Recently I began expanding my offering of sun-catchers and began showing them to my fans on Facebook. I began by starting with the solid colors first, it seemed the right thing to do.
I hung them in my gallery and took a quick shot of them: “Here are the first of my new line” I quipped to my fans on Facebook. But then my fans began asking me if I would be selling what turned out to be a rainbow color of sun-catchers as a group. I replied, “But of course!” The rest as they say, is history.
But I need to have a little better photos than just a quick one-shot in the gallery, so I took them in to be photographed in the photo studio recently, and then cleaned them up so each piece could be seen clearly without anything else competing with them. I spoke with my web designer about setting these up as a special when they go live on the site, a great price that you just can’t say no to, and perfect for those who have supported me all these years. All but one color is represented, and what is missing is a turquoise globe, partly because I want to use a slightly better color which I don’t have in stock at the moment, but it will be along soon.
These pieces are small ornament-sized sun catchers. That means that they are approximately 3 1/2 inches in diameter. Blown entirely by hand, these are made in the studio here in Newport, Virginia, and will be ready to order online and shipped anywhere in the United States and abroad. I have a video that was recently posted on my Facebook page which you can see if you go back about a week in the feed. You can also just click on “‘videos” and see the videos that have been produced over the last few years to get your dose of glass bliss.
Each piece can be purchased individually, too, but there will be a special price when ordering these lovelies as a group (of seven).
These pieces add a splash of color to a window, and with the many color combinations will allow you to curate your collection as you grow how many that you have. Color combinations within one globe are coming in the following weeks and months. If you would like to know about when these are online and when I will be offering specials on them, head over to my page on Facebook where I share all the good stuff for a growing audience of enthusiastic followers. You wont be disappointed! Just find me there at @staffordartglass
Large companies can pour millions into new products each year, hiring experts called consultants to help direct them in their dream of new products and new directions for their businesses. In the world of the artist, this too also happens, but on a mini-micro scale. You wake up one morning and you say to yourself that an old idea that has been rolling around in your head and heart needs to be embarked on. For an artist, this means hundreds of hours of learning this new kind of work and who knows how much money poured into the effort. When it comes to something like this, there is absolutely no guarantee of any sort of return. You go by your instinct, your gut, and your wits. And you want to know something? My experience has been that many of my most compelling and interesting designs that I personally love often find only a luke-warm reception at least in the beginning. I have actually shelved what would later become one of my most popular pieces for over a year before returning to it. When it hit the shelves people looked at it like it was something from another world. That is to say, they didn’t see it as the unique thing that it was; they saw it as unrecognizable. This is sometimes the problem with the new.
Before a line of new work is even hot off the presses, it comes under no scrutiny, no flag waving crowds or lines of adoring fans. Unless you can do something that often strikes most artists as utterly distasteful: you hype the living shit out of it. You hype it so that normal people who have never bought art before sit up and take notice. They take notice because, well, they are so tuned into the hype. I am not talking about what an artist normally does to promote themselves. I am talking about what some people will do in order to bring in the crowds, people who might not have come in the first place. These people are more drawn by the interest of others, the crowd, the feeding frenzy. To do this on a large scale means celebrity or the feeling of possible celebrity. And who doesn’t love a celebrity? A quiet unknown who is rising through the ranks? Still, its hype most often, anew form of hype that doesn’t look like hype but still…it is.
The truth is, there is a very small number of people who don’t see the hype, don’t care about the hype and buy with their heart. And these people are actually the visionaries, the people there when the work was not hyped, was actually affordable, and are often of modest means. the people who come rushing for the hype are the folks who will put down $40,000.00 for the “next big thing” because, well, it looks good on them or in their house. What we are talking about is status. It is also worlds away from authentic art making (unless you create artifice in order to pander to the rich).
Artists are often caught in this odd cross-fire of authenticity meeting popularity when things take off for them. The desire to hype can get the better of some art dealers and gallery owners, and artists too. Look, we all want to prosper, but at what price does this happen? For those who “make it” there are now funds that allow a person to do so much more than wonder if they will make the bills this month or the next, whether the six thousand poured into the new line of work will yield anything of substance. The number of artists who were obscure in their time is right up there with the fervency of hype. Renoir would say how he bought his villa with a painting of an empty vase sold ten years previously. Picasso would sign checks knowing they would never be cashed because, well, his signature. It is indeed a strange world.
