Artist on File: Vitreus Art

We recently caught up with Jenny Timms and Mike Caddy from Vitreus Art.

HVA – I see that you’re running a lot of stained glass classes these days – how did you get in to teaching?

JT – We were getting people asking us at shows and Open Studios if we held classes. I wasn’t sure I would know how to put a class structure together but we could see that there was some interest at least. And Mike really encouraged me. We put a plan together, did some trials, got some dates set up with a local gallery to use their workshop and started telling our email list. And we got bookings pretty much straight away!

MC – We did do quite a lot of planning – stained glass needs a lot of tools, the materials aren’t cheap, and there are several different skills involved. We had to figure out how we would give people projects they could finish in the day, and keep the costs under control. I’m actually proud of how we got started – we did put a lot of thought in to it!

Jenny with advanced student Su

HVA – Do you still have time to make the pieces you want to make?

MC – I would like to make more, and I do feel as if sometimes we don’t get enough time to keep developing our own skills – we seem to put more time in to teaching others than we get to explore our own ideas!

JT – We are finding that although we don’t make as many pieces for galleries and so on, we are making more commissions than before, and they’re usually larger and more complex.

HVA – Do you find making a commission differs from making a piece to sell in a gallery in terms of satisfaction?

JT – Definitely – working with a client, incorporating their ideas and colour schemes in to a design we come up with and make is fantastic. And the feedback we get from clients is that they really enjoy being involved in the process – they have a story to tell other people who see the piece. We always give them photos of the work in progress too, so they can see how their piece is being created.

HVA – You also run a week-long stained glass course in Cornwall. How did that get started?

JT – It was something we’d wanted to do for some time – we’ve been running beginners and more advanced level classes for a couple of years and were getting lots of really positive feedback but we knew that we needed to find a suitable venue. We’d already asked our past students if they thought the idea was viable so we’d done some market research in advance!

MC – I was walking along the south-west coastal path in 2008 while Jenny and I were on holiday in Cornwall and saw that what was once a derelict life boat house had been converted in to an art venue. We made an appointment to see the place and realised that we had the makings of a plan! We booked the first session as soon as we got back home.

Mike with students, Porthleven 2011

HVA – So what made you decide to go ahead?

MC – We were confident we’d get enough interest  - we’ve really seen our classes take off – so all we had to do was work out if the costs were viable and set a price for the students. We’ve found in the past that it’s very hard to get people to commit to classes before the dates and costs are fixed.

JT – Plus we know the area, and we know where people can stay, what they can do in their spare time down there, and it is a very artistic area. The Tate and the Newlyn Gallery are both nearby and there’s lots to do, even out of season, so we were pretty sure we could offer a good holiday to non-artist partners as well as our students.

Kim with completed panel, Porthleven 2011

HVA – What would you say to new artists who are just starting off and are worried about the economic climate?

JT – I’d say you have to go for it – make sure you do everything you can to get yourself known – networking, website and social media, exhibitions and galleries, as well as building up your email list. Think about what it is you do for people and who those people are. Where can you find them?

MC – I’d add that it’s easy as an artist to forget that you’re also a business. At least, if you want to make a living doing it. That means you have to know your customers and to a certain extent, make what they want to buy. It’s no good having walls full of wonderful work in your own house – it’s meant to be in someone else’s house!

HVA – Finally – what are your plans for 2012 and beyond?

JT – We’re definitely focussing on building up our teaching side – we’re looking at new venues, we’re working on some totally new class ideas and of course we have our 5-day workshop in Cornwall to look forward to. Last year was amazing fun, although it was hard work for us too!

MC – As well as teaching, we’re building up the commissions side of what we do. We’re exhibiting at shows we think will help us meet potential new customers, as well as developing our web presence and doing a lot more search engine optimisation. That’s something I find a lot of artists are still very unaware of. It’s going to be a busy year, but that’s what we like! And of course we will be taking part in Herts Open Studios 2012. Check out our website for our location and opening times