The Independent Artist Podcast

Pyros and Glass Holes/ Tony Cray

February 14, 2022 Douglas Sigwarth/ Will Armstrong/ Tony Cray Season 2 Episode 3
The Independent Artist Podcast
Pyros and Glass Holes/ Tony Cray
Show Notes Transcript

Join co-hosts Douglas Sigwarth and Will Armstrong, professional working artists who talk with guests about ART & SELLING.  Douglas talks about getting ready for his run of shows in Florida and Will heads to the mountains to deliver his work for a gallery show. Other topics include fighting the winter doldrums and the studio apathy that sets in from being out of the public eye for too long.

Welcome to the pod this week Tony Cray from New Melle, MO. Tony is a glassblower who has a passion for the process of glassblowing. Listen as he tells his story about his career as a maker and a glassblower.

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welcome to the independent artist podcast sponsored by the National Association of Independent Artists also
sponsored by zapplication I'm will Armstrong and I'm a mixed media artist I'm Douglas sigworth class blower join
our conversations with professional working artists
here on our little call I hope you're doing well what's that uh hold on hold on just a second there won't okay
um great got it all right good I just solved my daily Wordle and uploaded it to Facebook I'm good to go we can chat
God [ __ ] your world [ __ ] your Wordle
I don't know man people are enjoying that and I have no problem you know when I get irritated at Facebook and things
that are happening I know I'm spending too much time on it yeah isn't that the sign right there when you're posting
vertical puzzles in the shape of phalluses you know uh speaking of pictures of phalluses somebody drew a
big old Wang and poor Oscar of Matos lineris uh guest book at a show I had to
make sure that I wasn't uh if that wasn't you yeah well isn't that a fine how do you do well I've definitely done
that to poor Greg Turco well what you got going there man how's your day going you know I mean it's fine I'm just
having one of those days where I'm super hyper caffeinated and I mean I've already literally cursed out the sun on
the way I you did in Mexico damn you son too much vitamin D you know
I'm not even kidding I'm so irritated I think I've had the sun in my eyes ever since I've moved to New Mexico it's uh
it's a it's a bright orb and it's constantly just right there and I'm just having one of those days all right well
you should come to the glass studio and stare into those hot furnaces that's like staring into the sun you'd be crazy
I'll deal with uh cataracts and things like that earlier we've got special glasses that we that we got and all that
stuff yeah okay but that is a thing that you guys have to think yeah no we have to have special eye eye protection for
for staring into that bright light all day huh yeah I had a cataract surgery at
38 just because of eye trauma really uh yeah when I was 16 I got into a fight and got punched in the eye pretty good
and uh so anyway did you deserve it well no [ __ ] that guy I totally did not
deserve it no he uh he hit my girlfriend in the face with an ice ball so oh okay
you know I mean there's certain things that happen in your life and it's like well I'm 16 you hit my girlfriend in the
face with an ice ball from Point Blank Range it's like at 51 I'm gonna be like
um we are going to need to discuss your actions like must punch you now chivalry is not
dead back then yeah that and you're just your anger meter just
just pull up of testosterone and a 16 year old angst and ready yeah for sure
so anyway what's happening with you oh what's happening with me um you'll enjoy this one you know how
you got me all in my head about being careful with my achilles tendon because you say it's it's very common amongst
people of our ages males of our age that's right anyway so and then after
our good friend Mike has been recovering from his his injury and you had your injury
um I'm kicking the car door shut the other day and the bottom corner of the car door catches right under my calf and
does a good old gouge right out of my leg and Renee is laughing at me because I the first thing I scream at the top of
my lungs actually I shrieked at the top of my lungs my achilles
that is much more masculine than I'm sure you just I'm not just playing with
you but there's no way that you dropped an octave you were screaming that's why she was
laughing she laughed her ass off at me and said oh you are you are just ridiculous so yeah you doing okay I'm
fine uh but we've just been you know just been crushing it in the studio because we're getting ready to leave our
driveway again and do what we do and go sell some work wait what is uh what's
today today's Wednesday uh is Coconut Grove this weekend it's the following so we're heading out here probably over the
weekend because we have a big installation for a collector in Fort Myers so we're planning a date or too
early to be down there so we can work on their project and then head over and get ready for the show you know Douglas I
did want to talk to you about the booth space is Fort Worth just announced yesterday yeah yeah
um yeah I'm super happy I got I got just what I wanted which is great but um that's cool yeah interesting new layout
uh of the show I I appreciate those guys kind of working with the challenges that Sundance Square has kind of offered
there's some new new sections of the show that people were you know doing their usual conversations about
wondering if it's a good spot and I just want to relay my experience from a number of years ago
um I've done Fort Worth on and off maybe dozen times so I've done a fair amount
of times over 20 years and one of the years we were on the waiting list and we got pulled off the wait list for a spot
in the show that at that point everybody deemed as undesirable they said don't
don't accept the spot down there you're just gonna sit there I said we're going to chance it we're gonna go we're going
to have faith and we went and honestly this spot that people said to avoid
that's the best Fort Worth we've ever had of any of the years they've ever done it so I don't know you know it's
funny like I've done the show a number of times as well and I was Sundance Square one time and I'm like oh I don't
want to be in Sundance Square because I've never been there before yeah you know that's that's how I'm like I've always had great shows there and it's
like well then you go to Sundance Square and it's like well I had the same show that I have always had there it's always
con consistent so um I don't know I feel like if you are on a side street
sometimes you might not get the mass of Turkey Leg eaters yeah uh that you
typically get that are trudging their way to the the big stage but you're gonna get the art collectors because
they are collectors it's not that big of a show they're going to be walking every if they're interested in art they're
they're going to check out the whole thing they're going to make sure they see yeah see what they've got to choose from yeah it's a big anchor on my show
schedule so I'm looking forward to speaking of big shows I just saw on social media yesterday that Des Moines
had their big jury this week okay I guess I kind of wanted to jump back in and talk a little bit about jury process
we talked about it uh pretty early on in the podcast with some guests because we had a number of guests on who
participated in being jurors at a lot of these these big events and um it's kind of an important topic as
the ripple effect of covid and some of the challenges with during it's just the expense of convening a jury in one place
at one time I think that's an important thing to have all the jurors together
looking over the applications and having conversations what do you think about that big time I'm a huge proponent of
having art show artists in the Jury Room like some of these shows are like well
we've got these Gallery owners and we've got these whatever these you know Museum curators I think it's really important that you have one of us that knows who
the artists are and knows what a booth should look like so that they can jury uh the people in they can vouch for the
people that they and it's not I'm not just saying like friends and you know nepotism I'm talking about like like Deb
Adelson if you have her on a jury she's a jeweler she knows she's going to be on
the jury and be like okay well I know what the technique is with this particular jewelry I know you know not
just who the person is but like they know what they're looking at and they also know if they're using components
that are mass produced and just getting uh built by 100 I don't know I'm just a
huge proponent of having art show artists that know what we're doing in the jury room and then you can have uh
the conversations right you know they can be like hey I know what this person is doing I've seen this person up close
I know what their work looks like Anna Cliff has talked about it uh Clifton Henry David beerstrom has talked about
it when we've had him on the podcast Stephen King as well and it's it's incredible to have one of us like that
can actually be like hey I've seen this artist I've seen this artwork I this is what it is and they can explain the next
step to the to the other folks in the room so yeah I think those conversations are important and sometimes I uh we've
