Guest Post: Reorganize Your Studio With Anne Vaughan
Anne Vaughan is a jewelry artist and Jewelry Stringing contributor. She recently completed an organization overhaul of her workshop and has agreed to share some of the valuable lessons she learned in the process. Enjoy!
Reorganize Your (Studio) Life (and make more jewelry!)
by Anne Vaughan
You often hear the old adage 'organization is key', but you never understand how important it is until you stress the system.
I started my jewelry company, Anne Vaughan Designs, in 2006. I had a goal to create a hundred pieces of jewelry to showcase (and hopefully sell!) on Black Friday at the Historic City Market in Roanoke, Virginia. I reached my goal, sold a few hundred dollars of jewelry and was hooked.
Almost seven years later, the company has made over 50,000 pieces of jewelry, from earrings to bracelets to necklaces. We currently have four part-time employees that help us produce, and dozens of wholesale stores across the U.S. However, in many ways, we were operating very much like when it was just me, from production to inventory and beyond. Things had to change.
My husband, Aaron (we work together in the business), and I took an unexpected three day hiatus (which involved bad weather, our kids being in school and no employees coming in) to re-envision how we operated. The questions we asked were: Does every material in the studio have its own spot? What do we or our employees waste a lot of time searching for? Is there a better way to do a certain task? What is unclear in how we operate or what we produce? From receiving raw materials to shipping finished designs out the door, we spent most of our hiatus jamming to internet radio and figuring out a better way.
This is what we learned.
Receiving and Inventorying Materials
Receiving and inventorying can be a nightmarishly laborsome task. Fortunately, we have a large studio space, so we made a dedicated table/spot where we put received packages for sorting and organizing. It was set up with a chair, calculator, cutters, cardboard jewelry boxes, and a Halloween tub (keep reading).
We have always used small jewelry boxes to sort our stones, but cutting the strands can cause gems to spill everywhere. We bought a few large plastic trick or treat bowls left over from Halloween one year and use these to cut the strands of beads and gems into, which prevents spillage. We then cup and pour the bowl into the boxes.
We have overstock beads that we do not have room for in the regular use boxes, so an Ikea organizer with leather bins worked well for this. They are organized by color, and when we are out of an item we go to that to restock the boxes.
|Overstock Storage Bins||Sorting and Inventory Station|
All our boxes with beads go in a certain location based on color and type. Aaron and his dad, Ken, designed and built two ingenious 2 foot x 2 foot x 5 feet tall bead cabinets that holds the majority of the beads. Each drawer has a unique track system that allows for shallow, tightly packed drawers that are wide and deep and maximize space. With almost 30 drawers in each, each cabinet holds 120 square feet of storage (that's more than the footprint of my E-Z Up canopy!)
Each drawer is labeled by color, which allows me to quickly find what I need when working within a certain color palette. Some other materials, such as vintage lucite, brass findings, and Hill Tribe silver are stored separately in segmented bead boxes on another set of shelves. We also utilize old shutters to hang strands of one-of-a-kind beads by color for use in creating new lines. Seed beads are stored in the tubes they come in, and are sorted by color in a circular rotating storage container.
|Custom Shelving||Shutter Organizer|
We use a lot of chain and wire, and they don't fit into our snazzy bead cabinets. What to do?
We took old curtainrods and hung them on oak boards in a row between two of our storage shelves. Spools of different chain are stored on rods, which allows for easy access and cutting to length.
Our wire was a different matter – we have multiple gauges of wire and types of wire to contend with. Using slatwall organizers we picked up at a local retail store going out of business, we ordered hooks from Amazon and created an inline storage system for the wire. Each type of wire (sterling, sterling silver filled, bronze, etc) got a vertical column, and the size gauge of each wire went from small to large, top to bottom (22 gauge, 24 gauge, etc). A list of each of our design collections and what size and type wire is used is next to the wire on the wall. No more digging through the stacks to find the right wire!
|Spool Organizer||Slatwall Wire Storage|
Working Within Collections
We have about a dozen current collections of designs that most of our employees recreate. Each collection uses the same materials (metals, stones, etc) and the same color palette, and usually there are 2-4 necklaces, 1-3 pair of earrings, and 1-2 bracelets in each line. This allows the customer or gallery to layer multiple necklaces or select one in a line with a certain style or price point that fits.
Each collection has a tray with a sample of each design, labeled with price and item number. Each collection also has another tray with the raw materials to make each design within that line.
When we have multiple orders, we consolidate them together by due date and sort them by line. If my girl Hona is working within the Rustic Meadow collection, she grabs the sample and material tray and may begin work on ten pieces within that collection that will go out to three different stores or customers.
|Materials Sorted by Collection|
Our work table was a beadaholic's dream, but it needed some new organization. We often have three to four girls at a time working at the table, and invariably it would pile up with trays of beads, gems and more that were being used.
We made a list of the most-used items that included ear wires, crimp covers, clasps, and more. Using some office organizers, we made little stations for each employee with these often-searched-for items, along with their tools and earring cards. Less searching for a good pair of round-nose pliers means more productive employees!
We took a lot of items that are used in every design and sorted them by type on a table right by our work area for easy access.
|Production Work Stations|
Our current metalsmith area is an old butcher block welding bench, which works great for pounding. We also have an oxidizing area for tarnishing wire.
The metalsmith bench is where we drill, pound, and modify our metals. We built out the studio a couple years ago, and we have an area that is close to being done that will house the new metalsmithing area, complete with range hood and cabinets for storage. We have some of the slatwalls we will use there for organization as well.
The oxidation table consist of a crockpot and various wire we oxidize for a vintage look, especially in our Serenity and Tranquility lines. We usually have a couple minutes to kill at this station while we wait, so we have an inspiration board with magazine cutouts of jewelry, clothing and more hanging above it to peruse.
|Metalsmithing Station||Oxidation Table|
When we designed our studio space, we carved out a little nook for our photo area. To get the right light often involved a trip outside, which in rainy or cold weather is a pain.
We use mannequins a lot to display the jewelry, so we needed an area that could fit the height of a half torso. We scored a 3×3 foot photo cube, and since our photo area had a defined width, Aaron researched lighting. Most commercial lighting wouldn't fit with our cube in the nook, so we settled on specialty bulbs with high lumens on a daylight spectrum, mounted into standard shoplights mounted around the booth. We shoot with a Nikon D3000, and bought a macro lens to help with closeups. In seven years, our picture quality has improved immensely!
|Photography Nook||Project Shot in Anne's Studio|
We ship a lot (daily) so, again, we defined a dedicated area for that. Bubble wrap, tissue paper, etc. is all within easy reach so you can move from left to right to wrap, package, box and drop into the mail bin.
This is a small snapshot of how we run the day to day at Anne Vaughan Designs, and we are always improving our systems. Simply writing this post to share with you made me aware of a few other improved ways of doing things!
Most importantly, taking time to improve how you operate will give you more time to do what counts….make more jewelry!
I wish you all the best!
Anne Vaughan founded Anne Vaughan Designs in 2006, and creates jewelry collections with a vintage and classic feel. Her designs are made with quality gemstones and other materials that feature unrivaled color palettes, and her work is carried in dozens of stores in the United States. Her work can be found online at www.AnneVaughanDesigns.com and she is on Facebook at www.facebook.com/AnneVaughanDesigns.