Fall Workshops and Classes

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If you follow Stafford Art Glass on our Facebook page, you will  know about the slew of delays I have had in getting the studio back online again.  It has been kind of exciting, in a weird way, if only because of the significant improvements I have been able to work into the studio while waiting.  Oh, and the fingers I broke last Fall are doing very well, thank-you (the first of a few of the snarls time-wise!).

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Myself, I have tried to remain as Zen about this as possible.  While I very much want to have glass available to an eager group who has expressed interest in it, I also know that once I get in the thick of things once the furnaces are turned on and the gas bills keep climbing, it will be harder to make the changes that I have made this past Spring and  Summer.  These are all great changes, they just took some time (some longer than others!).

As I sit here, the furnace is actually on  its second melt, which means that it is producing excellent glass, the doors to all of the furnaces and a kiln have been hooked up to pneumatic foot control (nice for when you are holding a blow pipe),which means they open and close without having to muscle them open and closed by hand. The vent hood has been enclosed for more efficient ventilation, a fan has been wired in for that vent hood, and some other equipment have also gotten some upgrades.

 

Over the course of the last several months I have ordered over 50 new glass colors, and I put in another order for over half of that amount just yesterday. I have ordered glass color that I think will make for really interesting pumpkins as well as expanded color choices for ornaments, increasing the choices ten-fold. Some of these colors are ones I have not used in my own professional production over twenty years of working in the field (so this is a big step). None of this has been cheap, but it makes for a better experience for all of the people who are eager to sink their teeth into some exciting new offerings at the studio. One of the upgrades has been making sign-up for classes or workshops something that you can do from your phone or computer online.

Beginning the first of October, I will be rolling out my new internet booking calendar.  This calendar will be available right here on this blog at www.staffordartglass.blog.  This calendar will allow you to book classes from the comfort of your mobile device or from your living room.  From now until the calendar goes live, there will be upgrades and changes being made to the calendar to make it more useful for most of the classes that will be taught at the studio. Even though it is up right now, changes are in the process of being made, so it is not just yet ready for prime-time (but soon!).

Here are some of the classes that will be offered beginning October 1st:

  • Blow Your Own Pumpkin – offered from October 1st through to November 18th. You can pick a thirty minute slot for a small pumpkin or two slots for a larger pumpkin (I will have examples of these two sizes when we get closer to our class roll-out).
  • Blow Your Ornament Ball (BYOB) from November 30th through to December 22nd.
  • Make Your Own Paperweight – available year round.
  • Make Your own Suncatcher – available year round.
  • Weekend Glass Blowing Intensive – the first weekend of each month (subject to minimum enrollment).
  • One-Day Glass Blowing Intensive – the second Saturday of each month (subject to minimum enrollment).

That said, this schedule is just a guide to make things easier for all involved.  However, if someone would like to make a pumpkin in January or even in May, all you need to do is look on the calendar and see if the time is available.  The same goes for ornaments. If you would like to blow an ornament in October to avoid making something in December, you are welcome to do that. The way the calendar and the classes are set up for single items, I have those designed so that an ornament can be made  within a 30 minute booking session (which is how the first calendar is set up—and yes, there may be individual calendars for different classes but I have to work out the coding for that first). Since all classes are individual and include one-on-one instruction (except for the one and two-day intensives) this makes scheduling much easier. In truth, it might only take 15 minutes to make an ornament or suncatcher, but I give you that time to make sure we cover all the bases while each and every person is here.  Likewise, a small pumpkin can be made in thirty minutes and a large one can be made in an hour (you would book two thirty minutes slots and let me know that you want to make a large pumpkin when you arrive). The elegance of the way these experiences are set up is that by doubling up on two 30 minute slots is you get the right pricing and enough time to make your piece.  It is a modular system I developed that makes scaling up simple and easy.

There are many things I do not know just yet about the full functionality of the calendar and how many options I will be able to include, but right off the bat I know that there are some options as I write this that will be available.  For example, this calendar will be able to utilize coupon codes so those of you who follow Stafford Art Glass at Facebook or on other social media sites like Twitter can grab coupon codes that will be announced there and bring them here for making your final booking. To take advantage of these, go to the site for Stafford Art Glass on Facebook, hit “Like” and get the latest codes and updates.  We are located on Facebook  here:

https://www.facebook.com/Stafford-Art-Glass-273860936858/

In instances where the calendar does not allow for the type of flexibility that I might have hoped, I will be announcing work-arounds in the event that someone wants something custom or different from the norm.  But as of right now, I am still learning how to make this calendar as flexible for your use as possible.  I am using one of the highest rated booking calendars out there available for the Word Press platform (it even takes payments) so I am expecting a high degree of functionality once I uncover all of the bells and whistles in the next few weeks.  Given how this past year has gone, I am a little gun shy about making promises about exactly how I expect something like the new booking system will work.  I just know that once I sink my teeth into it, I will be able to work through the software to help bring value to my customers.

If you subscribe to the blog, you will be kept up to date about any new classes or events happening that involve booking your place for an event.  While there will also be updates on Facebook, these can easily get buried under new posts. Word Press makes it so that you can receive updates through email as well as SMS (text message to your phone) which can be even more convenient for many of you. I can also provide class descriptions here that may be too lengthy for Facebook readers.

