Cannabusiness 101: Glass Artist
By: Adam Rhodes
Welcome back! Last time, we touched in with some dispensaries. Today we get to talk with Cynthia DeMatteo, the owner and artist of DeMatteo Art. She is an expert in the use of epoxy resin to sculpt original and pop culture designs onto borosilicate glass pipes. Beyond pipes, DeMatteo Art also make pop-culture inspired glass pendants.
Her art gallery has been able to attract several thousand followers on Instagram, which is where I was exposed to her work. I instantly fell in love with the Meowth pendant I sew her working on and had to give a follow. Since then, I have been delighted with daily content.
I was lucky enough to get to pick her brain learn a few knowledge nuggets about her journey. Besides being a successful business woman and mother, she participates in Colorado glass trade shows and was featured in the Babes of Boro 2016 Calendar.
I am always looking for ways to improve myself and learn from others who are doing the right things. Earning a living for your creative expression is a dream of many (myself included) and it can be very defeating to put tons of time, effort and resources into a creative project just to have it sit on the shelf.
Getting some input from someone who has overcome such struggles can aid anyone looking to get into this niche of the cannabis field. I find reading/writing these stories are professionally helpful and creatively inspiring for me. I hope they are for you as well. Below are some notes from my confab about business with Cynthia. I hope you are able to draw the support you need to follow your passions and pursue your dreams like I did. Enjoy!
Q: What is the one daily habit that you feel contributes to your success so far the most?
A: One daily habit that contributes to my success is my drive to be productive. Even if I’m having an off day, I like to set a goal to accomplish some kind of creative task by the end of the day. Getting as much work done as possible is always the goal.
Q: That sounds like real dedication, almost like you have made it a lifestyle instead of a pastime. While habits are important, some things are outside of your control. What would you say is the thing that has hindered your success the most?
A: It is difficult to sell to brick and mortar stores, as an artist, when they are accustomed to dealing with import glass and often mark products up 200 to 300 percent above wholesale. I avoid this problem by retailing my art directly to the customer.
So middle men can suck the profits right out of your pocket if you let them. With the kind of public desire and support cannabis is receiving right now, the issue of import vs US made will likely only get bigger. I am glad there are still ways that creators can connect directly with the consumers they serve.
Q: The issue of imports and markups makes me think about the broad ramifications to legalization. I have heard a lot of talk on the internet about full legalization across the U.S. being expected in 2016. In my home state of Oregon, limited recreational sales began in October of 2015. The Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC) projects it will receive between 1200 applications and issue more than 850 licenses in 2016. If/When do you think legalization of recreational cannabis consumption in some form across the U.S. will happen?
A: I think the legalization of recreational cannabis consumption is inevitable. As the science and research into the benefits of cannabis develops we will see widespread acceptance from people who were previously outspoken advocates against it. The movement to legalize has huge momentum and support. It can happen sooner rather than later if we elect a presidential candidate, such as Bernie Sanders, who is openly supportive of marijuana use.
Q: I agree that it is a breath of fresh air to hear a serious political candidate openly supporting our community and moving to bring about impactful reform. Speaking of reform, your state of Colorado was the first to legalize recreational cannabis sales. How has the legalization in your area affected you and your business dealings over the last 2 years?
A: My family and I moved nearly 1,500 miles across the country to live in Colorado because of their cannabis legalization laws. My quality of life and business has improved tremendously since our arrival in 2013. We no longer have to live in fear of being treated like criminals because of our cannabis consumption.
That’s great to hear. I’m sure you’re not the only one to feel that way. There is a great influx of people moving to legal states and I’m sure lots of people are moving for the same reason you did.
Q: Given the broad demographics that consume cannabis, companies have to choose who to cater to. What is your target demographic and how do you engage with your customers to help promote your brand?
A: My target demographic is anyone who appreciates art and/or unique smoking devices. My business is very personal. I deal with all of my customers directly doing everything from discussing and planning their unique custom design to packing and shipping the pieces myself. My return customers come back because the mixed mediums allow me to create detailed yet durable designs that you can’t find anywhere else.
Q: No story is complete without battle and grime. Success means different things to different people but everyone can agree that it only has meaning in the context of the struggle. I draw the most inspiration from the stories of others overcoming overwhelming challenges. What rocked the boat the hardest?
A: When we first moved to Colorado my husband worked for an import glass company and after multiple weeks of work they refused to pay him. Being a family whose income is based solely on selling our art, that situation was terribly detrimental to our lives.