had our guests talk about you know you feel like the outlier like you feel like I'm juring what I like but
I'm not maybe an expert in that medium and if you're isolated in front of your own computer screen off at home
somewhere doing a remote jury it's hard to interact with another
juror and and you know these shows are not just like filling real estate these
are jury competitions to get into the event so they can be a curated show
their integrity is on the line they have to have a you know they're putting together a great show they want to you
know we've talked about that a bunch too yeah it's a slippery slope if something slips boring next
how's your week been in the studio it's been good it's we've been having some long killer awesome days blowing glass
making some new pieces and so I'm really excited about it we just last night we just put a piece away and I'm like I
can't wait to get out there and check the oven and see how it turned out anyway how about you what have you been up to you know it's funny I don't have
uh a show in two weeks so I have a show I don't have my first one until March it's like a full over a month away and I
I'm having a really hard time it's like I checked in with several different artists and they're having the same kind
of like Studio kind of apathy and it's like just trying to get going like Mike
Hayes you mentioned him with his Achilles and and uh he sent me a video which is amazing of him just walking
across the screen okay he's walking on his feet again so uh hats off to you buddy incredible news it did my heart
good to see him up and walking in a boot or no no okay uh just walking on that
pencil leg just uh he's he's got a little bit more of an aggressive treatment I think than I had here in
Santa Fe um he's got some good good treatment so he was walking very gingerly across the
screen so Mike Hayes and Amber Marshall they were talking about how they were having a bit of a hard time in the
studio right now my buddy Matthew nafsker he was like God are you what's that he texted me one time
um a couple of days ago like at four o'clock in the morning and Matthew is one of these guys that just works when
he's inspired uh you know as opposed to my my weird Banker hours but I I could
have gotten up when he texted me because I was just wide awake just kind of
stressing about the fact that I'm I don't I just don't feel like I'm making good work I'm bored in the studio I just
need to shake things up somehow but I just maybe I need to impose some deadlines because you know the deadlines
sure light a fire under all of our butts it's like when you got the show and you know you got to get out there then it's
just like we are just firing on all cylinders yep I guess I mean I was getting ready for this gallery show that
I have up in Park City that just opens up this coming weekend and I made like
these little pieces for her and she was like okay I'm already feeling kind of like in the studio and she was like yeah
those are okay and I'm like oh uh you texted me those pieces those
pieces are awesome what are you even talking about [ __ ] I'm not even I didn't even give them to her she was like she did she I'm like my ego needed stroking
and I'm like fine you don't get him I just I scrapped him I'll I'll show him in Texas okay so she didn't even I
didn't give them to her yeah I'm like if you don't love him if you don't totally stroke the ego like you better like
lots of reactions I need a you know if it's not the best thing you've ever seen
you're not getting yeah I'm not showing it yeah that's how I feel I would I would say Mr superlative but you'll
probably start flipping off the screen so I am Mr super everything's the best
or the worst I've always been that way and uh the fact that she wasn't like I
mean she probably text if she was like oh they're good like good you don't think they're great like I need that
needle in the room it's like a dog like fine you don't get them
foreign but uh I took my kids out of school and for a couple of days a Friday Monday
went up to Park City hooked them up with some clients and they went skiing so that was a nice surprise for them I got
to be um that's where the gallery show is in Park City yeah I went ahead and dropped it off and
I had a site visit with another client which went really well nice um kids went skiing so it was a great
weekend nice it's really great when you can um Infuse a little bit of good
experience life into our business what we do you know it's like you're going to this beautiful spot mountains in the
winter and of course you bring the girls to check out some skiing I mean of
course my girls are quickly going to realize that that Daddy did not like school
daddy daddy didn't like school and if Daddy gets a chance to like I feel like I'm saving them if I give them a couple
of days off they're excellent students and I don't feel like they hate school like I did yeah but man when I was that
age I was like oh my God any of these kids these bougie kids would come back from you know a long weekend and and
they'd have their their things clipped onto their jacket with their ski passes all piled up and like God these [ __ ]
and I'm like I'm gonna let my kids be the assistant like where were you this weekend well we
went skiing in parks in here bring your Moira Rose accent
wow so yeah it got me out of the studio and it took me away from it and I'm
hoping that that can kind of clear my mind and let me get back to work I find you know like commissions and getting
ready for gallery shows and things like that they they kind of make me a little stagnant a lot of times and I just feel
like like I really want to just be making the work for me and like my wife
is really struggling in the studio right now she has all of this commission work and it's great to have that commission
work but don't you feel sometimes like you're not making the work for yourself anymore you're just making it for
somebody else yeah I I we worked for years in the wholesale business where we
would go to these wholesale buyers Market of American craft and all those shows where stores yeah Baltimore yeah
they come in and they Place orders and you go home and you just you know will you talk this week to uh tell us like
one thing with Tony and I are talking about you know it's like you know we kind of like again the whole wholesale
game to like making the donuts it's like you just go back and you you lose that interaction and that part of our
business that component of getting excited about what we just made and then that kind of that giddy feeling of we're
gonna show this to people and whether or not they buy it you're gonna have plenty of people react to it like oh that's so
beautiful or oh blah blah blah and then when you sell it it's like there's so much good energy that comes our way that
is just it's needed to keep producing for me right no I'm exactly the same way
I I feel like I don't know I need that ego stroke and I need to create something different and wonder about it
and bring it in and and start throwing it in front of the people there is that kind of that energy of like did I do a
hit or did I do a miss and we really are on the edge of our seat waiting for that reaction so I know what you're saying
how there is that you know Luke Proctor brought that up with the the lamp that he was saying that was was for the
gallery and not for the I'm like I you know what I think he can bring that to the show for sure like bring your weird
[ __ ] and I don't know I always sell my weird [ __ ] but um have you ever noticed
when an artist walks into your booth and really responds to a piece it's always the weird one and it's always It'll like
I feel like an artist walks in and be like Oh I like that I'm like ah damn that's not gonna sell for a long time
like it's really it's gonna be it's gonna have to sit in my booth for a while it's like here take it yeah just
um yeah right because it ain't solid it ain't telling you just you just cursed Me Maybe hang
it out in the front of the booth for the jurors and then re-hang the booth when I'm ready to sell have you ever done
that by the way do you know I do know artists that do that no they've got like jury bait that'll like hang a big jury
piece out in the front and then move it hmm no I don't know I guess um I mean I want
the jury bait to sell so I mean and and if there were things that perhaps you
might be considered more of like a a lower price uh type product or something
I I don't want to withhold that until the jury's gone through because I want to sell I want to make money while I'm
there so I you know what what I present is what I want the jury to see me too yeah I mean I just I don't really I
don't know I jury into the shows a lot of the shows that I want to do but I'm not a huge Prize winner and I'm fine with that I make my money that's how I
like to be yeah for sure okay so yesterday Western Wisconsin 40 degrees
getting ready to go to Florida even though we don't have to leave for a week I still hauled all of our stuff up from
the basement and I was in and out of that van trying to reconfigure that new puzzle of with the new vehicle and
everything it's like we don't get that opportunity in the winter to have a nice warm day not that 40 is not warm I'm
sure there was a lot of people out there thinking are you kidding me in the midwest that's shorts weather it was beautiful because I had to fill up fill
