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From civil service to handmade art and online sales

Instead of starting on their planned teaching track, these two artists have gone independent online, and sell their handcrafted wares among other places via Handmade at Amazon.

05 Oct. 2016 Jochen Fuchs
Handmade by Amazon

Till and Julia originally planned to become teachers. He has his social sciences degree and the state teaching exam under his belt, while girlfriend Julia still has this step ahead of her – but now both of their life plans have fundamentally changed – from the possibility of a secure, lifelong position in civil service, to the uncertain world of online commerce as artists and crafters.

The faces behind Klapperglas and GlassworkRuhr

The two academics' unlikely new career began some three years ago, when Till Hombergen's girlfriend Julia Harhoff chose to follow her passion for glass in an art education course. Even as a child she loved the useful little objects that her grandfather made out of extra bits of material during his free time at the glassworks. Instead of the usual bottles, he pulled vases, bowls and ashtrays from the glass furnaces in the Ruhr region.

Julia's university was more focused on ceramics – an unfortunate circumstance that she did not let stop her for long: Julia and Till simply bought some inexpensive glassworking equipment, and set up a glass studio in a construction trailer. Instead of working with melted glass in a furnace, which would have been expensive both to purchase and to operate, they opted for technology they were familiar with from the United States: lampworking. This process uses stronger glass than in a typical glassblowing studio. Instead of pulling a large mass of glass out of a furnace, a piece of glass is heated over a flame, shaped, and then slowly cooled back down in a tempering oven.

In this way, Julia not only created glass objects for her university course under the title "What is trash and what is art," but also began creating small jewelry items and offering them for sale on the DaWanda online marketplace. The equipment was there, so she might as well do something useful with it.

Over time, her hobby took on a life of its own and filled up more and more of her days. Even Till had begun to use the tools and create small practical and decorative objects.

Then came the first big Christmas deal: "It was a time of white nights," Till recounted to t3n, "where we slept three or four hours and went right back to work." For the peak season, the two freshly minted artisans crafted several thousand items in a two-month period. They had fully exceeded their capacity. It was time to make some changes.

"The Christmas season was a time of white nights."

Till explains why he and Julia are bringing GlassworkRuhr and Klapperglas to Handmade at Amazon: " see more opportunity for sales growth. As a small craft business, Amazon Prime offers me far greater opportunities than if I go it alone." Julia and Till produce their items in advance, whenever possible, and then let Amazon warehouse and ship their products.

The two have built up separate labels with their own materials and creative flair, but their work is still collaborative and complementary: Julia lives out her creative side, and Till brings added sales and marketing knowledge to the mix.

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