Bead Shops of Britain #3

July 22, 2011 § 6 Comments

Welcome to the third Bead Shop of Britain post in my monthly series! I had to visit this lovely bead shop twice to take photos as I lost the first batch: that’s dedication (and a love of beads). This month we’re in Nottingham, at the Nottingham Bead Shop.

You can just see from the picture above that one aspect of the Nottingham Bead Shop I enjoy is their interesting and constantly-changing window displays. The first time I visited it was a steampunk, wirework, brass spectacular; this time colourful flowers, wooden beads, and pearls for summer. The glass windows are an excellent opportunity to show off some of their wonderful beads.

The shop is bright and has the classic wooden separators for the beads, as well as lots of demonstrations of local artists work (in the glass cabinet) and handmade jewellery adorning the shelves. As well as the main shop they have a basement room which services wholesale customers – excellent prices! – and an upstairs workshop room. Everything is well-organised: including a very good idea (ok, this is nerdy but I do think it’s good!) of placing a red dot in some compartments. The red dot means this is old stock, or stock that won’t be reordered – so if you’re a bead artist, you know to buy it all NOW rather than wait til next week as it might be gone!

I think that The Nottingham Bead Shop’s speciality is Swarovski and seed beads. Their range of 11 Delicas, including hex cut and some tiny wee size 15s, and their selection of seed beads and small beads for beadwork (like 4mm pearls and Czech glass druks) is amazing. I’ve found it hard to get a range of the really small seed beads at a good price except for at bead shows, so visiting Nottingham always means I get to stock up! They also do a great deal on the Delicas: buy 5 tubes and get the cheapest free. Hooray!

Their Swarovski range is magnificent and includes regular bicone and round shapes, Swarovski pearls, pendants, buttons, headpins, and chain. Phew! They also have a lot of unusual Swarovski colours alongside the regular range. Alongside these they have a varied selection of glass beads, including the beautiful hensha (think that’s right) beads above, and also unusual beads including African paper beads and some ceramic and wooden pieces.

Because of the concentration on certain aspects of beading, The Nottingham Bead Shop doesn’t have a vast variety of chain and cording but does (helpfully!) have lots of magazines and books on the subject – something I’ve found lacking in other bead shops. They have a good selection of findings and charms, including Vintaj and Trinity Brass, as well as being able to purchase all of these singly or in packs. They have some cool bead mixes which are sold in different box sizes, and selected mixed media equipment (like shrink plastic and resin) which again, doesn’t often appear at traditional bead shops!

The Nottingham Bead Shop is also great at maintaining and developing a relationship with magazines and their customers. They have different loyalty schemes where you get stamps for purchases, and their workshop clients receive 10% off their beading goodies. The workshops themselves cover a good range of basic skills and specific makes, which I think is essential for encouraging new and repeat clients. Their relationship with UK magazines is brilliant, as I often see their shop or staff members mentioned as the designer for a piece. One of the sales assistants told me that they all contribute equally to these ventures, and to making items for display, and the eclectic mix of tastes really shows in the variety and range of products and projects that the shop comes up with. Love it!

In my bag:

Tubes of mini-cubes, size 6 seed beads, and bugles in blue-greens and iris

Size 11 delicas in forest green, hex cut purple iris, grass green, turquoise, and pale blue lined

Part of the sale section: semi-precious drops (I think these are rhodonite)

African paper beads in grass green

Rivolis in red, blue, jet, and vitrail at a very good price!

I also had lots more purchases from my first visit, including Swarovski bicones, ceramic beads, findings…but couldn’t photograph them all!

The Nottingham Bead Shop/Mail Order Beads, recommended for:

Swarovski crystals in all shapes, colours, and sizes

Seed beads to satisfy your every need

New ideas and excellent projects for different jewellery genres

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Hope you enjoyed this month’s Bead Shops of Britain post and you feel inspired to visit the Nottingham Bead Shop (or its online equivalent). Next month…I haven’t decided yet, whether to keep close to home or venture further afield. Either way, there’ll be beads! Have a great weekend.