You will find that prices are inclusive for all of our classes. That means no pesky add-ons that you have to worry about. Anyone taking a class also receives 15% off all merchandise in the gallery as a special thank-you for educating yourself about what it takes to delve into the world of glass making.

In the meantime, until we reach the first of October, I will be working to produce samples of a full line of ornaments that will make deciding on an ornament color combination easier once you show for your time slots. I will do the same with sample pumpkin color combinations, too. Then, if you get here and can’t decide what colors you would like, I will have some samples that might make deciding easier.

Thank you all who have been following along for your patience!  My hope is that the changes will be welcome and will make everything just a little bit more easy. Here’s to a fun and exciting Fall!

Keep It Hot,

~Parker

Why Art

The Preamble

Note: In late October I began to dig out my studio after having sold my home and moved onto the studio property. While renovating a mobile home on the property originally intended for an employee to live in, I decided the best way to do it was if I lived in it during this period of transition. The studio was packed with belongings and I began to move out the things I wanted to keep and toss what I don’t need anymore.

The glass furnace was in the process of being rebuilt when I had a furnace block fall on my hand, nearly pinning me under the block. This catalyzed an effort to do what I had not done in years past, which was to add automation in the form of pneumatic cylinders controlled by foot pedals to open and close furnace doors.  Sounds like a simple thing, and it is, but the implementation wound up being more complicated and drawn out than expected.  But then, this can often be the case when engineering “one-off’s”.

The result has been a subtle but important transformation taking place at the studio.  The vent hood,which controls the ventilation was also updated in a significant way, essentially enclosing the vent hood completely in order to help make evacuating hot air from the studio more effective.  It will result in a more comfortable experience for me, my assistants, and for those taking classes there in the future.

The injury to my hand slowed me way down from where I planned on being, but it also opened up a new avenue that I am glad is now largely completed.  Despite delays from the engineering firm, I have managed to get all of the automation done that I have wanted to do for years but never did.  As a result, I am looking to the Fall of 2018 as a time when I will begin holding workshops again while also beginning production work again after a long hiatus teaching at the university.

I will be baking into my design of my website the ability to see the schedule and register for any and all classes from the convenience of your computer or mobile phone.  I am working with a web designer who will be including commerce solutions for purchasing work and for making the process of connecting with the studio more streamlined.  Those changes will be rolled out in the Fall, but for updates and important announcements, follow the studio on Facebook HERE.

If the link doesn’t work for your device, copy and paste this link into your browser:

https://www.facebook.com/Stafford-Art-Glass-273860936858/

 


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The “Why” (and How)

We create to express and communicate ideas, feelings, and experiences. The arc of art is so broad and takes in such broad swaths of considerations and mindsets. It’s been used to express religious fervor and religious ideas, political propaganda, social justice (speaking truth to power) as well as recreating the beauty of nature. Art accepts all comers. The only rule is that there are no rules. You get to make your own. How that winds up turning out is really up to the artist, and if you are a professional artist, your ideas need to hit a nerve in order to gain acceptance most often. If, however, you create art as a hobby, you are the freest of the free; you can create just as you wish to create. I have, as I have gotten older, sought a path through both of these polarities because I have found that my greatest discoveries came when I wasn’t worried about the bottom line. It has also served to inform my teaching at the university level as well as in my own studio.

Glass takes years to learn. It is gymnastic in the sense that there is a lot of muscle memory involved, and all of this takes time and patience.  The best glass workers have been at this for their whole lives and they make what they do look easy when it is anything but that.  When I began introducing people to glass I realized that there is this considerable gap that exists with people and their skill level in glass that disrupted their ability to enjoy the material as an expressive medium. As a result of this, I developed a way of working with students in the studio to help fill the technical gap for the time being and working on what they can do on a technical level straight out of the gate in producing glass objects.  This method has resulted in being able to give people from all walks the fullest experience in glass possible without having to spend years developing the requisite skills necessary.  Since glass is a very expensive medium, it makes learning very expensive also.  Not everyone wants to be a maestro, some are content with running around the block to see what glass blowing is all about.

This process is effectively 75% student work with 25% hand-holding by the teacher.  This 25% consists of techniques critical to the successful creation of glass objects and represent a technical level that can take weeks or months to master just one of them.  Instead of taking weeks worth of repetition, I pick up that part and we work together to ferry objects like ornaments, suncatchers, vases, bowls, and paperweights to their completion on a first-go. This is also why the workshops have been so popular.  Most studios do not provide this level of access to the glass for beginners. I have found that by teaching in this way, I can help provide a closeup introduction to glass without years of preparation and work. For those who are serious about learning glass, they will grab the bull by the horns and do what needs to be done to accomplish that level of mastery.  For everyone else, it seems my method as developed works very well for the beginner.

