Friday Interview: Tanner Glass! May 20, 2011 12:10

Happy Friday, readers! So sorry for slacking off the past two Fridays, I'm sure it's left you all extra anxious for this week's artist interview! Well, I won't keep you in suspense, this week I'd like to introduce you to Suzanne Tanner, the creative force behind Tanner Glass. Read on to hear a pretty amazing story that took place in Venice. Have a great weekend, everyone! 

Please introduce yourself and tell us about your handmade business.
My name is Suzanne, and I'm the Owner, President, VP, and girl-Friday of Tanner Glass.  It's been over 12 years since I started Tanner Glass, and it's been quite a  ride.  What began as a fun little side business has blossomed into so much more.  Some products have come and gone, and others have come and stayed, and I'm really drawn to this evolution.

Describe your studio for us.
This is a little bittersweet.....I moved everything that I salvaged from the floods of Spring 2010 to my basement.  At the time (and for the last 10 years), I had a nice little studio space in the back of Tracy Glover's ( glass studio.  I'd do all the glassblowing in the Hot shop, and use my little nook to store my things, pack and ship, and hash out new ideas.  After 5 ft of water destroyed the Studio, I moved everything home.  My spare bedroom has become a functional work room, where I make all the magnets, hooks and paperweights, and the basement is my new Studio/storage.  I do my glassblowing at a couple of studios around Rhode Island, and shlep it all home when I'm done.
Plans are in the works to rebuild, and while I do love the convenience of having all my work here, I'm really excited about this opportunity to have my own Studio.

What is it about glassblowing that first attracted you to the medium?
I just thought it was really, really cool; and I signed up for the class my last semester, senior year at Hartwick College.  It was a 100% "just for fun" class, and I remember thinking "I should do this, because when will I ever have the chance to do this again?"
Little did I know....

Can you briefly tell us the story behind your favorite tools that you bought in Venice?
Ahh, I love telling this story.
First, glass tools are specific to glassblowing (so I can't go to the hardware store to buy them).  There are a number of good toolmakers in the US and abroad, and I had the opportunity to buy some when I traveled to Italy in 2000.  It was my mission to leave Venice with new Jacks, made by Dino Tedeschi. At the time,
 to buy Dino's tools, you had to know someone who knew someone who knew Dino.  Or you had to knock on his door in Murano (which is what I did).
After a bit of a wild goose chase around Murano, I ended up at his house, sitting at his kitchen table, sipping tea, smiling and nodding.  I don't speak Italian, and Dino (nor his wife), speak English.  He put some tools on the table, I picked out the ones I wanted, I managed to understand how much to pay him, and I thanked him and his wife, and headed for the door. Before I could get up from my chair, he motioned me to sit back down, and he placed a red journal in front of me. I opened it, flipped through some pages....all the big names in the glass world (Lino Tagliapietra, Dante Marioni, Sonja Blumdahl, and hundreds of others, some not so big, either) had signed that book.  All of them had sat right where I was sitting and had bought their tools. And he wanted me to sign it?
I don't remember what I wrote, but it doesn't matter.  I signed the book.
For me, it was a defining moment, and I knew I was a glassblower.
(Editor's note: in case you're worried, the tools survived the flood.)

What advice would you offer someone hoping to take their art from hobby to business?
This is totally cliche, but you have to believe in yourself, and be true to yourself.  Building a handmade business isn't easy, but it's easier if you love what you do, and what you make.
And to be not so your research, and learn everything you can about operating a small business.  Talk to others that do what you want to do.  I've learned that artists and craftspeople are a wealth of information, and are usually willing to offer their advice.

What does handmade mean to you?
It goes far beyond uniqueness, it's about sharing.  There is a little bit of every artist/craftsperson in the works they create.  Whether it's their wit, humor, color sense or design, it's their expression.  And I find that personal involvement in what they do to be just plain awesome.

How did you become involved with Craftland?
After years of knowing about the Holiday show, I finally applied to be part of it all in 2010.  And it's turned out to be one of the best things I ever did.  It's been a lot of fun!

Guilty pleasure?
I don't go out to eat often,  but, when I do, I don't mess around.  Providence has unbelievable restaurants, so I don't pay any attention to price. Some of my favs include Bacaro and La Laiterie.