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Bead Shops of Britain: #2

June 24, 2011 § 2 Comments

It seems like such a long time ago since I did the first Bead Shops of Britain post. This month we’re staying in Brighton and this time, visiting the well-known stalwart of the UK beading scene, the Brighton Bead Shop aka Beads Unlimited.

The Brighton Bead Shop recently celebrated its 25th anniversary: they’ve been providing for the beading needs of makers for a quarter of a century! Brighton Bead Shop is great for a range of basics, lampwork beads, jewellery sundries like Fimo or tools, and also serve both individual, small and large wholesale.

Their Brighton shop is very quirky, with lots of hand-decorated signs, posters, and generally quite a DIY ethos about it, which I really like. When I first visited, I thought it was going to be more like their online shop – lots of huge wholesale amounts, etc. – but instead it’s a shop that is pretty much always busy, full of individuals and small businesses buying up their craft supplies!

The Brighton Bead Shop will always be my first stop for jewellery basics: Czech firepolish, pressed glass, wooden and bone beads, metal charms, and good-value findings. They offer some wholesale amounts within the shop, with the option of flexibility on what you get. For example, they offer a deal on large numbers of Czech firepolish rounds and you can either buy these in a bag of one colour, or count them out yourself to get a mixed colour bag. Their range of fine leathers and thicker cotton cords are also excellent value and in some gorgeous muted colours.

There is also a big range of constantly-changing lampwork beads, like the large heart pendants above, and some awesome ceramic beads in different shapes and sizes (some are massive!) They’re not pictured here but the Brighton Bead Shop also does an excellent range of glass pearls in some cool, unusual colours (including a sage and dusky pink) and very high quality.

Although not technically related to beads themselves, there are another couple of aspects of the Brighton Bead Shop and Beads Unlimited that really strike me as both incredibly important and often underestimated points of business. First, they offer wonderful, personalised customer service. The sales assistants when I visited the shop in Brighton were friendly, helpful, and charming. The online staff have always been helpful and often gone out of their way to make things easier for customers (like when I requested two separate invoices for one order for my recycled jewellery class). So well done to them for making beaders feel happy!

The second thing (which is related to the first) is their understanding and use of social media. Their Facebook page, Twitter, blog and newsletter are interesting, funny, and responsive to their customer base. They have well-timed sales and offers, great competitions on their Facebook page, and are a really good example of how traditional craft businesses can use modern, social technology successfully. Well done again!

In my bag:

Antique gold round link chain (used in the ABS June challenge piece)

Fine leather cords in a range of fab colours (I was stocking up, ok?)

Remember that Czech firepolish deal? Here we are! Black, blue, apricot, silver, and clear

Pale green translucent glass chips

Thick cotton cord – got this in a variety of rich colours including this lovely raspberry

Couldn’t resist these bone beads – ridged and striped tubes

Wowsers…Czech glass squares in black and silver. I love these!

The Brighton Bead Shop/Beads Unlimited, recommended for:

Fantastic quality jewellery basics

Good deals on lovely glass beads of all kinds

Excellent customer and social media service

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So that’s another great Bead Shop of Britain to make sure you visit. Next month we’re moving north and visiting the Nottingham Bead Shop – don’t forget to check in and see some more bead shop awesomeness! Have a great weekend, beading or not.

Bead Shops of Britain: #1

May 23, 2011 § 4 Comments

Welcome to the new, monthly feature on the blog, documenting my travels round the bead shops of Britain! I’m glad that people are interested in it and hopefully it will mean that more readers find out about those little tucked away shops that they would never find otherwise.

The very first shop I’m featuring is Kerrie Berrie, in Brighton. Brighton has a glut of bead and craft shops, but each stands out in its own unique way. (Don’t forget that the magic of the internet now means you can shop with all these bead shops too, although nothing beats going there in person!)

When I first visited Brighton, I was surprised at Kerrie Berrie, as it’s laid out more like an art gallery than a bead shop! The products are displayed artfully and with a focus on quality, not just quantity. I particularly like the wooden table that holds the interesting findings and semi-precious beads as it looks like it’s been washed up on a beach. Their window displays and jewellery units are bright, well-lit, and feature attractive jewellery designs that are also achievable (which is, of course, a definite selling point).