 

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A suncatcher made by a first-time student

 

My process is to encourage the student to follow the glass and what it wants to do.  This may not sound like the kind of control that is necessary for a medium like glass, but over years of experience, glass has a quality that when you allow it to be itself, can and does do some really amazing things.  Instead of working in a precisely controlled way, I suggest more room for surprises to occur for students so they can witness the expressive potential of glass.  As a result there are creations that are far more complex and interesting than if they had been carefully controlled. Don’t get me wrong, control is necessary in being able to reproduce results in a production environment, but this is not what we are doing in a class.  In a class we are trying to get the biggest bang for our buck here: we seek to explore as broadly as possible in a very limited time frame.  The student, then, gets a snapshot of the potential that glass has. The results are nothing short of amazing, though, and is one reason why even when I am not offering classes, I tend on average to field three to four inquiries a month about classes even though I have not offered them now for a number of years.

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Closeup of a student suncatcher

Some folks are content sitting and watching glass being made in the studio. The ability to sit and watch glass being blown is free here at the studio.  We encourage everyone who wants to to sit in and learn a thing or two. For those who are not content to sit on their hands and watch, there are the classes.

If you are interested in classes, or just to come watch glass being blown, announcements will be made publicly on my Facebook page. Classes will include offhand glassblowing, and torch worked glass (bead making). Glassblowing will be available first while the bead making studio has to be built around the torches I already have in-house and will take some time to build the tables, venting, and small kilns, tools, etc., in place before classes can be offered. My hope is that I will be offering both by next Fall. Please “like” my Facebook page  to remain up to date on events and classes there. For those who want to know when a class is being offered, I recommend also that you email me at info@staffordartglass.com and include “classes” in the subject heading.  This will enable me to bring up all of the inquiries over a period of time and respond to them very quickly and easily.  And no, we wont spam you.  If you want off the list, you will be removed promptly.  For the rest, there is the Facebook page below:

https://www.facebook.com/Stafford-Art-Glass-273860936858/

The Mystery Of Libya’s Desert Glass

I was on my last few hours of my open studio event recently, when in walks a woman who begins to tell me a story about how her father had gotten funding to study the presence of a naturally occurring form of glass in the desert of Libya in the ’50’s.

I was hooked because….well….chemistry, that’s why. And….glass of course!

You see, naturally occurring glass is rare because most often the glass is close to being pure silica simply because sand beds where the glass is formed is made up of almost exclusively silica. When you make a glass so pure as 90%+ a silica, it takes extraordinary temperatures to get the silica to go into a glass phase. It is why we humans have added things to silica to coax it down from the high temperatures required to melt it. Simply put, we use fluxes to achieve a lower melt temperature  

But the temperatures! My God! 
To melt pure silica you need temperatures in excess of 3100° Fahrenheit. It’s hotter than even the best constructed open air fire could hope to reach on earth. 
Without going into great detail, the types of magmas found coming up out of the earth have temperature ranges that depend on their mineral content. High silica magma, like the glass found in Libya, is recorded with a high mean temperature of 1472° Farenenheit. This is called Felsic magma and it’s lower temperatures are due to how magma, we believe, is formed in the earth, which is that iron is melted first, and then flows up through cracks and fissures in the earth into what we know to be volcanos and volcanic vents. As a result of this, sand, which we think lies at layers higher up, only tends to get a lesser heating effect so that it’s average temperature is lower than iron rich magma, whose temperatures are much higher.
Comparing the melting point of silica and it’s average melt temperature through natural means yields us a very broad temperature disparity. What gives? How on earth could this glass have been formed here so close to the surface of the earth where so much of this material has been found?
First, you should know that glass (or silica) does not have a discreet melting temperature. Instead, it has what we call a melting range. It’s not unlike how honey will change viscosity from thick to thin all depending on the temperature that is affecting it. So while silica forms a perfect union all on its own of a glass we call quartz glass (nearly pure silica) at 3100° F. it begins to go into a glass phase at lower temperatures. At 14-1500° F. silica is glass-like, but it’s also very much sand-like, too.  You would look at it and tell that its a very crude form of glass (very unlike the glass found in Libya).
The question on everyone’s mind has been, how did this Libyan desert glass form to begin with?
The Comet Theory
First, there are a lot of theories. One theory is that the silica was heated in our atmosphere as a result of a comet that fell to earth millions of years ago. This, the theory goes, was what created the extraordinary heat necessary to melt the silica.
But there are problems with this theory. A body falling to earth only takes a few minutes to go from our upper atmosphere to the surface of the earth, which may not be nearly enough time to heat up a comet and fuse the quartz into the glass that has been discovered on the desert floor. To make glass like what my visitorsfather studied in the ’50’s, you need enough time to really get the melt right. A meteor can enter our upper atmosphere and fall to earth within 15 minutes time (or less). Hardly enough time to get the silica cooking deep down in a comet.
The Volcano Theory

Another theory is that the silica was heated by volcanic means. Normally, however, we wind up seeing either basalt glasses, or very crude lower temperature glasses of the kind I described earlier. The Libyan glass is different from both of these kinds of volcanic glasses.
So as a result, researchers who have been studying this for a while now have looked at the region and have offered a new theory.

