Saturday, March 19, 2011

There Are No 99 Cent Coupons in Glasswork

A week or so ago, an online friend of mine who is a torch worker re-posted a link to a very thoughtfully worded blog post he wrote about a year ago on the eternal struggle of American glass artists. It started with a woman asking a friend of his to list his beads for 99 cents on Ebay, as that is where she gets all of her jewelry making supplies. His blog is here: . I highly suggest reading it!! (sorry I couldn't get the hot link to work...)

Tom starts out his post about educating the consumer with this statement:

"I most certainly see the value in educating the consumer about why a 2″x2″ glass pendant costs $25.00 and up, and more importantly why it should.

First off, go grab a pickle jar from the fridge. Have a good look at it, now envision it as a pendant.

Yeah, that’s not the way we do it either."

That statement says loads about the typical consumer who is so used to getting beads for 10 cents apiece. There are so many people out there who have no clue of the time, expense, and constant learning involved with most fine arts, and glass specifically. It's worse when you feel they just don't care because they don't see how it effects their life personally. I know I have about $4000 invested in different tools and equipment. I don't even want to know how much over that I've invested in glass. Then mention different canopies, display items and tables for shows and since I teach, tools for students to use in class. In two weeks, I'll be paying $100-200 for gas to drive to a glass expo, pay another $150 for my share of the hotel room, and almost another $300 to take a class, because I care about furthering my craft. (BTW, this comes out of MY pocket, my husband's salary barely keeps us afloat, and I have to help out with three of the household bills and pay my own car payment... I'm just sayin...)

So, you don't think I'll be mad when I travel 2000 mile round trip and pay $1100 for a 10x10 booth for a supposed "Artisan" show, and then find myself surrounded by Chinese imports??? You don't think I feel a sting when someone tries to "bargain" their way into buying a set of my beads? You don't think I roll my eyes when I see the Italian bracelets promoted at fine jewelry stores and know that they charge an inflated price for average looking beads just because they come from Italy? Sometimes I feel like I'm the invisible man... or Mr. Cellophane! Can't you see me, jumping up and down and waving my arms saying "I'm here!!!"?

Am I saying EVERYTHING you buy has to be made in the US? Not hardly. For example, I absolutely love Austrian crystal and find it a good compliment to the beads that I make when I actually turn it into jewelry. But DO consider the working conditions (see Tom's quote below) and consider your support of American artists and American owned small business. We need the money here now. There is a movement called the 3/50 Challenge. Their idea is to pick 3 American owned small businesses and spend $50 at those businesses a month. Kind of a cool idea. Do you know how thrilled I'd be to have someone pick ME for that challenge? Just ONE person?? (While we can't afford the $150 a month, hubby and I have been trying to pick smaller, family owned restaurants when we go out to eat instead of the big chains. We are trying to do our part.)

As artists, we certainly understand when someone can't afford to buy a piece. We lust after other artist's pieces ourselves. It's ok to take a business card in the hope that you can buy something later... in fact we're tickled when you do! (Put it someplace safe, ok? It's another cost we incur in the hopes of making a few dollars to buy more glass...) We love talking about what we do, and if we also teach what we do, oh, we'd LOVE to tell you about the classes!

If you are at a Farmer's Market, a craft fair or gallery stroll... please attend with a different frame of mind. Don't go "looking for a deal". Don't insult an artist by saying something like "Is this the best price you can give me?" Look for something that speaks to your heart, something that just jumps out at you, and if you can afford the asking price, pay it with a smile on your face and let that artist know how you feel about the piece. Then tell your friends.

Finally, I'd like to quote Tom's ending to his blog post:
"I assure you, there are extraordinarily few people getting rich off of their glass. Most who do it full time eek out a living and a little extra, but they do it because they love the craft. They love working for themselves. They’d like to be rich, but that’s not the driving force.

So when you pick up a pendant at Michaels or Wal-mart, ask yourself how it is that that piece of glass, made by someone’s hands in a factory, can be made by another human being, be shipped all the way across the world, and still only cost you $1.98. Imagine the quality of life you’re creating by supporting that low price.

And finally, if you see one of us out at a street festival peddling our wares, please be courteous and don’t pick up the piece, sniff and say “I can get these for $2.00″.

Remember that the person in front of you made that. Take the time to ask questions, the type of glass, how long it took, inspirations, reasons for color choices, favorite torch, anything. We’re people too, we love to talk about our work. Don’t forget that behind that small bit of beauty, that one of a kind sculpture in your hand, is a long process of discovery and learning, all culminating in what you’re holding in your hand.

It’s a little piece of the artist, value it appropriately."

Yeah. What He Said. Thanks, Tom for letting me share your blog, and thanks to everyone who has ever bought one of my pieces from me. It means so much more than just whatever you had to pay for it at that time. My art is a piece of me in a way that few people can understand. It's not the money that makes me elated when you take that piece home with you, but that you parted with your hard earned cash because something of mine spoke to you. Bless you.

Design by Duane Miles, beaded by Kerry