Share your secrets on productivity

Dear Orchidians,

I’ve written to one member about this and decided to ask those of you
who work alone, to share your secrets on productivity. How do you
structure your lives around your work in order to produce enough
pieces for either your store or numerous galleries? I have a husband
and two teenage boys and do custom work and repairs for a downtown
shop but can’t seem to find enough time to get a line of my own work
together in any substantial volume that would be needed by one
gallery let alone numerous galleries. Maybe when the kids are

Thanks all,


Marta, As a one-person shop I can tell you that there are no easy
answers. There are many productivity strategies you can take but
eventually you have to realize that you can only get so much done in
a single day. You may stop and see what it is that your problem is.
For example is the reason you can’t get enough of your own work done
for stores because they are selling it faster than you can make it?
Then make work that is a little more expensive so that the cost will
hold down the volume. Or, are you just having a hard time finding
space in your schedule to make any jewelry at all? In that case, you
have to make a descision to invest in yourself and put off the repair
and custom work. I can tell you one thing that is imperative to
learn. When making the transition between a service related business
(custom and repair, yes custom work is more about service than it is
to production) and a production related one, there are many things
that have nothing to do with production that will eat up your time:
marketing, shows, web site maintanance, accounting, PR, etc. I am
coming to the point where I have had to make a choice between service
work (custom and production work, stone setting in particular) for
stores and making and selling my own line. Now, with that said, I
must say that the service work was more that just a nuisance, It paid
the bills while I built my knowledge and line.

By the way, I have a 3 year old and an 8 mo. old. You’ll never have
more time. I thought I had no time before I had my children.
Something will always take up your precious time, get used to it, or
take a sabbatical from what is keeping you from making your own line.
Those are your only choices. Just don’t forget that making the work
is only the beginning, the tip of the iceberg so to speak. The part
you don’t see, the marketing, the travel, the time spent on the phone
talking to prospective buyers, will be the main factor. Do you see
yourself doing all this and making a line and doing service work?
For me, with a commitment to being a one to two person shop, the
choice is clear. I can’t do it all, and do it all well.

Just a few thoughts from,
Larry Seiger

Marta, One of the key to productivity is organization. This applies to
every aspect of the processes involved in jewelry work. This can be in
the form ranging from organization of tools, paperwork and the manner
of brainstorming to achieve a goal such as flowcharting.

You will need to define your task and gain an perspective of how the
system works. Here are suggested steps for developing preliminary task
descriptions during system conceptualization.

One: Analyze initial mission descriptions, purpose, goals, and
operational requirements to try to isolate obvious activities.

Two: Create a graphic representation of the sequence of events
showing key human (skills) and hardware (tools) element, flow of
(how you manage and communicate), materials (metals, fuel,
findings, etc.), mobile components (UPS, route drivers, reps), and
people (your co-workers). Sometimes this is referred to as a
“storyboard” method of activity portrayal. The objective should be to
make it clear ( without verbal explanation) what this system does and
how it does this via hardware elements, human elements and even
“unseen elements,” e.g. telecommunication, paper transfer, and direct
verbal communication.

Three: Analyze each of the principal activity clusters and define the
task involved in each activity.

Four: Create a graphic representation of each activity or task event,
first to show flow and then to show operator and equipment
tasks. This would be a flow chart of how and when you manage your
tasks. For example, a trade repairer would first look through the job
pan and organize tasks in order. First the rings that needs sizing
down in the first batch, then rings that needs sizing up in the second
batch, then setting jobs in the third and so forth. This method would
increase productivity since tools required would not have to be
rotated so often. And all rings can be worked on at the same time,
e.g. scribe sizing marks on all of them, then cut pieces out of each
one, then close them, lay them all out in a row to prep for soldering
and so forth.

Five: Next, create an operational sequence diagram that will show the
probable mechanical or manual links between human and hardware
elements. In the case of a bench worker, the tools would be placed and
replaced in proper order to allow fluid and efficient movement. A
benchworker with tools scattered all over the tray and bench top is
likely to work less productively than one who has tools placed in an
organized manner.

Six: Prepare a general task description and equipment requirement
statement for each activity cluster. This is basically a summary of
the above. Take into consideration what work habits and tools works
best for you. Also set your schedule to allow you to stick with them
without interference.

For example, when I did jewelry repairs in my shop, I set guidelines
such as when I would take calls from my clients mostly from 2pm to
6pm. This would allow my to pick up jobs in the morning, take
inventory of jobs, order and/or pick up parts, make important outgoing
calls, etc. Then in the 2-6pm timeframe, I would be available to take
calls while in my shop.

