Rijacki Design

Places I shop for Supplies (and why): Retailer edition

shopping-cartsI do most of my shopping online, especially for jewelry making supplies. Why? A few reasons: selection is broader, prices can be lower, shopping for specific items is less fraught with distractions (oooo pretty, must have my precious), I don’t have to drive all over, the hours aren’t as restrictive, and I can shop in my PJs. I do, though, have to have a pretty good idea of how an item looks either from seeing it in person earlier or from good pictures. Oh, and it’s easier for me to enter online purchases into my inventory management database software because I can swipe the pictures, decriptions, etc. from the site where I bought them.

The biggest advantage of shopping in person, rather than online, is the visceral effect, the touch and feel of the beads and other items, seeing the ‘real’ colours rather than the colours someone’s camera skills picked up, and seeing the actual size rather than a measurement that I then need to mentally shape (and sometimes get horribly wrong because I am shopping online in my PJs and should be going to bed instead).

I currently live near Vancouver, BC. Surprisingly, there are few bead/jewelry supply shops around here that have a retail shop. One of them, Moody Beads, sadly, got burned down when the downtown area of New Westminster (also known as San Francisco if you watched the 2014 Godzilla or various other cities in other movies and TV shows) burned in the autumn of 2013. But, unless you live within this same area, me expounding on the merits of the local stores really wouldn’t help you all that much. So, with the exception of a cross border chain, I’ll leave the local shops without an online presence for a later post. Shopping at bead shows and craft fairs falls into the same ‘helpful’ space as local shops without an online presence. The shows local to me would be local to few of you. Here, I’ll only note those vendors I’ve encountered at the local show who have an online shop.

Cross border chain store:

Michaels

 

 

 

Micheals Canada isn’t exactly the same as the Michaels in the US, but close enough since they carry the same product lines, mostly, and have many of the same sales. Items at Micheals when at least 40% aren’t bad. Sometimes the 40+% off price is even lower than the full price at one of the better online venues. They have a fair to middling selection of glass and lower end gemstone beads. They also carry one of my favourite types of storage boxes. They have a pretty weak selection of mixed media supplies, resins and the like, except when they’re also scrapbooking supplies.

40+% off is the key to decent prices. I got the series 1 and series 2 Pearl Ex collections for considerably less than to buy the single bottles elsewhere, but only because I got them with 50% coupons. Check their website on Thursdays and look at the “next week’s” ad and coupon to decide when to shop there. But, magpie alert, since it’s in-person, it’s rather easy to get distracted and come out with more things than you intended because “oooo I could use this sometime…”. It’s the ‘sometime’ that’s the danger warning. I have ‘sometime’ items I bought many many months ago and still haven’t used.

Michaels has an online store but only in the US.

Shopping Online: Canada

As I have said, I currently live in Canada. I actually do try to seek out Canadian vendors not necessarily out of any desire to help the Canadian economy, but because shipping times can be considerably less. Shipping costs are frequently more even than from a US vendor shipping to Canada, but that anomaly is a rant for another day. Just as the US sites I use will ship to Canada, so too will the Canadian sites ship to the US. Shipping times across the border are affected by customs, of course.

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Bead FX is located in Toronto, Onatio, and have both a walk-in store as well as an online one. They have a great weekly newsletter introducing new products to the store with humor and frequently a story to tie the items together in a fanciful way. It’s entertaining to read. They also have a Blog with helpful hints.

For the items they carry, the prices at Bead FX are on par with the US sites I also use but sell most items by the each rather than in packages (a little math might be needed for price comparing).  They carry a good selection of items which is always growing or changing with a lot of original, one-of-a-kind things as well. Bead FX has weekly sales on items, and the items on sale for the week are in the Important Links on the left.  The store layout is very clean and easy to find stuff (as long as you remember what they call this or that, of course). They are also one of the places that sells Kliks retail 🙂 The product descriptions often carry a bit of light humor while being informative about the item.

The sales support at Bead FX is also superb. I had a shipping issue (caused by Canadian Poste) and was able to not only work it out over email, but rather personably as well. The package Canadian Poste was unable to deliver (because they changed the way their application handles addresses with the unit number first) was sent along with a new package of items I had just ordered and the shipping costs of one of them refunded.

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Austin Hamilton Beads is in Vancouver but is an online only store. They have a couple associated retail stores in Vancouver and the area, but the retail stores are more expensive and don’t have volume discounts for items.

Austin Hamilton has a prominent “On Sale” section with a large number of items always on sale with different end dates. They have a good selection of a wide variety of items. Normal prices for most items is usually quite a bit higher than the US sites I use, but on sale they’re lower than the US sites. Austin Hamilton has reduced pricing on items the more you buy based on the dollar amount in your cart. NOTE: The website is in US Dollars, not Canadian.

