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Who is Apple Awards, what do we do and how can we help you honor and recognize achievement and loyalty to your organization and the people closest to you?

Winter Networking

b2ap3_thumbnail_everyone-welcome.JPG“No man is an island”, John Donne, right? It's also true that no business is an island.  Behind any thriving business there is usually a network of supporting businesses and individuals.  When one does well, the others also benefit in some way. 

Apple Award's growing success in serving it's customers is largely because of owner Dennis Smith's willingness to call on that network of support.  AA's products depend on good visual representation, both in hard copy and online.  In this post I'm going to introduce the business and the man behind those visuals.  Actually, I'm going to let Dennis do the introduction in  his own words...  

 “There are a lot of steps in bringing something to market. One step is to get photos of all the products for the website and web catalog. About three years ago we started working with photographer James Netz who has offices and studios in both Hayward and the twin cities. ( http://www.jamesnetz.com/ )  Jim has grown in his ability to do commercial photography over the years and has proven to be able to do a great job with our highly reflective and challenging awards. Jim has been so helpful with his knowledge, experience and professionalism.   Here are some photos of our most recent shooting - our new multi-colored, school teacher hand bells.  One of the perks of shooting with Jim is that he is right next door to the famous West Dairy Ice Cream shop and has been known to spring for an occasional almost sinful treat.  Unfortunately this day they were closed due to the winter season. “

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One noticeable item – both Dennis and Jim are including West's Dairy in their supporting network. See how it works?  What interesting business networking have you seen (or tasted) recently?

 

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All That Glitters Is Not Gold

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Some of it is brass. Polished to a high sheen, brass is beautiful, reflective, rich and mimics gold. It is actually an alloy of copper and zinc. Copper can be combined with many other minerals in various proportions that give it different properties – brass being one alloy that is used a lot for items that are cast with a mold, like the brass apple featured as an exclusive item at Apple Awards. Because of it's unique properties brass is also used for musical instruments, many kinds of horns, cymbals, and bells.

 

The brass items obtained wholesale at Apple Awards are bought in various stages of finish. However, the Apple crew is very particular about their brass apples and bells. Small scratches and dents that might pass muster elsewhere do not make the grade at AA.  Brassmaster Randy has devised his own finishing methods. In his shop area with special gadgets he applies a beautiful satin finish to the brass items which makes them less susceptible to scratching and easier to care for. Each piece that needs attention gets milled and hand polished before going on to the next steps.

 

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 One of the most popular brass items at AA, bells, come in all sizes. After being inspected and polished, they are ready for engraving and are taken to the laser engraver. Online, customers can choose the size of bell they want, then layout their desired engraving and personalization on the Apple Award website. The new website allows them to see what their finished award will look like.  A software program allows Kate to transfer the information to the engraving machine and one at a time the bells are engraved.  It's a process...

 

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To finish the bells, handles of hardwood and brass clappers are put in place. A final cloth polish takes care of any smudges or fingerprints. The bells are boxed for delivery.

 

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Other places you might find brass at AA - sheet brass is used as the background for engraving placed on plaques and award bases.  Some decorative touches, such as the stems on crystal and marble apples are brass and some trophy figures may be brass as well.  (And of course, you can almost always find the "top brass" sitting in his office or somewhere on the premises...) Hats off to the usefulness of beautiful, bright brass!

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Etching, the Process

I was hanging out at Apple Awards one day when some crystal apples were being prepared for a client. The etching process was being done and I found it very interesting. By definition, etching is a type of engraving done with a corrosive material, sometimes acid, but in this case, very fine sand. Think of it as a small version of sandblasting where the sand actually marks the smooth surface of the glass. Couple the process with computerized graphics and you have a beautiful way of personalizing the crystal apple.

This process takes place in a dedicated workroom at Apple headquarters. Much like a photographic darkroom, it has special lighting and no windows (mysterious aura descends...) The client's logo and award wording has been laid out via computer and is now being developed onto a special film which will become a stencil. The developer is rinsed off in a water bath and the result is a sheet with multiple patches of the personalization which can be peeled off and placed like a template on the surface to be etched.

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The surface in this case is the clear crystal apple. The patches are carefully placed by hand, and the surface of the apple around the patch is protected with masking tape. The apples go back into the etching room and, one by one, they go into the etching chamber. This small chamber is accessed through hand holes so the operator can be protected while handling the etching wand. Thick protective gloves are worn. The etching sand is directed at high speed over the surface of the apple and marks the areas not protected by the stencil. Voila! An etching is created. The stencil is washed off and the apple is cleaned and packaged.

 

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As you can see, there is some careful hand work given to each award created in this way. Large orders take skill, time and patience and even small orders get focused attention– commodities that the Apple team members are happy to provide.   

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Team Apple on the Job

I ordered my Crystal Apple from several states away, but having been on the premises at the North Pole in Hayward, Wisconsin last spring I have a pretty good idea of what went on after my online order came through.  All references to Santa's North Pole workshop aside - the Apple workshop has them beat hands down on efficiency and customer service. (But the weather is a bit like the North Pole, just a bit.)

 

b2ap3_thumbnail_20140527_135553.jpgMy order confirmation came while I was still sitting at the computer. In no time at all, Ms. Stacey, fast like a ninja, had the order up on the project board where the rest of the team could view it and get to work.

 

 

 

 

 

b2ap3_thumbnail_20140527_134040.jpgBack to the well stocked shelves they went, amid apples of all colors and materials, to look for the diamond cut crystal, the beautifully finished walnut base and the metal label for the inscription. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I can imagine Ms. Kate at her computer setting up the laser engraving machine and putting in the fonts and lettering I had specified. It's all quite "state of the art" at Apple Awards.  I doubt the North Pole can boast that kind of equipment.

 

 

 

 

In other parts of the workshop, the Apple team is polishing, assembling and etching other apple and bell orders at top speed.  Actually, they look more relaxed and absorbed in details of the work so probably speed is not as important as making things look REALLY good.


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b2ap3_thumbnail_20140527_143535.jpg My apple is polished, inspected and lovingly placed in a beautiful presentation box with satin and velvet. ♥♥♥♥.  This is not the apple that I ordered, but isn't the box lovely?  

 

 

 

 

 

b2ap3_thumbnail_20140702_1943131.jpgAnd then with detailed care instructions, and a sincere thank you note, my apple is placed in a shipping box and cushioned with recyclable peanuts. Just for comparison, I'm guessing that Santa is not going to give you the number for the Peanut Hotline so you can find the nearest plastic loose-fill collection center.  Are you impressed yet?

Five days later, FedEx had the box at my door, having tracked it all the way.  And with Apple Awards and the Apple team this happens many times over, on almost every business day of the week (not just one night in December).  

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