Glassblower Jake Pfeifer of Hot Glass Alley is a successful entrepreneur with a loyal following. We spoke with him about running and growing his small business.
ABI: You do extensive production and wholesale your work. How have you developed your bestselling line?
JP: One of my best selling series is the “Treasure Series.” This series is an unusual combination of color. I spent quite a bit of time thinking about what patterns would work with the colors, and then went through the same process with shapes. I wanted the series to be elegant stand-alone art pieces; although, they can be functional as well.
It took 6 or 8 months before I was ready to show it publicly. I tested the series at some retail shows to assess buyer interest, and price point. I engaged customers in a discussion about the work, listened to the buyers, and refined the pieces based on the feedback.
An important step is to ensure I could make it consistently, profitably, and still leave plenty of room for my wholesale customers to mark up the work for sale in their stores and galleries. So, my experience has been that it is more than just making a piece that I personally like; it is about making work to which customers positively respond.
ABI: How are you able to stay excited and creative in the studio?
JP: First, there is no place I would rather be than in the hot shop. I do production work, but, I try to make each production piece or series interesting and beautiful. Creativity and inspiration do not just emerge or come to me like a bolt of lightning. It takes work. For me it is about staying open to suggestions, looking for a new challenge, and trying out new ideas. I pay attention to everything around me. I listen to what people say about things they see. I go to movies, art museums, travel, read art books, confer with colleagues.
I also ensure that I schedule a ½ day to full day a week for making my one of a kind pieces, or for experimenting with new colors, shapes and techniques. I continue to push limits beyond my comfort zone. I also like doing demonstrations in the hot shop; it allows for on the spot interaction and feedback.
ABI: What are your plans for future expansion?
JP: I am working toward owning my own hot shop and gallery. I have already been able to purchase 90% of the equipment needed; glory holes, furnace, annealers, benches, etc. I have an equivalent of two full-time employees. I am still a few years out from opening my own shop. I continue to build my customer base, and I am looking at cities and properties.
I definitely will go south to the Carolinas or Florida. I lived in North Carolina for years and it captured my heart. After a hot day of blowing glass in the shop, I want to be able to have a short bike or car ride to the ocean. I’ll keep you posted on this next step.