Monday, May 6, 2019

Downsizing the studio space

I totally procrasti-cleaned last week. You know. When you clean instead of doing the work you’re supposed to be doing. I still did work I was supposed to do later, but not as much as I targeted to complete. I’m still happy with the choice. It had reached and point where I was losing time looking for stuff and moving things around. And I needed a “re-set” in order to stay focused on production. With downsizing to less than 250 square feet of studio space, it’s been a multi-year process of discarding and disposing of the items that are no longer serving me. I was more careful and mindful of selling this time. I've moved 11 times in 11 years and I went through multiple cycles of downsizing and upsizing throughout those years. 

I also figured out a piece of the organization puzzle that had been blocking me from progress. This particular "explosion" was the result of the last event I did. Last November. I've been trying to finish organizing my studio for my current focus but I go out to the studio. Sit on the couch. Get overwhelmed. Lay down and take a nap. And leave. Studio unfinished. Yeah.... it's been overwhelming, even for an organized mind...

I applied KonMari principles to my first round of studio organization and there is underlying categorization in this mess that still adheres to my original setup. But I'm finding I'm modifying KonMari principles for the studio space. Creatives need stuff to fuel the creativity. There are so many interesting ideas that come from the serendipity of one item landing next to another. Some of my most interesting ideas came from chaos. Austin Kleon cultivates his messy creative space. I personally live between chaos and orderliness. I love chaos for triggering interesting ideas. I love tidiness for production. 

My goal at this point is to re-organize my studio to grow my business (fulfilling wholesale orders) yet downsizing from a 400 sq ft studio space to 250 sq ft space. Here is how I'm using KonMari principles and how I'm modifying them for the creative as well as a downsized space.

  • Categories - THE most important principle I gleaned from Marie Kondo's approach is organizing by category. This has made all the difference to me in how I organize things. Especially as I work with small things (jewelry and beads), grouping like items together is a key to me finding things again. I very selectively break the principle when it comes to setting up my workstation; but generally, all like items are grouped together. As I'm organizing the studio, I will put like items in a single bin until that bin starts getting too difficult to find things, then I'll subcategorize.
  • Discarding - the big deviation I have from Marie Kondo on this is I reduce instead of "discard completely and all at once." So I can avoid the route of becoming a Hoarder (creatives see a use for everything), as I was setting up my smaller studio for business growth, I reduced the materials from various creative paths I've explored. I was able to sell a bunch in a craft yard sale. I gave some of it away. Some of it needed to be tossed the trash. I still have remnants of the ideas I tried, but I just kept the key pieces and the things I thought I would enjoy exploring again.
  • It's a Process - as someone who has gone through a cycle of upsizing and downsizing in (11 times in 11 years), discarding is more of a process than a "once and for all" for me. Simply from a financial perspective, I can't afford to buy, discard/sell, re-buy things. I'm much more mindful of the process. Which led me to my breakthrough step with the latest downsize.
    • Move 1 - major downsize from 1800 sq feet to 750 sq feet
    • Move 2 - downsize - 350 sq feet
    • Move 3 - upsized - 1200 sq feet
    • Move 4 - slightly downsized - 850 sq feet
    • Move 5 - slightly upsized - 1200 sq feet
    • Move 6 - upsized - 1600 sq feet
    • Move 7 - major downsize - 250 sq feet
    • Move 8 - upsize - 1100 sq feet
    • Move 9 - upsize - 1200 sq feet
    • Move 10 - upsize - 2300 sq feet
    • Move 11 - downsize - 500 sq feet
  • Staging - I'm at the final leg of discarding and downsizing and almost have everything at the right spot. But, I was struggling with the studio space, because what I had left was still cluttering the space (downsize from 400 to 250 sq feet). And I wasn't ready to get rid of it. After the yard sale, I had a bunch of very useful storage bins, but they were empty. I emptied as many as I could and took out all of the stuff that wasn't being used (lamps, storage bins, boxes, creative pursuits that weren't the focus). Just the visual clearing made a tremendous difference. But I wasn't ready to completely get rid of storage items. So, they are in a staging place in my living room. As I live with the newly organized studio space and finish re-categorizing for growth, I will selectively and carefully bring back in storage items. After 6-12 months, if I haven't used items in the staging area, then I will find new homes or discard some other way.

Now I can breathe. And find things. 

What about you? Have you used KonMari methods for your studio? How have you modified them as a creative?

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.