It takes a lot of work to start up your own small business, but one local crafter has taken that task to hand and is providing her customers with one-of-a-kind art pieces in the process.
Randy House is the owner of Otaku Glass, her home-based business where she creates and sells unique pieces of stained glass artwork. An otaku is a term in Japan for younger people who are deeply involved with, and interested in, pop culture like video games and Japanese animation, and so House’s work reflect that interest. Some of her completed works so far have featured pieces from video games like The Legend of Zelda and Animal Crossing, while also creating wildlife art like hummingbirds and owls.
House described herself as a self-taught artist, and started working on stained glass art almost on a whim.
“I kind of got into it randomly,” she said.
“Just one day I saw it online and I thought it would be really cool to make that kind of stuff. I saw a gap in the market for younger people and wanted to make art that I can sell and hopefully start a little business with it.”
In order to learn how to create stained glass pieces, House said that, first and foremost, she conducted a lot of online research into the craft. Then, she went looking for first-hand expertise.
“I went to the Fine Line Art Gallery where some ladies do stained glass,” she said,.
“I would go and interview them and ask them for tips and tricks, and buy supplies there if I needed to. I bought supplies from Amazon and from there I just practiced lots and learned along the way.”
House’s process begins with coming up with an image, which isn’t as easy as it might seem. Since the final piece of stained glass is created of several smaller pieces fitted together like a puzzle, the shapes it is made up of have to be achievable. House said some shapes simply can’t be made with glass. Once she has sorted out all the composite pieces, she creates line work on her laptop that is then transferred onto the glass before being cut out. From there, it’s lots of hard work.
“I grind every single piece until they all kind of fit together like a jigsaw puzzle,” she said.
“After that, the process is really long. After grinding I have to wash all the pieces and dry them and then I put a copper foil tape on the edges of each piece of glass and press it down. Once I get to that point, I’m ready to solder the piece.”
The fumes created while soldering can be dangerous for human health, so House wears a respirator and runs a fume fan when she reaches that stage of work. After the soldering is done, it’s off to a final polish and waxing and then it’s display ready. All in all, an average piece can take House a week of work to complete, with some larger pieces she’s done taking up to two weeks now that she’s gotten more experience and skill in creating her pieces.
“The smaller ones I can get done in a couple of days,” she said.
“But it is very nose to the grindstone. I’m working really hard.”
And while it is hard work, her results speak for themselves. House said even though she hasn’t been officially selling her art for very long, she’s already gotten a few larger commission pieces, including a large owl piece made of nearly 50 separate pieces of glass. She’s been working to spread the word of the work she does by advertising with Facebook and Instagram pages, as well as attending markets, like the recent pop-up market held outside Devlin’s Corner Store, where she said she was able to hand out many of her business cards to interested passersby.
“Right now I’m doing a government-funded business course for creating a business plan,” she said.
“I hope to do this full time. But it’s a process. I’ve got to get the word out there that I exist. I try to do most of it online, just because it’s kind of hard to sell locally. Each piece does take a lot of time and effort and attention to detail, so it really is a very personal process of just creating this art.”
Still, House said that anyone who’s ever felt like they wanted to begin their own business doing something they love should take that leap, and keep consistent.
“My advice is just to not doubt yourself and to just go for it,” she said.
“Everything starts out really slow and you just have to stay consistent and keep trying every day. It’s very, very difficult but you’ve just got to stay committed and keep going.”
House’s artwork is available to view on her Facebook and Instagram pages “Otaku Glass,” and pieces available for purchase can be found at her Etsy store “OtakuGlassCA.”