I guess you could say Panoply began in the night. After coming home from work, I would place all the things I carried during the day in a pile on my countertop. It wasn’t a very organized way to do things. It was hard to tell if anything had been misplaced and easy to leave without important items the following morning.
I experimented with different boxes, large trays, dishes, etc. to contain the sprawl, but problems continued: I would still forget things. My sunglasses would get scratched. The large, open containers slowly accumulated additional junk that would never leave.
Then the old adage “a place for everything and everything in its place” came to mind, and the first prototype was born. I drew out a blueprint onto a basswood slab and hand-routed a tray with individual “pockets,” sized specifically for each item I carried.
The new tray acted as a kind of visual checklist, ensuring I had not misplaced anything and that I would be prepared the next morning. Additionally, I liked the way it framed the individual objects that I had carefully selected over the years in the same way we frame our favorite images on the wall.
There was one small problem with this tray. When I added a new flashlight one day, it had nowhere to go. What if each ‘cell’ were an individual tray and I could add exactly what I needed? With this thought, the modular system was born.
After using it a while, I liked the ability to customize the tray exactly as I needed, but the earliest prototypes of the modular system didn’t work as a cohesive whole. As I removed or added an item, the trays would shift. Moving everything to a different location on a desk caused them to fall out of order. The individual trays needed a way to lock together and form a larger composite. After exploring all kinds of mechanical fasteners, rails, clips, and adhesives, I decided to use magnets.
Using magnets wouldn’t be easy: A large tray might require 28 separate magnets to yield the best possible experience. They would each have to be free to move and reorient themselves to neighboring magnets. The tolerances required to make them would be very tight. The design problems to solve were challenging and the process to make them would be difficult, but the results were worth the trouble.
The resulting magnetic modular system, Panoply Grid, is very “able”: customizable, expandable, and rearrangeable, but it is also just fun to play with. The definition of panoply is a “magnificent display or collection,” which is fitting, I think. Panoply Grid is a place for your favorite things.
After outgrowing the small garage in St. Johns, Portland where Panoply Goods began, we moved to a new shop in the Eliot neighborhood of Portland. The tools to design and manufacture each tray improve continually, but each tray is still painstakingly and lovingly hand-made, with over 20 steps involved for each item.
If you're as happy with your trays as I am, I'd love to see your collection some time: tag us with #mypanoply!