Makers 1-on-1 is our original interview series featuring today's makers and DIYers. We're sitting down with new makers every week to learn more about their projects, how they acquire information, their purchase processes, and their passions.
This week, we’re interviewing Robin Springer-Vega — a glass artist from Alliance, OH and owner of Jarz Art Glass. Robin’s glass sculptures are full of colored glass, both new and repurposed, and range from large sun catchers to small mosaics. In her process, she uses glass beads, plenty of wire, a soldering iron, and tools like pliers and wire cutters. If your brand sells to glass artists and sculptors like Robin, this 1-on-1 interview will give you some important insights into connecting with makers like her.
What's your name and what do you do?
My name is Robin Springer-Vega, my business is Jarz Art Glass, and I make freeform art sculptures and air plant holders and what my husband calls “hippy-dippy glass” using all kinds of found objects and bought objects and whatever strikes my fancy. I have a huge collection of all different things to sort through and whatever strikes me is what I put together.
How and when did you get started making glass sculptures?
My husband actually got me started on it about 15 years ago. He’s a craftsman who does so many different things, and he decided to try stained glass. He made a piece with all the wrong things, but it worked, so we started buying more stuff and did a few projects together and independently. We did all of these things out in the garage. At the time I was a smoker, and I quit smoking, but the garage was a place where I smoked so I couldn’t go out there anymore. So when we worked on getting the basement rebuilt, I knew I wanted to make it my studio. I’ve been really intensively working with glass for about a year and a half.
I did a lot of research on craft shows and where I thought my stuff would fit in, and it looked like there might be a market for it, and I started working even harder. So it’s really, really been on a roll the past couple months. I never really thought that I had any artistic talent before this. It’s been a discovery. It’s kind of a second chance: my kids moved out, I used to be a mom, and now I do this.
What materials do you need to make glass art?
Besides the glass itself, this soldering iron is my best friend. My soldering iron needs to be adjustable temperature-wise because some glass is more sensitive than others. If I’m doing purposeful build-up of the solder line, I want it cooler so I can build on top of what’s old. If it’s too hot, what’s underneath it will melt and it goes everywhere. Sometimes I do decorative beading with my solder and I need it lower for that too. The soldering lines are really important and they need to be consistent. Then I use a lot of lighting because that’s a big challenge down here. I use frames and jigs to trap things in a place I want them to be. I also need flux to make the solder flow, and I use lead for the solder. Foiling tape is how you attach things together, and then I need scissors, pliers, wire cutters, wire, and all kinds of stuff.
How do decide what types of products to buy?
I try to stay local. Sometimes it’s kind of cost-prohibitive, but sometimes it’s worth the cost because being around those projects and finished things is inspirational. Then the owners also give me great advice. A lady in a shop just gave me great advice on which flux to use, and it’s the best one I’ve used yet. But if I need something right away and I can’t leave the house in the next few days, I’ll buy online. I bought my foil online, I just did a big glass purchase, and also glass nuggets are hard to find in store now. I need a big assortment of the nuggets because I put all different colors together, plus I love them so I need a lot. I also use places like JoAnn Fabrics for a lot of my supplies like wire, mirror pieces, fabric for my booth set-up, suction cups, and glass nuggets. They have a great selection.
What inspires you to make a new piece?
Something that I’m really inspired by or something that’ll be an art piece usually comes to me. For instance, one piece I’m getting an award for this weekend, I was challenged by someone who thought they were giving me advice. I had entered an art show and they didn’t know what to do with my stuff, so they didn’t accept it. I went to pick it up and they said, “We’re really sorry. We don’t know what to do with it, we don’t know what to call it, but maybe you could make something in a frame.” So I tried that, and it didn’t work, but that’s my biggest inspiration piece. It came to me, and I dreamt about it, and thought about it, and I kept adding to it and it changed as I went.
As far as things I want to sell, I kind of come up with ideas of what people might like. Air plant holders were something I thought of, and I have a lot of different old bottles and glass and they look cool with air plants in them. I sort through my stuff and find things that want to be together and make them into something. With art pieces, I feel like I’m in charge, but pieces to sell feel like they’re in charge. Sometimes it’s a mix of both. I can be making something and think, “Where’s that one red piece,” and I sort through and find it because it feels like it would be perfect.
How do you use social media?
I have a Jarz Art Glass Instagram and Facebook page, and then I have a personal Facebook page. I have a website; my daughter has put it together for me but it’s in the beginning stages because she’s been extremely busy, so it has a few pictures and directs people where to go. I’m just learning how to use Instagram, and it’s been a big process, but I like Instagram a lot. I follow a few different glass artists, some illustrators, and quite a few artists at the Summit Artspace because I’ve taken classes there and met great people there and had my pieces shown there. Otherwise I follow a lot of personal people, and of course Sweet Mary’s Bakery.
What resources help you learn more about glass art?
If I have a question, I just Google it. If I’m going to buy something, I’ll go to Amazon and read reviews. Even if I’m going to buy it in person, I’ll go online first and read the reviews there.
How do you build relationships with other glass artists?
I talk to other glass artists all the time and ask them what their process is and for their tips and tricks. It’s a supportive community, and everyone that I’ve met in person that lives in and around Akron has been so amazing. I took classes through several organizations, and all of them are so supportive and helpful.
What are the biggest problems and challenges you face day to day?
Time management, for sure. I’m a procrastinator, and I do better when I have a lot of things to do, even though I still freak out a little bit. I have a server job, and I go to spend time with my dad once a week, and I do my art, and take classes, and network in the art community. There are so many things I want to do but not enough time. I have to build my inventory too because I have two big events coming up, and I recently opened a shop at the Northside Marketplace. Other than that, lighting down here in the basement is also a challenge.
How else do you show off your work?
I’ve done three Crafty Marts and one farmer’s market, and so far I haven’t had a huge amount of sales from those. The biggest sale was from my first one, which is funny, but sometimes that’s just how it works. I’ve done two big art piece sales to family friends, and those were from Facebook. Then the Northside Marketplace is my new place to show off what I make, but I’m just getting started.
What things would you like to learn more about as you keep growing?
I definitely would like to do a bootcamp on social media things. I need to get better at Instagram and learn how to repost and get more followers. I want to learn more about how to tie Instagram to my market space and get people to come there and take a picture of themselves and tag themselves.
What's your favorite part about being a maker?
My favorite part is the creative process. Every day I surprise myself when I look at my stuff and think, “I can’t believe I made that.” It’s just so cool. I’ve looked and looked and there’s nobody making stuff like I make, and it’s a cool feeling to be different. I always thought I was different.
What kinds of opportunities do you think the Maker Movement has opened up to people?
The Maker Movement has been a really integral part in what’s going on with me. I didn’t really know it existed until I started investigating local craft markets and fine art markets and realized how many resources there are for people like me and how many supportive people there are in the area. It’s phenomenal what’s going on right now, and there’s so much support for doing it, especially for people who want to start their own businesses. It’s also been great for me to be around so many strong, powerful women of all ages. There are many who are like me and are in the second half of their life and are experimenting with something they never did before or another aspect of their art, and it’s just amazing.
What's coming up next for you?
There’s the grand opening of my space in the Northside Market. Then at the Tuscarawas County Center for the Arts, my piece Frameless has won an award — the same place that rejected my work last year, so that’s very satisfying. I don’t know what the award is yet and I don’t care, I’m just really glad it was accepted. And I’ll be at the Crafty Mart Small Business Saturday market after Thanksgiving.