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Glass crafting company creates functional pieces

Post Time:Dec 04,2009Classify:Industry NewsView:406

In the current economy, a new business is a fragile thing.

For Southern Fired Glass, the product may be fragile, but the business appears solid as stone.

The glass crafting company, owned by Clintonians Jess and Phyllis Tackitt, has only been in existence for a few years, but the quality of Phyllis' work has gained her entrance into the Craftsman's Guild of Mississippi.

They were commissioned by Mississippi Magazine to produce its Mississippi Christmas ornament with a heart embedded in it. And, the work produced by the company can be found in retail shops all over the South.

Simply Spaces in Madison sells the products. "It's absolutely beautiful work," said Rhonda Strickland, owner of the store that carries the work of 45 vendors. "It's breathtaking, and people are immediately drawn to her work.

"Each of her pieces is definitely a piece of art. We have sold them for wedding gifts, and it's what people want to add to their art collections."

In 2006, Phyllis Tackitt found herself burned out on the corporate world. She quit her job as district marketing manager for Sodexo, which supplies food services and facilities management worldwide. After four months, her brother asked if she could make pottery. "I said I'd try," she recalled.

Within six months, she took her work to the Atlanta Gift Market, and retailers ordered her pottery.

"Much to our surprise, there are a lot of potters in the world and most are in Mississippi," she said. So, the fledgling company began casting about for an alternative.

Jess Tackitt had been playing around with glass, so they started producing some glass works, taking some to market for the first time in January 2008.

At the Mississippi Market this past June, "we did three times the business we had expected," said Phyllis Tackitt.

They also sold well at the Biloxi Gift Market, and in June the Tackitts introduced Christmas ornaments. Over the summer, "we sold 1,200 ornaments plus other pieces in the line," Phyllis Tackitt said.

Their business had an exhibition at the Mississippi Library Commission in Jackson in September and October, and they will be showing there this month and next.

At Simply Spaces, Tackitt's work sells in a range of about $12 for a Christmas ornament to about $75 for a large platter, said Simply Spaces employee Lisa Edmonson.

The work itself involves fusing and slumping, words that need explaining. The craftsman cuts the glass to its proper size, say 10 inches square for a plate. Smaller pieces of varying colors are placed on top to make the design in mind.

The piece is laid into a kiln, and the temperature is raised to 1,500 degrees. That fuses the pieces of glass. After some cooling, the piece is placed on a mold, which allows it to take on contours. At about 1,250 degrees, it slumps into shape.

The company logo is a flame within a flame. "The flame came first, and we had to come up with a name for the flame," Jess Tackitt said.

The Tackitts sell strictly to retailers. But even if they didn't, one would have a hard time finding the plain metal building where the art takes shape. Just off of Highway 22, the building has an Edwards postal designation "but you're out in the middle of nowhere," Phyllis Tackitt said.

The staff is mostly the Tackitts and Tammy Poole, who calls herself a fused glass artist.

"I kind of fell into it," she said. "I started out with the pottery, and when they started doing the glass, they asked if I'd be interested in learning how. It came naturally. I've always enjoyed making things with my hands."

Poole said that when 5 p.m. rolls around, "it feels like I just got here. Where did the time go?

"It's very rewarding to have a finished piece that somebody wants to buy."

Jess Tackitt handles deliveries. "It's basically her business," he said of his wife. "I built all the tables and take care of the equipment."

When the others get behind, he helps them catch up. "I'm the 'Hey, boy.' "

Phyllis Tackitt didn't begin as an artist. She grew up near Summit. "I lived on a farm, and we worked like the dickens." She went to North Pike High, and then entered "the University of Matrimony," she said. "I got married and left home."

The Tackitts' 25th wedding anniversary will be next March.

"My parents were educators and I had had enough. But I've taught college courses," she said. "I taught international meeting planning at a community college in Dallas."

Today, about the only outside interest she has is that of organist at Memorial United Methodist Church in Bolton.

She hadn't touched a keyboard in 30 years, but when the church organist died, it bothered her that there was no one to replace her. She approached the music committee chair and asked for an audition. "After several months of hard practicing, she listened to me and said, 'The job's yours.' "

"I love doing it for the church," Tackitt added. "I'd love to be able to practice more."

She said she works seven days a week. After church on Sundays, she eats lunch and goes back to the shop to work. But she said she plans to cut back a bit, "according to my husband," she said.

"She's a bulldog and won't let go of it until it's done," Jess Tackitt said. "I've designed and made a lot of Mississippi State stuff. She was my inspiration for the bulldog."

Source: www.clintonnews.comAuthor: shangyi

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