What I have learned.

March 13, 2013 , In: General
First I would like to qualify this post by saying this is what I have learned and is totally my opinion.
When I first started beading I shopped at local big name craft supply stores.  I purchased those big bags of seed beads and all the lampwork beads I could.  Frustration for me soon followed when I discovered that all that $ was truly wasted.  The seeds did not keep their color and the lampwork pieces were frankly horrible to incorporate because they would either not be uniform or the holes would break the thread.  I would have pictures of them but I ended up trashing all those early pieces out of complete frustration an I nearly quit beading.
Starting my blog and coming across a local bead shop I discovered that there were quality seed beads out there but they came in such tiny containers and the prices scared me.  I was and still am on a fairly tight bead budget so it was a bit intimidating to only be getting 1/2 of what I was getting for the same cost.  How can that be?  Well it can be because the Toho and Miyuki seed beads that are out there are mostly beautifully made and their colors are steadfast and the uniformity is amazing.  Now I am really kinda proud to say I am a seed bead snob and there is a reason for that.  I am totally confident that the pieces I create with them are uniform and I know they will stand the test of time.
And how could you totally not love all the luscious colors!

Now with the introduction of FB in my life I discovered the same issues in artisan beads.  Well actually I discovered artisan beads.  When I first started wanting to incorporate them I was overwhelmed.  I saw so much beauty and then I would see the price and say “OMG how can they charge that much”  and I would search for something comparable at a lesser price and that usually meant I would also get more for the same price.  How cool was that?  Well it wasn’t cool at all.  I found once again that there is quantity versus quality.  I was once again drawn into the wasting $ pit.

Here are only some of my favorite artisan pieces.
Why am I telling you all this?  Because I would like to save you the frustration and waste I suffered.  This is what I want you to ask yourself when you start purchasing beads and artisan accents for yourself and hopefully it will stop you from making the same mistakes.
1.  Is is from a “Big Box”?  I am not saying that all their beads are bad but you need to really look at what you are purchasing and what you want to use it for.  Will it stand the test of time?  Will it fade or scratch?  Will it hold its shape?  I do not recommend purchasing seed beads because the amount of waste from culling is incredible.
2. Is is from an ETSY or other artisan community of shops?  You can still find mass production pieces on those sites as well so really read where they get the supplies from and what they are made of.  For example crystals.  Not all crystals are made the same and if you can get a mass quantity for a cheap price you may want to think twice.  
3. Are you on a tight bead budget?  I always am but what I have found is that, that piece that you really really love that may indeed cost $25 made by a reputable artist is totally worth saving for. The work that is involved in making these components is really amazing.  And if you check out the artisans blog you will most likely find a post or two of how they are created which will also show you how much of an artform they are.  For example I took a lampwork class at Corning Museum of Glass and discovered that it is not an easy process to get the glass to work for you.  The depth perception needed to insure your bead is forming properly is something I can not do.  If you are unsure about a new to you artist, ask your friends who may have purchased.  Look at who makes pieces using the artists creations you like ask them why they use them.  You will eventually same yourself $ and frustration.
I have been so lucky to have been introduce to may artisan pieces and I will be more than happy to let anyone who asks why I use and frankly covet and dream about them.
I hope this advise helps you and saves you from the traps I have fallen into.


Kristen Stevens

Kristen Stevens has always been a crafter of sorts.  Cross stitch, quilting, quilling, knitting, and since 2009 totally addicted to seed beads.  Then the discovery of art beads added to the addiction.  She has been complimented on her unique approach to blend colors, shapes and inspiration from the art beads and nature. She has also been writing her own tutorials. 
  1. Reply

    Absolutely! When I returned to beading and making jewelry after the first part of my career teaching full time – I had the good fortune to work and take classes at the Shepherdess in San Diego. Thats where I learned peyote, spiral rope, fringey things… And the seed beads were stunning. While I dont use them often – one adage that was frequently spoken in SD stays with me forever: No matter how simple a piece might be, use the best materials you can afford. It truly elevates the piece.

    • Reply

      And that is a great adage to follow!

  2. Reply

    I could not agree with you more! Wonderful article!

    • Reply

      Thank you so much Patti I really thought this needed to be said and shared.

  3. Reply

    Thanks, Kristen, for the good insights. I do my purchasing at a combination of local chain crafts stores, bead shows and quality online stores. Just like anything, you have to know what the product is going to be used for and know what you're looking at.

    There are some times you can get away with less expensive items and times when you've gotta have the best you can manage. Knowing the difference is key, imo. 🙂

    • Reply

      Yes that is key and that is why I say that sometimes the big box stores can have some treasures you just have to think and check them carefully.

