only beads I work with. They simply satisfy my urge to work with needle and thread. Here’s an example of a freeform seed bead necklace and its story.

An estate disbursement forced me to identify and come to terms with seed bead stash secret #1: You gravitate to the colors, combos and sizes of beads you love. Without a system, you’ll have many duplicates.

These bronze seed beads illustrate a penchant for color by Mary Ellen Beads Albuquerque.
© 2018, Seed Bead Organization by color – ME loves bronze

My love for bronze, metallic iris and beautiful drops grew more apparent as I converted tubes of beads to the system. I sorted, labeled and remembered as I revisited my seed bead favs. As I came to terms with my own collection I realized some seed beads might have to go. So with a tinge of reluctance, I marked some of the less-stellar seed beads for the donation box. I thanked them for their service and made a date to take them away.

#2: Challenge yourself to organize your seed beads

“For every minute spent organizing an hour is earned.” – Ben Franklin

Almost immediately the get-organized process caused me to envision future projects. I started a list. And then, shiny object syndrome (SOS) struck. If you’re not familiar with SOS, you may recognize the symptoms: you happen upon a forgotten purchase such as a hank of marcasite beads, size 15. (The bigger the number, the smaller the bead. Marcasite is a natural gemstone sometimes used to imitate diamonds.) You reach for a 40mm Swarovski rivoli, ready to bezel it with marcasite in one sitting. And…reality strikes. You’re here to organize, not to bead. You add the marcasite rivoli to the project list, re-committing to finish the mission at hand.

These metallic iris seed beads launched a project for Mary Ellen Beads Albuquerque.
© 2018, Mary Ellen Merrigan, Spiral Rope with metallic iris Seed Beads

In the end, I began a new spiral rope featuring luminescent metallic iris Czech glass and black size 15 seed beads paired with black size 11 3-cuts. (NOTE TO SELF: no need to buy any additional tubes of black beads for some time.)

© 2018, Mary Ellen Merrigan, Spiral Rope Necklaces made with Seed Beads

In reviewing my treasure trove of seed beads, I noticed recent additions of Charlottes and 3-cut beads. I indulged myself at the Tucson 2018 Gem Show when I discovered a vendor with stunning hanks of seed beads. I admired the collection again as I added it to a clear plastic box.

#3: Organize anything, including a seed bead stash with love

There were dozens of distractions during my organizing process. It would have been easy to quit. Completing the process gave me new perspectives, appreciation for my inventory and several nearly-forgotten memories.  The hours spent working on my passion gave me joy.

With boxes filled and labeled, my workspace felt lighter and more effectively prioritized. Clutter was minimized. The studio seemed bursting at the seams with purpose and possibility. A plethora of projects on “the list” beckoned.

A favorite quote beckoned from the side of my work bench:

“Love is our true essence. Love has no limitations of caste, religion, race, or nationality. We are all beads strung together on the same thread of love. To awaken this unity-and to spread to others the love that is our inherent nature-is the true goal of human life.” –Mata Amritanandamayi

Flooded with gratitude I reflected, “It’s good to be me. I love beads!” I often say, “I never meet a bead (seed bead or otherwise) I don’t like.”

How about you? Do you have secrets pertaining to your seed bead stash?

2 thoughts on “Three Secrets of the Seed Bead Stash”

  1. Mary Ellen, You have inspired me to build a stash of beads with my granddaughter. I love hearing about how you accumulated, organized and recycled your beads. It goes without saying, but bears repeating that your beaded pieces are extraordinary. I love the quote that inspires your craft.

    1. She will love it, Evelyn! What’s more, collecting and accumulating will teach many values and offer many adventures. What fun to do it with her. She’s lucky to have you lead the way!

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