8 Myths about Working as a Fine Glass Artist

Becoming a skilled artisan who onlookers admire and fans try to emulate is not always… well, a dream.

Without the right plan, managing your own fine art business can look more like a nightmare.

Julie Gill the stained glass artisan behind Big Glass Art says that you have to play nice with others and be tied to a strategic business plan or else your business will be nothing more than an expensive hobby. 

Julie sat down with Ad4! Group to clear up 8 common misconceptions about making a living as an artist.


1. You have to do it all by yourself. 

Julie values her professional business team, built of accounting, law and marketing (Ad4!) professionals as “incredibly important.”

“To protect yourself, you do not have to do it all by yourself,” said Gill. “There are people who are in the business themselves of helping businesses – so take advantage of that. 

My best advice is: get a good attorney and a good accountant. Treat them very, very well. Treat them to dinner as often as possible.”

2. For established artists, it’s all about making money. 

Nope, sorry. Well-established artists with lots of clients and personalized studios are in this business because they love it, not to make money.

“I just want to do my thing (make art),” said Gill. “I’m driven to do my thing and if it means I make $5 a week, it does not matter. I’m still going to do my thing. All I want to do is keep the lights on, keep my kids fed and create. That’s it.” 
3. As a fine glass artist working for yourself, you will work less and earn more. 

Julie laughed aloud as she said this one. Like number one said, you should not do it all on your own, but you’re going to end up doing the most work no matter how many people are on your team. And you may not always make the highest dollar for it! 

“Running a small business is not like any other job in the world,” said Gill. “People think, “I’m going to work less and make more money.’

Ha! You are going to be broke, and you are going to work 24 hours a day.”

4. Cash-flow is never a problem. 

Julie admits that her biggest struggle as a small business owner is cash-flow and that she did not set out on a get-rich-quick scheme when she started her business.

“The difference between the way I run my business,” said Gill, “and the way a lot of other people run their businesses is: I am a 100% self-funded business. Meaning I don’t have debt. I don’t have business loans. I don’t have a line of credit on my house. I don’t have any of those things. 
Although I’ve been doing this for a long time, had I gotten a small business loan or whatever – I probably could be much further ahead on the business-side of things. But I just didn’t want that stress. 
I’m a single mom. I’m a sole-provider. I’m a business owner AND I’m an artist?! I don’t know what I was thinking.”
5. You get to work on wonderful, creative projects the majority of the time. 
To keep her business on track, Julie uses a rule. She completes five tasks that she does not want to do in order to do one creative task that she wants to do.

“There are projects that I have to force myself to do,” said Gill. “I don’t want to do it. But that is the business part of it.

And then, I get to do something that I want to do. I can’t solely concentrate on the things that are exciting and wonderful. Because the exciting and wonderful are few and far between and they don’t pay the bills. 

The everyday work, things that are less fun – you have to have those things to keep your overhead going.” 

6. Success as a Fine Glass Artist looks the same as the success of a CEO for a large corporation. 

Wrong again. These two jobs are different and successes look different as well. Julie redefines success for us.

“When you walk into my studio you see a professional, clean, well-organized layout,” said Gill. “I’ve tried to present myself as the professional I would like to be thought of and have something that appeals to everyone.

Sometimes, I think people get the impression that I am probably a lot wealthier than I am. Not that I’m a starving artist but…I’m still making it.

I’m not there yet, and I don’t know that it’s possible to really be what is considered in other professions as successful.

I’m perfectly fine with this, but I’m never going to drive the newest, fastest.. I’m never going to have the biggest, greatest house, and I don’t want that. What I want is housed in here (her workshop). 

My success is different than what other people view as ‘success,’ but I’m proud of myself.” 



7. Time-management skills are optional. 

Time management skills are everything. Julie explained that in a job with costly materials and multiple projects at once, controlling production time translates to controlling how much you will make on a project.

“I would say that the work ethic that was instilled in me as a kid from my grandparents and my family sets me apart in this business.

“You just got up early in the morning and worked until you went to bed. If I didn’t have that, I don’t think I would be able to do this and be any measure of successful.”

8. All artists make great business people. 

Alright you got me, I don’t think most people see artists as great business minds, but the thing is they don’t have to be as long as they are diligent and have a strong team behind them.

Julie readily admits that she is not a business woman. She would do everything she could to avoid doing paperwork. If you are an artist you can still run a business without having a drive to do paperwork.
“I have to have Ad4! do my marketing because I don’t want to do it,” Gil says with a laugh.

“It’s not that I don’t want to do the business aspects of the job. I want to have it done. It’s just that I’m not driven in the direction. I’m not driven to do paperwork.

My time is just better spent with glass or anything other than the running of the business. That’s why I have great business assistance personnel on my side.”

***Big thanks to Julie Gill for allowing us to interview her on this topic.

1 thought on “8 Myths about Working as a Fine Glass Artist”

  1. Great Interview Emily. Julie Gill of Big Glass Art is one of my favorite artists. She created a fabulous stained glass transom window covering for my home office.

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