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
This year’s pumpkinpatch event promises to be the best yet. We have a broad range of colors and sizes to choose from.
Selection will be much greater this year, and part of the display will be outside, making it easier to distance and to take pressure off our customers.
Small paperweight pumpkins start at $26.00 during the sale. This is one of the very best prices for handmade pieces of high quality.
Blown pumpkins start at $45.00 and goes up to $50.00, $60.00, and $70.00 as my price points for this event.
Pumpkins will be both opaque and transparent. Some will be solid, others will have multiple colors. Since seeing is believing, I will let the pieces speak for themselves.
The event will be at our studio which is located at 8685 Virginia Avenue, Newport, Virginia, 24128. The studio is located in Newport, which is about six miles west of Blacksburg. We are about an hour from the state line between Virginia and West Virginia. You can see our location on our handy map below. You can get all of my vital information from my Facebook business page here:
You can also follow the page if you like what I do and stay abreast of new work, events, drawings (yes I have about one each month there), and other opportunities (coupon codes for the website for one). If that sounds good to you, head on over and get social with the growing community of enthusiasts of all things S.A.G..
If you have questions about our event or our work, you can comment and someone will get back to you soon.
The sales event starts September 25th and continues for a week. Our prices are some of the best for work of this caliber, so when you buy our work you are getting prices that are hard to find elsewhere for handmade in the U.S.A. (and not cheap imports).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Today I am taking someone up on helping me write something about my campaign.
Parker Stafford, Owner and founder of Stafford Art Glass in Newport, Virginia, launches his crowdfunding campaign Lighting The Gaia Lamp to bring a new innovation in art glass and lighting to market. Normally Parker is accustomed to funding projects himself, but after a series of changes in his year financially, it has caused him to look differently at how funding is procured to bring new products to market. If the maker of the next new electronic gadget can raise thousands overnight, what keeps a designer studio in the New River Valley from business as usual? It was time to go back to the drawing board and think big so he could take the project large. It was time to leverage the power of the crowd now available to us courtesy of the internet.
The campaign centers on a line of work that was first designed in 2003 and has been in production for close to a decade. The glass, originally called “Rare Earth” is painted with the fire and intense heat of the glass artisan’s language that melts and makes a thousand small elements into one, in the fire of the furnace. This is a fire that is so hot that if you stand in front of it longer than a minute, your clothes will start to smoke before bursting into flame. You think I am joking. You might wonder, then, how it is that a glassblower could ever coax objects of crystalline beauty from such an extreme environment. It is a good question. But to understand this, you have to learn a little more about what Parker is doing here, because this is an even bigger mystery.
It is like a poet who bids the earth speak. It seemed something big enough to suggest Greek legends or myths. The name came as he hooked up the first vase. A light, literally, was lit in his mind.
“Rare Earth” is a complex and stirring design that employs a palette of golds, browns, and reds. The proprietary process that Stafford uses as the blow pipe is slowly but continually turned, results in a level of dimension that takes place within a thickness of glass that is less than 1/32 of an inch! It took him years to gradually grow and develop this design over the years, so what’s hinged into this work is a lot of back story work in the studio. The glass pieces that he makes in this line are much thicker than that, but this is the color layer that makes the clear glass what it is. It is an example of what this glass artisan is able to do to make his glass sing. When I tell him about this he smirks and says, “My favorite book of Native American speeches was entitled “Songs Of The Earth” and made a big mark on me early on in my high school days.”
It is like a poet who bids the earth speak. It seemed something big enough to suggest Greek legends or myths. The name came as he hooked up the first vase. A light, literally, was lit in his mind. Gaia was the goddess, the mother of us all, the earth itself.
So instead of the lighting pieces being called “Rare Earth” he called the Gaia Lamp. No factory on the planet can make these like Stafford does because how he approaches each one. Instead of being punched out of a mold, he explains that they are like children; each born from the same lineage, but each free to be individual enough to be identified. All are family, and none are mere copies of the other. When you do this, you bring a life to an object, Parker explains, and we have this long-lived feeling about objects containing power, whether they be the medicine pouches of the Native American Shaman or Catholics with reliquaries built from gold and precious stones. People explain how they were healed from touching a relic or a medicine bag being shaken in their direction. We just believe, universally, that objects can be endowed with a power beyond their owner.
Parker does not suggest that such magic will happen with his work, no, but a subtler kind of magic is at work. A few days after considering the campaign publicly a friend from California walked into a diner in midtown Manhattan and stood face to face with one of the earliest pieces the artisan had ever made. “She took pictures and posted them on my Facebook page. I took a look and sure enough, I remembered the piece as some of the very first pieces in the line. It felt like an interesting synchronicity to me. It suggested that somewhere in here was something important.” The person who saw them recognized them because she had one of his vases from the same line. She had also lit her piece using a candle, which spoke to the universal need to light these pieces up.
