In the Fold: An Interview with Deanna Dionne of Cleveland Street Glass
If you've ever visited Cleveland, you know how strangely high-contrast our neighborhoods can be... but that could be said for so many cities. Lush green parks vs. concrete jungles. What every city does not have is Cleveland's urban optimist, Deanna Dionne of Cleveland Street Glass. Life handed Deanna some lemons, and she went and grew an orchard from them. What we mean to say is, Deanna has found success in the frustration of living in the city. Her well known jewelry is the product of car break-ins and a heap of ingenuity. After her own car was broken into during her first week living on the north coast, she started a jewelry business and used the mess of her car insurance claim to spark her creativity. Better than a glass slipper, this fairy godmother clads Cleveland in glass earrings, pendants, rings, and cuffs.
We're proud to tell folks about all of our vendors, but we beam when we share Deanna's story. Read on for a true tale of one of Cleveland's most inventive makers.
How did you decide on your business' name?
In the beginning I toyed around with ‘artsy’ names like “Shatter” (yeah none of them were good) but my concept is already a bit “out there” and I realized I needed a simple name that would help people understand what they’re looking at. It’s a play off of “sea glass” except I’m finding glass in the street!
What caused you to start making your products?
Within a week of moving to Cleveland, my car was broken into. But I’d moved to this live/work artist’s loft downtown to pursue my art, so I was seeing art in everything. Soon the glass glittering on the streets from car break-ins looked like something I wanted to work with. Experiments lead to more experiments, and I settled on making jewelry. Creating brands was a big part of my previous job and I had all the skills to start my own business, so I did! And Cleveland has a lot of crazy opportunity and support, they responded in full! I feel like anything is possible here.
Can you tell us a little about the making of your products?
I sweep auto glass left over from car break-ins off city streets, and repurpose them into necklaces, earrings, and bracelets. I use a technique similar to stained glass, edging each individual piece with a silver alloy. Smaller pieces of glass are utilized by mixing with resin in custom shapes, handmade molds, or stainless steel charms.
How often do you find yourself in the studio?
Basically 24/7! There are many days I do not leave the warehouse. I have found that I like working with resin in the morning, doing computer work/processing glass/ fulfilling orders during the day, and soldering at night.
Share a little about your average day of work
My work changes a lot day-to-day, which I really enjoy. I always hated routine. Usually if I have an event on the weekend, I’m spending the week making sure I have all the gaps in my inventory filled, and know exactly what I need for the event to be smooth and safe.
What is your favorite way to creatively warm-up?
I usually spend Sundays recovering from Saturday events and find myself lying in my hammock sketching out ideas. At times when the ideas don’t come so easily, I always reference my sketchbook and can remember new techniques I wanted to try.
Where do you create your work? What is that space like?
I have a live/work space in downtown Cleveland. It’s a large open space where I carve out zones for different processes in my work, but any time I can do work on my couch, I will!
What do you like to listen to while you’re working?
I love sappy rock ballads, heavy drum solos, bossa nova, and unique singers.
Who's on your our creative team?
I am a solo business, but love contracting help when I can, especially when friends are looking to pick up some extra work! I also love working with photographers for interesting photo shoots.
If you could outsource any part of your current process, what task would that be and why?
Listing items online is a challenge to keep up with, since all my pieces are one-of-a-kind, it’s a lot of work to photograph and measure every item and list them!
Which part of your process do you get the most satisfaction from?
There is a lot of process in my work. From finding the glass to sorting it, hardening it, preparing to solder, soldering, finishing/sanding… and finalizing the item. They’re each satisfying in their own way, and just having lots of different tasks to choose from is satisfying to me. But the most satisfaction I get is actually seeing people react to my work.
What motivates you to do what you do?
When someone’s car is broken into, their glass is left for debris in the street. By collecting the glass, I’m able to reclaim it and add value back into it. I find it very empowering!
How do you see your work or processes changing in the near future?
I’ve started focusing more on my fine arts career. What I’ve learned through being creative with soldering and incorporating links, chain, and copper/bronze tubes have informed larger work in the form of sculptures. I feel super privileged that creating/selling wearable art is able to (occasionally) fund materials needed to create my fine art.
What is something that you wish people knew about you/ your business/ your products?
Sometimes I’ve had people request an Ohio-shaped piece. However, I can’t make shapes out of this broken glass. I’m just using whatever shapes Chaos provided, and if I try manipulating the glass, it shatters! This is part of what I love, though. It guarantees everything is one-of-a-kind, contributes to the organic nature of the work, and is more of a collaboration between myself and the material.
Do you have a favorite tool or technique that you love/can't do without?
Discovering pipettes for applying resin was a game changer!
Which season is the most difficult for you, sales-wise? When is your busiest?How do you handle those highs and lows?
January through May there aren’t many events for me to sell my jewelry. I basically live off savings I’ve collected from the rest of the year, but also will pick up some freelance website design gigs. Then I get busier and busier until after December!
Who has had the greatest impression on you as an entrepreneur?
My father. He raised 4 children running his upholstery shop from the home. He also made time for art, and I loved going to the art shows where he would sell his clay sculptures.
Are there any specific makers or creators in general who you think our readers should be paying attention to? What do those people mean to you?
Oh no, I could write a whole article just about this. I can’t pick just a few! OK OK I’ll try. These are all amazing Clevelanders who deserve a shout-out.
Matthew Gallagher - Matthew’s work explores generative processes, materiality, and physics. He has been a huge influence on the thought processes involved in my art, and I am always excited to see what he is working on. It helps that his studio is only 2 doors down from mine!
Aly Dodds with Furrow - Truly a woman of today. Her budding jewelry business is super modern, but she’s also a fantastic illustrator.
Kerie Johannes with Klub Kerie - I love how Kerie brings post-internet influence to ceramics. Watch out for this up-and-comer!
Jordan Wong - You’ve likely seen Jordan’s illustrations popping up all over Cleveland. In the past couple years he’s taken the local design community by storm!
Marcia Custer - Definitely pay attention to this one. Marcia is a performance artist and singer who is incredibly engaging in a fun, personable way. I can’t wait to see what she does next.
Ange Lupica of Sweet Teeth Confections - I quit sugar 3 months ago but I can’t quit looking at Ange’s amazing pastry creations! This woman works so hard and is so passionate. Very inspiring.
Alaina Caruso of The Home Pantry - If you’ve had jam at Cleveland Bagel Co., thank Alaina. I’m keeping an eye on The Home Pantry as I have a feeling it will be a very big deal soon.
Now my heart is full of thinking of all the amazing people in Cleveland I’ve been lucky to meet.
What is your favorite thing about running your own business?
Setting my own schedule. I hate routine and have leaned hard into an intuitive lifestyle, which is really a luxury.
Let’s say that you find some spare time in your schedule… what do you like to do when you aren’t working?
I love to get coffee with friends or catch up with my neighbors.
What advice would you give to future makers of all ages?
Experiment with your work all the time! Learning and self-teaching should never stop.
Shop a selection of Cleveland Street Glass jewelry at THREEFOLD Gifts, where you can find goods from 45 national professional makers!
Visit us every Tuesday-Saturday, 10am-6pm at 13339 Madison Ave. in Lakewood, Ohio.