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ornate heartsTwo ornate 'puffy' silver heart beads, hollow in the center with holes at top and bottom for stringing. Each is about 1" wide and lightweight. Sold as a set of two. I will consider selling them separately -- so let me know if you'd like to buy only one for $19.00.

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wedge 3Some of our most admired beads and pendants ever came out of JoAnn Wedge's kiln. I've never gotten around to interviewing her before -- but now's the time! (BTW, please let us know if you are a bead/jewelry artisan and want to be featured -- we love to discover new talent! Especially within the ranks of our subscribers!!) So here goes about JoAnn --

Sheila: How did you get started in the business of bead-making, and why?

JoAnn: Well, as I was learning to do fused glass in pottery kilns and making large items, they were expensive and hard to sell. So as I started doing smaller and smaller items, I finally got into jewelry (mostly to use up scraps) and learned how to make glass beads for watches and bracelets. They got attention, sold and that encouraged me to stick with the smaller stuff. I finally sold the pottery kilns (7 cu. ft. size!!) and went to smaller kilns so turnaround was much quicker and less expensive!!

Sheila: How did you learn?

yellow glassJoAnn: Had one girlfriend in Merritt Island, a stained glass worker that started doing fusing and spent a day with her, made a fused glass bowl and was hooked on glass. After I bought $750 worth of equipment and tools (and glass), I took it back to Colorado where I lived at the time, and started experimenting. Mostly I taught myself. There were very few books on the subject 20 years ago. But the curiosity about the medium and playing with the infinite possibilities of the craft, I kept going until I finally gave up pottery and devoted all my time to glass -- mostly jewelry --embellishing it with beads, crystals, and silver. That was 11 years ago.

Sheila: What would you call your style?

JoAnn:  I don't know. I love detail and intricate designs (as my pottery showed), so many if not all of my pieces are very detailed. Recently, I've been embellishing with flatback Swarovski crystals, small pearls and tiny beads. I refer to it as "bead-embellished fused glass". I think it is very elegant, almost Victorian in looks. With a high level of "flair", these are statement pieces and stand alone as a focal in any design.

Sheila: Do you make jewelry?

JoAnn: Yes, lots of it. Many (almost all) of my pieces are featured on my Facebook page "Wedge Fused Glass". I use that venue to document, record, and promote new pieces. I also sell from that site if people PM me for more info. 

joann photoSheila: What are your favorite materials to work with and why?

JoAnn: It starts with the infinite combinations I can make with the glass- dichroic and stained glass, all in 90 COE (coefficient of Expansion) so it will bond together and not crack the piece after firing. When adding embellishments, I use Swarovski crysals, tiny delica beads, seed beads, tiny pearls, and sometimes silver in the surface designs. When I make necklaces out of the focals, I like using Swarovski crystals, natural stones, silver or goldfilled beads, and sometimes handmade beads to compliment the design. All these resources challange me to put together the most attractive combination of elements to enhance the glass and the wearer of the art I create.

Sheila: What has been your experience with the best selling venues?

JoAnn: Since I got started in selling my pottery in the Arts and Crafts show scene, I kept doing that with the glass pieces; but I found that having two mediums on display may have cut out sales on both sides. For whatever the reason, selling both at the same time did not work well for me either, and when I finally got focused on just the glass, sales were better. Pottery was winding down anyway. For a while it was a popular home decor item but times had changed over 30 years, and glass was the new "item" on many levels. As for the best selling venues, I recommend juried, well known, well-run Fine Arts and Crafts shows. For years I tried other methods for selling my work, but nothing made as much money at one time than the "good" art shows. Galleries wanted too much commission, tying up many pieces for long periods of time -- and there was not enough turnover to keep it going. I tried online sites too- "Custom made", Etsy, Ebay, etc., but found that even good photos cannot do justice to the depth and color of well-fired glass -- so it is very hard to get sales that way... or for me at least.

Sjoann bead 1heila: Have things changed regarding sales over time, and if so, how so?