up the van unpack the van repack the van just to figure out what can actually make this next trip anyway so that was
that was my day yesterday that and uh blowing till 11 o'clock last night in the studio so we've been putting in some
of these killer long days but I'm super excited to get back out there and show our work and and just be in the public
again sorry I'm I was trying I'm trying to I let you fall I'm like yeah okay have fun
have a good trip I'll just be here having Studio apathy you can go draw the red ladies shut the
[ __ ] up with the red lady you're always complaining about the red lady I mean that red lady I love the red lady the
thing I love about your work is everything that you put on paper no
matter what the subject material whether it's horses bound and down the road or
the bustle of the city or the rock and roll stuff it all has this energy that
is just so visceral and is so just like takes you to a time of Falling in Love
of getting in inspired and it's so hard to hear you be so doubt on yourself
sometimes because I get so like I see you're working I'm like Jesus that's
that's good work right there so anyway thanks that's sweet of you I appreciate that that's kind of maybe that's it's
just the ego stroking there you go now go give her those uh don't forget I don't know I you know it's funny it's
like if like I was saying you get somebody that's like in a show you get the mass volume of
people who are coming in and you can talk about your work and you can kind of get that ego stroke and you you spend so
much time the the doldrums of winter of not you know I talk about doing the the
slump bust and having that show to shake off the cobwebs maybe it's not a slump
Buster as much as it is just getting your head right and getting that kind of like building yourself back up to the
point where you can actually get out and talk about yourself again yeah except silence can be a little deadly something
to help build up my Eagle this week two days ago out of the blue I get a phone
call and who answer I never answer the freaking phone it's like it's always going to be junk or you know trying to
sell me uh credit card processing or something but it was the local news and they are gonna
cool they want to come out to our studio and do a special story on Renee and I and now you're acting surprised if
you've been pimping out to them it came out of the blue who the how did you how did that happen well the the hook was
they were looking for local culture in River Falls because they do they have
different locations that they feature why I'm shut up
no one you're even talking about okay who wakes up into the sides they watch
culture out or River Falls okay all right
you're being a little Santa face knob as far as I'm concerned right now what's happening in River Falls so this is the
Twin Cities news and they feature areas around the metro and so there it was
there they're in Focus was on Western Wisconsin Hudson River Falls area and
they said well we've done all these restaurants we've done all these bars we want to do something with culture and
they somehow came onto what we do and they read our story went on our website did our social media all that stuff
they've edited before and hey they want to come do a story on us so that was pretty exciting yeah pretty exciting
very exciting congratulations I can't wait to see it you'll have to uh link to the to the website or uh to our little
our Facebook page when that comes out I'd love to see yeah somehow we'll I'll get it out there in the public I'm sure yeah I mean I post when I'm ordering
pizza I probably big like that I saw you posted the other
day you and Renee looking all badass with your your eye protection gear and your your blazing furnace that's cool I
can't wait to see some of your new work you've been talking about some of these newer pieces so it'll be really exciting yeah well we finally have gotten to a
point where we might have one or two we've made dozens but we might have one
or two that might actually make the trip so fingers crossed those will get finished they're a little more complicated than our other stuff so I'm
excited about it and I hope it works out it's gonna be the first thing that sells so anyway we've got the point of the
show where we're going to talk about our good glass blowing buddy glass hole himself pyro with a passion Tony cray
dude Tony crate you're making him sound like like you're getting ready to just kick the doors in with Tony cray but
lean into this interview Tony is what I've always loved about this guy is like the Zen of Tony like he's just such a
laid back easy going just cool calm guy like I love his energy and I I just love
being around the guy so I can't wait for people to hear the talk and and just kind of pick up some of that Zen of your
own because the Dude is just he's exactly who you want him to be I don't want to give the whole thing away but I
just love he calls himself a simple-minded maker and it takes me back to a time when art shows were a little
bit simpler and I'm really excited to share how he got into it and all that good stuff so I mean he could be kind of
self-effacing as far as that goes but I mean really his work has a has a integrity and a
um just a has a calmness and a very high Artistic integrity so excited for you
everybody hear the talk all right here he is Tony cray glassblower from new melee Missouri
this episode of The Independent artist podcast is brought to you by zap the digital application service where
artists and art festivals connect well I noticed here in zap that they have a new promotional program for artists called
an artist Spotlight yeah I saw it on one of my emails telling me all about the different shows that were available for
application uh looks like a pretty cool program it says here that the goal is to promote the Arts to a wider audience and
bring more attention to the incredible work being done by artists on zap every
day you know zap is growing their social media presence and this is a great way to do it it's like applying for a show
there's no cost involved but then you are giving zap permission to jury your
images to use in their social media campaign another great way for them to kind of give back to our community that's awesome
hey Tony welcome to the show hey Douglas thanks for having me it's good to see
you I've been keeping my eyes peeled for you last year we kind of check in with the people we see at shows and you know
we like to stop by and say hey to and I didn't see you last year so how are things going with you things are good
gossings are good you know I guess uh covet was crazy I think when it all
started to happen I was in South Florida actually down uh Key West doing a little
show yeah and I started hearing some little thing about this virus probably
down there in just a little petri dish you know with all of the Ships coming in
dropping folks but fortunately I had a little run of good shows down there and I was able to make it through you kept
your studio open the whole time no I didn't I stayed open for a little bit and and did a few commissions and things
like that but no I my main source is Street shows you know where I saw my
work mostly so you know like everyone just the uncertainty of where this is
going to go I really didn't no one expected it to last this long right and be in the midst of it but my son had
bought a house a year or so before I found myself over here building things oh cool you know we
started with a garden and I thought well we'll be back to work shortly so we'll get this Garden going and something new
and and that went all of a sudden to uh Chicken Coop and uh the projects kept
coming they did and really I found that as long as I'm making stuff you know I'm
fine and I had been making my living making glass for 25 years or so and I
felt like you know that's how I did things and and then I found that when my furnace isn't lit my costs go way down
the money I have lasts much longer it's true it's I don't know that many other
artists in different mediums really can relate to that are raw materials the
cost of having the power to run our furnaces is astronomical
yeah so you know 10 grand 20 grand lasts me a long time if I'm not blowing glass
and then unfortunately I guess uh I was just about to pay off my mortgage my
mortgage was finished in July and I thought oh my gosh all I've got to do is make it these few months you know before
somebody comes and repost the whole compound you know right and that changes
the pressure too with what that that monthly nut you have to get to to pay
things you know to not have Studio expenses and then not have a mortgage on top of that yeah so so it all worked out
yeah I've been keeping my eyes peeled for you to come skateboarding past my booth in the morning and I never saw you
there so I'm glad that I got to check in with you and we get to talk a little bit yeah I started looking you up on social
and I saw your title that you have the pyro with a passion for process what
does that mean oh gosh you know that's about as simple as it is yeah it was
drawn to fire probably early on as a kid okay you know learned that starting fires we had a creep behind our house
where all the bad stuff went down you know I learned that you know you start a
little fire and you shouldn't dump gas on top of it right gas can I learned
