McMow Art Glass
Ms. Materio owns and operates one of the largest studios producing decorative and art glass in the United States.
Who are among your clientele?
For our glass creations private homeowners from modest to high incomes make up about half our clientele, while churches and temples represent the other half. We also conduct a variety of classes attended by 500 to 600 adults of all ages each year.
Explain what your studio produces for them.
A popular item for homeowners is front-entry art glass windows in leaded glass. Bathroom windows are also popular, as are free-standing panels and room dividers. We do custom mosaics in glass tile, and a surprising number of south Florida swimming pools have McMow floors and sides. We've designed, crafted and installed sanctuary windows, baptismal fonts and eternal light sculptures in abundance among our church clients.. We even redecorated in glass a large section of the Key West airport.
Provide some data about your studio's business.
In 2007-08 our annual revenue was $2.9 million. In 2008-09 it dipped to $1.7 million, as Florida's real estate meltdown took a real bite out of our business. Now 2009-10 is showing improvement. We employ 17 people. Most of our customers are located in six Florida counties. We also ship original creations worldwide. We did a recent installation in Caracas, Venezuela, and we're working on a current project for a German company in Uzbekistan.
What is your college background?
I did a bounce from aviation to art. At age 17 I attended Marymount Womans College as an aviation major in 1974. The associates degree satisfied my dad, and I left for Florida Atlantic University as a junior to study art, my real desire. At FAU in those days the art subjects were taught in T-shaped quonset huts on a former air force base. I really enjoyed that, because you could roll up your sleeves and get very dirty. I took courses there in drawing technique, photography and sculpture. As an upper-division school in those days, most FAU students were intense in their majors. However, I didn't graduate because I was struck by Chron's disease, and I took a leave of absence.
How and when did McMow Art Glass come into existence?
During that leave of absence I met my husband and we married. Almost simultaneously we started McMow, which incidentally we named after our cat. We both had full-time day jobs, so we worked in a single-bay warehouse on weekends as McMow. We had our first retail shop later that year. I quit my day job and resumed classes at FAU, working McMow in the afternoons and evenings. My husband worked two jobs for three more years. The business was in the black by year five, and we achieved real prosperity in year ten.
Of your 17 employees, how many are college graduates, and why?
Nine are college grads. I honestly don't know why. College is not a prerequisite to be hired here. However, our most recent, most qualified hires have art degrees. From schools like Virginia Commonwealth University, Boston University, Florida Atlantic University, New York University, University of North Carolina, Ringling College of Art, University of Florida and Rhode Island School of Design.
What college preparation especially helps those new employees?
After considerable thought I credit two factors. One is diversity and the ability to function well with people who are not just like you. The other is a willingness to accept a challenge if it means job security. With some uncertainty I attribute both to their college preparation. And I'm beginning to question what I've heard about the job mobility of today's younger generation. I think they want long-term jobs.
What starting salary might a college graduate expect if hired at your studio?
Around $30,000 the first year. Annual raises, health benefits and profit sharing produce significant increases. An artist or craftsman will rise to $50,000 at a good pace. Effective salespeople earn more. Both our outside salespeople have art degrees, by the way.
What economic and competitive pressures are you facing?
The housing slump affected us immediately. New construction ceased. Existing homeowners stopped spending. So we're all doing more work with less business. In addition, we are now competing with China. More and more often we find ourselves estimating jobs and bidding against an American representative of a Chinese firm. At half our price!
Where might be the best opportunities in decorative arts for talented young Americans?
It's difficult for young artists to see themselves as businesspeople. But I think a 2-person or 3-person studio opened in the right market by quality artists who can collaborate is a good move.