I have heard the saying “May you be blessed to live in interesting times.” These are indeed very interesting times.
The glass art landscape has already changed considerably since the virus outbreak. For those of us who count on making glass art and selling that art to pay all or a portion our regular overhead, we are in trouble on all fronts. As a glassblower my first shock was that clear glass cullet has shown up in short supply. Those within close proximity still holding a stash of glass have recognized the value of those goods and priced new requests accordingly. Ouch!
As a teacher of glassblowing, I had no choice but to suspend classes until such time as we can feel reasonably comfortable that we are not a grand transmitter of the virus. That revenue stream is completely dry. I can’t even imagine what traditional college programs will look like when this is over.
Next on the list, 100% of art shows have been canceled or rescheduled. So connecting with customers has become a significant challenge, not impossible but greatly reduced.
If I were to look into my crystal ball, I am a glass blower so I do know a bit about crystal balls. I predict that the glass art world that we knew and loved will never be the same. It is going to be very hard in the short run to teach classes so there will be a gap in the flow of new artists. As there will be fewer opportunities to sell one’s work there will be less demand. Because there will be fewer artists producing finished goods the manufactures will make less raw material. Subsequently the distributors will have less raw inventory to sell.
It all sounds pretty bleak. I hope that we are not the generation that witnesses the final days not only of the art glass world, also of the entire handmade world. How can we as artists help stem this tide? Is there anything we can do to bolster the spirits of makers, artists, supporters and patrons?
First thing has become clear, if you think that any form of government aid is going to be your savior, give up now. Yes there are some programs available. Yes there is a bit of money flowing. But rest assured it comes with a price and it comes slowly.
We at Stone and glass had to act quickly to stem the losses. We cut everyplace that we could and still keep us in a position to operate, on a much reduced scale. Next thing we did was reach out to our business related community, both supplies and patrons. We had several patrons who came right in and purchased large pieces. In one case it was a piece I made ten years ago.
We took a look at every dime we were spending and only the truest essentials survived. Lastly, we looked at what we make and who was buying from us. We recognized that there are people who wanted to support us. But many of them are in a similar struggle. So we had to figure out ways to make a purchase more comfortable.
In closing, I feel compelled to say that even with our quick response, even with all the changes that we made to get his far, the book is still out on what will happen next.
Every moment to we remind ourselves that we are not in this alone. We all will have to reinvent and adapt to conduct business when we come out on the other side.
Every working artist may be struggling. We try to be kind and helpful to everyone.
Peace and love on your journey.