Instead of using a cup type of container as many seem to use, you could use a large drink bottle like the 3l soft drink bottle or other container with a lid. Cut the bottom off, turn upside down & make as you described. That would allow you to leave the mesh & everything in place when you needed to empty it, Just remove the lid to empty the bottle. Just a thought.
I am thinking a shallow non stick baking tray with a spray on oil or something as a releasing agent & I'd be able to make a flat 1/2" cutting board for craft etc
I was wondering if you could use fishing sinker molds to make the beads you could heat the plastic then champ it in between the 2 halves even push a wire through the center but you might have to use something like a releasing agent to stop the plastic from sticking to the molds & wire maybe a cooking oil or spray then after cooling you would just trim the edges with a knife. Might take some experimenting to get it right lol