  4. Reply

    Great post, Kristen! I have a good friend who got into jewelry-making at about the same time I did, and last year she and I did a "purge" in our studios of all the stuff we bought early on before we knew any better. It's all a learning process – we thought, like you did, that we were saving all kinds of money by buying the less expensive stuff. But like those brass brushes I mentioned in my post yesterday, some of those "savings" wind up costing you extra – for the original purchase, and then the cost of the good stuff when you finally break down and buy the stuff you should have bought in the first place.

    And I LOVED Jennifer's comment: use the best materials you can afford because it elevates the piece. So, so true.

    (Thanks for including that gorgeous beaded piece with my enameled focal in your favorites! Made my heart glad!)

    • Reply

      That is one of the reasons I wanted to share this Francesca. I have been so lucky have been able to use a number of artisan components and also see the processes involved in creating them. I was able to learn fairly quickly the differences and save me budget loss. LOL

  5. Reply

    Great post, Kristin! I think many of us have been in your boat when we first started out! I still have a bunch of crap I wasted money on from ages ago!

    • Reply

      I know and being so budget restricted I know that the money I wasted not knowing any better could have been put to much better use!

  6. Reply

    Great post Miss Kristen! I remember that someone early on told me to use the best that my money could afford. Truer words were never spoken. I do use things from big box stores, just like I do from hardware stores, thrift shops and my own burgeoning jewelry box, as no bead goes unloved or wasted. I am very much not a bead snob, but an equal opportunity beadist. But that is not the same for art beads. Those mini masterpieces are totally worth it. I have quite a lot to prove it is true! The downside is that they are so precious and special and one of a kind usually that I don't want to use them! I would also say this is true of tools and equipment, buy the best you can afford, but don't overlook the lesser priced for other uses! Thanks for sharing. Enjoy the day. Erin

    • Reply

      You are so right Erin. Treasures can be found anywhere. I just wanted to make sure I could help someone who is just starting out not to get caught in the traps. Awareness is the key right?

  7. Reply

    Great post!!! I agree with everyone above. But we all have to start someplace and some how and for me…the cheaper helped me get started, but now I am moving to the better beads!

    • Reply

      That is true too Vera. I did learn alot when I started but some of those learning pieces would still be around if I had known better.

  8. Reply

    Great post! I try to explain to others how using cheaper materials can end up costing more, and your post did so perfectly! I also had similar experiences early on…when i first starting buying lampwork, I thought it was just a cost of business that you would get some broken beads in the bunch, or that some would just miss bits of stringer. I cringe now when I think about it!

  9. Reply

    I went through the same process. I remember closing my eyes and throwing out tubes of those wonky beads, once I discovered my first bead shop. I also went through the same process with fabric. Some companies care about what they put on the market and others only care about how fast they can get their products out.

    • Reply

      Renetha that is so true! When I was a quilter I did the same thing and all that work wasted because the fabric was not the quality it needed to be.

  10. Reply

    It is so great to read that beaders appreciate the artisan lampwork beads for their quality and uniqueness. Great points you made and thank you.

  11. Reply

    When I first started out, I didn't even know there was such a thing as art beads. And I thought the beads I was buying were quite pretty. However, once I discovered art beads, there was just no comparison! I certainly use lots of Czech glass, even now. But I've ditched all the Indian glass I used to have. Our town holds an "Artists Garage Sale" once a year, where artists sell off supplies they no longer want or need. It's my annual opportunity to destash in a big way!

    • Reply

      That is awesome that you even had issues. You have such an amazing design eye it is hard for me to see that you started somewhere. LOL

    • Shel
    • March 14, 2013

    I'm with Linda – I had no idea when I first started stringing beads that there was a wonderful world of quality 'art beads' out there to be coveted! I have tons of things I started out with ages ago that still sit in my bead bins because I'm not that impressed with them. And my beautiful Artisan Beads,..well they sit there too because I hoard them like precious gold or something afraid I won't be able to afford to purchase anything similar or as good. Great post Kristen!!

  12. Reply

    I wish someone had pointed this out to me when I started all those years ago!

    I still have piles of rather rubbish beads that got left at the wayside once I realised the need for quality over quantity. I have many many many czech druks and 4mm swarovski bicones that are still useful as they are good quality despite being fairly cheap.

    But the commercial lampwork beads that crack after a couple of wears? The lumpy bumpy indian beads that look like they've been run over? The really cheap tibetan spacers that look like bits of molten slag? Or cheap chinese gemstones that are horridly dyed and cut?

    What was I thinking?? I guess at that time I just didn't know…

  13. Reply

    I did the same except I went crazy at FMG. I still shop there but now I know what to expect. I find that they are great for some things but avoid others.

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