I usually only buy from Austin Hamilton when there is a sale on items I want and I can build up enough on sale items to bring the pricing down on not on sale items. They do carry some items no of my other sites do, but not many in my “must have” list. They do have some bezels I particularly like so I get those when they have a sale covering them.

ClubBead

 

 

Based in Quebec with both a retail store and the online store, Club Bead Plus is the most expensive of the Canadian sites. They have reduced pricing based on the dollar amount of items in your cart (priced in Canadian dollars), but the amounts needed to get to the lower rates are pretty high. I normally only shop at Club Bead Plus when they have a 50% everything sale and even then am very cautious on what I buy. They do carry some items not found on the other sites I use, more European items and Quebec made. I like the colours on the brand of wire they carry, Beader’s Choice.

The newsletters I’ve been getting in emails from Club Bead Plus are in French with a link to the English version, but they do have an English version available (I like getting the French since I can understand enough to get the jist of them). Their site is bilingual, English and French, and will on occassion when clicking certain product links will switch to the French from the English (something they have said they’re working on). Amusingly, I have started to pick up on the French words for some of the jewelry supplies which is expanding my pretty limited French vocabulary (took a couple classes of French in college and always wish I could have taken more).

The site layout, when it stays in language I more readily understand, is decent though the left navigation panel is not alphabetical (at least not in English – though they have said they’ll be working on that) or grouped in ways I readily recognize. The biggest drawback of their site is how lacking in descriptions the product pages are. Dimensions is usually the most there will be. You really need to know the item ahead of time and not rely on any information from them for particulars.

While I do buy from them from time to time (generally only on sales), Club Bead Plus is just too expensive for me to use as a regular online store since I can’t purchase in wholesale style bulk. Their pricing is on par with a retail boutique shop which is entirely unhelpful for someone making items to sell.

Shopping Online: US

I shop in the US and at US sites a lot more than I should. Ironically, some of the US sites have lower shipping costs to Canada than the Canadian sites have shipping to Canada. The biggest drawback of ordering from US sites is the shipping time. Because it has to go through customs shipping can take 2-4 weeks, even up to just over 5 weeks at the worst I’ve seen since living up here. Thus, living in Canada, shoppping from a US site cannot be for something you need need now now now. I’ve learned patience. Though, if shipping time is an issue, we live close enough to the border that we have a mail box in Blaine, Washington (like so many other Canadians in this area) and can have items delivered there. This is also necessary when ordering items that can’t be shipped by air (certain resins, especially) and so can’t be shipped Internationally (and US to Canada is definitely international).

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One of the  shops in western Washington, the retail store is in Lacey and is a treat to behold. If you’re in Washington (or passing through) and you like beads at all, it’s a place you’ll want to go at least once. There are nice hotels close by so you could even have it as a vacation destination *laugh* We made a point to stop in Lacey on our way from California to Canada since we drove up on our relocation move. I’m rather glad we did, though I spent about 3x what I intended. I’ve been there twice since, once for my birthday and then later for a friend’s.

I’m pretty sure Shipwreck really does have the best selection of Preciosa seed beads and fire polished beads in all sizes and shapes. They have the best overall selection of Preciosa pressed glass, too, but sometimes lag a bit on the new shapes vs other sites. Their selection of non-holed Preciosa rhinestones is a lot more limited than the holed beads. Same, too, for Swarovski. Shipwreck has a large selection of Swarovski beads but less so of the non-holed items like chatons, flatbacks, and rivolis. But, Shipwreck has an amazing and wide selection of vintage seed beads from a store and its storage buy out they made a few years ago. Beads of a by-gone age make me giddy. They keep adding beads from the stash, too, but when a vintage bead sells out, they’re gone forever.

Shipwreck does carry a small selection of metal clay and polymer clay and have added one line of epoxy clay (Ceralun) as well as the smallest size of Ice Resin and UV resin Magic Glos, but the metal clay and mixed media supplies, including bezels, are definitely not their strong suite but they have added to teh mixed media supplies in the last 2 years. The mixed media items are harder to find in the bead centric site, listing under tools even for non-tool materials.

On beads and beading related items, Shipwreck has great prices. On mixed media supplies, not as much. The quantity discount is on the number of the same item purchased rather than the overall cart dollar amount. While this can be really good for cheaper pricing when you’re getting a number of the same bead (or other same item), it’s not so good for getting one-ofs or tools. I keep hoping they’ll add in a new category as their selection of mixed media related items grows.

Shipwreck’s service has been wonderful every time I’ve needed to contact them.

artbeads

 

 

 

Another of three shops I use that are based in western Washington. Based in Gig Harbor, Art Bead’s shipping to Canada is economical and reaching the minimum amount for free shipping in the US would be a snap. Their prices and selection is quite good, but I might be biased since they’re one of the places carrying both Klik and Nunn Design *laugh*.

The website is very clean and easy to navigate. Their product descriptions are usually the best with easy to find and precise dimensions as well as manufacturer or country of origin. They have great pictures, too, easy to see the products. They also have a weekly VLOG that’s light and friendly.

