Today’s entrepreneur is Gerald Haessig.
When and why did you start your business?
I have a degree in communications and worked in local TV for many years. Officially, I started my art career in 1999 when I quite the TV industry to become a full time artist, but it started much earlier when my wife got me a glassblowing lesson as a Christmas present. In 1992, I began learning the art of glassblowing. Both my wife and I made career chages in the late 90′s. So, I started my art career/business once she established her new career. I reached the “glass ceiling” at the TV station and could not advance further. So, I struck out on my own.
Describe your business in 20 words or less.
I am an artist. I design and create works in glass, clay and personal adornment.
Where do you get your inspiration from and how do you stay inspired?
I am fortunate to live in a very inspiring city, New Orleans. Our culture, food, politics and disasters have inspired me. I create a beautiful bowl series, “Impulso de Mare or Tidal Surge” which is my interpretation of a hurricane in glass. In the pottery studio, I make refrigerator piggy banks that are inspired by everyone throwing them out after the storm and also one of our congressmen having a bribe in the freezer. I think of them as “your cold cash vacation stash.” Who wouldn’t want to come to New Orleans? Stash your money in the fridge bank and come on down. Just look around, that’s how I stay inspired.
What is your biggest success or accomplishment you’re most proud of in your business?
In 2010, I was commissioned to create artwork that was presented to First Lady Michelle Obama during her visit to Brock Elementary in Slidell, Louisiana. She was there to kick off her nutrition in school program. I created one of my signature, “Silveramic” pieces. It was a slab constructed, raku fired clay vessel that has pure silver fused onto the surface of the clay. It was adorned with silver fleur di lis (a symbol for New Orleans, not just the Saints). She was also presented with a silver fleur de lis brooch.
After Hurricane Katrina, I was commissioned by The Historic New Orleans Collection to create a piece of jewelry to coinside with their first show after the storm. In June of 2006, Laura Bush visited the Collecton and was presented with one of the pieces I made.
What advice would you give other entrepreneurs when they are first starting out?
If possible, join an artist co-op. I am in the Dutch Alley Artist Co-op in the French Quarter it has really helped me developed my products and improve my sales skills. Being in this co-op, where the artists work the gallery and run the business, I have learned the business side of art. One cannot look at being an artst and not be a business person as well. Speaking with and selling your work to a customer is no different than speaking with a wholesale buyer. So, the more you become comfortable talking about yourself and your work the more likely you are to land that sale. Whether it is a retail sale or a new wholesale account. Sales = success.
Do you sell your products wholesale and, if so, what is one strategies that you use to get your products in stores?
I started wholesaling my work after Hurricane Katrina because of necessity. I had not done wholesaling before that. I couldn’t live in my home and was living in another city and needed to earn a living. I joined wholesalecrafts.com. After contacting CERF+, I received a reduced booth fee and participated in the first ACRE Las Vegas show. That is how I started wholesaling. Since then I have joined another online wholesale website, wholesaleartistsguild.com. I utilize the email newsletters these companies send out as well as my own to get buyers to see my work and into their stores .
If you like this interview, Like Gerald Haessig on Facebook.