Sheree Blum started selling her unique fused glass plates at the Green Market in Wellington only a few short years ago. She used that experience to learn more about marketing and selling her work. Anthropologie’s order of over 4,000 plates sold in the US and the UK is history. Recently showcased in People Magazine and Epicurious Magazine, Sheree has a lot of information to share with other artists. Watch for her new line of cake stands for the 2014 Holiday Season in Anthropologie! The Rickie Report presents this Feature Article and interview with Sheree Blum of Kicking Glass.
TRR: How did your childhood influence your interest in art?
I grew up in a rural area of New York State, near the Pennsylvania border and am the oldest of 6 children. My father showed his gifted artistry through his masonry work and my mother was busy with art projects, like ceramics, on a regular basis. At that time in the US educational system, art played a very large part not only in the classroom, but in our community. You at least had to try something, whether you liked it or not!
I enjoyed those activities but moved on to married life at 18 and then started a family. Being a mother to my three children was my priority until I went to college at age 27. I was lucky to attend Jamestown Community College and then St. Bonaventure University, where they provided a nurturing day care setting while I had my classes. I graduated with a degree in Elementary Education. In 1990, I moved with my children to Wellington, FL. and starting working in Belle Glade. I decided to get my Masters degree in Special Education at FAU and worked in the Pahokee Elementary School in Special Education. I also worked within the school setting of the Dept. of Juvenile Justice, with a focus on academics. I retired just two years ago.
TRR: How did that lead you to a career in art and specifically glass?
I always used art projects to teach and enhance the learning environment. I found it helped keep my students’ attention and increase their interest in education. During my teaching career, I met the owners of Lee Glass Art, Wayne Taylor and Sheldon Bickford in Mt. Dora Florida. Always fascinated by color, I convinced them to let me apprentice! I went to Winter Harbor, Maine during my summer breaks to train in their method.
If I were a wealthy person, I always said I would own a million dishes! I love the blending of science, experimentation and art when I work with glass. And now that I had a lot of dishes, I decided to practice my salesmanship by being a vendor at the Wellington Green Market!
That is when a buyer from Anthropologie saw my work. He bought some pieces, but I had no idea who he was until several months later when I received a call from their tabletop buyer. The lady that was with him did whisper in my ear that this was my lucky day, but I had no idea what this meant. I learned a lot! About pricing, figuring out my timing, how to box and ship everything safely. 4,000 dishes were sold throughout the US and United Kingdom in a few months!
I applied and was accepted to be part of Howard Alan’s Crafts Shows and was able to continue making new pieces, experimenting with new techniques and selling to the public. At this time, I am a resident artist at Art on Park Gallery, the home of the Artists of Palm Beach County; OSGS in Northwood (West Palm Beach) and Kolbo Gallery of Judaica in Brookline, MA. I enjoy making apple and honey plates for Rosh Hashanah and Seder Plates for Passover for their catalogue. In addition, the Iriquois Hotel on Mackinaw Island ordered special dishes they use for service and also sell in their gift shop.
It’s been a real treat for me to see my creations highlighted by being mentioned and shown in Jennie Garth’s Tabletop Decor column, People Magazine (April 14, 2014) and a full page presentation in Epicurious Magazine’s Spring/Summer,2014 (page 52)! I just found out that my dishes are now listed with Replacements,Ltd. as well!
TRR: What are your favorite as well as challenging moments?
There is nothing like the excitement I feel when I am creating! And I love meeting the people at the shows, knowing I am sending my creations out to new homes where they will be appreciated. The most challenging part of being a full time professional artist is marketing and selling one’s work. But you have to do it in order to keep creating!
TRR: Do you have any helpful hints for emerging artists?
Be brave! Have a business plan – do your math. Don’t just jump off the building without Plan A, Plan B and maybe even Plan C! Don’t hesitate to take risks. Be professional in your demeanor and behavior at all times. Do your homework – how many dishes fit into the box safely? Where do you get the boxes? Don’t forget the paper slips in between each dish. Everything you use counts, is necessary and adds to your price. Consider your price ranges and whether you want to sell retail, wholesale or both. Be consistent and ask for what your artwork is worth! I hope that other artists also consider helping the community by making some donations. I recently sent seven sets of dishes to families who lost everything from tornado damage in MS.
TRR: What story does your art tell?
I bring bright color into people’s everyday world. It may not seem important in the grand scheme of things, but I hope that these dishes will conjure up happy memories and become family heirlooms. This is a quieter voice than the one I used when I was teaching, but I believe it is the same message. Ordinary objects can imbue happiness.
TRR: Please take us from the beginning of an idea to a finished piece of work.
I usually start with a big idea. For example, I wanted to create some glass pieces with an ocean feel and incorporate coral reefs. I find designs that meet the criterion – they could come from a piece of fabric, a photo or other objects. My idea begins to solidify. Then I decide on colors and move forward with a prototype to test out my theory. Does it meet my standards? If not, it becomes a salad dish at my house. If it does, I make more! Sometimes the need to meet the requirements of the marketplace influence my work – otherwise I wouldn’t have a thriving business! And then, there are pieces I just feel I have to try…to meet my own needs.
TRR: How do you maintain your level of creativity?
I let my mine wander. I dabble in watercolors and enjoy playing Scrabble.
TRR: How do you define success?
Success has nothing to do with money! You are successful if you are happy and satisfied at the end of the day.
For more information about Sheree Blum’s glasswork please visit:
Her work is currently located at Artists of Palm Beach County’s Art on Park Gallery ( Lake Park,FL), OSGS in Northwood (W.Palm Beach, FL), Kolbo Gallery (Brookline, MA) and Iriquois Hotel (Mackinaw Island). Sheree is available for special orders and commissions.
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