JoAnn: Yes, things have changed over time. That is the only constant in life---change!! But it shows growth and keeps everything interesting. Art shows have gone two ways -- either they are high end, great quality, and worth-the-money "art", or they have gotten greedy - - non-juried, lots of inexpensive/non-quality stuff just to fill spots on the ground for the promoter. Customers have gotten more sophisticated about shows as well, and with so many around everywhere, they can pick and choose their preference. My focus when doing shows has been to only apply to the "juried" ones, and with promoters with a good reputation that actually put the money into advertising/promoting the show. It is always a partnership--we show up on time, display with interesting, well planned booths, and the promoter's job is to get the public there with a well -laid-out show, food, quality art, etc.

Sheila: What is your best advice for a beginning or "branching out" jewelry (or bead) artisan?

JoAnn: Many things come to mind about this question. First, you need to know your market. Do you want to sell to passers by who want a token of the show to remember, or a small gift for themselves like a pair of earrings for $10? Or do you want the serious art collector to see and appreciate all your time and effort, possibly win an award, and still make money? Each focus will prompt you to make different stuff or at least, some of both--quick sales and serious sales. Getting started can begin with local bazaars, boutique, or school fund raiser shows. It will give you a feel for what sells in those markets. When you decide to expand, develop a functional booth within a budget, then go to the next level and see what happens in a "higher" clientel market. It sometimes takes years to develop a line with the quality to be accepted into this type of show, but there is money to be made there! Pricing is always a challenge because you can overprice your work and not sell, or under-price it and give it away, leaving you barely making expenses. There are ways to develop the knowledge to do that well too. Research your questions (You Tube or google) and stay connected to those in the field you are working in; they are valuable resources. Most artists are more than willing to help "newbies"-- just ask. Join a guild or club that fosters sharing info with each other.

Sheila: And what about you? Tell us more about your life and work.

Jblue necklace 2oAnn: About me!! Well--got a cup of tea and time? I have been around "forever", it seems. Started my pottery business in 1975, making all handbuilt highfired pottery, functional and decorative art/home ware. Took my first class in pottery in college while finishing my degree in Elementary Education with a minor in Early Childhood. Then took lessons in a neighbor's garage and got hooked on pottery!! When I could no longer give it away, I had to start selling it for more supplies. I was also a mother of two kids -- a 6-year old and a one year old baby. After my divorce in 1986, I knew I could go back to work, or I could make my passion work for me. Pottery won out, and I opened a small studio shop for a year. Then I moved to Colorado and continued out there. Eventually, after twenty years in clay, I was introduced to fused glass by a fellow artist and did both pottery and glass for ten years. Then I gave up pottery and stuck with glass -- but focused on the smaller pieces and eventually just jewelry. As a teacher, I learned that teaching my style of glass was pretty easy and a process most would never get to see any other way, so I started to teach pendant making. I taught (and still teach) at bead shops, women's groups, my own studio, and at Independent Living senior centers. I now live in Florida most of the year, as I have a home and some family still there. I like to travel to Colorado (where I lived for ten years) and visit for 3-4 months in the summer, work, teach and visit with my many friends there -- thus getting out of the horrid Florida heat.

Sheila: What inspires you?

JoAnn: My love of Victorian styles, intricate detail, and complexity of desigtn inspires me to dig deep and create what no-one else has done (that I can find). I can't just throw a pile of glass together, full fuse it, and call it art with a bail. I have to layers the glass, by design, color, patterns, textures, etc., to come up with a one-of-a-kind piece. Nature inspires me with colors and combinations; architecture inspires me with detailed patterns; and working with the medium starts a flow just touching it, putting things together and seeing what evolves. It is all a process!!! Sometimes I have no idea where it will end up til it is done!!  The newest pieces with the bead embellishment is a result of taking the intricacies and details to a higher level, with more details in glitzy crystals, tiny frames of color and lots of shiny textures. I have seen no other jewelry with as much detail on the surface of a piece of glass as mine. Looking at Pinterest also inspires me.

Final Notes from Sheila:

Photos featured here are some of JoAnn's beautiful pieces as well as her and her daughter a couple of years ago. To see more of her work, check out her social media sites:

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/artsyartist/wedge-fused-glass-dichroic-and-crystal-jewelry/and

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/WedgeFusedGlass/

If you enjoyed this post, you might also enjoy these:

Passing the Flame

Newfoundlan Artist Janice Evans

Until Next Time,

Sheila

 

 

 

 

 

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