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Setting Up Your Jewelry Making Work Space

by Mary W. Bailey

Note: This article is also available on our blog.

You are excited and ready to get serious with your jewelry-making hobby. But where are you going to work? And just what will you need to get started? 

Thinking about these things first, can save a lot of time and aggravation, as well as help you develop good habits; organizing both yourself and your materials and hopefully being able to remain organized as your talents grow. Plus, by pre-thinking your options you can also get an idea of whether or not you have something on hand you can utilize, or if you may have to purchase an item.

Sit down with a pen and tablet and list just what you are going to need, as well as the things you need to plan for, including both what can be helpful as well as distracting to you while you create.

Q. What area can be designated as a workspace?

Answer:

Probably the most important thing you need is a space where you can work and store your materials. An extra room in the house would be ideal, but you may not have that option.

When I first started out, I made use of the dining room table. Really not the best place, but since there are just two of us it worked well, until I outgrew the space and has to rethink the entire idea. 

Where can you leave everything without worrying about it? And just how much room will you need? And once it is assigned, can you leave everything in plain sight or will you have to lock it away? These are serious questions to consider and you have to decide what your personal options are.

Did you know that even an extra closet can be utilized and turned into a work area? A friend of mine took an extra closet, lined it with shelving and added a drop down table with fold out legs on the end. It not only looks great but also serves her purpose very well. Everything is within reach and by following her own set of organization rules, she produces some great jewelry using this idea. Plus, it can all be closed back up and even locked if need be. (Since she has small children, and locking it keeps little hands out of mom’s stuff.)

Believe it or not, by pre-thinking your basic needs you can be creative in a small amount of space if done correctly. You know that you need a flat work surface to start with and maybe some type of storage container (s).  Also electricity is a must, so having a handy outlet nearby is important too. Okay, so what do you have that you can utilize for this purpose?

One of Dale’s students keeps her supplies in a hutch located in her dining room and uses a fold-up TV tray to work on, so she can move it wherever she wants to. This allows her to ‘work’ while watching television with her family, or moving to her porch on a pretty day.

Still another began by using a large, antique desk located in her bedroom. All of her supplies are kept in the drawers, nooks and crannies and she can easily close her workspace whenever she wished. This not only keeps everything organized, but clean and ‘out-of-the-way’. (Her business has now grown to the point of asking her husband to build her a studio!)

Dale actually began in her back kitchen by using a warped, fiberglass table (rescued after hurricane Hugo). Her storage system consisted of just a few plastic potato salad containers, prescription bottles and hardware organizers. (Yes, her faceting machine also resided on this same table.) This is also where she began her, then unplanned, teaching career.

First Jewelry Workspace

Q. What are the basics I am going to need?

Answer: 

  1. Space & Work Surface: An area that gives you at least 6 to 8 feet will do for starters. Having a space that includes a blank area of wall would be great. Maybe you have an old, unused desk that you could relocate to this area. No desk? How about what I used for a good, long time; an old wooden door (hardware removed) and two half-size file cabinets. The door my husband had, and I picked up the 2 file cabinets from a Goodwill store for next to nothing. Now I had a work surface with storage space on each side underneath, plus the space along the back when the door was pushed up against the wall. These days 6 or 8 foot, fold out tables can be purchased rather inexpensively at an office supply or department store, as well as from a wholesale club. And remember; don’t hesitate to ask family and friends if they have anything they’d be willing to give you to get started!

 

  1. Chair: A good, comfortable chair is a definite must! One with rollers is a plus, and it has to be comfortable because you are going to spend a lot of time sitting in it while working. Used office furniture stores, flea markets and once again Goodwill, even Craigslist can be a great source for finding a good chair. Take your time and sit in each before making the decision on which is the most comfortable for you.
  1. Flooring: Now if you have carpet on your floor, give some serious thought about obtaining some type of rubber mat to go under your work area. Why? Mainly for protection against loose pieces of wire that somehow always manage to find their way to the floor. (If you are like me, the first thing I do when getting home is to kick off my shoes and I know Dale does too.) A lot of us live barefooted when home, plus I have a dog who keeps me company when I am working and carpeting catches wires which can end up getting stuck in either your foot or the paw of your fur baby. Also, you are working with gemstones or cameos and having a mat gives a cushion against damage if you accidentally drop anything.

 

  1. Lighting: Yes, good lighting is a definite must! Of course natural light is wonderful, but the sun doesn’t always cooperate or remain in the same position (and some of us get ‘creative storms’ late at night). Overhead fluorescent lighting is fine, if it doesn’t put you in your own shadow. Two of those arm-type lamps, one clamped on each side of your table, will give you plenty of illumination. (I prefer halogen lighting because the lamps don’t heat up to where you can accidently burn yourself by brushing up against the bulb shield, plus halogen reproduces daylight.) You may prefer a halogen that includes a magnifier. Remembering that ‘hobby’ stores often have higher prices, so check out office supply or department stores to see what your options are.
Sherrie's Jewelry Workspace
  1. Optional, work surface on your work surface: A protective mat on your working surface can be invaluable. Now this can be whatever you like; some folks use a folded hand towel, others purchase a ‘beaders mat’ and Dale prefers a cushion style mouse pad. Personally I bought a roll of woven rubber, shelf liner so I could cut a piece the whole width of my working area. I love this stuff because beads and stones don’t bounce around on it, wires don’t fly off to the floor and everything stays put. Plus, as it can be cut it to any size desired, I even cut a few squares to take with me when I travel to shows and ‘play dates’.

 

  1. Storage: You will need some type of storage system to organize and keep all of your supplies. One of my chain maille friends uses a plastic, rollaway unit that was originally designed and sold to store Christmas ornaments. All of her jump rings and findings are kept in plastic organizers within the units’ drawers, as well as her directions and tools. This type of storage unit is great when you are starting out and only need a few supplies, and it can easily be moved anywhere.
Ornament Storage

As mentioned above, other people have found storage opportunities by utilizing previously unused furniture like a desk or hutch already in their home. A beader friend uses lots of empty prescription bottles that she has all of us save for her. As for me, those filing cabinets came in handy! My wire is sorted out in hanging file folders that are labeled by size and gauge in one cabinet and plastic storage cases full of beads and findings are on the other side, in the second cabinet. I still use them but I also use a selection of hardware storage cabinets, with pull out drawers that I have labeled as to what is inside them, like cabochons, beads and findings. These cabinets sit against the wall at the back of my working area, within easy reach.

Hardware Cabinent

 

  1. Music and/or television: Of course we all have our own different types of ‘music to work by’. Whether you have a small, portable CD player/radio combination or an MP3 player, you will probably enjoy being able to go into your own creative zone by listening to your favorite music while you work. Some people like having a small television too, as they watch instructional DVDs while working on projects that are new to them.

 

Kayla's Jewelry Workspace

 

These basic ideas will help you begin planning and then setting up your own personal workspace. Items can be added as you need them, such as a vise that can be mounted on one side of your work surface for working with long strands of wire, or holding your ring mandrel, etc. The battery charger for your drill will need a place and later you will probably find a spot for your tools and the rack you keep them on, not to mention a plastic container or two for your wire scraps (1 for each metal please). Everything has its own spot and as you work, you will establish what works best for you, and where things need to be, to really personalize ‘your’ space.

Present Jewelry Workspace