Ever since I was a kid, I’ve had kind of a radar for finding beads and components in unusual places. When people ask me “Where do you buy your beads/rocks/ribbon/closure/etc?” sometimes I just giggle, remembering where I actually found a particular item. Sometimes when I talk to other beaders, I’m amazed that their only shopping experiences have been at bead stores or shows! Perhaps it’s my penchant for the unusual, or my obsession with old things, but most of the real treasures in my hoard have come from the most unexpected places.
Far and away, most of my finds come from thrift stores, antique stores and flea markets. I’m constantly amazed by the things that people are just trying to get rid of! You just need to develop a few habits – being able to quickly visually browse jewelry and trinket cases, not being afraid to rummage through boxes of junk, and being able to make a snap judgement on material / quality / usability.
I love fossils and large stone focals, so rock shops and shows are always a fun time – and very fruitful for adding to my bead stash. Sometimes I go in with an idea of a stone or fossil that I want…and sometimes I just let the stones find me!
I love specialty shops! They’re just like bead stores…but for non beaders. And you just never know what you’ll stumble upon. Take these laser cut wood pieces for example. I was up in a very touristy town with a friend, when we walked into a store that made all kinds of laser cut wood bowls and signs. Then I walked around a corner…and stood in awe in front of an entire wall of packages of different jewelry/craft size cut outs! We both loaded up (she makes gorgeous art with gourds), and couldn’t stop fondling our finds the whole way home.
Quality fabric and yarn shops always have interesting fibers, closures and buttons to play with. Leather shops often have scraps, even of exotic things like alligator or lizard leather. Don’t forget about hardware and home stores…that porcelain stag beetle above is a drawer pull from Anthropologie. I had a friend with a tile saw cut the shank off the back for me – and now it’s a cabochon! With a little bit of creativity and tweaking you never know what you can find!
Etsy and other online marketplaces are phenomenal places to find interesting artisan products to use and inspire…but don’t forget the artists in your community either! Art and craft shows, trunk shows, and open studios can be great ways to not only meet people and acquire their work…but also to develop working collaborative relationships with fellow creatives! The marbled paper, shards of broken and tumbled art glass, and enameled/etched metal are all from people I just stumbled across in out of the way places. You never know who you’ll meet if you take the time to appreciate someone else’s work!
Hours later, after a marathon day of shopping, we finally examined the necklace closer. Not only are all the beads vintage glass, but the necklace is strung on fine bead chain…and it plus the clasp are 14k gold. Definitely worth the $9.00 I shelled out!
I hope this gives you a bunch of ideas of new places to find unusual beads and components! The more practice you have a honing your bead radar, the more successful your excursions will be. What is your best find so far? Are there places in your hometown that you need to explore? Are there places you visit semi-regularly that are untapped? Turn that bead radar on and start hunting! We would love to know what you find!