Cover of October 1990 Kingston Daily Freeman article
In September of 1990, I filed my DBA as Sara Beames Glass Design and immediately signed up for Craft Fairs throughout the North East. Those first years we averaged 25 shows a year. Some people love showing and selling at Craft Fairs, they thrive on it. But it is a demanding and exhausting lifestyle. We decided to cut down on the Craft Fairs and to start selling wholesale to stores. The first trade show was ACC West Springfield, next we added The Philadephia Buyers Market of American Craft, and finally The New York Gift Fair. This created just the right blend of travel and building relationships with accounts, while leaving more time in the studio and at home. Somewhere along the way, we changed the name to Beames Designs.
In college, I wanted to become an architectural glass designer, but once we started the business, quickly realized that smaller objects would be easier to sell. Our first line of products were all home accessories - picture frames, dishes and, clocks. As we participated in shows, customers started asking me for Seder plates and menorahs. Having grown up in a house with a not very interesting brass menorah and Seder plate, I thought is there a market for that? For the NY Gift Fair in 1993, I designed and displayed my first Seder & Matzo plates ( the Floral pattern). That was all we took orders for, no one was interested in the home accessories. So at the next Gift Show, I expanded the line to include a Menorah, then a Shabbat set, etc. Once I created all the different pieces, it became a challenge to come up with a different pattern each year, over the years creating hundreds of designs. There were so many pieces, that it got to the point where we had to retire some of them. Many people assumed that we had a whole factory of people working for us. Never. I have made every single Beames Designs piece over the years.
While I do all of the design, production, and marketing, Michael, my partner in life and business, takes care of the purchasing of materials, packing, shipping, and accounting (and our dachshunds have been constant studio mascots, of which there has always been one and sometimes even two). Because we had no formal business background, we took accounting and marketing classes at the local College and also formed a relationship with a mentor through SCORE. In the 1990s if you had a fax machine and an 800 phone number, you were really cutting edge. But then came the internet and websites and e-mail became essential. There was a whole new learning curve to master - websites, photography and photo editing, e-mail marketing, and now video.
One of the benefits of the longevity that we have enjoyed is the relationships that we have built along the way, both with the store owners and the individuals who have purchased our work. It is a very special feeling to know that on Chanukah our menorahs are being lit up around the world, to share the simcha of a wedding with our break glasses, perhaps to have our pieces become treasured family heirlooms, or to light up someone's day with a beautiful piece of jewelry to wear. Now, while I would not recommend a career as a Craftsperson to the faint of heart, it has been a challenging, exhilarating, sometimes frustrating, but always rewarding journey. To all the customers along the way, we thank you for your friendship, patronage, and support. And we're not going anywhere, there is more to come.