The post-holiday weeks and months of deep winter always make me want to re-organize things at home. I'm guessing these periods have a similar effect on others too. As I was getting the organization bug today it reminded me that, over the years, I've had lots of students ask how I organize my beads and my studio.
My husband, Ed (www.edbinkley.com), and I are in the process of trying to sell our current house and move back into the city of Madison (where we've lived off and on for most of the years since the early '80s). So our current studios are looking a bit more organized than usual :). I figured that made it an ideal time to share some pictures.
The wide photo below shows both Ed's studio (right) and my studio (left). It has been very nice to each have our own space but be close enough to talk back and forth, listen to books together, and easily get up to visit and give each other feedback on work in progress. Our studio spaces in the new house aren't quite this close together, but they will still work well.
Here's my studio (below). Along the left wall I've got storage drawers for fabrics that have a cutting table on top of the first two (left, shorter) and an ironing station on top of the second two (right, taller). I have LOVED having both and will continue to use these arrangements for cutting, ironing, and stacking things when the studio gets really busy.
The tall center table is both standing and sitting height and is my primary kit-making surface. It's also great for basting quilts. The table in front of the window is my hand-stitching table for beading, embroidery, attaching quilt bindings and hanging sleeves, and for simply staring out the window. It will sit in front of a large window overlooking the back yard in our new house too. I feel very lucky. You can just see the bead drawers stacked above the fireplace in this picture.
Here's a closer view of my bead storage drawers. They're not very elegant or exciting, but they work remarkably well for keeping beads organized and for easy access to them. I think I bought the drawer sets somewhere like Target. Each drawer is about 10" x 12" x 2".
Originally I put the drawers over the fireplace because they'd be high enough that it would be a bit inconvenient to get out lots of beads. I somehow thought that would keep me from giving in to fits of inspiration that led me to getting out oodles of containers of beads for projects other than those already in the works. It was a nice idea. Sometimes inspiration is simply more compelling than drawer height is inconvenient.
The paper above the drawers is what I take along with me when I teach; it's great for sketching stitches, designs, and sharing other information. (It's helpful to be married to someone who has bought lots of oversized printer paper over the years.)
Here is a picture of just half of the drawers. I organize them by color and then by bead type--seed bead vs. novelty bead (everything else). So there are 20 drawers for colored glass beads (two red, two orange, two yellow/gold, two green, two blue, two purple, two white, two brown, two black/grey, and two for true multi-colored beads), one drawer for lampworked beads, one drawer for buttons, one drawer for non-glass novelty beads like wood and shell beads, and one catch-all drawer that needs to be reassigned. I'll probably give in to my burgeoning blue and green bead collections and reassign the drawer to one of those colors (maybe those tricky turquoises that I can never decide whether they're blue or green).
Here's the interior of my Green Novelty Beads drawer. I keep all of my beads in transparent containers--either a ziploc-type bag or the tube or box in which they were sold. I keep tags/labels too, so that I can order more if I need (or just really want) more of a particular kind. As you can see, my novelty beads include teardrops, stone chips, spheres/druks, bugle beads, and lots of other shapes.
When I begin a new project, I get out all of the containers of beads that might even remotely work in the project as I currently envision it. As the piece begins to take shape it becomes clear that some beads just don't fit, and so those containers get put away (or stacked somewhere else ;), and I begin the sifting and winnowing process of pulling together materials for that quilt or embroidery. The clear containers make all of the beads visible without the risk of having loose beads rolling around, and getting out everything that even might work guarantees that some wonderful bead that could be perfect for the piece won't be forgotten in the bottom of the drawer. The process also keeps the bead drawers stirred up, so it's harder for me to forget about beads I aquired even years ago.
I've organized my beads like this for about eight or ten years, and it works very well for me. Robin Atkins (www.robinatkins.com) sells some great heavier 2"x3"ish zipper bags that fit a hank of seed beads perfectly. Last time I checked she sold them in packs of 100, and I've had the same original 100 for years. They hold up well!
As I get my new studio set up I'll put together a post with pictures of it. It's a very different space than my current studio. I'm having a great time painting it and am scheming about how to organize books and stitching supplies. It's also turning out to be a great cold-weather project as we are already fully immersed in deep-winter temperatures and snowfall in southern Wisconsin.