It is the earth, he explains, surely, but unlike any earth you have seen. It is like the earth that we each dream about, the earth that we FEEL. It speaks to you of the soul of earth, of our world, a deep part of our experience, the artisan suggests. Because it is invested in this kind of effort, this level of thought and blood and fire and sweat and love, these things tend to show, to reveal themselves.
Like the truth, this cannot be held back for long. Even great ideas, long forgotten, tend to be dug back up and celebrated in later generations. This one slice of the Earth’s story is not one that we should allow to drop through the crust and into memory, Parker insists. Rather, it should be like a thought that raises a memory within us. In each of us. It is the knowledge that the earth is precious, foundational, and important to all of us. What if you could make that earth sing? Would that be a song that you would be interested in hearing? What if that song were as true as it could be? Parker explains that in making these pieces he has done this. He has made the earth sing. Each time a piece is made. I can’t even begin to explain how different these pieces are from commercially made objects looking over his shoulder as he goes through his computer to show me the images that he has of this line.
When lit, the song becomes so much more pronounced. All of this got started when a client and friend who had been at the studio wondered what one of his Rare Earth vases would look like lit. Parker knew how they would look like, he had seen it many times before. He had not felt like he could afford the time and money to sink into the project. “It will look great….I knew that…..and putting that vase up to the lights in the gallery put any question to rest.” The client asked him what it would take to light this vase. He explained the process quickly. “Do it” she said.
Last month Parker lit the first of these vases and the result was nothing short of amazing. Then a funding campaign wrapped itself around the effort. Times have been hard for this artisan of the New River Valley. It was just a few years ago that the economy caved in on itself. Resources grew scarce. He was rebuilding his life after a shoulder injury a few years took him out of the glass game for a full year, doctor’s orders. Parker does not paint on canvas. He reminds us that he paints on canvasses of molten lava, a silicate material we call glass. At 2100 degrees farenheit, he artfully casts the colors so that they last for the ages. Everything about doing this is expensive. The rewards, he offers me, also match the cost. Treat glass like how it is treated in factories and it loses its lovely potential, but bring it into the studio and give it clarity and love and humility, and it will show you more than you ever dared possible. It is evident that Parker knows. A selection of his recent works are included at the end of the post so you can begin to get an idea about where his skill and artistry take him.
Standing at 7 inches for the small and 12 inches for the large, respectively, the two sizes of the Gaia Lamp that Parker has been working on, will be made available through his campaign on indiegogo. A link is included at the end of the post so you can check this out.
He has another form, though, something that he currently does not have a sample for that is worth mentioning. Hands waiving in the air, what he describes to me is a round globe instead of a tall statue of a piece. This globe has all the colors of its taller sisters, but swells with a life that showers the room with something that feels like healing light. He calls this one the Gaia Globe Lamp. He does not want to make a copy of a salt lamp which was heavily marketed and even oversold. He wants something that will be….different. The effect that this warm light has on us, he says, is perennial. Listening to him and looking at him sketching the form, I imagine a hypnotic shape that could be hard to pull away from. I ask him when he plans on making this shape. He explains that he has made many of them, but they were never turned into lamps. He will make the first samples as soon as the campaign is funded. In fact, this piece will go with a group to galleries all across the nation. He already has galleries interested in carrying the work before the campaign is even into its first week. It feels comforting to me and I say so.
“That is because this type of light IS healing,” Parker points out, explaining that while he was putting the campaign together he stumbled upon an article about the healing effects of light. It was in a study funded by the Harvard Medical school and it had to do with the effects of blue light on humans.
The Harvard study (Source) looked at the effect that blue light from televisions, computer screens, and L.E.D. lighting had on humans. The study identified that blue light is what keeps humans alert, which is fine when you want to stay awake, but what happens when you provide this same light at a time when the body depends on getting the right signals telling it that it can rest? By staring into computer monitors, Parker explains, we have extended that exposure, and the results are startling in that it upsets our sleep cycles and has effects on our endocrine system, the governing body of glands that are identified as being related to healing and growth. “Blue light suppresses the production of melatonin in the body,” Parker explains, ” and this has two main effects according to this study. It makes it hard for people to sleep well. It messes with our blood sugar levels. People in the study began to show what were described by the doctors as pre-diabetic states. Changing the light intake from blue to reds and golds changed all of that.” This is a cautionary tale partly about how we use our technology but also how we take care of ourselves. If the quality of the light has such an effect on us, then it begs a big question…
Holding his lamp in my hands, I feel its comforting swell in shape, its tapering neck. It is sleek, contemporary, but, as the artisan points out, is based on forms he saw in the earliest vessels ever made out of glass: his shapes are based on ancient middle eastern forms. They seem contemporary because they are so classic in their shape
Sitting back in his chair, he levels his gaze and admits, “I am not here to tell you that my lamp will heal the world. No. But look, warm light will have its effect. It seems coming across this article was a simple case of perfect synchronicity.” Talking about his lamp he explains that our reaction to many subtle phenomenon is rooted in how it impacts us physiologically even if we are not realizing it being the distracted beings that we all seem to have turned into. Parker smiles and explains, “It is a great reason to make your world more beautiful by filling it with what might very well be a therapeutic effect from the light that it produces; a bonus! And you are supporting a small business, the little guys and gals who make cool stuff and dream big. Why wouldn’t you get excited about being a part of a dream like this?”