But look, the lifeblood of an artist isn’t the money. It is the excitement over the next new thing, the new idea, the new process, the new way of saying perennial messages that have been born into each generation and recur in slightly different ways from one century to the next. Our dreams are those of the Romans, the Greeks, the Pelleponesians, the Shakespeares, the kings and queens of Ur, all told now in a recognizable dialect. Before it is a “thing” we are there in the innocence of the moment in the studio, scribbling on napkins, sending notes to friends, or making the discovery that could change a lifetime. We were the true believers before anyone dared to even dream it. It is this piece of our lives that the beloved collector wants a piece of…the early work, albeit a little rough around the edges, but is work that suggests that there are more pieces that will follow, and if the artist is lucky enough to sell enough to fund the next round of work, they do, and the work evolves. And hopefully, the work evolves fast enough that it stays ahead of the curve so that the artist can turn enough of a profit so that s/he can make more….and survive to make for another day. This is not an easy proposition because artists have to be both lovers and shrew business people. I can tell you that it is hard to do both equally well, and as history shows us, artists tend to be lovers over the shrewd type. This is so because it takes a huge amount of passion just to get your through the 80 hour days, weeks, months, that are required to become good at something. And for an artist, this can mean remaking yourself with new techniques and ways of working every once in a while. You don’t get there with shrewdness. You don’t calculate passion or love. You simply have to have it in you as a lover. And like all great lovers, you can’t be thinking about dollar signs when you are throwing yourself into the next big thing. To do this requires a singular sense of authenticity, passion, and love. Anything else simply robs the work of the life that animates the work, that gives it that presence that is often unnoticed by the great unwashed but that the lovers of art pick up on and see. It takes a lover to know a lover, even if one does not make art and the other does.
So it is that yesterday I had this “congealing moment.” I know how that sounds, but I cannot think of a better term that feels so equal to what actually happens….The moment involved an idea I have had in my head literally for decades that involved a type of work that I have considered doing in glass. I just wasn’t completely sure how I would do it. My mind had been putting these pieces together off and on for a long time, but I just didn’t know exactly what the end result would be. It was a bit like staring at Monet’s paintings of haystacks early in the morning…..they were images that had some shapes, yes, a suggestion of form, but were largely vivid blurs in my mind. That really is how these kinds of pieces can be in our minds. I know that other artists do the same thing because I see it in my art students. They draw a quick sketch and then say, “I will “art it up” Mr. Stafford….you know, I will make it awesome!”
So really what is happening is there is something that is not completely fleshed out for the artist in their mental conception of the work that they just know they will get worked out in the final work. They just know, right? So sometimes that golden moment happens, that bit of genius that flows out into the work, and sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes we kind of waive our hands in the air, explaining a new idea without really knowing what it will be like.
(“Insert some kind of colorful awesomeness here _____”)
It isn’t that we are fooling ourselves as artists. In fact, this sense we often have, that it will be awesome, is quite simply derring-do. It is born out of confidence in ourselves, and it is ballsy. As a result, I am loathe to be too critical of it. I was in fact in just such a place, parked with my idea for over a decade (at least) while this idea, apparently, gestated very slowly in my mind or creative spirit. And then it happened. It happened very quickly, almost too rapidly for me to even notice. If I had been too distracted, it would have been gone and I might not have even noticed it. Look, I have hundreds, thousands, of ideas a lot like this fleeting through me. It is just how it is. And most often, this happens in a state that is different form ordinary consciousness. As a result, unless you sit with the idea and hold it there, it can literally just evaporate in exactly the same way that a dream you had last night is nearly impossible to recall. Steve Jobs once described all the things he “knew” when he was on LSD that he completely forgot when he came back down to ordinary consciousness….but he knew that it was something and he wanted to add a little piece of that in his work, which he did. So, yeah.
