How did you get started as a designer maker and is it a full time job ?
In January 2008 I took a leaded glass course at the WI’s Denman College in Oxfordshire. I’ve always crafted but using fabric and needles not a glass cutter and soldering iron. I loved every minute and fired with enthusiasm on my return home with a stained glass window, now in situ in my kitchen door, I started to collect the equipment and supplies needed for a new hobby. A couple of windows later and I turned my hand to something more manageable – Suncatchers made using Tiffany style stained glass, where the glass is joined together by copper foil and then soldered rather than the traditional leaded glass of church windows.
My course had taught me how to handle and cut glass, I taught myself the Tiffany technique from the internet. I started to make a range of suncatchers, selling them to friends, relatives and through a local tearoom. I joined the Country Markets which gave me a great opportunity to sell my glass at several events a year and by the end of my first year my little hobby had taken off.
In April 2009 I realised I also needed an online outlet, I found Folksy, set up my Joysofglass shop there and have been happily selling my glass since.
I took early retirement 10 years ago from my professional job in IT. My glass is not a full time job but is a very engrossing ‘hobby’ and does take up all my available time.
Talk us through your collection
My collection started as the sort of suncatchers I thought people would like, might collect, frogs, butterflies, dragonflies etc. As I sold these I thought of more and more things to make and people also started to ask me for different things. If I liked what I had made for them then I made more.
Everything I make is unique, in fact it is very difficult to makes things exactly the same because of the textures and designs within the glass itself. I maintain a range of sizes to suit every pocket and as I now have an extensive collection of different colours and types of glass I can generally make anything in whatever colour combination someone wants. I make quite a few commissioned pieces nowadays and generally also add these new designs to my catalogue.
I sell at a selected number of events, craft and Christmas fairs and for these I make a range of smaller suncatchers and novelties as I discovered early on that I needed stocking fillers to attract people to my stall.
Tell us about your practice and making process
Everything is entirely handmade and there are very few ways of cutting corners, making economies of scale. I made 6 doves today but it took 6 times as long to make the six as it takes me to make one. My studio is in the garage and that is where I keep all my glass and patterns. I find the pattern I want and decide on my colours and textures of glass. I do all glass cutting in the garage and this is a no-go area for children and pets because there are usually bits of glass on the floor. In winter I do the next step, the grinding, in the porch on the back of the house as the water in the grinder sometimes freezes up in the icy cold of the garage. I sit down for the copper foiling stage, often in front of mindless daytime TV, and then I solder all the pieces together before cleaning and polishing the finished piece ready for sale.
I photograph every single piece I make (in natural light so never at night) and then pack it into a bubble wrapped box ready for display or posting. My computer files are my photographs so I name everything with a meaningful name, the price and the next sequential number for that design.
This process is great for me because it also makes good use of my other loves, my computer and my camera.
How do you plan your work – do you use sketchbooks or do your makes grow organically ?
My bedside cabinet is full of pencils and notepads, as, often, instead of reading myself to sleep I sit up in bed sketching new, trial designs. I can’t actually draw, my pencil refuses to follow the line directed by my eyes but I can trace. When I want a new pattern or design I usually use my computer to Google to find the sort of picture I want (children’s colouring pages are useful). I edit this on the computer, often combining several together and then print out and trace, adjust and retrace until I have my own unique design. Then back to the computer to make photocopy patterns.
My to do list is always prioritised by :
2. Restocking items sold on Folksy or elsewhere
3. Whatever I feel like making today
Do you have any tools unique to you?
I use glass making standard tools for everything and always wear gloves when handling my glass, cutting, grinding and soldering as sore fingers stop me working. I have some magic stuff which I rub into my fingers twice a day, Australian Body Care Tea Tree Hand and foot cream. It’s fantastic and acts like grout to fill in all the little holes and grooves in my finger ends.
My most useful ‘tool’ is my 3-panel screen, bought from a charity shop for a fiver and absolutely fantastic for displaying my glass at shows.
Where do you draw your inspiration?
It is the glass itself which inspires me, the wonderful colours and textures. I can spend hours browsing the online glass catalogues and often design new pieces just to use a beautiful sheet of glass which has been delivered in my latest glass order. Sometimes when out and about I see combinations of colour which I have to rush home to replicate in glass. When travelling round Europe we always visit the churches and cathedrals and while my husband reads the history I gaze in awe at (and photograph) the fantastic stained glass windows.
How do you manage your time between making and the other commitments in your life
My husband has my full attention for 2 months a year when glassmaking stops and we travel round Europe in our motorhome. When at home my daughters and grandchildren come next and I visit every couple of weeks with an overnight stop. The rest of my time is for glass making which I can happily work on right through the day and I often copper foil sitting in front of the TV in the evening. I do occasionally spare a thought for the more mundane activities of cleaning, ironing and gardening…
What’s your favourite book at the moment (craft or not)?
The Glass Painter’s Daughter,– by Rachel Hore. Brilliant descriptions of the craft of stained glass. I read lots and lots of fiction and never go anywhere, not even to the doctor, without a book.
You’re very good at promoting yourself – do you have any tips for other makers looking to gain exposure for their work
I keep my Folksy shop well stocked and with a wide range of designs, trying to always have something for every taste, occasion and pocket. I Twitter and Craftjuice everything as I add it to my Folksy shop and I also load a photo of everything I make to my Facebook page. This helps to ensure I keep in the ‘public eye’, as well as increasing my ‘Googleability’ and building up an online catalogue of everything I make. I also maintain my own website but this is just a front with links to my photo catalogue on Facebook.
This approach works well for me and I have a good number of sales through Folksy as well as email, Facebook and phone enquiries.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years time ?
I would like to find time to make more of my artistic, designer pieces but I do have quite a loyal customer base for my smaller pieces so will always make those as well. I would love to have a kiln so I could also add some fused glass to my repertoire but my garage studio would need a major reorganisation first.
More immediately I need to reorganise my work area in the garage as my materials: glass, beads, nuggets etc and especially packaging, are slowly filling it up. Next job, as soon as I can find a minute, is to measure up for some proper racking. I long for a well organised studio but suspect I may never achieve that as I am always too busy making glass.
You can see all of Joy’s work in her Folksy shop Joys Of Glass.