Our voices get quiet as we sit in his darkened study, the lamp gently illuminating the room. “It’s a different kind of light!” I remark. And it is different. It is like fire.
Holding his lamp in my hands, I feel its comforting swell in shape, its tapering neck. It is sleek, contemporary, but, as the artisan points out, it is based on forms he saw in the earliest vessels ever made out of glass: his shapes are based on ancient middle eastern forms. They seem contemporary because they are so classic in their shape. It has more weight than other vases, which were more like a leaf. This piece has some heft to it. Parker points out that the base is close an in thick, explaining, “I had to drill through that in order to sneak the light kit into the vase so it did not take up a lot of space.” Sure enough, a single cord comes snaking out of the base where a toggle switch is positioned a few feet away. The cord is nine feet long and all materials are heavy duty for long life. The design is simple, straightforward, and this makes changing the bulb easy. With a flick of the finger, the vase burst to life. Its marvelous. Our voices get quiet as we sit in his darkened study, the lamp gently illuminating the room. “It’s a different kind of light!” I remark. And it is different. It is like fire. You can’t help but continue to gaze into it. It is hypnotic in the same way that a fire keeps your attention and holds it.
Parker smiles as he takes the vase in his hands and holds it in his lap. “I can’t for the life of me figure out why someone wouldn’t want to see something like this come to life.” We turn the light out and the night sky surges in around us. The moon, a sliver, hangs in the sky. The room feels five degrees cooler. It was time to leave the room. He agrees and offers to make a particularly strong cup of coffee, a roast he insists is low on caffeine and is roasted and sold by a local company just down the block from his home.
We talk about the nuts and bolts of this thing as we sip our coffee.
The campaign seeks to raise $5,600 in just five weeks. It is an ambitious effort. “The budget came out to this amount when all of the stamps and shipments were counted. There is no use doing something half-way” Parker explains. “To do this will mean that I was able to shake the trees and wake some people up to this opportunity to become part of something cool. I am learning who will help and who wont. There is no judgement there, its just effort, the same way a river will flow. I am not interested in taking anything personally. But I need the help of the people who will see this and the people who will see this because it has been shared, spread around the planet a little.” We talk about old lessons about getting caught up in the story of others. He points out that our “glitches” as he calls them exist when we put value on what other people do based on what they value. “You have to simply find someone who is like you are. It is like striking a bell and finding that every bell that gets ‘struck’ by this sounds the same. I am looking for that reaction. It is a resonance.”
If you are a reporter, call me. Let’s talk. I have a story waiting for you if you are ready.
“I will mobilize thousands of people all to help with this effort. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to say that you were part of making the Gaia lamp into a national phenomenon?” Parker is looking for people who have this kind of vision. He says he is seeking recruits, believers who will spread the word. He points out that he would rather have a hundred people all sharing his story on facebook and email than a hundred dollars coming from one person. The value of the masses clearly begins to clarify as he shows me the numbers for other campaigns. It is a big numbers game, and those who succeed are those who have been able to leverage the internet in the right way. “One to two percent of all the people who I contact will be interested in actually donating. With numbers like these, I need many people who aren’t even interested in giving, but in helping. It is an entirely different approach to how money is raised. I began by taking a poll to find out who was willing to JUST spread the word.” Parker looks down at his cup and ads, “A lot of those people who were so interested in helping haven’t helped yet, so I am looking for greater spread. This is a busy time of year, so I understand. I am, though, taking all takers. If you like this thing, press the “share” button. Look at it; do you think it’s cool? Share it. Give a dollar, even. If you are a reporter, call me. Let’s talk. I have a story waiting for you if you are ready.”
It all begins with a dream. Endless gadgets that are currently being crowdfunded that are made that raise hundreds of thousands of dollars. One design project seeks a fraction of that. Hidden in the fractions, though, lies a great story. It is one that Parker is ready to tell in the language of fire and glass. The pipe turns as the fire rises, as the poet Sandburg suggested in his poem, this man turns sand into light. The hottest den of fire is where these pieces are made. Turning nice and easy and slow, Parker is giving life to something larger than this.
If you want to find out more this is what you need to know
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.