Displaying Art Beads

December 5, 2016 , In: Business Tips, Inspiration, Studio, Tutorials

So you’ve spent many hours at all times of the day and night stalking your favourite designer’s auctions and trawling through bead shops and in the process spent enough to pay off the debt of a small third world country. Then what do you do with our beloved purchases…? Like most of us you probably stuff them in cabinets, storage drawers or boxes which, however beautiful in their own right seems a sad way to treat these little treasures.

I’ve been making a concerted to effort to make more of some of my bead collection especially since I buy some of them purely for their artistic merit and know they’ll never make it into a piece of jewellery. I did a bit of research and asked my Art Elements team mates how they displayed beads and small art works and came up with a few ideas that hopefully won’t break the bank.

As many of you know, our Jenny has a very spiritual nature rooted in mythology and collects beads that reflect this. She keeps her favourites very close to her in little groups on her work bench where she can see and be inspired by them. 

I like to keep some of my special beads within close sight too. I have a shelving unit in my studio which I use to display gifts and purchases from my creative friends along with a few bits I’ve made myself…


Often I will just hang things directly from the shelves – sometimes while I think about what to do with them, other times as a more permanent feature.


I also like to make little collections of similar items as if it were a gallery setting. Visitors always like to investigate these shelves and I often find that if I have a little tidy up and dust when I’m feeling uninspired it can usually helps clear the creative blockage


Drilled beads don’t always sit very well on their own so I make little stands for them with copper wire creating a coil base and central pin to keep them upright which creates much more visual impact.


My Art Elements team mate Laney creates something similar from glass to display her wonderful whisical glass creations.


Sometimes though, a particular bead needs something more to set it off to its best. I loved this Goat by Maku Studio so much that I framed it on it’s own for the most impact. These little frames are very cheap (£2 from Wilkinsons in the UK and I believe similar are available from xxx IN the US). At the moment it’s sitting on the shelf but it is destined for its own spot on the wall when I get around to it.


I’ve also been pondering what to do with this Staci Smith piece for some time. I was planning to frame it but last time I was dusting I picked it up and just wedged it into a piece of foam board that happened to be lying around. It’s a bit rough and ready but I really like the effect so I’m either going to re-do it more neatly and cover the foam board or, transpose the idea to a wood block.


Speaking of wood blocks – how about this simple version to display a stunning bead to maximum effect…by Andrea Guarino Slemmons.


And on the same theme Sally Sutherland sells these lovely decorative blocks alongside her adorable doll beads.


And what about wooden blocks from children’s activity toys? – if you have any of those lying around you could come up with something very creative.

Sue Kennedy has a novel way to display her lampwork wine bottle stoppers with this custom made stand her partner created for her from bannister rails…very clever.


Printer typesettters trays have always been popular for bead or miniature display and I’ve always envies those who have the room for them like Niky – don’t these look great?


And then there is this  fabulous driftwood display by Jennifer Geldard – just perfect or these whimsical little characters don’t you think? Although these are mini sculptures something like this could easily be adapted for beads.


It makes a big difference to the impact a piece makes when it’s framed as you can see with this eclectic collection belonging to Madeline Bunyan – the different styles of frames adds a lovely quirkiness and I love the way she uses the outside of the frame as well.


But you don’t have to buy frames…these mixed media miniature art pieces by Cooky Schock are mounted and framed on pieces of an old garden fence. I so wish I’d seen these before my fences came down in a storm a couple of years ago – ingenious and eco friendly to boot!


If you’re short on space you can make more of it by mounting or framing your beads in groups. This sectioned shadow box makes for a really striking display of Madeline’s beads grouped together in similar styles.


You can still frame groups of beads inexpensively but it’s important to remember that how you set out your display can make a big difference to how effective it looks, especially if it’s for public exhibition. You need to create a sense of order  that the eye can follow for your viewer to fully appreciate the items you are showing. These next three images show beads displayed in an inexpensive (£6 Wilkinsons) shadow box and how the layout effects the display.

It’s sometimes tempting to display things randomly for a less formal display but this can make it hard to view the elements properly. When I kook at this display I find my eyes darting about all over the place because there is no path from one bead to the next and in the end it becomes distracting.


When you set the same beads out in a linear format it becomes much easier to view as we are conditioned to scan from left to right. Now you can focus on each individual bead and then move on to the next without the distraction of what’s going on in the periphery.


 But you can be more creative with your framing without sacrificing clarity. Here I’ve backed the frame with a decorative paper and created mini frames for each bead just by tearing squares of paper using a deckle edge ruler. it’s still easy to focus on each bead and scan the frame but the overall impact is much more striking. The beauty of this of course is that you can design it to match your own decor or booth theme.


Finally, I just wanted to share one tip for attaching beads to your frames. If I know they’ll be permanent fixtures I sometimes glue my beads to the backing with a suitable glue that won’t damage them – beware what you  use with polymer clay or painted finishes. But more often than not I back my frames with foam board  and then, depending on the bead either attach them with thread or pin them to the board with a spot of blue tack underneath to keep them from moving. The foam board can be covered with decorative paper and if you use it in place of the paper frames above, it gives a nice raised effect.



I hope you found some inspiration in this post and if you have any novel ways of displaying beads we’d love to hear them – we’re always looking for new ideas.


Lesley Watt

Lesley Watt started making jewellery in 2009 with a handful of hobby store beads but quickly discovered art beads and became completely smitten. Taking courses in metal clay, metal smithing, enamelling and etching she began making her own components in 2011 and has never looked back. Always looking to try new things she has branched out into ceramics, bead embroidery, mixed media and textiles.
  1. Reply

    Such an inspiring post Lesley, thank you!

  2. Reply

    These are great ideas. I do have a printers drawer and need to do something with it. It’s nice to seee some of my favorites in everyone’s collections.

  3. Reply

    This post is a definite keeper! Now I know what to do with some of those fabulous pieces…

  4. Reply

    These are all brilliant! I’m going to have to up my game a bit, mine are all just on a bit of string. Love your framing idea, especially with the plain background. I’m going to borrow that 🙂

  5. Reply

    That, was the best blog I have read in a long time! I will now dust off my printer block drawers and display my collection so much better! Brilliant and inspiring, thank you 🙂

  6. Reply

    Absolutely loved this post. It gives me all sorts of ideas for how to show off my own art bead collection.

    • jewelsofsayuri
    • December 8, 2016

    Such great idea for display. I wish I lived in a dust free place to make open displays like these

    • Cathy
    • December 10, 2016

    Finally catching up to all the blog posts I’ve missed! I love all these ideas. You have inspired me to get out my typesetter’s tray and fill it with all the goodies I have been hiding in plastic containers!

  7. Reply

    Inspiring ideas just love them– Very creative work

  8. Reply

    What a FUN post. I just love to look at all of these little treasures and the creative ways to display them. Thanks so much!

  9. Reply

    I would never have thought of doing this! It makes it so much easier to be able to look at the pretty art beads

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