that boom exposed like a little origami you were a scientist back then doing a little trial and error with
fire and accelerants yeah to some degree but I've been a maker since the
beginning about as long as I can remember my dad had a small Workshop in the
basement nothing fancy but lots of tools and and you know as a kid riding
bicycles this is early on before even you know skateboarding was a big thing I
remember modifying bikes cutting Forks off some bikes is when Choppers were big
and learned that I could make things without thinking about it it was just
this thing that happened and before I even knew where to buy a skateboard we were cutting roller skates in half
screwing them to a board you know some work some didn't yeah and skateboarding
has always kind of been a thing I'm you know just never outgrew it yeah I don't push many skateboards now they're all
electric I don't kick them any longer but that's cool so yeah so that started early and
it kind of carried you on to pursuing your Bachelor of Fine Arts in college was that just a natural progression for
you to go on to the Arts well no not necessarily I started as a biology major
and I went to school in Memphis Tennessee for a couple of years there
and I I just knew that it wasn't for me I always kind of wanted to go to art school and just even through my high
school education it just wasn't really something we didn't have a strong art program it wasn't necessarily encouraged
you know it's like get out there find a way to make a living be a professional whatever it was so I went into biology
liking science but it didn't come natural so I ended up with some friends that
were just incredibly smart engineering students and
they didn't have to study like I did it's interesting about the whole biology
science thing because it does seem like that interest pulls a lot of people into
to Glass because there is that component of mixing chemicals together and and
making our raw materials some people find their way into it through that yeah
yeah well the science I always enjoyed I've always liked math but I wasn't a
natural to spend an afternoon working on an equation and then come up with the
wrong answer I found that frustrating so originally my thoughts were more like
going into architecture and when I was in Memphis I met this girl who was going to the Memphis Academy of Arts and I
just blew my mind you know I stopped by there a few times and here were all of these makers and I remember calling my
old man and saying hey I'm gonna drop out of this school in Memphis and I'm gonna enroll at the Memphis Academy of
Arts and he was hey good for you but I'm not paying for that okay all right and
so anyway that was kind of where I say was the beginning of sort of my
education I went ahead and left Memphis and I enrolled at the community college back in St Louis and I had had very
little artists history so I wanted to take some art history and just to
familiarize myself with with what was out there and my interests well at that point so glass wasn't on the radar at
that point it was not at all hadn't even occurred to me I was in St Louis
Southern Illinois University was right across the river and I started looking
into their art program and for a state-funded school I felt that they had
a really great program the art Department was off campus and so
it was just these kind of dilapidated buildings that had good junk all over
the place and a bunch of creatives yeah and I landed in the ceramic Studio there
were a couple of professors there that just made a difference in my life okay I
saw people doing what I wanted to do so you started in with Ceramics yeah I started with ceramics whereas before
that I was probably making more sculptural work in fact I didn't really
even I didn't know much about clay and uh and the wheel and I remember an early
on Project was to make a vessel and to me I almost hate to admit it but I
didn't even know what that was I'm thinking like a vessel like a ship all right
and and just naive it is kind of an interesting progression I mean we know a
lot of people other glass blowers who worked with clay and then once they tried glass blowing it was almost like a
huge new rabbit hole that they went down that that they never went back from that's like that's what pulled them in
his glass yeah did that happen to you uh pretty much I really I didn't have much
interest I would see the studio back basically SIU Edwardsville had a really
good clay program and they had a very small hot glass program
and one of the professors started this program and there wasn't a lot of
guidance no one had a lot of knowledge there was just you know a furnace it was
kind of a pile of bricks it was more than that but but ultimately it was pretty minimal we were just sort of set
loose like figure it out and there was a thing there's a difference between glass blowers and Clay people you know and and
I always I liked the clay people identified more with them probably and maybe that was just the timing who was
making glass at the time but the glass guys were kind of cocky you know we all
just we called them glass holes and and I was encouraged to take a class without
thinking much about it yeah and literally from that first time I dipped
in the furnace it was just an immediate attraction you know just I needed to
know more what was it about glass initially that kind of started to appeal to you well I think maybe the immediacy
of it you know were clay you know you make something and and it's wet and then
to give it time to let it dry and then bisque fire and then glaze and then you
know all of these steps and by the time you got the results a couple of weeks or a month later I wanted to be on to
something else so maybe it was the immediacy you know it could relate to that big time yeah yeah we walk with
this molten goo at the end of the pipe and blow into it and it expands and it's changing rapidly yeah well I just found
it very intriguing you know beyond just the Heat and the fire and just the Roar
of that furnace I think my education was oh I don't want to say it was this uh
Bare Bones thing because it wasn't I felt pretty fortunate to be around the people that I was I was able to deliver
pizzas and wait tables I think it was back when tuition was maybe you know 900
or a thousand dollars a semester yeah so I was able to go to school and work and
and pay for that without coming out and debt where I had friends that were going to some art institutes and you know at
that point early on in our education they're already 50 or 75 grand in debt I
thought oh my gosh we're just makers you know we're just going to be artists and and so I was lucky in that sense that uh
that I was able to get out of school and not in debt so you were saying Bare Bones with the program I would say even
with the Contemporary glass movement as it is it is a fairly new movement that
started in the 60s from the colleges from the universities with Harvey Littleton and Madison and even in the
90s that's not that much past that point there was really an experimental aspect
like what we do is really experimental um yeah and trying things and and it's
not what it is now for sure yeah for sure for sure well I had um I like that part
of it uh coming from a little bit of a clay background and just being kind of let loose with
this furnace with that molten material and the nice thing about the program was
it was off campus and it was pretty much he had
24-hour access and anything that was locked you know one of your buddies had
a key to you know I remember that kind of thing too yeah I remember early on all we could make was solid stuff you
know like first semester solid stuff dipping stuff up on a pony trying to make some sort of you know stick in a a
hot wet piece of wood in it trying to make a steam bubble and I had no idea
how things were transferred but I I knew there was a way to do it you know so I
would be in there late night when everyone was gone and I was dipping stuff up on a pipe and trying to get it
off of that pipe and onto a punty and figuring it out and it was just it was just immediate attraction yeah so when
you were done with school and you've got this education behind you I'm guessing
the next step was wanting to pursue this as a career so how did you make that next step well while I was in school I
landed a job with this group of glassblowers in St Louis a group named
Ibex okay there was a partnership between Sam Stang you know Sam
and uh Dimitri miclete's and David Levy and they just opened my eyes to a whole
new thing at SIU being schooled by Potters we had this aesthetic that if
you're making kind of a tumbler and it was too clean or the form was too refined you know you'd smack it with a
stick or something to give it a little gesture yeah you know so that it was
obviously handmade and then when I went to work at Ibex and these guys were just
extremely skilled I hadn't seen anything like it before so they had this thriving little thing
going in St Louis that I was just completely unfamiliar with and you networked with them came in with them
and that influenced kind of the next stage of your career pretty much yeah I
worked with them and still wasn't sure where it was going I was basically
they're not necessarily the first employee but I was one of two I was in there sweeping up after um melting glass
