In the second of our series of interviews with artists and crafters from the Pacific Northwest area – Meylah's home base – we would like to introduce you to Leah Pellegrini, a glass artist from Portland, Oregon. Leah works full-time as an artist, creating glass mobiles, which she sells both online and offline, as well as teaching classes at Aquila Glass Studio. How does she balance it all? Let's find out!
Meylah: Hello, Leah. You studied psychology. How did you get into making glass mobiles, and what is your artistic inspiration?
Leah Pellegrini: My career aspirations were never to become a full-time artist. Far from it. In fact, I grew up believing I would become an orthopedic surgeon. Before finishing my undergraduate degree, my attention diverged from this path and life took a drastic turn. I finished my liberal arts studies with a degree in psychology and classes taken in everything from Ayuvendic medicine, figurative sculpture, Chinese medicine, Indian Tabla drumming, animal communication, linguistics, and a lot of developmental cognitive psychology. Somewhere in there, I found a studio in Philadelphia that offered classes in glass blowing. Then I got an internship at this studio so I could continue taking classes and renting studio time while meeting many of the other artists that worked there.
Glass is something of an obsession for me – I love working with hot, molten glass. It is sexy and creative and beautiful. And it is somewhat lucrative to create glass items for retail. This sales potential has made my career choice possible.
As far as my artistic inspiration, I seem to live life from the gut. I make a lot of mobiles. It is some sort of expression of my desire to find happiness in life. Life requires a lot of balance, and even though it is all very difficult and snafus happen all the time, it all seems to work out beautifully in the end. This is my inspiration.
Meylah: You work full-time as an artist and your business has many facets, both online and offline: an Etsy store, a Flickr page, an active website/blog, plus you teach classes and sell your work at the Portland Saturday Market. How do you balance these facets of your business, and do you have any tips for others trying to develop their creative business?
Leah Pellegrini: Balance is key – I make mobiles, constantly illustrating the beauty and importance of balance in life. The symbolism does not escape me :)
Honestly, time-management has always been my biggest struggle. What I have found works for me is to diversify my income. "Don't put all your eggs in one basket" – isn't that the saying? So I spend part of my time creating work to sell online and at the Portland Saturday Market, part of my time is spent teaching classes and networking with local artists and organizations and, most importantly, part of my time is spent trying to enjoy Oregon – appreciating the awesome adventure opportunities.
Meylah: You blog about your life and your craft. Can you talk about what opportunities or relationships have come from maintaining a blog?
Leah Pellegrini: It is a pleasure to write a blog – I take pictures constantly, so my blog is an easy way to share. It seems many people who know me enjoy keeping up with things via my blog. I can advertise my classes and projects that I am involved with.
Blog entries rank very highly on Google lately, and it seems to be quite profitable to blog about a product I've listed on Etsy or a tutorial I've posted on YouTube.
I have worked in galleries and selling art work is much easier when there is a wonderful story attached to the piece. Blogs give the independent artist the ability to represent themselves in this way. To tell our stories is a powerful marketing tool – it also seems to have the added benefit of allowing my neglected family and friends a window into what I am up to in my busy life!
Meylah: Do you have any suggestions for crafters and artists in terms of trying to prepare or "window-dress" their online shops or websites for the holidays?
Leah Pellegrini: It is a great opportunity to put extra items in your shop that are holiday related: tree ornaments, stocking stuffers, etc...
Meylah: What is your favorite mobile and why?
Leah Pellegrini: I love my little mobiles that you can mount on to your computer monitor – especially this little one that has a little blue square and a little orange triangle. It makes me happy.
These little things are all made with the scrap from my larger mobiles – that feels satisfying to me as well. I create quite a bit of scrap and it is necessary for me to take the time to clean it and use it.
Glass scraps can still be beautiful gems.
Meylah: Great to meet you, Leah!
Anyone else out there find their way to their craft or art through a circuitous route? How did you end up discovering your craft?