Saturday, November 13, 2010


My trip to South Africa included a quick visit to the country of Swaziland. And no trip to Swaziland is complete without a visit to Ngwenya Glass

It was pretty darn cool.

I've seen countless glass studio's in my day, but few that operated like this one. It's a factory. The tools, equipment, etc are the same as smaller operations, but it's the way they work and why they work that makes this different.

The glassblowers at Ngwenya Glass work in teams of 2-5, depending on what they are making. Each person has 1 specific job (for example, gathering glass from the furnace, or loading the finished piece into the cooling oven). Essentially, they are an assembly line of glassblowers.

The same can be said about the way I (and many other production glassblowers) work. After all, most of the things I make are production pieces. I design a product, figure out how to make it, then will make it again. And again. And again. (Once in a while, I make one of a kind pieces, and I enjoy that process as much as making the production pieces).

But, back to the differences:

To these factory workers, this is a job. They don't design the products. Most have never worked with glass, studied glass in school, or apprenticed with other artists. If they were given an hour to make something other than a product from the Ngwenya Glass line, they probably couldn't do it. But they are very skilled at what they do. Do they have a creative mind? Maybe. But at work, it's their job to do their specific task(s). It's their job to make not create.

When I travelled to Venice and Murano 10 years ago, I saw the same thing (with the exeption of my visit to Pino Signoretto's studio).

Simply put, it's not better or worse than what I do. It's just different.

So, of course I bought something. A little hippo wine glass to add to my collection of handmade goblets. And a little elephant votive.

When I returned to the US, I told a fellow glassblower about the factory, and about my purchases. And he seemed surprised I would buy something. Why? Because I could make it? Because it was factory made? I'm not really sure. The truth is, it's still handmade, it's still handblown glass, and it was a pretty awesome souvenir of an awesome trip.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Where Have I Been?

Yes, I've been gone. And I've been busy. And I've been walking! Here's the cliffnote version of the last 4 months:

I got off the crutches in early August, and was prescribed 5 weeks of the walking boot. If you ask me, I would say it's really more of a clunking boot. It was a loooooong 5 weeks.

I was able to start blowing glass again (in the boot). I was limited, but it was awesome. Really, really awesome.

At 5 weeks (mid September), I was told to start walking. No boot, no crutches, just walking like a real, total normal and healed person would do. And that was awesome. Really, really awesome.

On Sept 25th, I flew to Zurich. Spent a night there, then flew to South Africa, where I travelled around the country for 2 weeks. It was my mom, two cousins and myself. It was better than awesome. It was even better than really, really awesome.

I came home on Oct 10th, and hit the ground running. Holiday season usually starts in September, so I was a bit behind schedule. Not so awesome.

But here I am. Walking (running a little, too!) and ready to take on the Holidays. It's been a crazy year. One that I would never want to repeat. I could get all philosophical, and say that I'm a better person for what I've been through. But the reality is, I'm still the same person. I still believe in my business, believe in hard work, and believe that good things happen and bad things everyone.

Do I think I've had my share of bad things this year? Hell ya. But I went to South Africa. SOUTH AFRICA!!!! That's all good.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The show is over

But the chance to win is not!!! See this post for details!

Contest will end on July 25th!!

I can't really give you any hints, but I will say that as always, I had a great time at the show. Sales were good, but I was just grateful to be there. The broken foot was a bit of a challenge, but thanks to lots of help from friends, and volunteers, I was able to exhibit.

This was my 7th year exhibiting (over the last 10 years), and it's been wonderful to see so many loyal customers!

Keep guessing!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Guess and Win!!! A giveaway

Want to win something? Of course you do.

Tell me what you think my best selling item will be at the upcoming Guilford Expo (see this post to learn more about the show). At the end of the show, I will randomly draw a name from those that guessed the correct answer. Yup, it's that easy.

So, all you have to do is tell me what you think will be my top selling item in the Comment section. You will get a bonus entry if you tweet (use hash tag: #bestseller) or Facebook this, too!! Just make sure you tell me that you did so in the comment. And make sure I have a way of contacting you if you win!

Only one entry per person, please!!!!

What do you win?
The best selling item (you can pick the design)!!! Totally free. I promise.

I know, I make lots of different things, so let me give you some choices:

Map magnets
Dog/Cat magnets
Vases (all styles)
Hook (all styles)

You can see all these items in my Etsy shop

(I don't often list the Map Magnets in my Etsy shop, but trust me, I have lots of them).

