Penn State SBDC client, artist participating in Festival of the Arts
UNIVERSITY PARK — James Byrnes began blowing glass in 1978, first as an occupation, then as an artistic creation.
Byrnes set up a home studio, began selling decorative pieces on consignment, then went into business for himself after winning a contest in the early 1990s. While Byrnes is often recognized for his Christmas ornaments, he said his work is anything but expected.
“My interests have never aligned well with what would be thought of as mainstream,” said Byrnes. “When I learned about glassblowing, it struck me as very interesting and very not mainstream — a perfect fit.”
Byrnes sells his work through his website, as well as in shops, galleries and at festivals. This year, he applied and was accepted to participate in the Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts, the annual juried art show held on the Penn State University Park campus and downtown State College.
“I took a leap of faith and committed to Arts Fest,” Byrnes said. “(It) offers the opportunity to bring work in for a ‘hands-on jury.’
"I was scheduled to be there with my work one afternoon, but they called me that morning and said I had been accepted on the merits of my application and did not need to come in. That felt good."
Byrnes said he will have new work to premiere at the festival, which is scheduled for Thursday, July 13, through Sunday, July 16. These include a sculptural goblet and several other more-involved pieces.
Byrnes started working with the Penn State Small Business Development Center five years ago. He wanted to expand his business to include social media marketing and the possibility of exporting products out of the country. He said what he values most about working with the SBDC staff is knowing they are there for him while looking for new opportunities — including the festival.
“I think the greatest value they offer me is confidence,” Byrnes said. “As a self-employed person, I am out there on my own, and knowing I have people like Maria Spencer and Laurie Linton to call on for advice and assistance provides me security. This professional service is not something I could otherwise afford.”
Maria Spencer is a business consultant for the Penn State SBDC. She said she enjoyed working with Byrnes to leverage his artistic talents into a growing business.
“By expanding Jim’s sales into several online platforms, and now into the Central PA Festival of the Arts, more people can enjoy his work,” Spencer said. “I am really looking forward to seeing what he will have to offer at the show.”
For more information about starting or expanding a small business, visit the Penn State SBDC online.