The Sol-gel Theory
When researchers began to study the geology of this area they found evidence of ancient volcanic activity. in fact in what they considered to be the bullseye of where most of the glass is found they also found a corresponding evidence of ancient volcanic activity in exactly the same area. Normally volcanic activity is not enough to melt silica into the type of glass that we find in the Libyan Desert glass.
There is a process however where silica can be heated over and over many times in order to create glass from silica. Researchers posit that the glass was made through a process called sol-gel which consists of small silica particles that melt and then slowly form glass, a process that could take many years of repeated heating and cooling in order to form a solid glass. One example of a sol-gel that you might be familiar with are opals, which are silica based particles along with other minerals that are repeatedly heated in volcanic vents that form the gems with rainbow colors that we know so well. The reason why the Libyan glass does not look like opals is because the conditions and the substance of the silica beds were very different than the ones in Australia that produce opals (which is a sol-gel process).
This theory offers the most likely possibility for how the Libyan glass was formed. While we can never be completely sure, it seems that in this one place on earth conditions were right many millions of years ago for this unique form of glass to be created.
I’m very thankful to have had such an interesting conversation with Robin who first told me about her father’s work because it put me on the path of a great mystery that lies in the sands of the Libyan desert. And of course, since it’s about glass, it naturally piqued my interest!
Source: http://nationalgeographic.org/encyclopedia/magma/

American Glass Manufacturers Under Fire

This just in…..this article is from Architectural Glass Arts.  I am including the article in its entirety for all who might be concerned about over reach of regulation from up on high.  Spread the word. -Parker

SOURCE LINK:

http://us1.campaign-archive1.com/?u=6b0adb646b23845dc5f96fed3&id=3a40357fe1


 

Advocate for Glass Art
View this email in your browser

If you’ve been following the news in the glass world…

You already know that Spectrum Glass is halting production and going out of business in the next few months. Uroboros Glass in Portland will be picking up production of the System 96 product line. However, the situation in Portland is growing out of control with knee jerk reactions to some sensationalist journalism not based on science, but based in fear and speculation. Production at Bullseye Glass is being suspended with the prohibition of use of the heavy metals necessary to produce colored glass.

There are a handful of glass manufacturers in the US who are being forced to introduce expensive equipment into their manufacturing process without a clear and reasonable timeline for implementing these procedures. If you would like to contact your Representatives in Washington to let them know that the glass art industry is a precious part of the US economy that we don’t want to see disappear due to unreasonable regulations, a sample letter is below. Feel free to change it up. If you’d like to learn more about the situation, there is a group on Facebook dedicated to Glass Artists for Air Quality.

To find your Senator: http://www.senate.gov/senators/contact/
To find your Representative: http://www.house.gov/representatives/find/

Dear Senator or Representative,
This week Spectrum Glass in Washington announced that after 40 years of producing colored art glass they will be closing their doors in July. They are the main American manufacturer of many types of colored art glass. This affects an estimated 30,000 Stained Glass, Fused Glass and Glass Blowing Artists, Stores, Art Studios and Hobbyists across America. Fortunately, arrangements have been made for Uroboros Glass in Oregon state to take over production of some of their Art Glass Product line. But there is still a huge problem threatening the American Art Glass Community.
The entire U.S. art glass industry is now being evaluated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) with respect to potential new regulations. Spectrum is the first to announce it’s closure, but other glass producing companies are also evaluating their options. Uroboros Glass has suspended production of two-thirds of their glass while EPA re-evaluates their standards. Long-standing interpretations of air quality regulations are being reevaluated, and if new regulations are applied to our industry, it would require substantial capital expenses. Spectrum Glass Company has operated well within existing environmental guidelines and has been the only stained glass manufacturer to employ baghouse technology on furnace exhaust. Still, they have already accrued extraordinary, unanticipated expenses since the start of the EPA evaluation and cannot withstand additional investments of an unknown scale. These business collapses will have a ripple effect across the country.
What you need to know:
  • The stained and colored glass industry is a small, but home grown American manufacturing phenomenon. It’s unique in the world, provides steady manufacturing jobs for American workers, and is an exporting industry as well.
  • This industry of just six manufacturers is facing $2.5-3.5 million of capital investment due to regulatory changes with no advance warning. This investment may prove too much for several of them to bear.
  • Government intervention is needed for them to meet the goals of the new regulations in such a short time frame.
  • The industry is willing to meet new regulations, but it needs reasonable time to do so.
  • The manufacturers are all owned by single individuals and their families, who work daily at their plants. They don’t have the resources of publicly traded corporations to simply pay up and move on.
  • These manufacturers supply thousands of other businesses and craftsmen who depend on their unique glass styles to complete their work. They are now at risk of being put out of work themselves.
  • The very suppliers who have created the iconic glass of the American stained glass legacy are at risk due to this situation.
  • There is currently no actual verification that the glass industry is connected to the detected toxins. EPA did moss testing, a new science, which raised public concern. They retested and found the levels to be safe. The current EPA review and imposed freeze of production is all based in fear not fact.
I want to protect the environment, but I do not want to crush an American Art Industry on assumed causation.

Please do whatever you can to prevent the loss of small businesses, jobs and and entire art form. The American Art Glass community needs your help.