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Show Time

I love this show, plain and simple. This will be my 8th year exhibiting, and I am never disappointed. Of course, I expect this year to be a little different, as I will have to navigate on crutches. But, I couldn't let my broken foot stop me from being there.

If you're interested in attending, or know someone who is, please be so kind as to spread the word!!

When: July 15-17
Where: Guilford, CT
What: Super awesome craft show

Linkedy link: Guilford Expo

I must give a special mention to my friend KimV
Without her help, and her minivan, I don't think I could be there. Thanks a million Kim!!!

See you in Guilford!!!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

I'm Broken

That's right. Broken.

My left foot. The 5th metatarsal to be exact. Today is my appointment with the Ortho, and I'm hoping for good news.

A broken foot doesn't work so well when you're a glassblower. It's an "on the feet all day" kind of craft.

Am I down? A little. This has been a heck of a year. And it seems that perhaps I should change this Blog title to "What life was like as a glassblower". Since March (and the floods), I have spent a total of 5 hrs making my work in the studio. All my energy was put into recovering what we could, and getting my good friend (and boss) back in business. I'm so proud of our efforts.
As an Artist, the need to create is vital. But, the need to rejuvinate, recharge and refocus is more vital. And that is what I intend to do while I have the opportunity. For those that know me well, know that I am a workaholic. Time off? A nice concept, I imagine.
My Etsy shop is open, wholesale orders are coming in (and shipping out), and I'm still in business. Just not at my usual pace. And that's okay.
So, excuse me while I crutch my way to the backyard, sit in the sun and read my book.

Saturday, May 29, 2010


When I started doing craft shows, settling on a good booth design was a challenge. I knew that shelves were key to my display. But, I had a pretty strict criteria. So, I looked to Ikea, with these thoughts in mind:

Ease of use

And they were perfect. And I loved them.

After my last Holiday show of 2009, I decided I should redesign my booth. Give it a little makeover. For as much as I loved them, I needed a change. Although I believe change is good, sometimes I am reluctant to embrace it.

Forward to March 2010....
I lost all my beloved Ikea shelves in the flood. And I lost a lot of other things, too. And I've learned that comfort and stability are important when dealing with devastation. So, my first thought was to return to Ikea and buy the same shelves. After all, they were familiar.

But, I did not.

And I will not. I will go to Ikea, but with a new model in mind. It's exciting!

And if all goes well, it will debut at the Guilford Expo in July. And with the recent upgrade to a corner booth (I always chose an inline booth), the challenge to redesign is even greater.

Stay tuned, as I will post on the progress.

Change is good.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Earth Day! Hooray!

I try to be as Earth friendly as possible when I create my magnets, paperweights and hooks. Sure, new things are cool, but recycled, and Vintage things are even cooler.

The colors and graphics of Vintage papers just can't be compared to their newer counterparts. It's a bit of a win-win! Not only do I recycle and upcycle items, but I love the look!

Also, I've discovered some great, local sources for my Vintage sheet music,maps, and books (which means I leave less of a carbon footprint, as they don't have to be shipped to me). Another win-win!

The studio has been a great source for supplies, as well.....I use scrap cardboard that is destined for the landfill for my magnet packaging, and scraps of felt to line the bottom of my paperweights.

(thankfully, I stocked up on those items before the flood!)

In the big picture of being Eco-friendly, I realize this is a small, small thing. But, I believe that anything (big or small) that each of us can do to minimize our impact to our Earth is invaluable.

Happy Earth Day!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Before & After

Before cleaning & After the flood.
For the last 2 weeks, my kitchen, sun porch and driveway have transformed into The Clean Zone. All the glass that I salvaged had to be cleaned. Seriously cleaned. The great thing about glass is that it's not porous. So, as long as it didn't chip, crack or break during the flood, I am able to salvage it.
Most everything looked like the vase in the picture....covered in a layer of sludge.
The outsides were easy....rinse, soak in bleach water, scrub down with soap, and a final rinse.
Cleaning the insides proved to be the challenge. All my vases have a little opening (perfect for little arrangements, but not so perfect for cleaning). I now own every style scrub brush on the market, and even used an old toothbrush.
And my dishwasher....that's right, my dishwasher! (shortest wash cycle, and cool dry). I'll be honest, I held my breath when I took a look at the first load, afraid that everything would be cracked.
This has been a long process, and it's ongoing, but I'm so grateful to have salvaged so much of my inventory.
For all that I have lost, it's encouraging (and motivating) to have so much.
Thanks again for all your kind words and support.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Moving On.....and Up

This past week, Rhode Island suffered it's worst flooding in over 100 years.

