It's hard not to be inspired by the artists and makers of the Cleveland Flea. Brilliant, talented, creative. They're tough as bleepin' nails on their ways to making their dreams come true. We began The Maker Series to take a look — behind the scenes, beyond the booth — to see what drives our makers to do what they love and love what they do.
Q + A with Deanna Dionne of Cleveland Street Glass
Where there's a city, there's bound to be crime. Thankfully, there are usually more than a few artists, too. Deanna Dionne, the graphic designer-turned-jeweler behind Cleveland Street Glass, is one such urban maker. You could say that she knows an opportunity when she sees one: after her own car was vandalized she made light of the circumstances by developing a business that takes debris from similar situations and turns it into rings, necklaces, earrings, bracelets, and brooches. Since her business' conception Deanna has created hundreds of custom jewelry pieces from the crimes on Cleveland's streets . Read on for insight into how she is beautifying Cleveland one break-in at a time.
Cleveland Flea: What was your path to beginning your business?
Deanna Dionne: A week after I moved to Cleveland in late 2014, my car was broken into. But I moved to Cleveland to have the space and community to focus on my art. One thing lead to another, and through experimenting with materials and techniques I started using glass from the car break-ins common in my area to create jewelry.
CF: Why do you love what you do?
DD: Each piece of jewelry is completely unique based on the chaotic breaks from the tempered auto glass. I never know what I'm going to be creating tomorrow, and while it can be a difficult and fragile material to work with, the possibilities of my innovation are always expanding. I have also met wonderful people and have been able to turn their negative experience of a car break-in into a positive experience of receiving custom jewelry.
CF: Why does Cleveland need a business like this?
DD: Cleveland has a big problem with theft and vandalism. I wish I knew how to stop the car break-ins, but by showing people I've created a whole business from cleaning up vandalism, I hope to bring awareness to the issue. At the very least perhaps people think twice about leaving their laptop in their car while they go work out.
CF: Why is Cleveland a great place to launch and run a creative business?
DD: I have fallen in love with Cleveland since moving here in late 2014. Cleveland is an incubator city, with an amazing art scene and citizens that are so supportive of the arts. The variety of industry is inspiring to me, as well. I feel as if I could do anything in Cleveland.
CF: What's the best part of running your own business?
DD: Coming from a graphic and website design background, I love being able to fine-tune every aspect of my brand's personality. I also love setting my own schedule and being a part of Cleveland's supportive entrepreneur community.
CF: What's your biggest struggle from a business standpoint?
DD: Having only launched this spring, I am definitely still getting a handle on the ebb and flow of finances and learning how exactly is the most efficient way of spending my time.
CF: What are your goals for the business this year?
DD: My goal is to create more structure in my schedule to make sure I am consistently building up my catalog of unique work, as well as having a system of cataloging that makes sense for handling online and in-person sales.
CF: Did you see yourself growing up to be a creative vendor?
DD: I grew up at art shows with my father, who was a potter and sculptor, and it was always a dream of mine to sell at art shows as well. I just never thought it would be with jewelry! I used to skip over those tents whenever I visited art shows in the past. When I moved to Cleveland I was intent on becoming an illustrator. I discovered that I enjoy the process and concept of Cleveland Street Glass jewelry much more than drawing.
CF: What's the first big moment where you knew you were headed in the right direction with your business?
DD: After creating a behind-the-scenes process video on a whim one rainy Saturday morning, it received about 300 shares and had 26 thousand views on my Facebook! While that didn't result in direct sales, stores and galleries started to contact me, and I knew I was now in demand.
CF: Who inspires you?
DD: My father has always been very artistic, and with a family of 6 still found a way to create beautiful items to sustain us. Growing up with that and understanding the challenges and ups-and-downs helps me move forward and trust my eye.
CF: Have you learned anything about your business by participating in Cleveland Flea?
DD: I love when someone is walking past and they read my banner, "Jewelry made from car break-ins," then laugh and come to check out my work. Having something unexpected, and perhaps even controversial, is a great way to start conversations. Although it can be a long day, I love meeting people and talking about my process.
CF: What's your favorite piece of advice as it relates to your business?
DD: You could spend your whole life preparing when you're already ready.
CF: How would you hope to hear your business described by your dream customers?
DD: I love Cleveland Street Glass jewelry! The glass is this aqua color like beach glass, but it's street glass-- made from broken car windows! There's all these breaks in it, and every one is SO different.
CF: What's one thing people would be surprised to learn about your business?
DD: Although my car has been broken into twice in Cleveland, I wasn't able to make jewelry from the glass of either one of them!
CF: What's your favorite booth at the flea?
DD: Besides the Flea Bar, I always look for Clear Blur Design. Her work is breathtaking and her display is very calming and cool.