trying to pay attention and learn a few things it was just a invaluable
experience looking back on it when did that lead you to building your own
Studio well it was years later actually the
Ibex partnership dissolved and a couple of guys moved to Seattle and Sam moved
out to Augusta and built his Studio where he is now from there I went and worked with another glass blower who had
a small studio in Edwardsville um Caroline Anderson at that point I was
living about 70 miles or so from her place and I would make that drive to her
shop I would work for her for free in order to get a little bit of shop time
buy it right and I was still waiting tables and and making some work and then
I I was in this restaurant that uh had a bunch of creatives a lot of artists and
it turned out to be a really cool spot that most of us there was like a rotating collection in the restaurant
and they were working with a couple of St Louis galleries it was kind of a hip spot yeah so they would display work as
what you're saying they would showcase artists work yeah yeah and so you know I
could wait tables and have a decent night and maybe sell a piece every now and again yeah you know met a lot of
people there that collected my work that were supportive early on and really till this day still support what I do cool so
I was about 30 years old and I'm like I gotta get on with this so I had kind of A Five-Year Plan like five years I want
to have my own studio and that's the challenge for glass because having the
access to the studios to make our work it's not like we can just order up canvases get some supplies and sit in in
a room and that can be our studio um the equipment is is expensive and it's prohibitive to just be impulsive
about it so it did take a plan it took planning to get to that point yeah I was
building a house in New melee I found a little piece of property just prior to that we were living in downtown St Louis
my wife my son Nico my firstborn in the city and we started looking for a piece
of property to build a studio whether that was within the downtown city limits or somewhere else and and at that time
with like zoning and restrictions I thought I would probably be better off in the country for not having to worry
about so much zoning and and all of that so I found this little piece of property
and it just seemed to be the perfect spot yeah it was just Rocky wooded hilly
uh thick Woods okay it took me probably two years with a chainsaw and a weed
whip out there clearing this little bit of property cleared a little path to get
a fire started yeah you know and opening that up to the point that I could then
eventually get my truck up there we kind of sit on a bit of a Hilltop so that was like two years in the making
where you know a backhoe could have come in in an afternoon and did the work that it took me two years to do but at that
point I was waiting tables I would go out and work on the property camp out there it was just perfect wow you know I
totally relate to that story that's kind of how we had to do it too it was you know waiting tables and we at first
wanted it all to be like well pay cash as we go we didn't want to accrue this debt and it was little by little you
know building a studio which was bigger than a garage but it's it's a building and you know little by little it sounds
like that's what you did too you know as you could do it yeah I thought that the studio my plan was to have the studio be
building that you know like build a house get a place that we can be under roof and then start on a studio and it
took me about three years after the house was built to kind of get back on track and I had saved up a few dollars
for a couple of workshops that I was wanting to take a Lino Workshop early on nice maybe out at Haystack I was
rejected from that okay make the cut for that and then there was another one and
I got another rejection letter and anyway I had a few dollars and I was
like man I'm gonna put this into a building you know so my first Studio
was a quonset hut a what I per a quonset hut like an art style Building looks
kind of airplane Hangar uh-huh okay so it was something that actually I think Sam Stang suggested that hey have you
ever thought of a quonset hut and I started looking them up and it was like
literally it was under five thousand dollars okay right you know so I started looking that route the building was
delivered at the top of my road which is only maybe a half mile away and I
brought it onto my property a few pieces at a time on a little flatbed trailer yeah and my garage was full of things
that I had been Gathering refractory and some steel and things like that so yeah
the the beginning was pretty humble I was able to construct this building myself with the help of my dad about
three five gallon buckets of nuts and bolts if you've ever seen them they are just riddled with nuts and bolts
but you build these sections on the ground that are ultimately Arch type
sections okay you know maybe two feet wide and you build this Arch on the
ground you stand it up you build another Arch on the ground you stand it up and attach it to the first one and you know
the building itself you can go as long as you want but so the building I put up was about 30 by 35 okay the Quan's it
was uninsulated and fire up in the morning and if it was a
snowy day just the condensation and the moisture Would Rain ultimately off of
these ribs for about 15 minutes till everything dried up okay but the uh the
closet was a great experience at a low investment as you're describing this
it's taking me back but it also I mean I am impressed by the amount of investment
that you had to put into building your studio and into this career I mean it
takes a lot of conviction and a lot of faith that what you're doing is where
you want to go with this I mean Tony just hearing you go through step a b c
and d it's Unique that you were able to accomplish all those steps I mean I
don't think everybody could do that well at this point in my life it would be hard to go yeah this is what I'm gonna
do you know no what I do now at the time I knew there were people out there
making it happen and I was determined to make it happen I didn't know any better
you know I didn't have a ton of money and I wasn't raised with a ton of money and we just met you made two with what
you had and I think that's where my education SIU was pretty valuable and that they were building these furnaces
out of a pile of bricks I saw that it didn't have to be some TurnKey thing
where you're 100 Grand in and you don't know what's going to happen you know my
investment was pretty minimal and my experience I think with Ibex and
Sam and and all of those guys I I couldn't have done it without them
without their uh knowledge I had seen it done and so I knew that it could be done I I
realized that a pile of bricks is okay for a certain purpose if it was going to
be a studio that was going to run efficiently it needed to be a little more than that so I I took an equipment
building workshop where did you come across that because that's not something you can just look up in in the Yellow Page the timing just sort of happened
um it was um I had been Gathering these materials and again it was SIU I had the
opportunity to look at that and then look at some of the equipment that Sam
had built I'm sure the Henry halem book played into it too read like a diary exactly yeah just huge
Source information so you know I built everything in the shop my furnaces
benches tables literally most everything in that shop I've built and that's kind
of where my passion is as a maker definitely I make my living making us
and it's all about the product it's all about the finished piece before that I
make this stuff to make this other stuff you know yeah the actual building of the
studio and the building the equipment is an extension really of why you love
glass it's it's a holistic thing yeah yeah it's that so after the studio is up
and running and you're able to start making your work and you progressed into
art fairs I mean was that also kind of an entryway into like how these networks of other artist friends did it not so
much not the art fairs it was mostly uh wholesale early on so I fired up my shop
in October of 1997. pretty much without any money left
I had a little open house for the holidays in December so the work that I
made from October to December like two months work that's not not a lot of work right so we had a little open house boom
had a little cash injection that got me to February February is the Baltimore
ACC show and yeah I was accepted into this this emerging artist program and so
what that entailed was a free booth and a travel allowance and at that time the
booth was maybe 12 or 15 1600 bucks or so so all I had to do is make it to
Baltimore and so and and really the business
hasn't changed a whole lot since then so it was October to December have a little holiday sale boom I got a few dollars
December I had to make it to February boom have a few dollars so anyway I
showed up in Baltimore first booth pretty Bare Bones Sam being the mentor
a lot of tips a lot of knowledge a lot of information from him and so I built
this this little booth pedestals drapes yeah and just did wholesale with no
expectations I didn't know what I was in for and the response was good I had a
little run of work you know a small days a bigger vase this bull that bowl I had
a few items in a few different color combos and she took orders first come
first serve and my shop had been running now for you know three or four months
and Vaguely Familiar with what it's going to cost to run the shop you know I
knew kind of what I needed to make in a day and yeah and nowadays it wouldn't get me
far but I wanted to make about 400 a day
you know my assistant you know 100 bucks run the shop yeah 100 bucks and then I
make a couple hundred bucks and so I took orders that way somebody placed an
800 order I would mark off two days you know it was about that simple well the
way it worked out was I ended up taking and these are small numbers and a lot of
people's opinion I'm sure but at that time you know starting with kind of nothing we took about 65 000 in orders
in that show and you know see how other people going hey you should stop you should stop you should slow down you're
not gonna be able to get all this made so anyway but no I was pretty determined to make it happen
yeah I booked from like February out to February and granted I didn't have a
dime yet because first orders went out Cod and then subsequent orders would be
like net 30. so I went home and started producing and I tried to be really
professional about it you know if I told somebody their work was going to be delivered on this day I delivered it on
that day I built a lot of relationships and so this went from zero to a hundred
in no time I had about 50 accounts around the country some really great
accounts okay as it went I was still pretty much a one-man show myself and an
assistant and I was blowing glass ultimately the way that I did the books was I figured I'd have three or four
days a week of orders and a date amount and a day that if something went bad on
one of the days or the glass was not right we had that other day to make it up so I didn't necessarily overbooked
but I booked a full year yeah but even still that's a tight schedule right there to you know that's not planning a
day off that's not planning you know interruptions in the schedule for whatever reason so that is quite a a
tough plan I had it you know I've had other Glass artists say they show up to
these wholesale shows and they they leave saying I've got orders and then they go but I've got orders because then
you have to go ahead and build those orders yeah yeah well it was a way to uh
to be in business I mean it went from how am I going to make this work to all of a sudden well now I gotta make it
work I've put my name out on the line I want to make this happen so yeah thinking like could I do that today
again I'm not so sure but just being young enough and full of enthusiastic
yeah I was always ready to go so did you stay with that kind of wholesale that
working with the galleries in stores or did you scale way back from well I've scaled way back now and I worked that
way for probably less than 10 years I did maybe a street show or two a local
show and then in doing the local shows I all of a sudden figured out wow this is
great you know I make what I want to make you know the drawback to having all of those orders is that I had to make
exactly that that day and that seems to be a little bit of a direct opposition of to the nature of what we do being
one-of-a-kind pieces it's like oh this red isn't too orange or this red is too
Brown and it's going to get rejected from the order that I've committed to and you can sometimes end up making
several pieces more than what you need to just to fill an order where in a show
you just put it on the pedestal and somebody says I like it I'll buy it yeah there you go well I I felt like it it
helped to hone my skin bills you know there were certain things that I wanted to make that I I didn't quite maybe have
the ability so you know the forms that I was making early on were fairly simple
but they were still kind of clean I wanted them really well made so just
through repetition and banging out a lot of work not just like making donuts but
trying to make a really well crafted item something that I felt that I was
true to not just making a thing to sell it was never about just making a thing
to sell although you know you need to make stuff that'll sell or the glass
business will eat you alive for sure I mean in your bio you talk about one of
your goals is that your work is uniquely identifiable as you and so what does
that mean what is uniquely Tony well in your in the design of your work I'm not sure despite all the baggage that
everyone has that you know enters into their work and where it comes from I like to think that a lot of the things
that I make are original for instance I started putting these spots on pieces and I thought I was being so original
and then I ended up at the Corning Museum of Glass and I see this piece
that's like 1700 BC you know DC and it's got a big spot on it you
know and that kind of open eyes too I'm like okay well you're not that original well there are techniques regarding
glass that are Universal that have been around forever but when we come up with
our our own take on it be it infusing a different color or a different form or whatever into a style or a technique it
it still does become your own yeah I was just trying to make stuff that that regardless of what I felt other people
would like I was trying to make the work for myself I know that sounds trite but but I I tried to make what I he found
appealing and then just in the hopes that someone else would and you know you
get all kinds of feedback some of it positive some of it negative and a lot of it negative right you know when I
tried not to pay too much attention to that I just kept kind of chipping away at it that surprises me because I mean I
think of obviously I get what you're saying about we get all the comments and
they're out there and they come our way that we have to field but I mean as long
as I've known you me and our peers look to you as the guy the guy we we look to
as like who's doing it right well and I know we're all just kind of trying to figure this whole thing out so it's hard
for me to even imagine like somebody to come by and have a negative comment that feels negative about your work because
it's so fresh and it does have an identifiable style to it yeah well I appreciate that I don't exude confidence
I like the work to kind of speak for for itself to have to explain it to someone I often have a hard time you know what
is it it's I mean there it is right there you know um not everything needs an explanation
well I think back to my talk with Jay McDougall last season uh in rare birds
he says as a woodworker as a 3D artist just like what we do you and me he makes
things that in his opinion don't suck and he holds that when he goes out he'll
find other people who think the same yeah and that's kind of our Quest you know is is is that that's where it
becomes personal to us is is making something that excites us and that when we look at it at the end of the day
we're proud of yeah there are all these little discoveries that you make you know little things that you need to
retain like okay well how did I make that how did that work that way and and why did it work that way and so to me
those each of those little discoveries kind of leads to the next would you say some some of these discoveries are also
kind of process oriented because you're getting from your talk too that if you have this passion for the process it's
almost like well yeah you you look at the piece when it's done and and you have a feeling or reaction to it but
then there's also that that challenge component of well what if I did this like on a in an incomo style or what if
I did this as a double axis and it's like adding maybe another challenge to yourself to see if you can push it in a
different direction yeah I like to be challenged by the work and glass the
material itself is very challenging you know it's um it's not going to make itself and a lot of them are wrestling
matches you know it's that give and take that I just I guess I thrive on that and
you know you can be easily defeated it is a worthy opponent and it will beat
you down you know how it is at the end of the day it's kind of stoked on what you made and then you open up the oven
then next day and you look at it and sometimes it's great and sometimes it's just defeating and then you know I take
that work out of the oven I close the lid I fire it back up and it's a new day
okay try and learn from those mistakes and move forward yeah those things are immediately go in the rear view mirror
the successes and the failures right and then it's like let's play with it today what what are we gonna make today yeah
yeah so it did the my business model hasn't changed a whole lot to make some
work take it out hope for the best and I will I guess it's changed in the fact
that it's you know it's less wholesale and more retail I was kind of fading out some of my
wholesale accounts it was back when the economy was pretty strong talking before
2008 before the whole housing bubble burst nowadays it's a lot of Consignment
back then it was all wholesale you know I would ship work out on a net 30 basis most of the Galleries and Museum shops
were really great about paying you a net 30 but I didn't have time to be a bill
collector had too many accounts it was too much management where I would spend
so much time sending invoices pack and worship and work that became challenging