Regards,
Your Name

Copyright © 2016 Architectural Glass Arts, All rights reserved.

 

New Year (Glass) Wishes

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Over the last few years I have been taking photographs of my glass and finding that the more I zoom into the work, the more interesting the landscapes are that I get.  This is a process that believe it or not does not involve any post-production manipulation like filters or special effects. Everything that you see is as the camera saw it.  The difference for me with many of my pictures is HOW I choose to shoot the work.  Again, this is using direct sunlight, no special effects of any kind.  The key has been how I shoot the work, the lenses I use, the light I have and the object that I am photographing.  In my case, I have determined that some work photographs better than others in this way.

As we near a new year, I am reflecting a little on some of the pieces that came about this past year and I thought I would share some with you.  These are just a few of them.


 

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Some of my pictures look like surreal landscapes, maybe even from another world.  This is due to the fact that I am giving people a view into glass that most people do not see.  I am shooting glass objects at a high degree of magnification and under very high resolution.  As a result, I might turn a half-inch square into a 72 inch square.  Under these conditions, levels of detail emerge that the naked eye simply may never see.  In other cases, I am not photographing quit this tightly.  In this case, the glass will most often LOOK more like….glass.

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I like both ends of this spectrum and I have shot thousands of photographs now using my own blown glass as a subject.  You might wonder what I am trying to achieve.  Its a good question. In the beginning, I had no idea where the work was going.  I was photographing my work because a friend had sent me some photographs she took of some of my orbs up close. They were high resolution.  I blew one up and kept blowing it up until I realized that the lens she used continued to give good resolution of the glass surface.  This got me thinking and exploring.  I still am not sure where this type of work is going, except that I like it and I am going to continue doing it.  Something interesting happens when you allow yourself to not know where something is headed; it is suddenly free to go anywhere….even places you had never considered before.

From 0862-2Copyright

As I get older, technique does not dazzle me as much as it used to.  Its important, don’t get me wrong, its just that there is more to artistry than just technique. Sometimes our biggest problems lie in what we are unable to imagine….because we have limited ourselves creatively too much.  I see this all the time in school where people want to play it safe and get a good grade. The real fun is out on a limb, never sure when you might plop down on the ground.  Its there, on that limb, that the good fruit is nearly always plucked.

So often I find I am limited by my own biases of what I think I should be doing or that I am capable of doing that I literally squeeze out vast tracks of possibilities in my creative life.  As artists, we have to do this in order to create work that is coherent and focused, but this is a sword with two sides.  I use this work to keep me with something new and different running in the background.  And really, does it need to be anything?  After all, what are most of the “beautiful” materials in the world but a deep visceral reaction to things that are shiny, brilliant and brightly colored? When we say “eye candy” this is what we mean.

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Often “eye candy” gets smeared with a sense of vacuity though, as though this feeds the eye but not the soul. I am not entirely sure that this is so. In fact, I think that our need for great color and brilliance is so total that we could probably look at these kinds of things and be fed at a deep level.  In fact, this is just what we do when we look at a cut diamond, or a shiny metal surface.  What I am saying is that we ought not feel bad for loving the simple pleasure of a brilliant color.  After all, art emulates nature, and what we see in my glass is what we also see in nature, and it is that very nature that has informed our likes and dislikes.

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I find that when I am creating this work, I am an explorer.  I am seeking to see how far into the glass I can go to see what there is to see, to even go beyond the eye and its capacity to see the ordinary in order to pluck something from it that is extraordinary.  These are interesting pieces in their own right, and as they continue to emerge in an ever-interesting array of new forms and landscapes, I remain engaged in seeing where it will take me. Oh, and Happy New Year, everyone!  Here’s hoping that 2016 is a great year!Thanks for all your support!

 

For A Snowy Day

For the last month I have been busily making ornaments (done!) and small Gaia lamps (done!), and am now doing the grinding and drilling of the vases to light them.  I have begun making the large pieces now, and have two of eight made, at a studio in Northern Virginia.  Over the last week I have had two people claim their perks from the campaign.  One was a family who had a series of pieces made; two paperweights, a small drinking glass for a delightful little lady, a  small gold ruby ruffled vase, and a large pink and purple Nautilus bowl. Its been a lot of shuttling back and forth in cold weather, but worth it.

Once the pieces have been drilled and lit, all items will next be packed and shipped.  The weather has been glitchy the last couple of weeks, resulting in the family that came recently to reschedule due to a power outage.

©Parker Stafford
©Parker Stafford

Today, with snow coming down, I hope to get out to the studio to get more large vases assembled before the weather gets so bad that we have another power outage.  Fingers crossed!  Unfortunately, in the area where the studio is located, power outages are far too common.

So before I head out I am including these pieces that were made a number of years ago as examples of pieces that can be made once the studio here is operational.  These pics are all from the same piece, which goes to show just how much variety that can be packed into a piece such as this.  I hope it helps brighten your day, especially if you hail from our neck of the woods, which is facing as much as a foot of snow in the next 24 hours.  Enjoy!  Stay warm!

