Sweetness and Light
October 2022, by Diane Sulg
It is so wonderful to meet an artist who is breaking all the expected norms and succeeding like crazy! Allow me to introduce Toni Chirico, a sweet and successful fused glass artist.
Toni grew up in Buffalo, New York, where she loved art — especially painting. However, when she went to college, Toni majored in restaurant management and ultimately found herself working in a restaurant on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. On the side, she continued to make and sell her oil paintings.
As fate would have it, Toni met her husband, and when she was expecting her first child, she decided to forgo her oil painting and all the unhealthy fumes. Instead, she taught herself to cut glass and began making stained-glass windows.
It turned out she was a master at the craft. She made small, medium, and some enormous stained-glass windows, many of which are still displayed in restaurants in both Hilton Head and nearby Charleston.
The big leap occurred in 2003 when Toni bought a kiln and began to make fused glass jewelry. She named her new business 8 Petals Design because all her necklaces and belt buckles had flowers with eight petals. Enjoying success selling her creations, Toni ultimately decided to venture into the wholesale world and exhibit at Atlanta Market.
While her jewelry sold well, many folks who visited her booth thought her flower designs would look great in their garden centers. So, using remnant pieces of glass, Toni made glass flowers and put them on metal rods. Eight years ago, she headed to Atlanta Market with one bucket filled with flowers. Since then, her business has blossomed!
Today, Toni makes bright, colorful glass flowers, hearts, birds, bugs, and even Christmas trees, along with her jewelry. Her Atlanta booth is a riot of color and beauty that cannot be missed by shoppers.
Her creations are in galleries, gift shops, and garden centers across the country. Her winter show this past year was so successful that it catapulted her out of her 100-square-foot basement-dungeon and into a 1,300-square-foot commercial studio. In addition, for the first time, she has help beyond her sons and husband with four part-time employees.
Now, remember I said at the beginning that Toni is enjoying this success without following a myriad of current business practices. For instance, 8 Petals Designs does not have a website or a catalog. It is not on any online selling sites for either retail or wholesale sales.
Toni no longer does art fairs, and she does not have a shop herself. She concentrates her time and energy on filling orders and developing new products for her buyers.
She loves glass because of its light and what she can do with her creations to spread that beauty. Toni knows how glass can light up a room or sparkle in an outdoor garden.
She fondly remembers her gigantic stained-glass windows and how they lit up the interiors of so many restaurants. So instead of being distracted by multichannel marketing, she is laser focused on developing new products.
If you visit Atlanta Market, you will be drawn to Toni’s booth and to the artist herself. While she is smart and hardworking, she is also the sweetest person in the building.
She credits her husband and sons for all their help and support. Toni loves her buyers and is committed to ensuring their success with great products, service, and new product ideas. She has exciting plans for 2023. A visit with Toni and 8 Petals Designs is sweetness and light indeed!
About the Author
Diane Sulg is executive director of CRAFT and founder and co-chair of American Craft Week (ACW). She is a handmade advocate who provides valuable information in her one-day seminars titled “All About Wholesale” at wholesale shows throughout the United States. Diane is the former owner of Maddi’s Gallery, in Charlotte and Huntersville, North Carolina.