Their website says they want to bring unusual, sophisticated and on-trend beads and jewellery to their customers, and I think they really do. There are beads in their shop that I haven’t seen anywhere else, including an interesting selection of handmade lampwork beads, and chunky acrylic, lucite and glass beads. They offer most of the beads and findings singly or in larger packs with a slight discount; very good for those producing jewellery to sell.

The products are of very high quality: the leather they stock is a little bit pricey but it’s thick, strong, and comes in some fantastic colours, and similarly the glass beads are predominantly Czech and feature some cuts and finishes that can be quite difficult to find in the UK unless you’re at a bead show. It also means that their small sale section had some fantastic bags in of the more unusual beads at a really good price.

Kerrie Berrie is also where I managed to get my hands on some Griffin beading thread. Nearly all UK stockists I’ve checked out only have a basic colour range of thread – Kerrie Berrie had the whole range including an aubergine and a mustard colour that I bought! The staff were helpful without being overbearing and were very welcome to me snapping away with my camera and scribbling down notes.

They have a big wooden table near natural light for holding their beading classes and workshops, which include a three-part introduction to beading and specific classes for tiara and brooch making. I really liked this set up as it felt part of the shop without being cramped or awkward for beaders. I also love the neon ‘beads’ sign in the window – very cool. For those who can’t get to Brighton, their website is clear and simple to use as well as showcasing their jewellery range.

In my bag:

Sale bag of mixed Czech red Picasso finish beads

Sale bag of ruby zoisite (I think it is – help?) squares

From left, clockwise: copper and silver plate washers; antique gold ridged metal rounds; chunky lucite pink-orange triangles; simple round copper toggle fastener; red and bronze Czech faceted rounds; huge copper heart toggle; tiny lilac Czech firepolish

Aubergine and mustard Griffin beading cord (which sounds a bit like a sandwich)

Kerrie Berrie, recommended for:

Unusual, unique, and stand-out beads

High quality stringing materials that might be hard to find elsewhere

A serene, sophisticated bead-choosing experience!

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Hope you’ve enjoyed the first Bead Shops of Britain post – next month is another one of the lovely shops in Brighton that I visited this weekend (I really want to show off all the great beads I go but it’ll have to wait). Hope you had a great weekend too – did you go bead hunting, or stay in and get creative?

a little trip … and a new feature

May 20, 2011 § 3 Comments

I’m quite excited because this weekend I am going to Brighton to visit my boyfriend who is currently living down there. Because of different events and things, he’s been visiting Leeds for the past month or so – this time it’s my turn!

Brighton is a really cool place: lots of fun shops, a wonderful dinky jewellery quarter, great restaurants and this amazing ice-cream parlour. It’s also got a pebble beach (rather than sand, which I really dislike) and a pier with daft rides on and slot machines. The old Brighton Pier burnt down years ago and all that’s left, in the middle of the sea, is the iron skeleton. It’s quite eerie when you walk along the beach at night to hear the crashing waves and see this huge black creature standing silent out there. Brighton is also the setting of one of my favourite books, Brighton Rock by Graham Greene.

Brighton is also – and this is why I am quite excited – the home of three bead shops! They’re all very different and have lots of great products, and every time I go down there I take a few hours out of seeing my boyfriend to browse round. Which I’m sure he doesn’t mind.

Visiting these new bead shops sparked an idea of mine. Every time I go to a new town or city, I always check to see what bead, jewellery, craft or fabric shops are there before I go. This is normal, right? Anyway, I love checking in to see what they’ve got, chat to the staff members and pick up some unusual pieces. This ‘habit’ has inspired me to start a new feature on my blog. Presenting…

The Bead Shops of Britain tour! There’s already a few sites with listings of the different shops and website addresses, but personally there’s nothing like seeing some customer pictures and getting the inside scoop on a shop before you go. Each shop I go to, I’ll take photos, highlight some of their best products and things about the shop I like, and try and get some information about the shop itself from the staff. Sounds like a good idea, right? Plus it means I get to go to bead shops on purpose now. Another purpose I mean, not just to buy beads!

I’ll be featuring a shop monthly on the blog: the first one will be next Monday, 23rd May.

Where Am I?

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