Classes in glassblowing are without a doubt a blast. This entry will provide you with what you need to know when registering for a class.
First, you need to know that most of our classes are actually one-on-one instruction with time slots on our registration page so we can teach each person one at a time. That means that each slot on our registration calendar is for one person making whatever item they have chosen to make. There are a couple of exceptions to thus rule, such as our day-long and weekend classes. More about those later…
This also means that if you are coming with a group and you are signing up for slots on a per-person basis, you will each want to book a slot that is back-to-back with the other people in your group.
Check out the length of our classes that require one person per time slot to figure out the amount of time your group will be at the studio. This is found on the booking calendar where you go to register. If you have seven people and everyone wants to make an item that takes an hour to make (again-see the time allotted on the registration form or class description) and decide if your group is willing to wait that long. In some cases, coming to the studio in batches of two or three people might make more sense.
Okay, you are signed up to make a suncatcher, here is what you need to do to blow glass…
Your clothing needs to be cotton because synthetic melts. Check your clothes and yes, Spandex is synthetic. Dress comfortably. Shirts with long sleeves are a plus because they protect your arms which will get the most heat exposure. We have arm and eye protection.
Shoes must cover your feet. No sandals, flip-flops, pumps, or slippery shoes. Sneakers are great.
Age ranges are ten years and up. Anyone younger can be on the blowing floor selecting colors and directing the making of a piece but children younger than this are too small to handle the blow pipes safely. However, we encourage young children to come and watch and have input on their own custom design. It is still lots of fun. All minor children must be accompanied by a parent.
Other Important Bits
Other things to consider are whether you are sensitive to heat. Elderly often have less ability to manage keeping their bodies cool. Please let us know if you are heat sensitive so we can keep you safe.
One-on-one Classes Vs. Group Classes
As described earlier in the post many classes are designed for one person at a time. These include ornaments, suncatchers, paperweights, drinking glasses, and bowls. Our group classes are a different animal entirely.
In a group class, namely our day-long and weekend class, up to four people per instructor needs to be registered for a class to “make.” If you can find four people, we will provide you or your group with discounts which save us from advertising for and finding the participants. Often if you are short people, we can try on our end to find participants.
These classes are taught to the entire group, with participants watching as each person has their turn making a variety of items. There is less “hand-holding” in these classes and participants do all of the steps involved in the making of pieces. This is a slower process but you will learn more. In our ornament class, for example, you will do about 70% of the steps with our instructor doing the other 30% to make sure the piece turns out near-perfect.
A day or weekend class takes you through vessels like tumblers and bowls, and also includes paperweights and suncatchers/ornaments. Depending on what time is left in the day, participants can choose additional pieces to make if they want. This is decided as a group.
You Can’t Take It With You?
All glass blown must anneal in our kilns. That means items made cannot be taken the day you make them but must be picked up later. Each class description on our site will tell you when you can expect to pick up your pieces. And yes, we are happy to arrange to ship your pieces to you if you can’t pick them up later.
To see our classes and what is available right now this link will take you to that page on our site:
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!).
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.
Partial enclosure, part dry-fit of the new hood assembly!
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 http://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:
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!
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
I have been working on a guide for my inquisitive customers who have wanted to understand why blown glass is different from regular factory made glass. The guide will explain the physical properties of glass without getting bogged down in technical lingo.
The guide will explain best practices for the cleaning of glass and answers such questions as…..”can I put my glass in my dishwasher” with an answer that might surprise you!
The guide will help to explain how to store and display glass and what impacts glass the most in terms of its physical durability. Can you display glass outside and how is this done safely?
There is a section on lighting glass, with a number of useful tips for everything from large display pieces, platters, vases, sculptures, and paperweights. The guide explains the differences between fluorescents, incandescents, as well as L.E.D. lighting heads that have recently flooded the market.
This will be a quick read, easy to understand, and very useful for anyone who wants to put their glass in its best light. Written by a professional with nearly two decades of lighting glass professionally for product marketing as well as in the gallery. Help put my knowledge to work for you.
The guide will be available during my fundraising campaign on indiegogo for a limited time for a donation of just $1.00! In PDF format, anyone will be able to access this guide for use on the run, at home, or while in the field.
Look for the launch announcement here but get it on indiegogo.com once the announcement is made. The Care And Feeding Of Blown Glass, by 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.