I didn’t need LSD to get to that moment. It was all there, fleshed out in the moment clear as day. It was so complicated that I knew that in order to work it out, I would have to possibly spend months developing enough elements just in order to develop the work. These pieces depart completely from everything I have done and dip into art. How they are done is through a series of layers of imagery that are literally carved out of layers of glass at room temperature and then layered into the glass. On the one hand, I could wind up with a cheap Venetian looking “fish bowl” (you know those….they look like fish in a bowl and are made by layering all these elements in them) or I could on the other, push the idea so far that I come up with the level of complexity I am looking for, which is not unlike a multidimensional “trip” through a dream world that actually is beginning to look a lot like how complex our lives have gotten today. The trick, I know, as I waive my hands in the air, is to invest the “landscape” of these glass pieces with the level of complexity that keeps them from being cute or quaint and pushes them into new territory altogether. And that, dear reader, is the hard part of art. It separates the girls from the women and the boys from the men. Hopefully in the end it serves to unite us all in a new kind of vision. 😉
So that is what is on the plate for now. Naturally, I can’t say too much about it right now, not until I develop the work because until I do that it is much too easy for people to take an idea and run with it. And that is the other side of the coin, but I will spare you that dimension of our work as artists.
The new work will mean that I will do something unusual, which is I will need to create photographs, images, and drawings, all of which will be put down on paper to form the basis of the imagery that will be cast into place with these pieces. And to do them well will mean that the imagery remain crisp. That will mean selecting certain colors over others. There will be choices that will have to be made that will be exacting, like building a three-layered canvas made of glass that you will be able to see through. Some will seem like dreams, some like memories. Perhaps some will fill the space with a sense of life. Will they? That will be up to all of the efforts made in the studio and out of it. For now, there is a lot that needs to be done in the moment that will lead up to determining whether this work will be worth the time and trouble. These are the untold hours, the invisible hours, that go to make a new line of work what it is. And this is the life of the artist. More than money, more than anything else, this is what gets my blood pumping.
I am in the midst of a crowdfunding campaign to raise resources to make repairs and get my studio operational so that I can make and launch a new product, which is a fusion of art glass with lighting. This is a grassroots effort with national reach. The Gaia Lamp which this project funds will get works into the hands of galleries of fine craft all across the United States. The campaign is a fixed campaign, which in crowdfunding lingo means that this is an “all or nothing” effort. I have a goal of $5,600.00 for this project. If I fall short, donations, which are being held by the campaign platform indiegogo.com, will be returned. That means I am under the gun and on the clock.
Getting the word out is huge for campaigns like this. I have tried to impress my family and friends with the thought that I am less concerned with donation and much more with their being willing to share updates of the campaign to friends. When I have three friends that share my news on Facebook, for instance, the views of my posts will double and triple. Imagine if I could get twenty people doing this on a regular basis! This is something I have termed “Virality” and is what makes small things become big things. And not a penny is spent; it is leveraging the power of the internet. So to do that, let’s talk about what is so cool about all of this….
I am a maker of fine craft in the American Studio Glass Movement. This is one of the newest establish craft movements in the U.S. which began in 1965 when Harvey Littelton taught the first graduate program in glassblowing. My teacher was one of Harvey’s students. I was lucky to learn with Bill in the sunset of his career teaching at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale. This movement has brought new ideas, new forms, and new energy into the craft movement. It continues to grow, too! This is really something for a medium that is sooo ancient! I am also part of the American Craft Movement, something built on small studios that are keeping the old traditions alive in a world soaked in machine made objects. Cheap and useful, these objects lack the human touch, the sense of design and delight. Have you ever felt what a blown tumbler feels like in your hand? Okay, you have never felt one of MY tumblers. I make them ergonomic and intimate to the touch. Everyone notices the difference. Customers speak of my tumblers always sitting dirty in their sink; they are the go-to object. It is easy to just say that American Craft is overpriced stuff, and it entirely misses the mark. We have been dumbed down by cheap goods.
During my campaign I have partnered with a local gallery to help spread the word. After a reporter had been to my studio last year to blow glass, she caught wind of the campaign and spread the word to one of the reporters where she works and I got a call about doing an interview for the campaign. That interview happened yesterday and aired on the late news. Being able to get this kind of coverage is big and has the potential to push the campaign forward. Every eye, every voice, every heart who wishes to extend the reach is what is needed.