because it was taken some of the fun out of it where ultimately you know I just
want to make the work totally at that point at the 2007-8 period I mean places
like people's Pottery you know go out of business they've got like 12 locations
across the country and you could be on the hook for worth thirty thousand dollars worth of work that you're not
getting paid for and you're chasing them down it became such a challenging period
for glassmakers on whatever scale that they were working in the wholesale Market yeah I just want to jump back to
talking about your work being being a craft artist we can relate to this idea
that when you look at the work you say you don't make the work so that somebody
can step back and have a moral to ponder or say what's the deeper meaning behind it it's really just the thing you're
making and it's about it right it is about that
um early on my work was probably much more narrative the work that I'm drawn
to is probably typically a more narrative the art stuff about it the
content and the context and and all of that and that's typically what I'm drawn
to and a lot of my work early on were sorely one-off pieces kind of telling
these little stories real to me kind of just heady personal work and
cases that I would spend you know a couple of months drawing on
and Sandblasting early sandblasted pieces that that all
told a story and you kind of spill your guts and and I remember early on before
having any Gallery representation and trying to shop my work around you know sending some slides out to galleries or
trying to you know cold call and show them some work and and I had a gallery
owner early on that said to me Tony people that buy art they buy art to make them happy and your work is depressing
you know really so this moral that you were investigating early on was
depressing people I didn't see it that way at all to me there were just kind of humorous little pieces but they were
they all had a narrative yeah and I still I'll go back and make a few pieces
every now and again that are surely one-offs this narrative thing and you know the work that I surround myself
with is is usually is is not just a pretty picture or a pretty object or
something like that and yeah when I started the studio you know I was making
these one-off pieces that I would invest all of this time and there was just no way to sell them for enough money to pay
the bills yeah you know so I felt that I needed a little line of work I needed to become a better glassblower more
efficient and hone the forms that I wanted to make and then someday step
back from that and make these surely one-off pieces but you never really seem like to be the kind of glassblower who
runs around the country doing lots of shows making a selection of little bobbles you've always made stuff that
starts at a higher Echelon than some glass blowers would would you say well I
got I have a wide range of price points I still generally feel that if I I'm not
making it to make a dollar that says you know people say oh yeah sure right you gotta you got to I'm a terrible
businessman my accountant talks to me he's like oh my God you got to get somebody and you gotta change some things here man you gotta do this a
different way you got to get some people in there making that stuff and you got you know pick your shows better and and
gosh I'm a pretty simple-minded maker yeah even on my low end stuff I realized
that I still love making that work and if I didn't I wouldn't make it it's not this elitist product I don't want it to
be that but but I put a lot into the work and I've had feels just like everyone else and they need to be paid
so yeah I make a wide range of stuff and anytime I feel that I have a good show it's because I'm selling all across my
price point from low end mid-range high-end and on the street prices they
range you know 80 bucks to you know a couple thousand dollars I don't price stuff much about that on the street and
and maybe only because I don't have work that's I don't have a five thousand dollar piece to sell on the street
they're hard to transport around so and I mean we're up front and personal we hear every reaction we see that shocked
look when somebody steps up and sees something and walks away and if that happens once it's whatever but if it's a
pattern then you know okay what I'm presenting here is kind of Auto out of range so we really get a sense of what
we can sell and what people will want to buy yeah well there are times where you know right the guy that walks in and he
like puts us some over the price he's like check this out honey just check the what do you guess what do you how much
do you think even no and and you know all I can say is gosh
if you had any idea what went into that you know all of the years all of the pieces that didn't survive and there are
times that you know we're making less than minimum wage there are days that cost me money that I don't make a dime
everybody else is getting paid but I don't make a dime so all that I can say is gosh it's just not for you nothing
personal but hey that one's not for you yeah and if they're trying to make it
into a hard sell then by standing behind that it either moves them along or they
then will appreciate the value and they will give you what you need for it yeah and then other people are like oh my
gosh your work's so reasonable you know and I say well get two of them
well I didn't want to finish this talk without uh you've talked about having
assistance in your studio over the years and and I know that one of your
assistants Nico who you talked about earlier has also gone on to kind of
following your footsteps a bit let's talk about watching him through the years yeah well I've been accused of
being a bad influence you know and uh yeah Nico has been in the shop
since he was a little kid oh we even we designed some pieces really early on
probably you know six years old or so and he would come in and he would draw
some pieces out on the floor there were these little monster heads on sticks when we call them wildflowers and the
first little group was for my wife and they were like Mother's Day flowers they kind of resembled flowers and monster
heads and all of a sudden they were a really popular little unit so early on
he's coming in there and he's designing and it was just such a rush it's like unfiltered creativity right there yeah
no baggage just yep just let it flow rich I want to say every glass blowing
Studio has got chalk that we draw our forms right there on the floor and we're
looking at it as we work so you were saying drawing on the floor I'm wondering if if people who don't do
glass would even know what that meant but yeah so he um
worked for me it was a little job it was a made from his designs his wild flowers I'd
put a little bit of money away for him he realized that okay this is how it
works you know he got the Commerce side of it the well he's a bit of a capitalist a little more than I was yeah
take your idea and you can turn it into something and then how it will come back
so yeah it that I mean that extra added component you could have just drawn it and made it and it would have been
something that displayed in his room but you also furthered it as the next step
with it yeah yeah we made lots and lots and lots of those pieces and it was really fun and then it got to a point
where he was old enough to bring me a punty where I wasn't so concerned about him getting burned you know he at this
point had been in the studio a lot so but he's never had a real job outside of the studio you know okay and there were
other friends who said oh you should get him a job at McDonald's show them what work is in the real world
some of his teachers and counselors are like oh my gosh why are you doing that you know don't make a glass blower out
of the guy and and to me I had the perfect life you know um for me not for everyone but for me it
was just what was that life when you said the counselors would be like don't do that did it kind of shock you that
that the reaction was that you were somehow like ruining your kid or something or did you just well I I
didn't own it well it's not that I discounted it I was concerned that I was doing it all wrong I mean I believed in
what I did but I sometimes wonder would he have been a glassblower if I was not would he have found that well he's hyper
creative and he just flows and he always kind of has that way he's uh dyslexic
and so I think that his ability to express himself creativity is is
definitely heightened and early on I worried about him like what is he gonna
do do and then me with my ego him being a glassblower my ego says oh my gosh
she's gonna have to live under my umbrella you know and and then he's found his own umbrella
oh yeah absolutely his work is so good and just to be a maker and to be a dad
and to see your kid just Excel I couldn't be more proud of the work that
he makes and he works in the studio with me we've got a flame working shop in
there and a borrow shop and a soft question for those listening who don't know the difference can you describe his
glassblowing technique how it differs from how you work gosh it's it's really
night and day they have the same name we they're both called glass yeah but they
are two completely different materials and my work is made out of a furnace big
big units a couple runs at a couple thousand degrees 24 7.
