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.
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!
||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
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
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
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.
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.
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 3x3 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!
||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.