The Art Of Success: Stained Glass


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The Art Of Success: Stained Glass

 

"I really didn't know much about stained glass, only what I'd seen
in gift shops," said Hal Williams, owner of Eagle Mountain Stained Glass
Studio in Ridgecrest, California. So it was back in 1976, with "zero
artistic background" that Williams and his wife Mary decided to take a
class on stained glass at the community college. At that time they were both
working as paramedics in Las Vegas, Nevada, and had extra time between shifts
on the job.

Soon they became good friends with their instructor who owned a stained
glass studio. By the end of the year, Williams was hired on at the studio as
an apprentice. He stayed there for the next two years, learning most of what
he would need to know to start his own business.

Then Williams moved to Houston, Texas, and started to work in his own
studio part-time while holding a full-time job in the steel business. when
Williams was laid off, however, her and his wife decided to move back to
their hometown Ridgecrest, California -and start a stained glass business
full-time. "Mary knew people here, but I didn't know a soul," says
Williams. "But since I'd had some sales experience, I just started
knocking on doors.

Williams started a large studio at his home and worked out of it for
quite some time. He gained more experience and training by attending various
seminars and workshops around the country.

STARTING OUT SMALL

"All I had was the bare necessities - my hand tools and a
bench," says Williams. Eventually, for about $100 Williams purchased a
glass grinder used to grind glass down for precision fitting. Next, he bought
a diamond band saw for about $700. This he used for tricky cutting such as 90
degree angles and cutting that cannot be done by hand - it gives the glass
worker a professional cut. To round out his studio, Williams bought a glass
kiln for $2,000.

The kiln is used for glass painting and fusing. It is a necessity when
one is restoring the windows of old churches, which Williams has done.
"Most of these tools are not necessary when just starting out, but they
do save a lot of time for the professional," says Williams.

Initially, Williams made a large purchase of glass, lead, solder and
other supplies because he felt it was necessary to keep these supplies on
hand and ready. Since Williams was making so many time-consuming trips to Los
Angeles for his materials, he decided to purchase a month's supply at a time.
A month's worth of supplies costs him between $1,000 and $1,500.

Other essentials for Williams office include a work table (which he
built himself for under $100) and a bench equipped with a built-in light. He
uses this bench to trace patterns onto the stained glass pieces.

WHAT IT COSTS TO START

"Taking everything into consideration, if you are really creative,
you can start up for about $2,000," says Williams. "That is if you
start with a home studio." When you are building the stained glass
business from scratch, one of the first things you should do is check your
competition. This will tell you exactly what supplies to carry. It is obvious
that if you don't have a wide pallet of coloured glass to choose from, you
will lose your business to the guy that does.

If you do have competition, be sure there's enough consumer interest to
justify your new business. To attract customers to your shop and widen your
customer base, offer to teach what you know. Williams went to the local
college to offer to teach his skills in stained glass, which they cordially
accepted. He is licensed and now teaches twenty-five students a semester.

He also approached local housing contractors and explained that not
only could he provide excellently crafted stained glass, but he could also
install it and do any necessary repairs on the job. This appealed to them
because it would save a considerable amount of money. Their first contract
was for stained glass work on twenty-five new houses. Williams created
stained glass for front doors and side-lights. Popular colours are various
hues of blue, mauve, and desert shades for floral, animal, or desert scenes.

Williams has a regular business license to do stained glass work, but
if you also do the installation, work yourself you must have a contractors
license.

GETTING THE JOB

"Proper bidding, I think is very important in stained glass,"
said Williams. "If you underbid, you are going to eat it, and if you
overbid you are going to lose the job." Williams started out bidding
very low so he could get the jobs and prove himself. As time went on he
raised his prices, but he is still lower than his competitors. Now he is well
known in his area, and gets a lot of good jobs.

Williams makes approximately $3,000 a month on custom work and the
sales of supplies, a figure which does not include his contract work and
teaching. Williams also has a gift shop in his downtown studio. "To make
a decent wage you have to charge a decent price," says Williams.

SPREADING THE WORD

Although he gets excellent exposure at his street-front location..
Williams still advertises. He has tried radio and newspapers, but finds that
he gets the best results from the local swap sheet. He also carries a large
ad in the Yellow Pages. Word of mouth has also been a very important
advertising factor.

"We listen to what the customer wants, show him what we can do,
and do the job right," says Williams. The Williams may expand even
further someday, if they ever get the time, but right now their prosperous
stained glass studio is keeping them very busy.





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