I hope this will lead you to the right direction.

Dan Biery-Esoteric Artist/Craftsman
Goldsmith/Industrial Designer/Watchmaker
‘The early bird may get the worm,
but the second mouse always gets the bait’

Marta: I don’t do jewelry professionally, but I do have struggles with
productivity in all my endeavors. I would suggest keeping track of
where your time goes for a few days or a week. This is an irksome
but enlightening activity. It would also be good to have some idea
of what your various activities pay you. It might be that you can pay
someone to do some of the tasks you don’t want to get more time for
your jewelry.

Teenagers are a specialty with me, as I have two girls and my
girlfriend has two boys. If they are in sports and activities and
don’t drive yet, you are probably stuck driving all over tha place
and sometimes at short notice (coach scheduled another practice
during Easter vacation and didn’t tell you until three days before,
etc.). Carpooling wiith other parents, etc., might help, if you
haven’t thought of it. If you are the doting parent that I am, you
feel you have to do everything for your kids, and if that’s the case,
maybe you can get them to do more work around the house, fix meals,
etc., so you can have more time to work. Most teenagers are busy
thinking about themselves and don’t notice when they inconvenience
others, but this self-absorption is normal and different from
selfishness, as most of them are willing to help when the situation
is explained and their awareness broadened.


Marta, I work six days a week and do work for six different stores.Not
all the stores give me huge volume but added up it is a little
overwhelming.I have benches set up at three locations.I do custom work
but not as much as I would like.I put my line on the back burner
because the store accounts generate more income.They also generate way
more headaches.The turn over rate for sales staff in the stores is
very high and they tend not to know much about jewelry which
aggravates problems in understanding what needs to be done to a
customers piece therefor my cell phone and studio phone and home phone
ring a lot.My family helps me my wife picks up and delivers and does
billing and paper work along with helping in the shop.When I had my
own retail shop I brought my daughter in from the time she was five
and had her draw and make fun jewelry and then as she got older she
learned to carve waxes and buff and helped me out in the studio .She
just left for college last week her major is art.So I lost her as a
helper.It is very hard to balance the whole ball of wax but I would
rather have the rush of everything than work for someone else.I think
it all depends on what type of lifestyle you want to create.If you
have a family and cars,property and all the trappings that go with
that life then you need to generate income to support that
lifestyle.That is why I do repairs and slide my art in between.If I
could get up every morning and shuffle off to my studio and sit down
and make what I want at my own pace and have people buy it, that would
be Nirvana .Iam working toward that goal.Regards J Morley Coyote Ridge

Marta, I believe you have asked a magic question. Or, at least, the
answer would be magic!

I’m a male but have always done lots of home chores to help my wife
who also worked full time for many years. I worked for the Gov’t and
spend long hours on the job as well as a lot of time on the road away
from home. I retired in early 1994, the kids were all loooong gone,
and my wife continued to work after I left my job. Up until
retirement, I was somehow able to balance all my activities and still
build a nice business with about 150 to 200 regular clients, did
several of my own lines and had regular repair work. To this day, I
still can’t figure out how I did all that. When I retired, I began
spending between 8 and 10 hours a day in my shop. My most productive
hours where while my wife was at work…usually two 4 hour sessions
with a brief break for lunch and dinner then another 2 hours (at
least) in the evening. My business grew but I was beginning to feel
the strain. Then the house sold, my wife retired and we moved to
South FL. That was 6 years ago and I have never been able to recapture
the work ethic prior to or right after retirement. These days, I’m
lucky if I get 2 or 3 hours a day on the bench, whether its cutting
stones or smithing. Everything drags me away, shopping, grandkids,
visitors, teaching commitments (currently at one museum ((gem and
mineral society affiliate)) and soon at another), etc, etc. Just let
me say, when the kids leave it will get worse but hopefully you will
enjoy it more!!

Cheers from Don at The Charles Belle Studio in SO FL where its still
dry and where simple elegance IS fine jewelry. @coralnut.

Have two or three gravers of the size you use most often. If one is
dull, use another one. When all are dull, sharpen them at the same
time. Sharpening three gravers at the same time takes less time than
sharpening one graver three separate times. Also if a tip breaks or
dulls in the middle of a job, you can finish the job and sharpen when
finished. This saves time from having to keep stopping to sharpen a
graver. Brad Simon CMBJ