ABS recently caught up with Melinda Melanson who hosts the web site for glass lampwork Self-Representing Artists. What’s that? Read on…
Tell us about you, outside of SRA. How did you become a glass beadmaker? How long have you been making beads?
I’m 42 yrs old with a retired Air Force Hubby and an 18 yr old daughter. We love animals and have a bunch. Dogs, cats, birds, snakes, lizards, tortoise, and a frog. I’ve always been drawn to beads and glass work. As a child I remember finding beads in the road or school play area and gathering them up to make my own jewelry. Way back then, I strung them on fishing line. I am always looking for something new to try, and in the early 90’s, I bought a booklet and some beads and started making seed bead earrings. From there, my collection of beads has grown to take over my house. I don’t do a lot of stringing work. I prefer bead weaving, loom work, bead embroidery. I started making Art dolls and was getting frustrated in not being able to find just the right beads for my dolls. Around 1999 I saw a bead making kit in a book club and figured I could make simple beads to adorn my dolls. Well, I had no idea there was a market for the beads I was making, they kept piling up and after a quick search on eBay, I decided to sell them there. I didn’t start to sell them until 2001, but I was making them in late 1999.
Where do you sell your beads? Do you sell finished pieces?
How did the Self-Representing Artist (SRA) site come about?
Basically, a bunch of [glass] bead artists were discussing how we could let our buyers know that they are looking at work that is made by the artist and not mass produced. Before a couple years ago, this was easy, there were very few mass produced lampwork style beads and it was easy to distinguish between SRA and mass produced. But then the overseas mass producing factories started to produce the same designs and styles that we were making. We decided a badge or logo would help us stand out from the mass produced beads.
How does it work?
Very easy to join. Send in some basic info. Once we verify that the applicant is a SRA, the member will get a membership number and a copy of the logo to use. I retain the rights to decline or pull anyone’s membership at any time. The logo is used by strict permission only.
How many SRA’s do you have listed?
I’ve lost count after 1000, I think we are about 1500 strong now.
What are the requirements to be an SRA? Is it just for glass? Are there other organizations of this kind?
Our group is very easy to join. We only require the members to sell their own or immediate family members glass work where they display the logo. We do not require the member desist from selling other work. But they may not display the logo on this other work. Because our basic mission is to help buyers find genuine glass work, this group is for glass only. There are groups out there that represent the self representing jewelry designer.
Are you affiliated, endorsed or recommended by any other organizations? (ISGB? Local guilds? Etc).
I’m not sure if we’ve gotten any official recommendations from other groups yet. I believe The Angry Mandrel is linking to our site now. I know word is spreading like wildfire and the group receives new applications almost daily.
Is there anything you’d like to say to art bead makers and designers that use art beads?
To the bead artists out there, stand up and proclaim you are a self-representing artists. Make it easier for new customers to find your work. Be proud to be an SRA. Educate your customers about the differences between SRA work and mass produced work.
And to the designers……A HUGE thank you for supporting the SRA’s. I believe the quality in the glass work made by SRA’s is greatly superior to the mass produced items. And by supporting the SRA, you are directly supporting the artists and not a bunch of middle men/importers.
Is there any advice you can give for other art bead makers in other mediums that might want to follow your lead in the SRA movement?
Stand up and be proud of being a SRA in whatever medium you work in. Search for groups in your medium that can help you find your customers. If there isn’t a group, think about starting one. Help others along their path.
(All beads in this article are by Melinda Melanson. Click images for a larger view).