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Diary Of A Crowfunding Effort

Brie Jackson & Parker
Brie Jackson of WSLS News in Matrix Gallery after the interview

 

In early December after considerable thought, I decided to begin a crowdfunding effort on the site indiegogo.com.  I arrived at this decision based on two main factors, both which converged together into one main stream.  First, I had been contacted by a number of people beginning in October inquiring if I was going to have glass blowing classes in the Fall like I had done every year for the last four.  My studio has opened its doors to the public for an event/class that I call the BYOB which stands for “Blow Your Ornament Ball.”  It is an opportunity for the person right off the street to design and help make their own Christmas ornament or suncatcher. Besides being a lot of fun, it is also very educational.  It has been so popular that by October and into November of this year, I had to put off close to 20 people about whether I would be able to do this event.  This is just how popular the event has become.  These were all people coming to me, inquiring.

I teach part time at Radford University, and for the first time since I began teaching in 2010, the classes which I was assigned did not have enough enrollment for the courses to go forward, which meant that I was without an important part of income.  Teaching made it easier to be able to open the studio for key periods during the year.

At about the same time, I had finally gotten the supplies I needed to make good on an old promise to a friend and colleague about turning a vase she had bought into a lamp.  As it turned out, her request was something that fit neatly into something I had been wanting to do for YEARS with the particular line she had inquired about which was converting a hand blown vase into a usable lamp.  It was one of those perfect kinds of matches.  I even had a picture from another client and friend from California who had put a candle in a piece from the same line in order to show me how how her piece looked.

The bottom line was that these vases would make a perfect side-step into lighting, and I already had people already interested. I set about making the alterations necessary to make this vase into a light feature.  The glass wall was drilled out and a light kit with an online switch was added.  It was a simple yet elegant solution.  I finished the fabrication at 3:00 one afternoon in November and couldn’t wait to see what it would look like in subdued light. The effect that it had on my foyer and my study was…..magic.

The Birth of a Campaign

When I went online with the new lamp picture to share with friends, the response was strong.  People were asking when they could get one of their own.  The only problem was there wasn’t a way that I could see to get the studio operation quickly enough to capitalize on all of the interest that had been stirred as a result of my initial reveal.

After some consideration, I decided to do the one thing that I had not done before, which was to FIND a way to raise the funds to bring this product to market.  The added benefit would be that, with an open studio in the winter, people would get to blow their own glass like they had become accustomed to over the years.  This was how the campaign was born.  With about a week worth of working up a budget, I arrived at a target cost for this project, which would enable me to open the studio and launch this new product, now called The Gaia Lamp across the nation with galleries that sold handmade American craft. I learned very quickly the ins and outs of crowdfunding and once I felt like I had learned enough, I began sketching out the beginnings of a campaign.

I decided to run what is called a “fixed” campaign.  In simple terms this is all or nothing.  Meet the goal by a given deadline and you are funded.  Miss that goal amount by the deadline, and you don’t get funded. People urged me to do a flex campaign, explaining that anything was worth something.  As I thought about that, I found that for me, it was beside the point to do that.  I wanted to be able to DO the project, not a PART of it.  Flex meant doing only a part of it (and really, who knew what part would get done, right?).  It also meant that the project might not even get done!  Now tell me, who wants that?

Flex funding is good for people who are raising funds for medical expenses where ANY amount is appreciated, and for nonprofits seeking to raise funds for their cause.  If people were going to give to MY campaign, I wanted to be able to have something to show them for it.  I wasn’t ready to compromise on this point; I wanted my donors to feel a sense of accomplishment in their efforts just as I also wanted to feel accomplishment and the knowledge that I now had the opportunity to move forward with the project.  I wanted it to be a win-win.  The heat was on, the clock would begin, and the race was soon going to be on….

The campaign began on December 1st and went until January 7th.  There was a consideration made for this being the Christmas season, which extended the original date times by an extra week.  I am glad I did this, but as it turned out, the campaign goal of $5,600.00 was met nine days before the deadline.  My concern was that we would have a dead zone for about a week straddling Christmas.  That was the thinking that drove the strategy in terms of time.

The first week was nothing short of a scorcher.  The campaign achieved 42% of its goal in five days.  This put the campaign in the fourth spot prior to being on the main page for Indiegogo in my design category internationally.  That meant that there were only four other projects that were performing better than mine in the world.  This boosted my visibility on the Indiegogo platform and resulted in people giving to the campaign who did not know me or were outside my own personal network or community.It is worth to mention that when you can achieve a given amount of donations in a short period, it will boost your visibility on most of the crowdfunding sites.  Your ability to hustle and get returns winds up boosting you on the site, which further helps your campaign by getting you attention you might not otherwise have.

Media Coverage

There were two newspaper articles written after the goal was met. I also had a news channel interview on WSLS with Brie Jackson about the effort which was very helpful.  I learned that all of the coverage I was getting was showing me just how important it is to be doing this kind of promotion as a matter of course in a business. The effort pushed me to do more than I had done before, and I think that this helped me to dust off some of my skills at self promotion that had gotten a little dry and maybe even stale with complacency and time.  I figured that even if the campaign was not successful, I would have put a spot light on what it is that I do and the products and services I offer, including the design dreams I have. I know that this might sound beside the point, but this effort taught me some important lessons that I needed to revisit, which was to learn how not to be resistant to tooting my own horn.

