Artist Profile: Christine Alexander

Stained glass artist Christine Alexander presents her work and talks about commissions, referrals and scaling a small business.

 

After the Rain

 

ABI:  You mostly do commissioned work.  What markets do you sell to?

CA:  My most successful and preferred practice is creating custom designed projects for individual clients. Mostly these are in residential settings, but I have also done some commercial and ecclesiastical works. I have a degree and experience working in the field of architecture and I particularly enjoy larger installations that have a real impact on their built environment.

 

Hunter Rose

 

Stained glass is an interesting creature in that it is not easily defined – it encompasses aspects of architecture, fine art, and craft in a way that few other artistic pursuits do.

 

Stained glass bevels

 

ABI:  What is the biggest factor in your gaining commissions?

CA:  Locally, the biggest factor for me in acquiring new work is definitely word of mouth – nothing better than a client referral! I also often create a small piece for a client which leads to a larger project or installation for them or a friend.

 

Stained Glass Doors to Church

 

Although it has not brought me a lot of work directly, I feel that having a website has been very useful in this process. It is there 24/7 for the new potential client to visit and get a feel for me and my work without initially committing. Nationally, I have had some success using sites that market artists and artisans to the public, in particular CustomMade.com. There is a commission to pay to the site and you need to “learn the ropes” at first, but it provides nationwide exposure that I would otherwise not enjoy.

 

Rose Window

 

ABI:  How are you scaling your business?

CA:  I think this is an important concept that I have only recently realized I need to work on. As an artist, I love to be just making stained glass. But I don’t always have a big job on the table. It is challenging but useful to try and find other ways to utilize my designs.

 

Contemporary stained glass

 

I began by selling my patterns on my website, and am compiling a series of my “mandala” patterns that I hope to publish as a book. I offer custom design services for others which creates income (and a chance to be creative!) without the greater time commitment of fabrication. And I think as artists we always need to reach out to fellow practitioners and network – whenever I can I make sure other artists, firms, suppliers and those in the trade know I am available for joint venture or subcontract work and hope I can call on fellow artists as well.

 

"Spring" design in stained glass

 

ABI:  How do you blend creativity and customer service in your business?

CA:  Well, this is my favorite part of the way I am practicing right now. I sometimes worry, looking at my portfolio, that I don’t have a cohesive “look” as many artists do – I’m not sure you would see my work and say “Oh, that’s an Alexander.”

 

Universe Tree

 

But I believe focusing on custom commissions is 100% about customer service and it makes each piece unique and widely varying. It all starts with the client’s style and story and where I can go with it. I love that the collaborative creative challenge is a new exploration for us both. The very best projects end with the client saying “It is just exactly what I didn’t know I wanted!”

 

 

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