The Joy of the Tackle Box

Tackle Box 1

Years ago when I was in high school, art students like me would go to sporting goods stores in search of just the right fishing tackle box to hold our pens, brushes, paints and other art supplies.  Eventually, companies like ArtBin caught on to this practice and began producing their own versions of tackle boxes, often made out of translucent plastic, that they pitched directly to artists.  Why use an ugly rough-and-tumble tackle box when you could carry an “art supply box” instead?

Except that on a recent weekend at Kimberly Ann’s Petersburg Pickers (, I chanced upon the perfect tackle box for use in my artistic endeavors.  Behold the Union Steel Chest Corp. Watertite Tackle Box, patented in 1951.

Tackle Box 2


This vintage baby is in practically mint condition, with only a barely noticeable dent in the top and a speck or two of rust along a few edges and around the lock.  She was filthy and loaded with hooks, flies and a 1967 Virginia Fishing Regulations Booklet, and she was MINE.  I cleaned her out, then cleaned her up, and what a beauty she turned out to be.  They just don’t make fishing tackle boxes like this anymore.  I’m using her now for my jewelry-making supplies, so let’s take a look at what she’s got under the hood.

Tackle Box 4


The sections of the upper tray hold all of my jewelry-making tools, spools of wire, some findings, and a red-and-white bobber I kept as a good-luck piece from the box’s original contents.

In the bottom section, a vintage metal ice cube tray holds small bags of buttons, and can be used to keep my supplies organized while I work.   An Altoids box is a convenient way to catch small pieces of metal and other trash.  I’ve also included 8″ and 12” rulers, more findings and chains, and a piece of fleece that is great to work on because it prevents beads, buttons and jump rings from rolling away.

Tackle Box 5

Tackle Box 6


I used to lug around several large totes filled with all of my jewelry supplies, but with a little project planning, I can create jewelry at any location, carrying everything I need in this one steel tackle box.  Think about the kind of art you like to do “on the go.”  If your supplies are small enough, a vintage fishing tackle box might be the perfect solution for you as well!

Tackle Box 7

Tackle Box 1


Finding a Unique Approach

Blue-Green-White  Beads

I’ve worked in a lot of different arts & crafts media over the years, and today I thought I’d write about how I got started in jewelry-making.  I loved the idea of making the perfect pieces of jewelry, in my favorite colors and with attached charms filled with personal meaning.  And since I can only wear so much jewelry, it seemed like a great idea to make even more pieces to sell to all the people out there who share the same fun aesthetic as me.

When my aunt offered to teach me basic jewelry-making, I jumped at the chance.  She helped me pick out my first tools and encouraged me to buy strands of colorful and fancy beads.  Strands and strands of beads.  Lots and lots and lots of beads.

Later, when I was looking over my burgeoning collection of beads, I realized a couple things.  I actually don’t wear that many beaded necklaces and earrings.  And beaded jewelry was the most common thing I was seeing at arts & crafts fairs.  After I’d check out the beaded necklaces and bracelets in a couple vendor booths, I’d find that everything started to look the same.  If I wanted to make jewelry that I would enjoy wearing and might have a reasonable chance of selling, I needed to take a new approach and find a look no one else had.

Then one day at a local craft show, in a booth full of pins and necklaces made from forged metal and vintage tin cans, I happened to notice a single pair of earrings, made from two tiny white buttons and silver wire (and priced outrageously high, considering how small and plain they were).  I looked at those earrings, and it occurred to me that buttons would be a unique alternative to beads.  Other than this one pair of earrings, I’d never seen anyone actually wearing or selling jewelry made from buttons.  And if I used vintage buttons, my jewelry would have a special appeal to people who, like me, are interested in upcycled crafts with a retro look.

So that’s what got me started working with vintage buttons.  I still use the occasional bead as an accent, but the button jewelry I make has a distinctive look that reflects my own unique way of looking at the world.

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If you’d like to see more of my work, check out my Etsy shop at!