One of the first couple of people I had the pleasure of meeting when I first came to Joy Street was Matthew Jacobs. It was Emily Worden (whose studio I was taking over) who pretty much introduced him to me as, “This is, he’ll-find-a-way-to-get-it-done, Matt.” Most everyone knows Matt if they are an artist in the building; and there are few that have not at least once been given a helpful hand from him. He is perhaps the most easy-going and welcoming artist you have seen at every Open Studios since the inception of Joy Street Artists. That would officially make it 10 consecutive years and he is about to hit his 11th at this year’s November Open Studios.
What does your art/business do?
I run two businesses here at Joy Street Studios. Liquid Solid Studios (Studios #1, #6, & #10) is where I sublet space to 15 glass lampworkers and metal-smiths. We manipulate rods and tubes of clear and colored glass using an oxygen-propane mix torch. The metal working came about by accident when glass beadmakers would turn their glass objects into jewelry and now a few non-glass artists have come to work in our spaces.
Sugarmattys is where I am a functional glass art manufacturer. I love making things that serve a purpose (beyond just being looked at). As a lampworker, my products focus on pipes for smoking, but I love making marbles and lots of other things. (I love how a child’s eye lights up when they play with a glass marble.)
When did you start your business and what motivated you to begin? What did you used to do before this?
I’ve been in the pipe industry for over 20 years. I spent a few years as a collector of glass pipes being fascinated by what artists were creating. After that I spent 6 years working at and then running SugarDaddy’s Smoke Shop in Boston. While running SugarDaddy’s, I bought and sold glass pipes, spoke to glassblowers about how they did what they did and helped customers find what they were looking for in their everyday purchases. During this time, I product-tested many types of pipes to find out which ones I thought worked best and why. This was a 6-10 year apprenticeship in the glass pipe industry before I even touched the medium.
Twice, over that long hands-off apprenticeship, I spent some time watching glassblowers and had them help me make a pipe, taking it out of my hands every few minutes to fix whatever mistakes I had made. At some point during those 2 experiences, I decided I was going to quit my job and go learn how to blow glass. I wasn’t sure when, but I knew making affordable pipes was how I was going to get paid to learn the craft. I took that plunge 14 years ago.
What was the biggest challenge in getting started?
The biggest challenge was walking away from a job with a consistent paycheck to start life over as an artist, not sure where my next paycheck was going to come from.
Since starting, what are you most proud of in your work?
I’m most proud that I have stuck with it for 14 years so far. These years have had their ups and their downs. Some days I feel like an expert and other days I feel like a beginner. Overall, its been the most empowering decision I ever made.
Who are three creative-types or businesses that inspire you?
I cannot name names because I take something from every artist (glass and otherwise) and business person I cross paths with in life. I look at a lot of fellow glass artists and I think, “Wow! If only they tried _________, then they might be more successful.” I also look at lots of fellow artists and think, “__________ works so well for them. I should try to incorporate that into my business and see if it works for me?” These two analyses have been instrumental in my growth as an artist and in the growth of my business.
What is something you find helps motivate you day-to-day to create?
If I didn’t keep selling most everything I make, then I wouldn’t be so motivated to do it all over again. Emily Worden’s book, “Make, Sell, Repeat” sums up the cycle of my life – and if it doesn’t sell, I make something else the next day.
Anything else you would like to share with everybody?
My door is open. Come on by.
Find more of Matt’s work only at Joy Street Open Studios. He only wholesales, but roughly twice a year he has special items available for retail. Hooray!