Wholesaling Stained Glass in the US

Email by Jason Peter Brown on September 12, 2007

This article by Emily Zeitlin originally appeared in the Flat Glass Journal Volume 24, Issue 5. I thought it might be interesting to republish this from a historical perspective. How much has changed for Canadian artists selling to the United States in the last decade or so? Has the stronger Canadian dollar had an effect?

While wholesaling may not be everyone's cup of tea, it can be a full or part time venture that is profitable in the world of glass. During the course of the past twenty years as a full time glass artist I have had the opportunity to explore all aspects of earning my living via glass. I have also found it necessary to change and try various marketing avenues as the economy changed.

Initially my studio functioned as a site specific commissions studio, but it became apparent after several years that retail shows and home shows, etc… were a natural and needed component. The U.S., particularly the Connecticut area (where I was), was hard hit by a recession. Retail shows were an excellent opportunity to meet one-on-one and educate the general public to the world of glass techniques and options. Retailing is an education as to pricing, styles, comfort levels, and interest in different glass techniques.

The next step was testing the waters in the world of wholesaling - from gallery owners to corporate buyers to catalogue companies.

Many decisions - personal and economic - must be factored into the mix of how each of us pursues a career in the world of glass. The good news is that glass work is still in strong demand by buyers in the US wholesale marketplace. The important news is that if you haven't already taken your blinders off, for the most part, glass work is not a "need" item. It is vital to recognize and respect that you are running a business no different than any other service business which requires strict attention to the needs and wants of your clients as well as the overall economic climate.

Fortunately, or unfortunately, many of us learn the economic lessons the hard way. Face it, it is definitely not the easiest task to be self-employed, let alone in an area where emotions, self expression and creativity on a very personal level are the driving force.

Example of author's work. Links to author's page in the AISG galleries

I personally found that John Iverson's newsletter "CraftSmarts" addresses some of those nuts and bolts realities. On a personal note, my former partner and I grew a very successful wholesale glass business, but without the proper preparation on meeting the new levels of demand, it took a heavy toll - both in our personal and business lives.

On the brighter side if you do your economic reality checks, wholesaling can be a rewarding and lucrative part of your glass experience. It is very demanding and challenging, and it calls upon creative reserves in putting all the pieces in place. You may even become a trendsetter, or create a specialty niche and clientele.

What I can pass on to you is that having experienced many different wholesale venues, I personally now participate with one show and have been with them for many years. This promoter welcomes the inclusion of Canadian exhibitors, and appreciates the special quality and flavour that characterize Canadian artists of all mediums.

Who and what is that entity you ask?

The Buyers Market of American Crafts, commonly referred to as the Rosen Show.

Why this show?

  1. the quality of work
  2. the professionalism
  3. the fact that unlike general gft shows, this show is designed to serve buyers who are seeking original design, quality, handmade items
  4. the exhibitors and buyers attend from all parts of the USA and Canada
  5. price points are varied, and the exhibitor must be one of the active creators of the work, buy/sell, knockoffs etc. are, to put it mildly, unacceptable and unwelcome
  6. the show ambiance, displays etc. create a gallery atmosphere
  7. examples of new work are required prior to every show to keep things fresh for the buyers and challenge us to continue to design, stretch and grow.

Barbara Bateman, Rosen team spokesperson said "…let the Canadian artisans know we welcome their participation with open arms… Over the years we have noticed a growing number of Canadian based exhibitors in all mediums and they are well represented in the world of glass both hot, warm and flat."

The Rosen group's policy to allow non-profit guides to have a booth at the show for no charge has been a wonderful stepping stone for many. Quebec has taken advantage of this opportunity showcasing some excellent talents. Anyone interested in considering the Rosen Show would benefit highly by visiting the show to get a sense of the displays, price points, trends, etc… You may request free passes from the Rosen Agency.

The USA with so many population centres, diversified populations, economic, geographic climates and tastes is a vast marketplace… an opportunity to gift many with your work. The Rosen Group provides a supportive environment - with preparation, some solid dollar and "sense" planning you may open a new doorway to your future marketing plans.