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Choosing a bead store
One of the frequent questions that I see is "Do you buy your beads online or in a store?"
The answer is both, and a lot of long time beaders will say the same thing. Both ways of buying beads have their pros and cons.
Big box craft stores are where a lot of beaders get their first beads. Places like Michaels or Hobby Lobby. The advantage to shopping in stores like that is that they are everywhere, you get immediate gratification, they generally have a large selection. The disadvantages? If your primary interest is seed beads- they don't have a good selection of good quality seed beads, the seed beads they have are frequently very expensive or they are are bad quality, and working with craft store "beading needles" is a fast route to frustration. They do have a nice selection of larger beads though, frequent coupons and deals, and can be a good place to find inexpensive craft quality findings immediately.
Locally owned bead stores- this is my first choice for shopping. Why? Because nothing is a substitute for seeing the beads in real life. You get to see the finishes, possible size variations (all size 11/o Delicas are NOT alike), a good local bead store will have a selection of good seed beads in different sizes, findings, accents and focals you might not usually think of, and the tools you'll need to create your dream. They also have employees who can help you out, and help create a local community of beaders. Some of my closest friends are people I met through local bead stores. Local bead stores also frequently support local artists, which means you can find one of a kind focals like lampwork beads, stones, and polymer clay components made by artists in your area. The disadvantages? Not every town can support a good local bead store, and you might have to do some research to find the one closest to you if it's not in your town. The other big disadvantage is prices, especially on things like precious metals. Because a lot of the time they buy metal goods like wire, they can't afford to drop the price because the spot price went lower.
Anchorage has a few bead stores and has 2 amazing bead stores with different feels. Both have a good supply of seed beads, and carry beading needles and threads in a good variety so you can find your perfect thread and needle combination. I can't stress enough how important it is to find your perfect thread/needle combination for joy of beading.
Online- There are a lot of obvious advantages to shopping online, you can find great prices and selection, you can usually get exactly what you are looking for, metal prices will be close to the spot price for things like wire and sheet metal if you use them in your projects. The disadvantages are that monitor colors aren't exact, and you can't get the personal service and help you can in a good local bead store.
I buy beads everywhere. Big box stores, local stores, online, and at fairs and festivals. All sorts of beads and you need to find the balance that works for you. But remember, if you don't support your local bead store, it could go out of business and local bead stores are an essential resource for beaders.
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