The Metrics

In the graphic below I have a screen shot of the campaign once it reached 104% and was very close to the deadline.  I have since gotten just over 109% of the goal with the campaign today, which is its deadline.  You can see the first week as the big surge forward followed by a lull that then went on to slowly grow over time.  The trend line was always upward, even if the angle of that line made me nervous at the time.  Would I make it with this kind of line?  Well, as I can tell you, ANYTHING can happen, and did.  The campaign went on with this up and down for a few weeks before the “big bang” took place, which had the effect of rocketing the campaign within shooting distance of the $5,600.00 goal.

indiegogo campaign final

In my case, I used Facebook at the main means of getting the word out, with newspapers and television news helping out a lot.  Since I was unable to properly track traffic from my newspaper and television exposure, its hard for me to say whether it had a material effect.  For those of you out there curious about running a campaign, indiegogo does have some good tools that help to track traffic and donations coming from a site that has a link to your campaign.  While I did not have any donations coming from the link on indeigogo for the tv news story, for example, that does not mean that someone didn’t bookmark my campaign for consideration later.  These tools do help, though, to show where donors and activity is coming from, and its important that you provide your campaign link because it will help you track where your contributions are coming from.

Another metric that indiegogo uses is logging the domains where traffic is coming from, not per isp, but by country.  As a result of this, I was able to see what visitors indexed by country were visiting my campaign page.  In the screen shot below you can see the first page of the most numerous page views for the campaign and where they were coming from.

indiegogo campaign2 12-28

The Power Of The Tweet…Blog?

While I was told that Twitter was king (or Queen) for campaigns, I only had about 30 followers (really) when this all began and had not had much luck finding out a suitable way to get people to sign up to get tweets from me.  Instead, again, Facebook was my most used social media outlet.

I blogged and found that there was very little sharing of my blog posts, which was largely due I think to both my level of followers as well as the type of followers I had. This is not a criticism of them at all, and is likely more about how I have chosen to write on the blog. I was not “plugged in” to the entrepreneurial universe with my blog, that was not its main focus. Perhaps my blog posts are too long and might not encourage people who are action-based to read and participate.  They might be too cerebral, too thought-based, I considered. I did have a platform with my blog, but when it came time to begin making some noise, I am not so sure that it was that helpful for getting the word out.  To break out of my own limited circle of readers, I needed to have outlets picking up my posts and sharing them or leading traffic to them.  In the end, my blogging was not a significant factor in garnering donations.  It did, however, serve to inform people who came from Facebook, for example, who wanted to read more about the campaign and saw the link on my page.

Perhaps if I had galleries following me, perhaps if I had crowdfund enthusiasts following me, then perhaps I would have been able to use this tool better.  Note to self; this is something to work on.  And really, to be truthful, my blog is a way to provide content about my business to people who are interested in hot glass and the studio in a more expansive way (instead of the short quips of twitter and Facebook).  It is an opportunity for me to discuss issues that may even be tangential but connected to making art, design, and hot glass.  I also use it occasionally as a tool for informing my art students where I work part time, and it may be that this represents a sudden shift in my content and might even put readers off who follow my blog, I don’t know.  Its been something of an experiment, and is one I will keep working on.  It may be that in order to gain more interest my post will become more trimmed down to meet the growing shortening “quips” we see on the internet.  Sadly, our world is becoming more like this as we are presented with content nonstop that all seeks to grab out attention.  I must admit that my interests with the blog are more along the lines of reading a chapter in a book, something to think about, delve into, to consider.  Perhaps I need to think about expanding my content to include more about my field, people in my field, and about how global influences are at work.  And really, anyone with ideas, I am all over it.  I have long thought that a trade of posts would be great….interviews with other artists….a round table….or posts that include gallery owners about who what when where and why.

The past week has been a busy one for me with ordering the supplies needed for the project as well as getting ready for a donor party at the studio, which I am hoping we can swing by the 24th come heck or high water.  Finishing first and early has its benefits.  And if you are reading this and you shared the news or gave, you did good!  You really did do a great thing that goes beyond just one simple campaign.  It gave me hope back, it gave me a place to create again and to launch a new product.  It has also made it possible for many people to come out and see what their own creativity has to offer them.  And that is a really wonderful thing.  <3

Onward and upward!  A village did it!

HERE IS THE CAMPAIGN LINK

Indiegogo Campaign Goal Reached

Campaign announcementWhat an interesting experience this has been.  There were those who expressed doubt in the beginning, but I stuck to my guns and called upon the village and the village answered loud and clear.  The crowdfund on indiegogo.com is now complete with 105% funding so far with a week yet to go on the clock.  For those who wanted to get in on the perks I made available during the campaign, those are available for a limited time….until January 7th.  After that, the site goes inactive and the perks go away.

