Things You'll Need
- Large, flat table
- Work lights
- Latex gloves
- Vapor mask
- Particle mask
- Stained glass
- Stained glass cutting tools
- Stained glass grinder
- Copper foil
- Soldering iron
- Stained glass solder
- Stained glass patterns
Stained glass is rewarding in its intricate beauty and incomparable interaction with light. Thousands of people create stained glass art for fun. Expanding the hobby into a full-time business is challenging, as the market is extremely competitive. You will need an initial financial investment in equipment and studio supplies. Stained glass is also labor intensive. You must take care to avoid repetitive motion injuries and use protective gear to avoid toxins in the materials. Building a stained glass business is rewarding, in spite of the difficulties involved, as you are creating something beautiful every day.
How to Start a Stained Glass Business
Write a business plan. Every business needs a business plan. Detailed instructions in writing business plans are available online at the Small Business Association website. Take time to consider how much income you want to make from your business in the first year, by the third year, and the fifth year; and think about ways you will accomplish your goals. Key questions to consider are: How much cash investment will you need to start your business? How much do you need to sell until you get a return on your initial investment? How much do you need to invest in supplies on a regular basis? How will you price your items so they are competitive in the existing marketplace but surpass your cost of supplies by a reasonable percentage? How much will you need to invest in a studio or storefront? Where and how will you advertise and market your product and business?
Find a work space. Working at home is a good way to save on the expense of a studio, but not every home is right for a stained glass business. If you have a room available to dedicate to stained glass work, a home business might be right for you. Toxins are emitted during the stained glass soldering process, so take that into consideration if you have small children in the home. If a home business is not practical, look into renting a studio space. A combined storefront and studio is a good option because you can sell and create in the same space.
Find your ideal market. Many stained glass artisans produce a range of work from small gift items to large architectural commissions. Consider your skill level and location to decide which market is best for you. Key questions to consider are: Do you have knowledge of architectural installation or repair of stained glass? Do you need further education? Can you find reliable installation experts in your area with whom you can partner? Are there outlets to sell small gift items in your area or will you need to travel to get your work into galleries and craft shops? Are you set up to sell your work online? What mixture of gift item production and large-scale commission work is right for you?
Build an inventory. Entering the gift market, you must develop an inventory so you can resupply your stores and galleries immediately as your work sells. Consider producing at least a one-month backup supply for each item you are selling.
Market your work. Successful artisans spend as much time marketing as making work. Making your work visible to the public through advertising is essential in establishing a business. If you live in an urban area, marketing is often easier, with opportunities for direct signage on a storefront studio space, setting up open studio events with collaborating artists and participating in city-sponsored arts events and sales. Artisans need to establish a budget for marketing in print publications and online. Stained glass industry publications and crafts magazines are a good place to advertise but can be costly. Establishing a relationship with local interior designers and decorators is an important strategy for installation work. Online stores are a rapidly growing outlet for artisans. Small stained glass items that are easily packed and shipped are generally the most profitable items to sell online.
Lead from stained glass solder can build up in your system over time. Wear a protective mask and latex gloves when soldering.
Have good ventilation in your studio at all times.
L. Bradley has been a freelance arts publicist and writer since 2003. She is a nationally exhibited artist and also writes for online and print publications, including "Southcoast Insider." Bradley holds an M.F.A. from the Massachusetts College of Art, as well as an M.A. in professional writing from the University of Massachusetts.