When I awoke early Tuesday morning to see that my sump pump had not worked properly, I was facing an inch of water in my basement, and it was rising quickly. By 6 am, it was clear that anything I did that day would be to maintain the water level. 2 sump pumps and a shop vac (and 3 people), worked all day. And we won that battle! Very little was lost.

(Some of my neighbors were not as fortunate. 3 blocks from me, residents were evacuated by Emergency crews on rafts).

However, the Studio resides about 100 yards from the Pawtuxet River in Cranston, and was one of the areas that was hardest hit by the floods

This is the Studio. The water is over 5 feet deep (inside and outside). My heart sank, and my knees buckled when I stood there.
It took the River 2 days to recede enough for us to enter the building. I did not know what to expect......I knew it would be devastating, and very mucky, but it was worse.

Very little was where it *should* have been. Tables were taken clear across the studio. In 3000 square feet, you could not walk 2 feet without running into something large.

This is my studio space, in the back of the building. Notice my *safe* shelf, that floated down to safety as the waters receded.

I am still heartbroken, but I am moving on (and UP, to higher ground). Amazingly, I was able to salvage about 70% of my inventory. But that's it. All my display, packaging and supplies were destroyed. And my beloved glass tools? They were the first thing I looked for, and I found them (hooray!).
Tanner Glass will just make take me a little while to get settled. I will find a glass studio to rent, so I can continue to make all the things I love to make. But for the short term, I am consumed with salvaging what is left.
For all the well wishes, I am eternally grateful. Thank you all for your support.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Molly the Owl

I'm addicted. I admit it. I can't get enough of Molly the Barn Owl. I first heard of her on twitter a couple of days ago, and have been watching her ever since.

The first owlet has pipped (look at me, speaking "owl" talk! See, this is educational, too), so all 5 of her owlets should be hatched within a week. Exciting stuff.

Watch her here

(warning, this is a live, unedited stream of Molly, so be prepared to see her eat).

That lovely watercolor at the top of the post? I found it on Etsy, of course.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Big Fan

Little fans are good, too.
If you would take a moment to be MY fan, I'd appreciate it. A little button to the right (and also at the bottom of the blog) will take you to the Tanner Glass fan page.
Once a fan, you will be privy to things that you don't often see here, or on Etsy! It's a first glance as to what is happening in my world. It's an opportunity to participate, too!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Spring Fever

Spring Fever.
I have it. You have it. Everyone has it.
It's inevitable this time of year. The days start to get a bit longer, the temps a *little* warmer, and if you look closely, bulbs start to show themselves.

I am a winter buff, I admit. But, this time of year is great. Really great. I love the anticipation of Spring. It is my most inspirational season, the colors, themes and designs are filled with color, and happiness.

It's only March 6th, which means we can still get hit with a snow storm, and run of cold days. And it will make people regress a bit, and get grumpy. But not me, as I know that my studio space is filled with flower themed, Spring themed colors and designs.

Welcome Spring!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Two Years

It's hard to believe it has been 2 years since I joined Etsy.

To celebrate, I'm having a SALE!!
22% OFF
Why 22%, you ask? Well, I joined on 2.22 (so it only seemed fitting).

This is a great opportunity to get some things at a great price! Stock up for Mother's Day, Birthdays, Holidays or Anydays!

Lots of great things will be added all week, so keep checking for new items!

See my Etsy Shop Announcement for more information!

Thank you for making Tanner Glass a success on Etsy!

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Standing Out

Let's face it. I'm not the first to glue paper to the back of glass gems and turn them into magnets and paperweights. In fact, I am one of hundreds of sellers on Etsy that do this.

A simple google search will yield dozens of "how to's"......and that's how I learned.

You may think I'm a little nutty for telling you this. After all, now you all will click to google and search. And then you will create your own, right? Maybe. Maybe not.

I knew when I started making them that there were plenty of other sellers making them, too. But, I also knew I had ideas, resources and the ingenuity to make mine different.