Q: I know the challenges of losing a main income unexpectedly first hand, as many do. It just goes to show that even after things get rolling, the challenges keep coming. I’m glad that you have been able to move on. Let me ask you though, what was the biggest hurdle you had to overcome to starting a career in the cannabis related field and your field in particular?
A: The biggest problem I had to overcome was finding a safe and trusted way to accept payments for cannabis related products for my online based business. This is a problem that I still struggle with at times. PayPal is a terribly hypocritical company in the way that their founder is the first institutional investor to make an investment in the nascent cannabis industry but PayPal does not allow their users to sell or purchase cannabis related items and will freeze your account for months if they have the slightest suspicion. I suggest avoiding using their services if at all possible.
So PayPal’s founder has no problem with pot but the company will still throw you under the bus. Banking seems to be the real linchpin in full legalization and the last bastion of resistance to business. Once that gets taken care of, we can expect the real floodgates to open as people are able to utilize all the tools and services that modern business offers. It will be interesting to see how big business changes the industry.
Q: Now, you have been working on your company for a couple years at this point. If you could start over now, knowing everything you do now, what would you do differently and why?
A: I would put a value on my work early on and charge a reasonable amount. I spent a lot of time struggling financially because my prices didn’t fully compensate for the huge amount of time I was putting into each piece. The best thing about starting out right now is that, thanks to our new cannabis friendly laws, this is the beginning of an entirely new and exciting culture. With marijuana being a hot topic of discussion, right now is a great time to start any cannabis related business.
That’s some great advice, I also have had/continue to have issues knowing how much to charge for different kinds of creative work. Without the support of my loved ones, I’m not sure I ever would have valued my talents enough to charge anyone.
Q: Speaking of early support, no person is an island, and no success story is complete without support characters. Who has made the difference in getting you started down this path?
A: My work would not be possible without my husband, Justice. He blows our glass pipes and I sculpt the designs. Almost everything I make is a collaboration with him. We work together as a team on a daily basis and he’s the best partner ever!
That sounds like a special kind of working relationship. I’m glad you and Justice are able to work symbiotically, employing individual talents to create a product better than either could alone. I’m sure many of our readers have/had a similar figure in their lives and I hope those who don’t will one day.
Let’s lighten the mood a little and answer some quick-fire questions about our favorite plant.
Q: What is your favorite strain right now and why?
A: Current favorite would have to be Golden Goat Sativa high energetic fruity sweet flavor.
Q: I know right?! I love the way it gets my creative juices flowing and elevates my mood. Due to concentrates being restricted until later in 2016, non-licensed consumers are relegated to flower only but I love mixing my methods. What is your preferred method of consumption and why?
A: I prefer dabbing over traditional smoking of marijuana. With dabs you are vaporizing a concentrated form of cannabis which leaves out a lot of the unnecessary plant matter. You get a more powerful and tasteful dose of cannabis this way. Vapor is also less harmful to your body than smoke.
Great point! Even though cannabis treats and prevents many issues, there are ways to consume that put more wear and tear on the body than other forms.
Given that dabs can be up to 99%pure due to advanced extraction and refining methods, I can’t ask what the highest THC you’ve seen is. So, what is the highest THC flower you have ever seen and where did you see it?
A: White 99 from Buddy Boy Brands in Denver, Colorado.
I’ll have to check it out next time I’m in Colorado. Before we go, I’d like to ask you a final question. What question do you wish I had asked but have not yet?
Q: Art is very subject in nature. What some people like, others do not. How do you deal with this?
A: Only on occasion do I spontaneously create a design or character of my choosing, which is something that I would like to venture off more into in the future. Most of what I do is custom made to the customer’s liking. I regularly discuss and plan in great detail ideas and designs with my customers to create a unique piece to meet their needs. Most pieces are inspired by nostalgia, pop culture icons, and I’ve even done memorial and portrait themes too. Any artist can expect rejection on some level, but it’s important to recognize every angle of support and just put your work out there.
So what you’re saying is that emotional connection to content can be more important than abstract skill of the artist. By working directly with the client, you can develop a more intimate piece of work that meets their specific needs. That’s a powerful lesson. I’ll do my best to remember it and I hope our readers do too.
Thanks to Cynthia DeMatteo for taking the time to sit down with me and sharing with the community. We will see you next time! Thanks for reading.