I know we do things differently, you and I – we paint differently, we earn our living in different ways, we each have our different characters.
Which means I understand this: that my problems are not the same as yours.
But this actually makes it easier for me to talk openly, because I know I won’t worry or burden you when I tell you:
“These are the two things which cause me a huge amount of difficulty with the work I do …
Number 1 is a question of transition, of moving from one way of talking to another.
Here’s what I mean …
A sudden change of gear
The thing is, I’m naturally enthusiastic about the work we do here. And when I talk with clients, this enthusiasm shows.
I mean, I’m not shy, I don’t have anything to hide, I like meeting people and discussing the problems and potentials of their “open spaces” which our stained glass could solve.
All this kind of conversation and discussion is very natural for me; it all “flows”.
And can you see the problem coming up?
It’s that I find there is a sudden change of gear when I move from talking about quality (stained glass and its beauty) to quantity (stained glass and its cost).
It’s not that I’m embarrassed or shy about money.
After all, I worked in the City for 15 years. Each day we dealt with huge sums of money – it’s just money after all. Nothing to be frightened of.
No, I’m not embarrassed to talk about money.
My problem really is the change of gear.
I’m always looking for a smoother, subtler transition. One moment we’re talking beauty, the next it’s hard cash.
It’s a bit like someone throwing open the curtains and turning on the radio when you’re lying warm in bed with your favorite dreams – that’s how it feels to me.
I don’t want to make a big thing about this because actually, as problems go, it’s not that much of a problem. Over the years David and I have rehearsed and become accustomed to saying: “What’s your budget?” or “How much do you want to spend?”
It will cost you between twenty and thirty thousand pounds and the only thing which will start to settle that is the design, which will cost you £1000 so let’s get going …
So I certainly experience the gear-change less abruptly than I used to. – Mainly because we usually do it in reverse now: I mean, I often talk big figures first (but I don’t mean over-playing it, because I wouldn’t find that natural), then talk passionately about the possibilities, and then return to money in more detail.
But I don’t suppose this problem is something that will ever go away completely, just because of who I am and how I work and how I run my business.
Yes: “How I work and how I run my business”.
Which brings me to problem number #2.
We don’t have a “product” – do you?
Again, I hope it doesn’t sound as if I’m grumbling or complaining, because I’m certainly very happy.
Yet problem #2 follows from the fact that we don’t have a product, a catalogue, a shop. We can make whatever someone wants – so long as we’re allowed to do it well.
And of course so long as someone has sufficient means to pay for it.
So now imagine we’ve agreed a provisional budget (“between £x and £y”) and made a suitable design, which the client likes, and so says “Go ahead: here’s your commencement fee”.
That’s all easy: the client is happy with the design, and we are happy with the budget.
But you know what happens next … nearly always?
It’s this: the design isn’t “good enough”.
I mean: not good enough in our opinion (not the client’s).
How could it be – it’s only a design?
And … we’ve never made it before (remember: that’s the way we work – other people do things very differently, making 9999 of something, which has its own problems!).
So eight times out of ten we think of 31 improvements which we’re absolutely set on making.
How can we ever resist?
Our stained glass is going to be there for a very long time, so how could we not strain every muscle to make the very best that we are capable of, even if this is something we hadn’t foreseen at the time we made the design?
Like right now – if you were to call in on us at work today – you would rub your eyes and wonder at the sight … because we’re busy sticking about 496 small bits of coloured glass to the back of the tycoon’s 16 skylights:
But it’ll be worth it in the end:
Again, when we’re doing our estimates at the start of a project, we have a work-around. Say the initial budget is settled at between £10,000 and £15,000 for example. Then we’ll always prepare the design as cautiously as we can, aiming at the lower figure, then ensuring there’s money which is kept on the table for contingencies and so forth. This works very well, and has kept us out of danger many times.
So those are the two big problems I’m often wrestling with: the shift from enthusiasm to money on the one hand, and, on the other, not being content with something’s “just” being good enough because we want it to be the very best. (I’m sure you understand!)
All the same, despite these “problems”, we’re doing fine.
Very well indeed in fact, with lots of work.
I won’t say more than that because I don’t want to tempt fate.
I hope you’re doing fine too, whatever the problems you face because of the kind of work you do and the care you do it with.
What are your big problems with stained glass?
And though I can’t promise to solve anything, I’d love to know the big problems you face with your glass painting – so do please write something below.
P.S. I admit it – my head’s often in the clouds. That’s why I forgot to mention this problem with getting to the studio this morning … no road: