I wanted to make more things, but needed something to do it with. I spent some time checking out UK online bead stores, and my friends pointed me in the direction of bead shops in London – I visited The Bead Shop and London Bead Shop, which are both very close together in Seven Dials. I found The Bead Shop much more useful – it’s larger (two floors) and has a large semi-precious stone selection downstairs, along with a much better selection of seed beads. While both have a lot of beads you can buy individually, that’s all the London Bead Shop has, and I am more interested in being able to buy by the strand.
I ended up getting a load of large packets of Czech seed beads, two strands of discounted blue-and-white millefiori (4mm and 6mm), some chocolate brown cord, coils of silver-plated and copper wire, and some thin acrylic beading “thread” to practice with. The seed beads looked like packets of multi-coloured sugar when I got them home and piled them up.
Aside: I went for seed beads in quantity instead of the higher-quality Japanese ones so I wouldn’t be afraid to experiment. If I have plenty, I can do whatever I like with them and not feel like I’m “wasting” them. Also, they look perfectly fine for my purposes – I am not yet doing bead weaving, or anything that requires an ultra-regular shape.
I repurposed containers for storage: I actually found the ideal thing to keep my large quantities of seed beads in – the local hardware shop had a plastic octagonal lidded container intended for serving chips’n’dip. Eight compartments plus a round central one. I poured my beads in with glee (they make a great noise when you do that). It shows them off side by side, like a colour wheel. It’s incredibly useful, and if I ever find another one I’ll snap it up.
Later, I got hold of two sets of three clip-down lidded small containers from a pound shop, intended to be used for refrigeration. They were just the right size to hold the remaining seed beads that didn’t fit in my octagon.
My boyfriend has also picked up a couple of storage containers from Maplin for me – these are divided into a lot of very small compartments that are non-removable and won’t mix up the contents if you turn the box upside-down. They stack well, too. They go for about £2 each and are very useful for smaller quantities.
My birthday was coming up, so I pointed my mum at Beads Direct, which is my favourite of the online shops I’ve looked at – it has a huge range, lots of semi-precious stones, and has good prices. A little while later, I put in a big order myself. Lots of stones and chips, some wire and thread, needles and findings. I’d also picked up some needlenose pliers and wire cutters from that selfsame hardware shop – electrician’s tools, not jeweller’s, but they made it easier to make…
My gold coloured craft wire again, with lapis lazuli chips from my new supplies. I also added little translucent grey seed beads on the branches to make them look a bit knottier. Twisting the wire with actual pliers instead of tweezers let me twist it a lot tighter – who knew!