Unconventional Beads

Unconventional Bead and Jewelry Making Supplies

Traditionally, jewelry has been made of glass, semi-precious stones, and metals, and many of us still consider these the staple in the industry. However, the creative ingenuity of artists and craftsmen in every culture have found a way to make something beautiful out of the mundane. Jewelry making supplies and jewelry classes are no longer restricted to the traditional elements. In fact, the upswing of up-cycling in the recent past has pushed the expectations of what crafters can do with found objects and recycled materials. Here are a few suggestions to get you started on a path of reinvention through some unconventional materials you may already have laying around.


Shrinky dink your plastic containers

Plastic is one of the most versatile materials you have at your fingertips.  Chances are, you have a whole recycling bin full of perfect candidates for your next project. Most of the plastic bottles and containers that make up our disposable packaging can be salvaged. The best shrinking, however, comes in the form of #6 plastic containers like the one my lunch salad was in.

Basically, any meal tray from the deli should work. It reduces to about a third of it’s size when heat is applied. To apply heat, you can put it in the oven, use a heat gun, a hairdryer on high setting, or even a candle can do the trick. Just beware that the whole thing can heat up fast and catch fire, so this should never be tried by children without adult supervision.


Sturdy silly straws

Silly StrawDollar store crazy straws can be a crafter’s dream. I enjoy making beaded ropes and using a rigid straw as a base can add a very unique element. Many of these come in fantastic shapes already, but with a little heat you can modify them even further. Incorporate them into your project by wrapping sections with colorful pieces of ribbon or yarn, or doing a tubular brick or peyote stitch around them. Even cutting sections and spray painting them different colors can add an unexpected fanciful element to your jewelry project.



Using old scraps of paper can be a unique source of both materials and inspiration. This family-friendly jewelry making supply can be transformed into beads, charms and so much more. The simplest treatment is to roll the paper into thick tubes and cover them with Mod Podge for durability. I have also submerged bits of musical score in resin, and made strips of quilling paper out of my favorite poems. The possibilities are endless.



Currency from all over the world has been made into jewelry for centuries. A common treatment is to drill a hole and hang the coins like charms. However, in our jewelry classes, we have treated them like cabochons and surrounded them in a seed bead bezel. This makes a lovely presentation of the currency.


Random single earrings and broken jewelry

Often, us crafters will have a broken pile of jewelry in our jewelry box. This can turn into a treasure trove of sparkling elements to be resurrected into a new personalized embellishment.  Another great place to find broken discarded bits of jewelry is at garage sales and thrift stores. Often you can find treasures that inspire whole necklaces or bracelets. Giving new life to these pieces can preserve the memories of a favorite item, as well as give you the joy of creating something entirely new. Even broken watches can be disassembled and used as a bezel setting for a cabochon or a resin encapsulation.



This medium has been steadily gaining popularity. You can encapsulate almost anything and make it into jewelry. Dried flowers make beautiful, feminine elements, while bits of electronics can be made into a great gift for the tech people in your life. Challenge yourself to find things to encapsulate in your environment like glitter or pieces of copper wire. We recently had resin jewelry classes and these are some of the things we made.


Old silverware can be repurposed into all kinds of shapes and used to make unique findings and focal elements for your jewelry. Spoons are especially good for stamping inspirational quotes on as well as filling with resin to create tiny dioramas. Forks can be hammered and bent into fanciful creatures or delicate scrollwork. In addition, the overall finish can add to the charm of these piece. Bring them up to a high shine or oxidize them to a rich charcoal, whatever your project calls for.



Classy Key Necklace TurquoiseKeys to a lock, keys to your heart, keys to your old apartment??? You can make all kinds of baubles with random old keys. Keys hold a certain allure of unlocking potential and the significance can be very different from person to person. Additionally, from a design aspect they can be very interesting, especially the old skeleton keys. What next project will you unlock?




Left over swatches of ribbon can be a colorful addition to a project too. You may not have enough to go around that big gift box, but it might be enough for a small tassel or bow. Use these bits as backgrounds inside of lockets or as a wonderful substitute for string.

Here at Austin Bead Gallery we offer all kinds of jewelry classes. The possibilities are endless and rewarding, especially when you breathe new life into found objects.