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.

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14 thoughts on “Making a living as a lampworker

  1. Pingback: Making a living making beads… — Bead Nerd

  2. Thank you for the great blog entry! I am an aspiring beader. I have a torch, but have yet to fire it up. So far, I purchase all my beads pre-made, using them in necklaces and earrings and bracelets. Someday, when time allows, I hope to set up a spot for torchwork and make some beads…but probably just as a hobby, I already work at home so I have the discipline but that pesky job with medical benefits probably will still get most of my time! 😉

  3. acollage, Get that torch set up! You’re gonna love it. Lampworking started as a hobby here also. Amazing how it grew. The only thing and I really mean the only thing I miss about that regular job was the cushy health care benefits. Paying those premiums suck, but it’s still worth it. Happy torching.

  4. Just wanted to say that I am also a full-time lampworker. I left my part-time office job about 1 year ago and have been lampworking ever since. My husband has a job outside the home and pulls in most of the cash, but so far my business is going well. There is ALOT of work in this and yes, you have to definitely be disciplined to do this. I have found myself lagging every now and then and need to pick up the pace (like working 5 days instead of 4 days per week). All in all I can say it was the best decision I’ve ever made since I am making the same and more some months than at my old part-time office job. I love the freedom of it and of course I love creating the beads! Thanks for this great post…so many people think I have a kick back job..not so! It’s alot of work…but still, worth it all 🙂

  5. Thanks for the advice.
    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 stainglass 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.
    Thanks, Teri

  6. Hi Anne. Welcome! Ya, I had actually thought about getting a part time job way back in January. Not because I had to, but because I was considering working part time in a book store. I LOVE books and book stores. Anyway, spending most of my time at home, since I work here, I was feeling a little cabin fever. However, when I ran the numbers of what I would make working that part time job, verses how much I make making beads, it just wasn’t cost effective. Now I just go hang out in the book store when I need to get away. congrats on ditching that job and following your dream.

  7. Deanna, thank you so much for sharing this…I think you’ve done a huge service to the lampworking community and self-employed people as a whole.

  8. Hi Deanna:

    Yep, I do get the “cabin fever” thing alot. I was used to working around people and now it’s just me here with my cats! I try to get out as much as I can and I never work more than 3 days in a row…I need a break. We do plan alot of weekend activities also. You almost have to or cabin fever does begin to set in! 🙂 Still, sometimes while I’m sitting at the torch and I think “right now at my old job I’d probably be stuffing envelopes or dealing with an angry client, or worse yet, dealing with that boss-lady I never got along with!”…then I smile and know I did the right thing 😀

    Great blogging! 🙂

  9. Pingback: Best of the Week ending 9/21/2008 | Art of the Firebird

  10. I make my sole living off of lampworking as well. I love not having a boss. I make enough to live in a house and i ate ribeye last night…normally i eat pasta haha. It can be done from beads to beer taps to drink stirrers, it can be done.

  11. Pingback: Best of the Week ending 9/21/2008 - Art of the Firebird

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