Right now the campaign is at 53%. THIS is very good! I am very pleased with the progress so far. Surprised, actually. But this is also the point where many campaigns lag or slow. We are also coming up against Christmas, too, which is probably going to be like a week-long dead spot. And I anticipated this, which is why the campaign is going until January 7th.
The interview went pretty well, all in all. I sought to emphasize the grass roots effort, how this campaign will happen by every person willing to share a status or reblog a post. Perhaps in a bid to grab attention and raise awareness, the threat of a Grinch was added into the mix. Times have been hard this year, no doubt, but its not something that brightens hearts. What does, is my willingness to be as resourceful as I can be and continue to move forward after difficulty. Triumph of the human spirit.
So here I am and I am reaching out to let you know that this very cool thing is happening. You can be a part of it. If you want to share, that would be great! If you want to write, I am all over it. If you want to give, I would point you toward the campaign site to decide if you would like a perk. There are lots of them!
I have an E-book I call “The Guide” which is a compilation of all of the tips and hints I have given my customers over the years about how to clean and care for glass. This includes things many people don’t know, like how glass cleaners aren’t even used by many glass workers. Wanna know that secret mix? Or how about a way to clean glass that uses NO cleaning compounds at all and is highly effective? The Guide also shows you how best to light your artglass for a variety of situations. I show how you can decide and size a room for your glass without having to plunk down the money for a contractor. I show you ways that you can do this in an exact way, simply and with a minimum of expense. I include historical facts about glass and I also go into the chemistry of glass in plain language in order to help you to better understand why blown glass IS different from other commercially made glass. Includes diagrams and photos. 27 pages. Available for a $2.00 donation.
There are many other perks that include glassblowing. I had someone today asking if they could come blow glass for a day class. I suggested we settle on a price for it and that he consider paying for it by donating to the campaign, explaining his perk would be a class that he and three others would set up. If the campaign made it, great. We would look forward to a class sometime in the next two months. If not, he would not be out anything. In fact, giving to the campaign would move me ever closer to my goal. This is how a crowdfund is a win-win. It is the kind of thing that doesn’t just give for one person. It can give a multitude of times. I would urge anyone thinking about a day in the studio blowing as much glass as humanely possible and learning more stuff than you could ever believe, to contact me before donating so we can work out the details. If you are out of state, I can also arrange to have you picked up from our local airport in Roanoke. The possibilities are endless. You can quite literally make your own perk; it is worth it to me, but let’s talk to make sure we are all on the same page.
So this is why the recent interview was a big deal in my area. The local news did it, and I
am incredibly blessed that they did! Newspapers have been contacted, press releases have been sent out. For now I am relying on the power of the press and media to help me. So far, though, half of the effort has come directly through the internet and by sharing emails and links with friends and even family.
So if you would like to see the interview you can go HERE. To go to the campaign itself you can go HERE. You can use indiegogo’s share tools to share the campaign. You will discover and learn and find out if this is something that this is something you want to get behind. It could be something that you could crow about; you got to be a part of it!
And whatever you DO decide to do, my thanks in advance!
The Challenge of Crowdfunding is in building an expanded community of supporters all interested in your common goal of raising funds for a new project. If you are new to the concept of crowdfunding, the process is one where pledges are made by a large number of people in order to help fund a business or individual in a worthwhile cause. To date hundreds of billions of dollars have been raised using this model for businesses both big and small.
The idea of crowdfunding has its roots in individuals, such as musicians, who had fans willing to pledge support for making the next new CD when the musician did not have the funds for the project. Using word of mouth and via the internet, artists were able to leverage their base in order to make a new project a reality. Its an amazing development, and has been a way for cash strapped individuals to bring great ideas to the marketplace. It has opened up doors of possibility to millions of people to date.
