Enjoy the beautiful portfolio of Margaret Neher, who crafts amazing pieces from flameworked glass. She spoke with The Arts Business Institute about her inspiration and her business.
ABI: You do a lot of production work, but enjoy making one-of-a-kind pieces as well. Tell us about that.
MN: I have always done production work. I like the rhythm of doing multiples, and the challenge of constantly trying to perfect a design. It’s also a terrific way to hone technical skills. My earliest serious production work was orchids, and that is what I’m best known for. I’ve been making a lot of fruit for the last few years, and I enjoy making them, which is good because they can run into the hundreds!
The downside to production work is that it can be quite fatiguing to try keep up with a demanding production schedule, and hard on the body. One-of-a kind work is where I get to stretch and explore more challenging forms and ideas that interest me, without worrying about whether or not I have a buyer waiting. It also gives me opportunities to collaborate with other artists, which is always fun. Finding the right balance between the two is the real challenge.
ABI: You are designing a fascinating glass art botanical collection. How is that going?
MN: The idea is of botanical illustration in glass; like a technical drawing but three dimensional. I did the first two for a local show sponsored by the Fingerlakes Native Plant Society, and they were recently shown at the Cornell Plantations. The first challenge was figuring out how to display them, since they are full plants with roots.
Once I worked that out, it was all about making them as detailed and realistic as possible, which is where a good part of my interest in flameworking lies. They are challenging, but a lot of fun. I plan to do more, and am in the research phase at the moment. I’ll probably continue to focus on native wildflowers for now.
ABI: How did you get started selling your work wholesale?
MN: I was lucky to know people who sold glass at wholesale shows when I was getting started (in the mid-80’s) so I wasn’t even really aware that it was a choice to be made- I just thought that was what one did.
I was mentored by people who wholesaled so my pricing from the beginning was developed with wholesaling in mind. I did do retail shows as well for quite a few years, but it was always obvious to me that selling it myself involved considerable expense, so the pricing structure would be the same.
The first wholesale shows I did were the ACC shows in West Springfield and the Buyers Market of American Craft in Boston; since the early 90’s I’ve done one show a year, in Philadelphia. I also sell locally at the (exceptional) Ithaca Farmer’s Market. Other than that I do very little retail. As a one person business, I just find retail to be a lot more work.
Visit Margaret’s Facebook Page also.