Thursday, May 17, 2018

Effectively Efficient: Working efficiently and ergonomically

Production has officially started this past Sunday for 2018 Milwaukee Bead & Button. I’m starting very very late and have three weeks to create enough beads to sell.


Some tension but not panic. I just keep simplifying my plan. I had two very intense sessions on Sunday and Monday and produced 1,500 beads in those two days. The storms we had made me nervous to be in my shed so I took Tuesday off and Wednesday was a super low production day. 

The big thing I’m working out right now is ergonomics. There is a physical element to the way I’m working that I don’t have with an office job. I think there is an adjustment as I’m woefully out of shape. I also stand for multiple hours. My kiln is a few steps away. I actually prefer to stand over sit because I can move around a bit more. I would glue myself to a chair and move very little if sitting. 

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Effectively Efficient: Now I know why I was avoiding this task

Now I know why i was avoiding the task of setting up my shop with all of the beads and jewelry I've made. It's too complicated! After a 14 hour slog taking photos, editing photos, simplifying my shop categories, and uploading all the photos on Saturday, I finally have all but 35 necklaces uploaded to the shop and ready for my liquidation sale of the artistic meanderings I've been taking for the last few years. What that means for you, if you're reading this post, is a fabulous discount on my already low prices for sterling silver, glass, polymer clay beaded jewelry. I have some base metal components (copper) in some of the pieces, and super easy simple pieces strung on cotton cord - perfect for casual beach wear.

Making my processes efficient

One of the big learnings this year has been to simplify, simplify, simplify so I can be more efficient and serve my customers better. The net effect is that I can make my pieces and style much more cohesive and efficient. I'll be focusing on my best sellers for Bead & Button and using those as the foundation for my Bead Collections and my Jewelry Collections. It's still a lot of work, and it also happens to be work I really love and enjoy.

Studio Setup

In other news, my oxygen concentrator is in the "hospital" getting repaired. I had unknowingly abused it by working outside with it and then leaving it outside in the humid Florida weather. I learned that the sieve beds need to be rebuilt to get a decent flow of oxygen.

One of the benefits of problems is that it forces you to learn more about your setup. While the timing isn't great (I'm getting farther behind on bead production), I understand my setup much much better. Fixing the oxygen concentrator will make me more efficient in the long run.

And I learned more about safety, such as installing a flashback arrestor on the propane side of the torch. I like the cachet of doing an industrial art, but I am also still learning a lot about the safety. My torch is a surface mix torch and less prone to flashbacks, but it still can happen if I were to let the propane run out and then the flame would get sucked back into the propane line. Without the arrestor, it could, at a minimum cause the lines to explode. At worst, it could go all the way back to the propane tanks and cause them too explode. No thank you. Flashback arrestor please.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Effectively Organized: letting emotions affect your business

2017 - had a successful first ever bead and button show. Made a small profit my first year. Very small.

Then I lost momentum. Finances were painfully tight. I suffered an emotional setback that summer and I didn’t follow up that success. I stalled. Yet again. A hurricane diverted my attention to knitting for a few weeks and then I stayed in that rabbit hole while dealing with the emotional issues.

If you have a day job you do for others you put it on your game face and go to work and plod your way through the work. You may not be doing your total best but you slog your way through. 

You’ve got to do the same in your own business. There will be ups and downs. This is where systematizing, organizing and cresting a work plan will provide the stuff you need to keep doing. 

Creating randomly and freely and for fun can get short circuited with an emotional downturn. 

Effectively Organized: Bead Button was the best way to shift to production mindset

In 2017, I attended my first big trade show, Milwaukee Bead & Button as a vendor. Doing Bead & Button for the first time and not ever having been to the show helped me switch into production mode. Not seeing what other artists were doing, I didn’t have any pre-conceived ideas about how I should produce work for the show, set it up, display it, etc. I have been to bead stores and bead shows so I thought of what the bead vendors did. 

The lampwork artist I encountered at past bead shows gave me some ideas for a production approach, Grace Beads, but her business and production model is different than mine. Her beads are also beautiful and reasonable. I made a few necklaces pairing my simple beads with her decorated beads. 

I ended up creating a business model where I am somewhere between the artist and the mass bead sale vendor. I make lots the of the same beads, in collections. I also personally produce all of my beads. I do have a little help with the cleanup and presentation. 

I handmade all of my beads but I did large batches of the beads. I increased my efficiency and can make hundreds of beads in a session. I also keep it simple and focus on making spacers. Lots and lots of spacers. I took lessons I learned from 10 years of working as a hobby that the majority of my customers like the simpler beads. The spacers.

Blue Ocean Strategy

Not having been to Milwaukee Bead & Button before also allowed me to go blue ocean strategy instead of looking what the other artists were doing. I have been doing small craft and art fairs and keeping my production mindset small and geared toward OOAK work. 

In prepping for B&B I set a target sales goal. I broke out my trusty Excel and started figuring out how many beads I needed to make to achieve that goal. The biggest goal was to pay for the booth fee and travel expenses. I had already started making beads. When I did the math backward from my sales goal, I realized the way I was working and pace I was working at wasn’t sustainable and I wasn’t going to be able to make enough beads to even attempt my sales goal. Constantly “creating” has its limits. Not only does it create a mental drain for me, from the customer perspective, if everything is OOAK, it creates overwhelm. 

I then started doing collections. The same type of bead in different color combinations. I thought of the others in the art category and started with each set of beads being slightly unqiue. I checked my production plan and it still wasn’t fast enough. Then I defined 16 separate bead designs, 8 designs for glass and 8 designs for polymer and executed that plan in different color ways. Simplifying allowed me to scale up my production and I produced 10,000 beads for the show. 

Even my display ended up being unique. I wanted a card like a jewelry card to display. I saw an earrings display board on Rio Grande that was sort of like what I had in mind. I bought one as a sample and had my brother in law build out my display on risers and to my specifications. It’s a great modular display and I get a lot of compliments on it. It’s easy to see everything and browse. 

That plan was a success. I scraped out a teeny tiny profit my very first year. 

Creating cohesive collections with multiples of the same is a key to growth. However, my thinking is still too broad, as I’ve learned from this recent free training. I love simplifying the plan even more! I 

Hobby to Business Report: the Emotional shift of turning your hobby into a business

I think I might have blogged about this a while ago, but I’m in the throes of putting my head down and really working hard at converting an enjoyable hobby into a viable business.

I’ve been playing at being a real business since 2008. After about six months of awful glass beads I finally had some good beads that were worthy of sale. And I was relatively prolific. 

So much to unpack and explore in that post. Breaking it down. 

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Hobby to Business Report: Studio Time and your Roadmap

We all have different work styles and patterns. What works for one person isn’t as effective for another person.

As an artist we start with making art because we love it. We explore and meander down many paths.

When you start converting your art into a business you have to get more focused about studio time. 

For me, just setting studio time didn’t quite work. Creating the roadmap and the targets for which I was making items to sell helped defined my studio time. 

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Effectively Focused: Starting to Spin

While I am making great progress on the shed studio, and getting the foundations in place to grow my business, I am getting to the same spot I always get to at this point... I start spinning.
  • Spinning in my mind with all the stuff I want to do. 
  • I find more classes that will “help me” do XYZ. 
  • Deciding what to eliminate to simplify and laser focus. 
  • Underestimating how long it takes to get something... anything... done. (The last thing to install in the shed is the ventilation. Important safety feature.) 
  • I want to store everything in the shed “neatly and perfectly” and got overwhelmed with the knowledge of how much energy and time it takes to divest myself of stuff. 
  • More classes
  • More designs
  • More art mediums 
And then I implode and go quiet for a while. 

Pix of moving into the studio shed...
moving into the shed

As I was chatting with Lisa on my last coaching call, she mentioned I have two big events that will be time consuming through mid-June. That caused me to create a two-year roadmap that I can view on a single page to keep front and center and not spin off into space and implode and stall progress on converting my hobby to a business. This is keeping me focused on the goals in front of me. 

Right now, I have three big things going on - finishing the shed, which needs to be completed before I can start working for the June Bead & Button show. And taking a class. Plus filing for a tax extension (and getting my bookkeeping in order) and doing a sale to liquidate my 2017 inventory.  

Okay five things. I’m focused on juggling three. I’ll layer in the other two when the studio is complete enough to start work. The other two don’t require 100% concentration. 

Seriously - this simple tool is keeping me focused on all the plates I have spinning and not trying to start any new plates spinning (still happens but it’s a little more controlled than usual). 

Side note: I might be creating a little bit of creative dissonance by throwing in a spreadsheet onto my art blog. But I am two people: the really artsy, relentlessly creative person and the hyper-organized business person who is addicted to Excel spreadsheets.

Your turn: do you have a tendency to spin? Are you an art hobby or art business? Are you trying to grow your hobby into a business? What tools do you use to stay focused?