A few months ago I began to get a stream of inquiries from people in and around my area asking me if I was going to offer the BYOB event that I normally hold each year. This moniker stand for “Blow Your Ornament Ball” and has been an exciting event held during the winter months that have allowed hundreds of people to come design and make their own ornament or suncatcher. For those who might not know, I am a glassblower. I also teach glass a lot. Its loads of fun! Anyway…. Spread entirely by word of mouth, this opportunity has really caught on. This year, however, the studio was shut down after a door on one of the furnaces came apart and there were not funds to make the fix. Then after classes I normally teach at the local university did not “make” due to unusually low enrollment, I was unable to afford keeping the studio open during this time. In the midst of this, I was working on making a new lamp for a client that has caused a stir and some excitement. People who saw my pictures of this piece were asking how they could get one. I had to explain that I didn’t have the studio running. How could I make more of these? The question became would people be willing to pledge their support and thus make opening the studio an option? The answer to this challenge was crowd funding.
By building a campaign with lots of goodies for those who pledge support, it will be possible to reopen the studio for people who want to blow glass but also to bring this next innovation in lighting to the market. It is a win-win! But to do this means I need to broaden my base of support, to get the word out to everyone who has participated in the past as well as those who have a vested interest in carrying the work in the future such as galleries of art and fine craft. I am appealing to all of these people and more to give this effort a run for its money!
What Will It Cost?
The budget for this effort is $5,600.00. Some of this goes to Indiegogo for administrative and marketing costs. The rest goes to the project itself which includes repairing the furnace door, buying propane, electricity, colored glass, base glass both for the lamp project as well as for anyone who pledges support and wants an ornament or suncatcher, a Gaia lamp, a Gaia Lamp Coffee Mug and a few other “perks.”. It will also pay for a production run of the lamps that includes the lighting hardware which will all be compliant with U.S. electrical codes. It is a significant effort to be sure, but one with lots of rewards! The premiums like the mugs, ornaments, lamps, and others will begin once I reach the $5,600.00 goal.
I am here asking for your support. Come be a part of an exciting process! Share this, make it go viral and see goodness bloom!
What Goodies Are There To Pledge For?
There are a number of tasty premiums available for people interested in having their own glass creation, or to make one of their own that are part of the donation process! Once I go live with the effort, I will share the link where you can see all of the perks
$26 pledge – get your very own limited edition blown ornament. Signed, numbered and dated by the artist. Available for pick up from the studio. Comes gift boxed. Unable to pick it up? You can choose the same perk with shipping included (further down the list)! Once we launch, you will be able to see this new ornament unveiled on Indiegogo. Check back here to learn more. I am CLOSE!
$35.00 pledge – the official campaign mug. Has a full color image of the vase tastefully designed with “I Helped Light The Lamp!” emblazoned across it. Design is based on our poster for this effort. 15 o.z. ceramic, black background. Available for shipping anywhere in the U.S. Make your donation go further and arrange to pick up locally.
$40.00 pledge – blow your own ornament/suncatcher in the studio. For local pickup. Want to make two and send one as a gift anywhere in the U.S.? See us for shipping.
$50.00 pledge – special limited edition blown ornament shipped anywhere in the Continental U.S. Signed and dated by the artist.
$95.00 pledge – Small Gaia Lamp standing approximately 8” tall, this is a scaled down version of the large lamp in our campaign ad. Call it the Gaia night light! Lit using a smaller 40 watt bulb. Available for pickup. Add $20.00 for shipping. For delivery to the address you choose anywhere in the Continental U.S. Signed and dated by the artist.
$195.00 pledge – Large Gaia lamp as shown in our campaign poster, standing approximately inches tall available for pickup from the studio, add $20.00 for shipping to send it to the address you choose anywhere within the Continental U.S.
$500.00 pledge – Glass blowing extravaganza! You and any number of friends you would like to invite gets one-on-one instruction in making as much glass as possible in a five hour period! Don’t want to blow glass? Come with your ideas and let us make the work under your direction as you help choreograph the show! The studio is your oyster! Work is available for pick up once it has been finished in the studio.
$1,000.00 pledge – Designers Delight! Bring your ideas for new glass forms and we make your pledge’s value in glass! Would you like a sink made? Done! Would you like to make your own set of custom made drinking glasses? Done! Would you like a centerpiece, suncatchers, ornaments, and a lighting fixture? Maybe a Gaia lamp while we are at it? Whatever you choose that we can make is possible as long as it adds up to your pledge amount! Don’t just order it, you can be actively involved! Unable to come to the studio? No problem! Lunch is on us when you come on the weekend! We can use a part of your pledge to ship the glass to you! Feel free to contact us to discuss the possibilities prior to donating! Includes free consultations to work out the details of your designing dream.
For larger pledges you can design your own glass creations and have us make them for you after we have discussed your projects with you. If you are local, you will be able to arrange a time to come to the studio to work with me to develop your ideas, enjoy lunch or dinner out at our local “green” restaurant, and make some cool stuff! You will have broad latitude in making as much work as your pledge offers. Would you like to make a sink for your home? Done! Maybe a center piece would be nice along with some matching drinking glasses. Would you like some large suncatchers for your bay window, or some gifts to give to a newly married couple? The possibilities are endless! Another pledge allows you to come and blow as much glass as can be made over a five hour period in the studio. Come alone or bring your friends, it is all good! Can’t afford a five hour block of time? No problem! We can break the sessions up over two weekends if you prefer! I will be on hand to assist you in making your own dreams a reality! Make them yourself, or direct me if you wish, the studio is your oyster! To learn about all of these exciting pledge opportunities, go to our campaign site on Indiegogo HERE!
What You Can Do
First, you can start by sharing news of the campaign with a simple click of the “share” button on Facebook. Find Stafford Art Glass and share the news with your friends. If you aren’t on Facebook, you can send an email to your friends telling them about the campaign and what it means to you to see a local business achieve this goal. This helps to inform people about what is going on in or world and gives them the opportunity to consider supporting a good cause that gives as much as it receives! I have a poster that is optimized for the web that is easy to share with your friends that gives your friends all the details. Go HERE for our campaign site on Indiegogo!
You are free to share any pictures of my work on Facebook and if you aren’t on Facebook, you can contact me directly and I will send you a collection of images that you have permission to share. I can also provide you with an informative email that gives all the details which you can forward to your friends if you would like. I have a twitter account where I will be posting updates as well as updates on this blog, facebook and my blogging account on tumblr at www.staffordartglass.tumblr.com.
What Happens If You Don’t Meet Your Goal?
Good question! The budget is arranged in a tiered system that takes the most important parts of the project first. That means that certain goals will be met before others. The furnace door will be repaired, propane will be purchased along with the electricity. The glass for the full project will be ordered and then printing and shipping come last. Let’s say that only enough funds are raised to pay for the repair, propane and electricity. What happens then? Currently I have supplies in the studio to blow ornaments and I can make a short run of Gaia lamps including samples, but not a full first production run of two dozen, which the budget is for. Even if we do not meet our full goal, the funds raised will go to the effort to get the studio operational and work made. If the campaign falls short of the full goal, what is raised will bring the studio that much closer to making this project a reality.
The truth is, each crowd funding effort is a journey to discovering what we are capable of. Each of us. That includes you, too! What I need more now than ever are people who are interested in helping make this effort a reality!
In the days to come I will be sending out press releases to newspapers and online news sources about my project. I will be contacting WDBJ in Roanoke who has shown a great deal of interest in my work and my efforts in the past. Will be talking with radio show hosts about interviews and I will be putting up posters throughout our area and encouraging you and others to help make this effort go “viral” to get the support needed for a worthwhile cause. I wont be able to make it without you! For galleries who are interested in the work, you can get in on the action, too, by posting images and links to my effort and be the first in line to receive these works in your place of business for the 2015 buying season! This is a unique opportunity to give a new spin to helping artists you are interested in bring a new product to market. Have you ever, as a gallery owner, ever partnered with a glass artist or ANY artist in spreading the word in this way? Your customers will likely find this approach novel, engaging, and exciting! I urge you to consider the possibilities when it comes to your supporting the arts in this way and I look forward to speaking with you about any and all questions you might have.
For anyone with questions, you can contact me directly at email@example.com or via my mobile at (540) 605-0034. Until then, I wish you the very best! ~Parker Stafford
Please contact me directly for studio hours: our work is seasonal and sometimes the studio can be down for repairs, for example. Some days we are blowing glass while other days we are running errands or away at a show. Let us know when you are free to come see us and we can work something out that works for you.