Archive | September 2008

Brew’in up a few Witches

This months Ornament Thursday topic is Brew.  So I brewed up a few witches for your viewing pleasure.  Glass witches that is.  I want to share with you how I started on my journey of witches.  I asked my girlfriends to brain storm with me on new ideas for sculptural beads.  They came up with a range of things, none of them sticking to my creative side.  Then one of them put “witch” out there.

At the time I was pretty young in my lampworking days and just didn’t know how I would go about making such a piece in glass.  So I searched for tutorials on one of my favorite lampworking sites lampwork Etc.  I didn’t find a witch, but I did find a goddess tutorial by  Sarah J Schalken.

I studied her tutorial and spent about three days working on my new witch design, and suddenly she was born.  An excellent example of taking someone elses instruction and making it your own.

See all the other Ornament Thursday particiapnats here:

Art Bead Scene
Jennifer’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Bracelet

BeadStyle & Milwaukee’s heritage
Linda shares her Amber Bock Bracelet

Cindy Gimbrone aka Lampwork Diva
New Beads are Brewing…

Double, Double, Toil and Trouble…
Joolz by Lisa has a “Hairy” Twist on OT Brew

It’s not easy being green
Michelle yearns to be the Wicked Witch of the West – we think she’s hit pay dirt here.

Strands of Beads
Something wicked is brewing at Melissa’s place

Alexa stirs it up with this retro witch wall hanging!


Just a quick note to let you know Greg and I are running a huge sale in both Etsy stores.  All items are already marked down.

Beads, 20% off all items in store:

Marbles, all marbles 20 to 35 % off:

Have  great week.  Sale ends Tuesday  at midnight CST.



Can we beat the imports in a struggling economy?

Teri says “With the economy struggling it seems like everyone is feeling the crunch, but I would love to hear you opinion about something I read on-line yesterday. It was concerning the future of glass work in general, and how people are leaning more toward buying imported goods now. This person felt that stained glass work has declined so quickly because of it and even went as far to say that lampwork would decline even faster. I would love to hear your ideas on this.”

First let me start by stating all of my comments about imports are geared toward warehouse, mass produced imported beads, not Self Representing Artists, whom are literally all over the world.

Imports from China in the lampworking world can be a hot topic.  I usually stay out of the debates, preferring to just keep my head down and keep working. However, I do have a few thoughts on it, so I will share with you here.

It’s true the stained glass industry has been taken over by imports.  Hubby Greg use to do stained glass back in the days before he found lampworking.  Stained glass is a very expensive hobby and cost a lot to do.  He was never able to make a profit doing it, especially because he wanted to make, what he wanted to make, when he wanted to make it.  He was never thrilled with commissions, although he did a handful.

The biggest problem I see with that market is the cost.  An average window back then cost hundreds of dollars.  Most average folks just don’t have that kind of money to spend on glass windows.  That is true for lamps as well, which is where the imports have really taken over.  I’ve seen those lamps from China and Mexico.  They look pretty darn good don’t they and for less than a hundred bucks?  Hard to compete with that.

Of course there is still a market for custom stained glass windows.  That is the high end market though, and pretty small I would imagine.

So, how does this relate to lampworking?  I am not an expert, but I have some thoughts on it.

First off, there is a push to educate our buying public on what lampwork is and what it means to buy from a Self Representing Artist.  Education is the most important thing.  Buying from a SRA means just that, you are buying from the artist themselves, not a sweat shop, or mass produced.  Of course all lampwork beads are still handmade.  Even mass produced ones.  There isn’t a way to make lampwork beads in or on a machine.

The problem with mass produced beads is, we really don’t know if those mass produced ones are annealed.  Most of us tend to think not, considering the rate of breakage that occurs.  Of course it could be argued  you really don’t know if your SRA of choice is annealing either, but your chances are much better.

So besides the annealing issue, whats the problem?  Personally I don’t have a problem with mass produced beads.  There really is a market for everything.  I think of it as the difference between Walmart and Nordstrom or other higher end stores.  I am not going to buy art for my walls or my kitchen table at Walmart, though I could.  They just don’t offer what I want.  I want cool original art and a fancy table I can only get at an artsy furniture shop downtown.  I am willing to pay for for those things, because they have value to me.

I just don’t see the mass imports taking that market right now.  Though they could I guess, if they started annealing and coming up with original bead designs.  So far I have only seen them making basic styles.  That could change and we need to be ready for it.

If a person is a production bead artist and only focuses on their production work, there is the chance their work will be massed produced eventually.  We all have to continue to grow and expand as artists.  Keep moving ahead and finding original designs and I think you will be just fine.  With that said there is absolutely nothing wrong with production work.  I do a great deal of it myself.  It pays the bills.  But I am also always trying to expand my skill set.  I can make quite a bit more things other than just floral beads.  If the market drops out on them, I have other things I can move to.