The level of commitment people have shown for the campaign has been nothing short of inspirational. It helps to show me the kind of support there is here for the arts not just locally, but all over the country.  Donations and perks were snatched up by people in California, Washington State, New Jersey, Alberta Canada, North Carolina, and Virginia.  This bodes very well for moving forward into the next phase of the studio’s operation. With over two dozen people  asking if they could come blow glass during the Fall, it has been word of mouth and fond memories of the fun folks have had in the studio in the past that have kept them inquiring even when the studio was temporarily shuttered.  The good news is that hot glass will be back in the New River Valley!

My thanks go out to my 60 donors and even more who shared the status of the campaign on their Facebook pages.  All of this resulted in building awareness and enough buzz to get me where I am with full funding. With all of your help, I will finally get to light the lamp!

In the days to come I will be busy ordering the supplies needed for the campaign and getting the furnace back online. I will be setting up appointments for people who chose as their perks and opportunity to blow their own glass as well as making a slew of the Gaia Lamps, which was the center of this funding effort.  These pieces will be marketed nationwide and sold through craft galleries across the U.S.  I will be announcing a party for the backers to the campaign soon where we will get to light the lamps, eat, drink, be merry and blow some glass!  Tentatively the date scheduled for this is the weekend of January 24th beginning in the evening.  Check my facebook page Stafford Art Glass for more details.

You can reach the indiegogo campaign HERE.

Crowdfunding Campaign Update!

Mug_FInal_On_BlackI began my crowd funding effort on Indiegogo.com a few weeks ago, and the clock is ticking away, and I thought I’d take a moment and update you on this holiday-straddling fund raising effort.  While it seeks to launch a new product, the reach of this effort goes beyond just the launch.  It opens a studio that has had more new designs coming out of it than ever before, and has been limited by the ups and downs of the economics of this past year. There was a furnace door that literally fell apart in January of this past year that forced the closure of the studio, and then the loss of some courses I normally teach each semester at the local University set me back financially such that I never fully recovered enough to fund the re-opening of the studio at the busiest time of the year.  Lots of people have been asking when will they be able to come blow glass again?  “It was so fun!  We can’t wait to bring more of our friends when you reopen!”  has been the refrain from many people.  But what to do? If I could not do it, could my fans and friends help?  Could the power of the crowd, the village, the grass roots do it? Could there be enough people out there who think this is a cool enough thing that they’d be moved to get behind it…even if it meant only sharing it on Facebook?

The result was to reach out and make this a community effort.  Opening the studio will also mean that locals will get to come and learn about glassblowing by blowing glass themselves. I have had many poeple ask about this yearly tradition.  I have been putting them off and also suggesting they support the campaign so that their donation might do double-duty; helping open the studio AND allowing them to take their donation and apply it to a mini class or workshop.  For those who do not want to blow glass themselves, just having the furnaces running means you can watch as objects of beauty take shape before your eyes.

My campaign, which is on Indiegogo.com has a number of analytics that lets me see where my donations are coming from.  I have had just under $400.00 worth of donations come from this blog platform.  Facebook has thus far been heads and shoulders above the rest with about 1K in donations coming from my business page and personal page.  My own contribution to gathering donations seems to have gotten first place.  These are sources that came to Indiegogo by way of an email from my friends or family.  I have had about a thousand visits of the campaign since it began.  I get to see where page views are coming from, and the most is from the U.S., but Ireland and Great Britain is in line, with France, Italy, and then a long tumble of other views from all over the world.  A handful have been from Russia.  It has been interesting and educational.  People are looking for the next big things to fund, obviously.

Currently I am at 60% funding.  I have 40% yet to go.  the campaign ends on the 7th of January and honestly, the campaign has surprised me every step of the way.  I have been bewildered, mystified, frustrated, and elated, all at different times.

Frustration has come in the form of people not understanding how it is that I am not wanting their money bu their willingness to show that they think the campaign is worthwhile.  Really.  With 30 people all thinking this is worthwhile, they are all sharing the news and helping to build a network of interested people.  Do the math; 30 people with an average of 350-450 people on their facebook friend list all seeing news of the campaign = 10,500-13,500 people .  You can see how quickly the numbers add up.  And the donations come in.  With numbers like these, you don’t need BIG donations, you just need smaller ones when the reach gets this big.  I have been nudging and asking and cajoling people who want to do a story on this work, but so far, there have been no takers.  But as my advice was given, I am not taking anything personally.  I am on to the next opportunity to find what will work.  And its working. This is truly a community effort, although the community has emerged as being all across the world, all over our nation and into Canada.  I have been sending out press releases, I have been on the local news (links to the story below).  It has been very educational.  If nothing else, I have expanded my reach, done a lot of networking, and done a kind of marketing I have never done before.

There is more to go.  Will you share news of this on your social media?  Check out my Facebook.  I have shared a few pictures of glass that has been made by members in my local community.  Its been fun.  I do a lot of outreach.  I offer classes at an affordable level that are fun and educational.  I have had every size kid there is from the youngest being 5 years old to the oldest being 91.

So here is the campaign link to see the perks you can still order from the campaign!  Check me out on Facebook, too!

The story on WSLS

Facebook!

Campaign on Indiegogo!

Thanks to everyone who has made the campaign what it is so far.  I could not have done it without you!  <3