and his work is made on these torches propane and oxygen mixed torches surface
mixed torches it's just a different Beast all together and the scale is different too and has a more in a
smaller size than anything you'd make and more delicate yeah the scale is different uh everything about it is
different I've spent a lot of time trying to figure out the bore and I find it really it's just extremely
challenging and maybe it's because I have so much history with soft glass that uh you know you think would be this
natural thing like oh you can do that well you can do you could make Boro but it's it's really challenging and for me
I see just the glass movement the work that I am drawn to in glass lately is
mostly Boro some of it is just so good these kids are making just such good stuff wow you know to have the ability
to to be in the shop with him it's just a treat and does it push you into
different directions at all yeah during covid I when my furnace was shut down I
spent a lot more time on the torch I thought man I want to invest a little bit of time here and try and figure this out and the learning curve is very slow
he has years on me years of knowledge and sometimes people say oh well he got
a lot of that from you and and really he's figured so much out on his own yeah and there were definitely is Media
designer and there were certain details of his work that I could say hey we'll think about this or you know we could
bounce things off of one another and he was receptive of and quick to say yeah I
agree with that or quick to say no I don't think you're right there you know he had his own opinion and he makes his
own work when he was ready to graduate and I kind of wanted him to go to art
school if you're going to make stuff let's you know get that art education and it's like oh my gosh please don't
make me do that really pretty much zero interest and so as a result his counselors people
were like oh my gosh what is the guy going to do yeah but he had started working on the torch early on and he
would he was going to some music festivals and he was hustling his work he was finding a different audience he
found a niche that is different than we've ever pursued I mean he's not doing Road shows it looks like his social
media presence is like massive and huge and it looks like the online stuff he
sells online pretty pretty well at least that's the appearance it goes yeah well he's mostly sells wholesale he's getting
ready for a trade show I go to South Florida um in February and he does a big show in
Vegas he goes there with an inventory of work I travel across country with a truck and
a trailer filled to the gills yeah you know and he flies on an airplane with a
couple cases of glass he's doing something right yeah their
shows are not all about the display the fancy booth and all of that you know it's kind of like some of our shows were
back in the day where it's like you know a table or a blanket on the ground and a few pieces out I mean these are a bit
more refined than that but pretty much folding tables covered with a skirt and it's all about the work oh that seems a
lot simpler we travel with so much stuff so that the work looks good in a good
environment in a good display and we've pushed ourselves to make things so
complicated personally me me and my wife we've pushed ourselves to be so complicated that at the end of the day
you kind of Wonder would it present as well or sell as well in a little bit of a simpler setup so I mean yeah well I
know all about I've got a complicated display so well that's really exciting I remember the first time when Nico was
just getting started with this and we were across the street from each other to show I could see the pride on your
face and you were saying you know he's Nico's he's killing it and we're planning to do some collabs he's making
me some toppers for some pieces and it's just got to be a really great life that
you describe a process of building your studio of really staying invested in in
your time and in every little piece along the way not just in the glass you make but in in the life you're creating
and then to have your son share that with you and not have it be like a carbon copy but it's like he is
he's an extension of what you've built you know yeah I couldn't be more proud
you know and and I know to some people it's like oh come on get on with it but yeah to have him making a body of work
that is his own it's not this thing off of just kind of copying or modifying
what I did is uh it's it's such a rush and to be in there on the daily with
with not only him but some of his friends that can come through and they can collaborate on pieces and just to
have a bit more energy because my shop is out I'm about 45 minutes from downtown St Louis so there's a lot of
Public Access places these days that someone can go to blow glass you know so my spot out in the woods it's just me
and an assistant and we can get in there and kind of get in the zone and make the work but then to be able to have him in
there and then some other really talented I call them kids but these
young guys and their young ones that are just fearless and they're just making the work and putting it out there it's
really great to see and inspiring to me you know to see them just making it
happen so what is in store for you this next year are you gonna kind of do the
same attempt at the way things were before the pandemic is there anything new that is influencing how you make
your choices in 2022. well I had slowed down a little bit my furnace is lit
pretty much 24 7. um I try not to be a slave to it anymore
and it's sort of the way that I built my life is that hey if I want to take off and I want to go dirt bike in a day I
can do that that's where I work for myself you know if I want to go skateboard if I want to go if I want to hang out and do something else I mean we
all work really hard and the group is a hard-working crew out on the street and
so to take advantage of some of the opportunities and and live so I had slowed down a little bit
realizing that not the less I worked the less it costs me but some days when
you're in there just you know making the products making the product making it just the the monotony so I backed off
that a lot of my pieces have become more kind of one-off a lot more time spent carving sandblasting drawing
yeah I don't know that I will change much now that the shows are back up you
know I get from one show to the next right and I'm getting ready for this little floor to run three shows threes
back to back to back which is a lot for me I know some people move out on the road for a long time but usually two is
about my limit you know hit two back to back but but yeah I'm going down for three and uh we'll see what happens I've
been just going hard for quite a few months now trying to build up some
inventory I like what you said about getting the balance in there I think we a lot of us learn that during covid is
you said it part of it's about living too so I love hearing that and I mean we
are we are aging are you are you noticing any of the physical challenges
with glass uh you feel pretty good you know it's hard so it keeps going well
it's only when I you know look in a camera or look in a mirror that I'm like okay well time hasn't been so kind you
know you're telling me these hands don't start stiffening up and the shoulders
aren't having challenges with blowing you're still the same I try and ignore that stuff yeah no I got a little
something going on in my shoulder but I try okay
work it out that's right well Tony this has been fun thanks for taking time and
and telling us all about you I mean I've known you for 20 some years and I've learned a lot of new stuff about you
today and I just I really I know other people will enjoy hearing it too well I need to catch up learn more about you
sometime sounds good we'll do that in Miami out to interview you next time all right all
right that's a plan all right all right take care okay Doug hey thanks yeah take care man great talk
with Tony Douglas I really appreciate you sitting down and talking with one of my kind of art show Heroes I know like
his work and my work could not be any more different but the way he goes about his business is just incredibly
inspiring to me you know I love the part of the talk where he says he makes this
stuff talking about his studio equipment builds a studio he makes this stuff to
make this other stuff and he really just at his core is somebody who needs to
make just to create and take a break from kovid and he couldn't work on glass he tried glass on the torch and he tried
other things that was keeping him moving that way so I thought that was a really interesting part of who he is
yeah that and the kind of the family aspect of it and hearing about his son and
um just uh just cool inspiring all the way around appreciate that one so next week will who are you sitting down to
talk with uh you know I've got a couple of people that I have in the works and they are all leaving for Florida shows
okay so uh I am going to talk to Betty Yeager an amazing Jeweler out of the
Twin Cities area we're going to sit down and talk about turning your business around from doing art shows into going
pretty much only online and she is a rock star in that uh format cool so
we're gonna get a little inspired in in that way and try to figure out uh get inside her head talk about some of the
social issues that Minneapolis has dealt with over the past couple of years dig down into some Instagram sales she's a
rock star and I cannot wait for you guys to hear her talk hey that's great well I'm looking forward to hearing all about
that and everyone thanks so much for all of your engagement on the social media platforms uh feel free to jump on to any
of your streaming app and leave us a review we really love hearing what you think of the show and it helps the show
go further it does if there's a topic that you want us to address feel free to reach out or if you have a question or a
person that you're interested in hearing us talk to we may or may not take your advice I hate advice
that's probably speaking of test too but um you know maybe it might get through a
[ __ ] in the armor we'll see how it goes you never know what's gonna spark will to say hey I want to talk about that or
uh sometimes the ones I don't want to talk about are some of the best talks so you
never know how it's gonna go that's right all right guys looking forward to seeing everybody face to face down in Miami good luck out there on the road
Douglas it's good to see you sir all right take care bye this podcast is brought to you by the
National Association of Independent Artists the website is also sponsored by
zapplication that's and while you're at it check out Will's website at
1:23:54 and my website at be sure to subscribe
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