I also see a shift in people gravitating toward handmade items.  Just look at the artist websites Etsy and DaWanda in Europe.  Selling sites completely devoted to artists selling their handmade work.

Lets not forget the collector side of lampwork.  There are people out there who do just collect beads from various artists.  Those people certainly are not going to be collecting mass produced items.  Think about making original bead art, like Loco, JC Herrell, Fay Katherine, NCL Beads, The Boogers, and many many others.

Don’t forget the marble market.  There is a market for contemporary handmade marbles also.  Trust me when I say these folks are NOT interested in knock offs of contemporary handmades.  They buy the marbles for the beauty of handmade and to get a little piece of the artist.

My last thought on the mass imports effecting beads the way it has stained glass, is that beads are still pretty affordable.  Most people can afford to buy a set of beads or a focal without too much thought.  The economics of the two just aren’t in the same ball park.  So yes the economy is having an effect of those of us selling items that are extras in life.  But remember this, lip stick sales went up during the Great Depression.  People wanted a pick me up.  Beads can be the same thing, if you find the right pricing point and market.

Good Luck, keep torching, and keep growing.

Making a living as a lampworker

After checking my blog stats this morning (Yes, Lisa, I do check them every now and then..LOL), I came across the search term “Can someone make a living at lampworking?”.  The short answer is yes, but (there is always a but right?), it takes a lot of work and discipline.

I thought I would give you some insights of what it is like doing this full time.

First, to make a sole living being an artist, one needs to be disciplined.  You need to be self motivated.  There isn’t a boss to please, no time clock to punch, no annual salary increases, and no attractive benefits package.  On the up side, there isn’t a time clock to punch, no boss breathing down your back, you don’t have to commute, assuming your studio is in your home, and you can take time off anytime you want.

The things you have to ask yourself is:  Am I motivated enough to work enough to cover my bills?  Do I have the gumption to stick it out when things are not selling well?  Can I handle the rejection that comes with no sales a few days in a row, or even after a week?  Am I disciplined enough to keep building inventory, when I get discouraged?

Some people thrive when left to their own devises and some people don’t.  This isn’t a criticism in any way shape or form, it is just something everyone needs to learn about themselves.

So if you have decided working for yourself is the way to go, read on and I will give you an overview of what my life is like.

Actual torching time:  About five hours a day, five days a week.

Computer time (editing pictures, loading auctions, updating the website, answering emails)  Note:  We do not work the show circuit, only do online sales, so keep that in mind.  Shows vs online sales will probably be my next post.  I list four to five new things on ebay, one new thing on Justbeads, one to two things on etsy and a daily special on the website Sunday through Friday:  Roughly two to three hours a day six days a week.

Shipping duties:  About two hours a day three days a week, including running to the post office.

Then there is the random promoting on forums and blogs.  And the record keeping.  I am the accountant around here, not my favorite job ever.

Greg does the studio stuff for me, dipping mandrels and cleaning beads.  If you know me, you know I hate, hate, hate, dipping mandrels and cleaning beads.  In fact my friend Shawn banned me from dipping mandrels, I was so bad at it.  I know, I know, I am spoiled.  At least I am aware.  Greg also takes the photos for the beads and marbles.  Its only fair, I do all of the rest of the computer work.

Alright, so that is what happens on a day to day basis.  Now, you are probably wondering how is the money? How much can someone make doing this?  While I won’t tell you how much we actually make, I will give you a few details on how we live, and you can make a determination from there.  Keep in mind, Greg my hubby is also a full time artist, so we have two artists income here.

We live in South East Louisiana, in a very small town, median home price for houses on our street are probably roughly around $125,000.  We bought our house last year.

We do not have kids.

I drive a used car, a 2003 Nissen Altima, purchased in January.  Hubby has a 1971 VW bus.

We pretty much pay cash for everything, or at least pay off the cc at the end of each month.  We don’t have any student loans, cc debit, second mortgages, or anything like that.

We do most of the house repairs ourselves.  Greg is pretty handy, and I can be depending on the project.

We have been here a year and still don’t have a dining room table or bedroom furniture, just the bed and plastic storage drawers for dressers.  Sure, I could go on craigslist or visit garage sales for some extra furniture, but after living in the rv for four years, we’ve learned to make do.  Hopefully the table is coming at the end of this month.  The bedroom, well that will wait.

Trips to Glasstock, The ISGB Gathering, and other bead retreats are usually out of our range as far as what we can afford to do.  I could probably make it happen, but for both of us to go, is a huge expense.

We have been on ebay for years.  We have powerseller status, Bronze is averaging over $1000 a month and Silver is averaging over $3000 a month.  We fluctuate between the two.  We also have sales on etsy, justbeads and the website.

So yes it is possible. I really only know a handful of people who make their actual sole living off of lampworking.  Most of my buddies have a spouse who brings in the primary paycheck, or they themselves work a day job and treat their lampworking business as a second job.