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Artist shares trials and tribulations of business start-up

Sandy Fynboh of Blue Sky Beads Studio and Gallery demonstrates working with latticinio to create a "twisted cane" at the Legacy-funded event. (Jean Ruzicka / Enterprise)

Funny, candid and engaging, artist Sandy Fynboh shared insights - and the pitfalls - of taking dreams to reality before an audience at the library recently.

"I'm an individual who believes in experimentation," the owner of Blue Sky Beads Studio and Gallery said. "No medium is off limits because I never know how that medium might further the work I do with my blown glass and jewelry.

"Everything flows into what has come before and what is yet to come. Each piece has a life of its own."

Fynboh spoke before an audience of artists, some who've moved into the commercial sphere and some not yet at the point of marketing their talents.

"It was a journey," she said of turning "a passion into a business," albeit stymied by a society that imposes limits on creativity.

Growing up on a farm near Akeley - "I was in the last graduating class from the high school" - she received a "strong message. Art's fun, but you can't support yourself.

"That left me struggling - until I found glass," and nurturing teachers, she said.

Initially, the mother of two questioned the financial feasibility. But when her work began to sell - "people were giving me money for what I love to do" - her entrepreneurial spirits were buoyed.

She saved pennies for six months to buy a torch, moving her studio from the kitchen to her son's bedroom (who found new sleeping quarters).

And finally, determining she might "kill her kids with fumes," her garden shed became her first studio.

But unbeknownst to her, it was occupied by a mouse.

"I screamed so loud the mouse was stunned," Fynboh said of the belly-up rodent, appearing to have fainted from the shriek.

Lesson to be learned: "You can start from wherever you are." The next few years were spent in the shed.

"The first five years, every penny went to tools and equipment," she said. And every spare moment was spent honing her skills.

"I was up at three," she said of early mornings, "or working 'til 1 a.m.

"Artists need quiet time," she said. "It takes 10,000 hours to go from beginner to master. It's practice, practice, practice and more practice."

But when Fynboh's works began turning heads at shows, "I began to get an inkling I could quit my job," she said.

"It sounds schizophrenic," she joked, "but the beads tell me who they want to be partnered with. Each piece has a life of its own...I am thrilled when a piece meets its rightful owner."

Her signature work includes tear bottles, which have now made their way across the world. The tiny bottles traditionally held tears of grieving people. They now hold ashes, bits of hair or dried flower petals. Ash pendants are another option in memorial jewelry, Fynboh incorporating ash in the design of the bead.

She "avoids" dichroic glass because of its popularity, but sometimes allows herself to be "seduced by it."

When her (now much larger) studio reopens on CSAH 33 (southwest of Akeley) in May, there are likely to be classes on the docket. "It's the best part of being an artist. You get to talk about yourself."

Artistry, she advises, requires confidence. "I feel a huge sense of satisfaction when I like the finished product.

"Anything, absolutely anything is possible," Fynboh said. "It begins with an idea. And finding the opportunity to build on that."