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“Lovely space, really nice work” – warning – Facebook meme within

“Lovely space, really nice work” – a recent comment from a visitor to our gallery and 11427176_10204465462260814_7970850652963678962_nstained glass studio in Northamptonshire.

By now, most people will have seen one of the many Facebook memes going around telling us that every time we buy something from an artist or craft maker we buy a little piece of unique creativity, directing money in to the local economy, helping those artists survive and continue to enrich our lives.

Well, of course I agree with the sentiment, even if I find the memes themselves often a bit saccharine.

And just recently I’ve seen several blog posts from independent shop owners reminding us that small shops and independent cafes or restaurants need to be supported if they are to survive.

Again, I agree wholeheartedly.

Every day something seems to make the chances of survival for small retailers a little poorer – out of town developments, parking restrictions in our towns, tax law changes that give large multi-nationals an unfair competitive advantage.

By design, our business at Vitreus Art is not dependent only on sales of art and crafts – we have a well-attended programme of craft courses plus the art holidays we run in Cornwall and a steady stream of stained glass commissions to keep us busy.

But as a small business we still face many of the same challenges and so we’d like to invite you to help all small retailers continue to offer you nice things the big chain stores don’t!

So what can you do to help keep Britain’s high streets and shopping centres vibrant and independent?

One)
If you see a piece of art in a gallery, or something handmade and delightful, or are tempted by a delicious-looking cake in the window of a tea shop, don’t say ‘I’ll come back and get some Christmas presents later / bring my friend to tea here next year’.

How about buying that piece of art now if you can afford it (art is its own reward!)?
How about biding a while now with a cup of proper tea and a slice of home-made cake?How about getting a huge headstart on the December crowds by buying your Christmas presents now, when you see them, from a crafter at a fair, or a local art gallery or handmade gift shop?

Two)
If you’re in the market for original, collectable art, buy art created by an artist who’s still alive – the dead ones don’t need the money!
History is littered with musical geniuses and artists who died poor and then got rich!

Three)
Instead of waiting for your retirement to try a new craft or take up paint brushes, find a spare Saturday or evening, book yourself on an art or craft course and start creating straight away. Imagine how skilled you’ll be when you do retire!

Four)
If you’re on a tight budget, instead of buying greetings cards (printed in high volume overseas) from high street chains (whose designers and artists receive a mere fraction of the price you pay) buy your cards from a local gallery or gift shop.

I can tell you for every card we sell in our gallery at Wakefield Country Courtyard, the artist gets a useful reward for their work, and not just an insultingly tiny percentage!

Five)
Tell your friends about what you’ve done! Share the business’s Facebook page, join their email newsletter and spread the word!

By doing these things you’ll be playing a part in keeping an artist alive and you’ll be helping the gallery or shop owner stay in business.
If they thrive, that’s one less ‘lovely space’ with ‘really nice work’ in danger of becoming a betting shop or tax-avoiding-paying chain coffee shop!

Thanks for reading!

P.S. You can visit us in person at:
Vitreus Art @ Wakefield
Unit 4, Wakefield Country Courtyard
Near Potterspury, off the A5
NN12 7QX

And online at:
www.vitreus-art.co.uk

And we have greetings cards!

Designing it and making it – commission a piece of stained glass and do all the hard work too!

Deb and Mick with the completed windows, installed by Mick
Deb and Mick with the completed windows, installed by Mick

What could be better than commissioning a piece of stained glass?
Designing it and making it – of course!

Have you noticed that the ‘don’t buy it, make it’ movement is really gathering momentum?
This is something Jenny and I (Vitreus Art) are being asked for more often than ever.

Although it’s a little counter-intuitive to be agreeing to help potential customers make their own commissions, we reason that the pleasure of owning art is enhanced by having had some involvement is creating it.

We always go to considerable lengths when discussing commissions with clients to uncover their tastes, incorporate their ideas, and to give them the opportunity and means to decide on colours and textures.
Agreeing to teach the client and help them make their own piece is taking this to a logical further step – if they want.

Of course we still welcome commissions in the conventional sense, but just as we’ve seen our teaching practice expand along with the growing interest in craft courses and artisan-made work, so has interest in designing one’s own stained glass.

A few weekends ago we began teaching Deb and Mick to make stained glass in the traditional leading method – as part of their project to make 4 stained glass panels for a new door and surround they’d had made.
The project began some months before, however – when the couple visited us at an Open Studios event at our Adstock studio.

Deb says: “We knew we needed a front door and thought it might be nice to have some stained glass in it but we wanted to have a hand in the design rather than have something traditional. 

After research on the internet we found Vitreus Art and met Mike and Jenny. Before long we had agreed that with their support we would not only design the glass but also make it ourselves and this ambitious project got underway.”

The couple designed their own suite of 4 inter-connected windows, having discussed their design ideas with us at the ‘pencil and paper’ stage.
We shared the basic design rules and offered feedback. Later on, when the door woodwork was ready, Jenny and I visited to help refine the design and agree a final colour selection.

Mick takes up the story: “Jenny and Mike helped us to understand what was possible in terms of the design but have always taken the trouble to listen to our ideas and understand what we liked and wanted to achieve so that the finished work really does reflect our vision.
They took the time to visit us in our home so that they could see the design in context and help us select the colours that would look best.”

Mick, Deb and Jenny - what is it about Deb and a hammer that's making them laugh?
Mick, Deb and Jenny – what is it about Deb and a hammer that’s making them laugh?

We set aside a weekend and sourced the glass and  lead cames needed – allowing for some wastage and ‘accidents’.
Sally Eaton of Rowans Gallery kindly allowed us to use her workshop, affording us more space than our own studios provide so that we could work in pairs on two windows at a time.

Deb comments: “When we met to make the panels they proved to be skilled teachers, helping us to quickly acquire the techniques we needed to start work.
Although we were novices and needed their help with the more challenging parts of the complex design, they never took over – we always felt that it was our work. We are also grateful for their flexibility when the project took longer than expected.”

Some further time was required to finish the fourth, largest panel – proving that projects always take longer than one’s best estimates and highlighting that a bit of leeway to spend some extra time is advisable if planning a project of your own.

Mick then began the work of installing the windows – not a task to be trivialised! The door and adjoining windows dimensions were sized to allow for a current-regs compliant sealed unit with the stained glass panels behind, all held in with a combination of mastic and matching wood beading for finish off.

The result looks very similar to a traditional stained glass installation, with the benefit of additional security, thermal and noise proofing thanks to the sealed units.

Deb and Mick sum up their experiences: “There is great pleasure in either designing or making but to do both is truly satisfying and with the help of this great team is not as daunting as you might think.

We would like to thank Mike and Jenny for helping us achieve our vision.
The door is stunning and will give pleasure for years to come – not just to us but to all who pass by!”

Well Deb and Mick – we really enjoyed working with you – you were great students and the results are a credit to both of you!

Mick soldering panel number 2
Mick soldering panel number 2

We’ve estimated that the cost to the clients is probably similar to what it would have been if we’d made the panels ourselves. Even stevens – and two lovely people have had the pleasure of making something really significant for their home – and have an interesting story to tell their visitors!

Having completed several of these projects now, and with a fair weight of experience accumulated along the way, we’re going to be offering this kind of ‘self-made commission’ project as one of our services.

If you’ve made something in stained glass you’re proud of, head over to our Facebook page and post a photo or two – share what you’ve done!
If you’d like to see some of the photos we took while working with Deb and Mick, you can see them here.
Or if you’d like to commission a piece of stained glass and would like to be involved in making it, get in touch!

Happy holidays and here’s to a creative 2013!
Mike & Jenny