In each order you receive from Art Beads, you also get a card with a design idea and a discount code good until the end of the month (or the end of the next month if it’s close to month end) without a minimum sales amount. Since most of their sales don’t have a coupon code, you can use the code from the card, too. For example, their recent sale after US Thanksgiving was “up to 60% off of everything” and I also used the 10% until the end of December coupon to get additional savings on top of the sales savings. The coupon applies to clearance items, too. Rather nice. It’s like an enabler 😉 Like Shipwreck, Art Beads also has volume discounts on the number of an item purchased. I have kicked myself a couple times for ordering more later rather than having ordered a bunch of an item all at once.

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The third Washington site I use also has a store in Seattle. The in-person store is a lot smaller than their online selection would suggest. The in-person store has the same prices as online and the prices are good. They have the best selection of Swarovski non-holed items of the shops I use and also Nunn Design bezel items.

In my opinion, the Fushion Beads website has the best layout and navigation of the sites I use. Very well laid out and easy to navigate. They also have excellect product descriptions and clear pictures. Like Shipwreck, the volume discounts are on the number of an item purchased.

cooltools

 

 

Cool Tools has wonderful Antique Button Molds and Texture Tiles that I love. Primary selling tools for metal working, metal clay, glass working, and other more advanced techniques, Cool Tools has, well, cool tools *laugh*. Their pricing on tools and supplies is pricey for some and not so pricey for others but their selection of tools, especially cool ones, is quite expansive. Shipping to Canada, especially for more heavy packages, is rather on the expensive side so I often have my Cool Tools orders shipped to our mail box in Blaine. The only site I have seen with cooler toy… err tools is Rio Grande, but they’re set up more for the advanced technique artists. Cool Tools is friendly and personable.

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A specialty site specialising in.. wait for it.. Resin! and a lot of other things associated with it. A great resource for resin and resin related mixed media crafting, Resin Obsession’s pricing is pretty decent and their descriptions are great. They carry more than one type of resin and actually expound on the differences between them. Resin Obsession also has the most extensive collection of colourants in one place than I have seen on any other site with prices matching or lower that of the other sites with the same items. Do note that some resin types cannot be sent via air so cannot be sent Internationally, which includes Canada. I just have to have those ones sent to Blaine 🙂

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Another specialty site, Beaducation mostly, like Cool Tools, focuses on metal related jewelry crafting. They have more base metal materials than Cool Tools, especially for stamping blanks, as well as the fine metals. Beaducation also has kits for techniques like soldering as well as very informative free videos. The videos make me want to learn and do all the techniques now now now.

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Beadaholique is based in the LA, California area. They have a very good selection of beads and mixed media items and their pricing is decent. Their frequent sales start on Tuesday and run though Monday until 9pm Pacific time (which is midnight Eastern). Probably because it’s coming from California, my shipping times from Beadaholique to Canada are usually much longer than from any other US shop.

Beadaholique hosts frequent contests and giveaways.

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Fire Mountain Gems has an extensive offering of supplies in a wide variety. They also carry a lot of retail items, “Big Box” items, that are often of lower quality but they have on sale frequently. Since they have a volume discount based on the number of items you’re buying, it can be worthwhile to get the lower priced items (if you’re likely to use them) on sale to bring down the prices on the items you really want but are more pricey. Their first tier prices on most things is a bit high. If you can get down to the 3rd discount level (50-99 items), the prices are reasonable. If you can get to the 4th, that’s truly in the warehouse range. I’ve had hits and misses with their sale products, especially the gems. The sale ones are usually the lower quality. But, they’re can be really great for finding items that have been sold out on clearance other places. Careful, though, it’s tragically too easy to rack up a high cost cart of a lot of little inexpensive things.

Firemountain Gems also hosts frequent contests.

Other Online Shops in the US that I -want- to shop at…

I can’t shop everywhere, really. I shift where I shop based on the types of things I need for the techniques that I am working with. There are a lot of techniques I really really want to try and so I go looking at the pages of the sites offering that equipment and drool. There are a lot of pretties at specialty shops that I greatly admire but don’t have a place for in my work right now. Instead of building up even more of a stash, I look with my hands behind my back, figuratively.

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Rio Grande has items I drool over, especially as I learn more about certain advanced techniques I can only dream about trying. They sell the cool cool cool tools. Their selection of materials is usually in quantities (and thus prices) above my budget and available time to work with except long term.


 

Okay, that’s enough name dropping and I need to be dropping off to bed. This post took a couple days to write so I hope it helps someone other than just being notes to myself 🙂

3 Responses to Places I shop for Supplies (and why): Retailer edition

  1. Pingback: Rijacki Design | Building Up the Stash

  2. Joy Handly says:

    Where do you purchase your items for snap jewelry?

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Handmade Jewellery by Kate Ledum