After all, for the past 7 years, different was the key to my success as a glassblower. I didn't want to make what everyone else made. So I didn't. I saw a lack of smaller, affordable glass gifts in the marketplace, and quickly made that my niche market. I built my business on Bottlestoppers and Oil Candles, Bud Vases and Pocket Coins. To date, I have sold well over 5000 bottlestoppers. Crazy.
(what is even crazier is that I still enjoy making them. And I constantly add new designs and colors to the line).

Back to the glass gems......

When I began, I did what everyone else does. I went to the big Craft stores, sifted through scrapbook paper, bought my glass gems, and started creating. And they looked like everyone elses.

And then, the light bulb moment......I could make the glass gems. So I did. I don't make the little ones, but I do make all the larger ones. Now, I not only make them for my own use, but I sell them to one of the top Supply sellers on Etsy.

Thanks to a scanner, copier and photo editing program, I was able to execute some the Fortune paperweights, and dog/cat themed magnets. The Hooks quickly followed.

Okay, quickly is not quite right. The learning curve was huge. I had many failures. MANY. But, I loved the idea, so I perservered until the kinks had been worked out.

It's always a challenge as an artist, crafter or designer to stay inspired, to stay original, and most important, to stay true to yourself. Etsy is a constant reminder of the amazing talent and diversity that exists, and I have found much inspiration on that site. Unfortunately it is also a reminder that many people will copy others. Being inspired by others and copying others are entirely different things. It's up to us (as artists/crafters to know the difference).

(stay tuned, as I will discuss why I think the Bandwagon is not always a bad thing).

I love that I have the inate desire to be a little different. Tanner Glass wouldn't be here without it.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Handmade Helps Haiti

Inspiration struck, and I created a new blog.

It's all about Helping Haiti, and is inspired by the countless artists, crafters and designers that are donating to various Relief efforts.

It's a win purchasing from these artists, you are helping a GREAT cause, and supporting the Handmade movement.

Take a look and spread the word!
Thank you!!!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

The Wait is Over

Finally. It hardly seems possible that I could have this blog for over a year, and have neglected to put a picture of myself in the Studio.

So, this really is Life as a Glassblower.

It sure is sunny there, but that's not why I'm wearing sunglasses. And I'm pretty cool, but that's not why I'm wearing them either ;)

The reheating chamber we use to reheat the glass is very hot. And bright. It's not as bad as staring at the sun, but pretty darn close. So, I wear them to protect my eyes. There's also the possibility that glass may *pop*, and I don't want a piece of that near my eyes, either.

Safety first.

(those tools in my hand? Those are my beloved Dino jacks. You can read about them here)


Sunday, January 3, 2010

Sharing No. 1

My blogolution for share.

And I don't mean in the "you can have some of my french fries" kind of share.

I resolve to share some work from artists and crafters (on and off Etsy) that have motivated me, inspired me, and all that good stuff. They shared with me, so, I shall return the favor, and share them with you.

First up.....

Littleput Books

(visit her Etsy shop here)

When I first joined Etsy in Feb 2008, Ryan (aka Littleput) was one of the top sellers on Etsy, with over 10000 sales. I came across her shop while reading the Etsy forums (extremely helpful as a new Etsy seller).

I clicked on her avatar, taking me to her shop, and immediately, I was intrigued. Not only by her impressive sales, but by everything in her shop. Her photos, her items, her materials, and her packaging.

(if you remember, I am a bit of a packaging fanatic. So, I have the most utter respect for those than can design clever packaging).

I studied her shop (little did she know), and used it as a model for my own. That, combined with the great advice she doled out in the forums, made me believe that I, too could be successful on Etsy.

I am not ashamed to admit, I put her on a bit of a pedestal.

So, imagine my excitement when I discovered that she had not only hearted MY shop, but some of my items. My new, "I'm not so sure if people will like these" items.

It was validating. And, motivating.

Almost 2 years later, I am nowhere near 10000 sales, but I do consider myself successful. I pushed forward with those items (the hooks, if you're wondering). And to this day, have sold well over 500 (on and off Etsy). I have an Etsy shop full of items I am proud of. An aesthetic I am proud of. And I'm thankful.

Thank you, Ryan.

Again, check out Ryan's Etsy shop. Lots of good goods (and VERY clever packaging)!