Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Theory and Practice of Bead Organization, Part One

My husband looks at me funny when I sit down to work with my bead software and catalog all my inventory, as I call it.  

But for me, it's an odd combination of business logic, design process and a very slight organizational wankiness.  It's a warm, feel-good process for me, combining right & left brain.  At the end of it, I know where every bead I've just purchased has gone, and helps to prevent the older purchases from getting buried or fading into the background as new ones come in.

The business logic results in my being able to trace the source and cost of every bead I purchase, whether it has been purchased wholesale or retail, and recording close to purchase date what material the items are made of, and any special facts about the item.  In the future, if I want to know what the beads labeled #244 are, I can just look them up. 

I can also check the accuracy of my receipts, and get a grasp on my total investment in beads. Right now, I suspect that other than consumables such as stringing materials, findings and perhaps seed beads, I should probably not be buying anything new for quite a while. I need to produce and sell.

The organizational quirk is that I'm not a big organizer in most areas. I avoid business and personal filing as much as I can, and still find things when I need them. My clothing is not arranged by color, nor my canned goods alphabetized.  But beads, I feel, should not remain in thousands of teeny but varied plastic bags, jumbled together.  I need to have an over-riding organizational principle, or it's all just chaos and I can't create in chaos.  I'll describe more of the physical organization of the beads in a later post.

The design process comes in as I handle the new purchases, and then integrate them with my existing inventory. I see combinations that look good together, or just see the new items in the context of my own workspace, and ideas arise. Of course, I always end up having so many ideas I'll never be able to make them all, but in the course of cataloging, the ideas arise, combine, evolve, and finally, come close to the surface enough for me to grab them, sketch them, audition partner beads and actually start the project.

So here's how the whole thing goes. I bring in the incredibly tiny packages that result from profligate spending and marvel again how buying beads and stones can pack so much value into such a small cubic space.  I try to preserve the store receipts, but frankly, often those receipts are completely useless in describing what's been purchased. Store owners just don't have the capacity to make or print receipts for specific bead purchases.

In my software, I enter each strand or bead purchase, and the software assigns an ID number. The entry has a complete description, with material, color, shape, size, place and date purchased, price and number of beads. The program calculates the price of each individual bead for me.  I'll make a list or mark each package with the computer-assigned number.

This latest trip, at Chapman's, I got a lot of different cabochons. I'm very excited about using some of these. 

Next, I take the new pieces to my workspace. I've got a Brother P-Touch label-maker to create numbered labels for each separate item.

At Harbor Freight (a great store), they sell small plastic boxes that measure about 3" x 7" x 9" that are filled with smaller plastic boxes, either 1.5" square or 1.5" x 3". These small boxes are good for strands, loose beads, cabochons of the smaller sizes, etc. I label each box with a printed number, and that's all I need to do. 

Then I file each numbered small box by color in the drawers of a set of rolling drawers, purchased from Stacks & Stacks. For me, color is the overwhelmingly important quality of a bead. I have two of these sets that roll under my desk, and I think I need two more.

I'll talk more about the color-organization later, and about my seed bead storage, which is separate from the regular beads.

The larger Harbor Freight boxes, I keep for use as project boxes. More of the small boxes fit in each drawer if I remove them from the large boxes.  For our latest trip I was able to pack enough project work into three of these boxes for the entire trip, including tools. That way I can keep materials for each project separate and not have to finish it right at the moment. I do have to be careful about not having critical materials segregated in project boxes when I need them for another project. I guess that means I have to not have too many Unfinished Projects hanging around.

So that's part one. There'll be more on the workspace, color organization, seed beads, and working tools later. With pictures. (oh boy that means I have to clean up)

1 comment:

  1. I cannot wait to try out your software. The pricing of materials in a piece is such a yucky task for me. Fantastic idea!