How paper bowls changed my life
Glass beads pre loops and a drilled starfish for the Ocean Waltz Necklace

How paper bowls changed my life

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Bowls sorted by the various stages of production

When it comes to being organized, it seems that you either naturally inclined to it, or you’re not. I am one of those who has been an organized freak since day one. I have also organized spaces for people enough to know that if it does not come naturally to you, you’re just SOL. Walking into the studio, the first thing every one says, is “Wow, you’re so organized!!”. Really its not a choice though, my brain just puts things in order, I don’t choose to do it, it just is. Being this way is incredibly helpful in many ways, one of which is production…I’ll explain how…

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A stack of glorious bowls, ready to get to work

At any given time, there are about 400 pieces of jewelry in the Manic Trout line and I add to the collections every 3 months. As most of my sales are online and wholesale, I need to make sure that I have at least 4 of all of the statement pieces and 8 of the lower price point pieces (except the bling rings which are made to order) made, packaged and ready to ship at all times. In case there is any doubt, that is A LOT of jewelry to keep track of and in order. The most effective away to keep it all going is to have the materials for that much jewelry in stock as well as made jewelry, this way, I am constantly producing for restock and have everything on hand to do so. This creates the need for a few different systems: raw materials, jewelry in production and finished jewelry in order to stay organized at all times. Today I am focusing on the middle of this trifecta of organizing solutions: production.

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Beads for earrings before they have been counted out.

Every week or so, I go though the inventory and make a list of what’s low. Once I know what I have to make, its time to gather the main materials…glass beads, gemstones, crystals and brass animals. This sounds simple enough, but when you’re talking about a minimum of 50 pieces of jewelry, that means piles and piles of very small, round things and a potential for a major mess. Years ago, I had the great idea of grabbing a stash of paper bowls from the panty to help with this and it was such a great idea, that I haven’t looked back since. They corral round beads easily and can be stacked to create organized columns and enable a sort of 3d jewelry making to do list.

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Green and blue glass pre loops and a drilled starfish for the Ocean Waltz Necklace

I first gather all of the brass animals to be drilled in one bowl and put them aside. Then I go through the raw materials stock and get out the bags of all the materials I’ll be using.  I sort the exact amount needed for each piece of jewelry and use one bowl for each statement piece worth of beads, and one for each style of smaller (such as Mr. Crabby) pieces. I then stack them nicely over to the side, 1 pile for pieces who do not need animals and are ready for loops, and one for those that are waiting for their animals. Before moving on, I take count of what I have taken out of the raw material stock and make a list to order from my vendors, many of these vendors require minimum ordering amounts, so often I will wait a few weeks until I have a good amount to order. For this reason, I usually have a running list on my production desk that gets added to when I run out of things. Next up is a drilling session with the animals I have put aside. After they have holes and are all ready to become jewelry, each animal is added to its bowl of beads.

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A trio of drilled crabs and looped red glass for Mr. Crabby Necklaces

The most time consuming part of production are making the loops through all of the beads. As this chore progresses, I create two piles of bowls: those with loops and those without. Eventually all of the loops are finished and there is one big area of bowls all ready to be finished. Sometimes I have assistance in the drilling and loop making, depending on how busy things are. The last step is therefore crucial, as when I hire out part of the process, I use the final step of completing the necklaces, bracelets and earrings as a way to make sure everything has been done to Manic Trout standards.

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Mint glass with loops and a drilled bee for the Never Forget You Bracelet


Once each piece is completed, bowls of each style are stacked back up off to the side. All of the finished jewelry is then packaged, labeled and inventoried and ready to ship out to new homes! I would say the best way to judge whats going on in the studio are the stacks of bowls. The stack goes up and down all week long, like the flow of tide with a low stack meaning I better get my hustle on and high stack meaning I am all caught up. A rare moment of great accomplishment is when every bowl is empty on the stack…but that happens only a few times a year.

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