Constant Improvement

Hello everyone and welcome to a New Year. Yeah, it has already been here for a few weeks. I had a couple drafts in mind, but never actually put fingers to keyboard… and here we are, month already half gone. Time feels like it moves more quickly all the time.

So, what have I been up to? Currently an art mask/headpiece I created is on display at The AZ Gallery in downtown St. Paul. I applied for the Winter Carnival Art Show and was once again accepted to display. I spent a week in Duluth visiting my best friend, and last week was filled with making. Why?

I have been preparing for 13GEARS in February and Paganicon in March. While I am currently focused more strongly on 13GEARS- and wondering about my sanity working as a florist and doing a show on February 10th- preparing for Paganicon has already changed how I am creating.

If you have looked at things I create (and I hope you have!) you might notice a theme is I do very “OOAK” [One Of A Kind] creations. This often means exactly that, I am only making one thing at a time. Last year I started to do a bit of production line style creating on certain types of things, and last week I was all on that.

I thought I had making simple ear cuffs down to a science. There was no possible way I could improve making them. Cut the wire, round the ends, bend in half, loop ends, bend around mandrel, touch up with pliers. Obviously, do each step in multiples or you are wasting your time picking up different tools (it adds up).

In a batch of 20, I had a mistake happen. Bending 14 gauge wire in half is not as easy as you might think it is- try it some time. If you start in the middle of the wire, you usually end up with one end an 1/8 inch off. That is enough to make the ear cuff uncomfortable. I have a a jig that I use that shows me where I should grasp the wire to bend it to end up with that symmetry every time. (I meant it when I said I didn’t think there was any possible way I could improve this process- I have jigs made and everything)

So, anyway, I bend the wire and end up with one end longer than the other. I could fiddle with the wire for a while, but I measure it and notice that somehow when I cut this batch of wire, this piece ended up an 1/8″ long. D’oh.

So I snip the end off and re-round it… which is when it occurs to me, this is the point I should be rounding the ends, not at the beginning! The bent wire is much easier to grasp in my hand and it allows me to cut off any future bending mistakes without thinking about the time I’ve lost rounding the wire ends.

From a mistake, an epiphany, and from that a process that I thought I could not possibly improve… has been improved. Something I had done literally hundreds of times before will henceforth be different and save me headaches. Even with a jig, sometimes you will have a piece of wire that doesn’t bend in half correctly. In the future, instead of spending time fixing it with pliers, I can nip it instead. Holding a bent piece of wire is much easier to round ends instead of a straight piece.

Considering I make hundreds of ear cuffs in a year, this is a bit of a life changing event. For everyone else, this is just me writing to remind you to pay attention to the details and there is almost always room for improvement.

Welcome to 2018! Join me on Thursday to hear about some nifty items I picked up at Harbor Freight.

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