Loners Need Love: How to Work with Random Beads

We all have one, even if we would rather not admit it: the dreaded junk drawer. Most of the time, we try to forget it’s there. But every once in a while (usually after we realize it is so packed full of stuff that it doesn’t close any more…) we get the urge to purge! It’s a great feeling to be able to organize all of those odds & ends and to finally feel like we have put things back in order.

The same goes for beaders. Chances are, if you make jewelry, you have a box of beads (or several) that contain a mishmash of spacer beads, focal beads, and/or beads that you LOVE but you just can’t figure out how they fit into the grand scheme of things. Also commonly found in such boxes are those funky irregular beads you can’t bear to throw away, as well as the lovely single earring for whose lost mate you have been sadly weeping.

So, here’s the burning question: what the heck can you DO with these random beads & baubles? We find the best way to get past a beading block is to think outside your typical style. Do you have a tendency to stay within the same color palette? Are you a slave to symmetry?  Now is your time to get funky & work outside your comfort zone:

Problem: You have an odd number of medium-to-large beads left from a strand you had, and all of them are slightly different, so they’re not the ideal candidates for earrings.
Design Idea: Groupings of beads like these are great for either necklaces or bracelets, and can be spread out throughout your design. If you decide on a necklace over a bracelet, three beads grouped together can become the focal point of your piece in lieu of a pendant.

In the blue necklace pictured at left, the three beads we had were the quasi-rectangular aquamarine beads. We decided to spread them out and to stay with a blue palette, but to cast our net fairly wide to include light blues and dark blues, and combine different materials, such as gemstones, pearls and glass. Although we stuck with a symmetrical design (baby steps), we made a point to include beads of different shapes and cuts to give the necklace texture.

Problem: You have one or two really cool beads, but you just haven’t found the right project for them OR you have an orphan earring that you know will never find a mate (*sniff*).
Design Idea: Think about what drew you to the beads or earrings in the first place. If it was the mesmerizing swirls of color, you can pull from the color palette of the beads or earring to help you plan your color selection. A wonderful resource for working with colors is www.design-seeds.com. Even if your bead or lone earring is a single color, you can browse through dozens of color combos to help jump-start your next amazing piece of jewelry.

If your beads were just too darn cute to pass up (like the ones from Green Girl Studios used in our necklace pictured at right), think about what kind of “environment” your beads could live in. We envisioned our pewter squirrel & owls living in a forest, so we chose a palette of browns & greens. We made a point to balance the pewter critters with slightly larger beads, so our odd-ball orphan gemstone & wood beads worked well.

Would your beads be better suited to roll around in a colorful garden? Maybe the “Color Bloom” palette below would work for you.

And as for that poor, lonely earring: there is nothing that says you can’t incorporate a single earring into a necklace design. Just remove the ear wire, attach a jump ring or a bail, and voilà: instant pendant! Keep it simple and frame it with small beads so that your new pendant stands out, or mix & match with other orphan earrings for an eclectic look.

If you are still having a hard time finding that spark of creativity, feel free to bring your stash of loner beads to our shop any time to brainstorm with our staff.  Want more opinions? Bring your beads to our Wine & Pizza, Topped with Beads Night to enjoy dinner & vino while communing with other beaders  and to trade ideas. This inexpensive social event will be happening Friday, August 24th from 7pm-11pm. If you want even more ideas in a more structured setting, take our Up-Cycled Jewelry class on Friday, August 10th from 6pm-9pm. Lauren Harvey will teach you how to put a new spin on old, forgotten, broken or vintage pieces and create a fresh, new design all your own. Call the shop (510.652.2583) to find out more about these fun events. With all of these options, you may be surprised by how quickly your random box ‘o beads can become your new favorite treasure trove of goodies!