Glimmer Glass Booth – Atlanta Summer Gift Show, 2023

The Maker Movement, once considered a fad when it took off in 2005, has since transformed education, industries, and people’s lives – as many of the interviews I’ve done for this blog attest. Barn Light Electric, furniture maker Floyd, and LupinePet are all examples of thriving companies that began with people who tinkered. (All source links below.)

An umbrella term for independent inventors, designers, and tinkers, the Maker Movement “taps into an American admiration for self-reliance combined with open-source learning, contemporary design, and powerful personal technology, such as 3D printers,” according to Tim Bajarin, writing for Time magazine.

It’s all about creating unique items with one’s own hands.

Julie Bigger is just such a Maker. The founder and owner of Glimmer Glass Gifts, Julie makes unique jewelry, works of art, and other items using glass and an industrial laser marker. This is her story.

How it started: Party favors

Like many Makers, Julie didn’t set out to create a company, but the convergence of two personal events opened the door: “I inherited my mother’s stained-glass tools when my brother passed away,” she says.

At the same time, a friend asked her to make party favors, so Julie made stained-glass hearts, which were a hit. She decided to take a small business class and was encouraged by the instructor to set up a table at a local crafts fair.

She made 90 stained-glass boxes, sold a few, and began doing more shows. “I didn’t sell much at first,” she says, “but I kept honing my skills. It was at a local stained-glass class that I learned about fused glass.”

The traditional stained-glass process involves cutting the glass, usually by hand with a glass cutter, and then breaking the cut edges with special pliers. The edges are then wrapped with copper or lead foil and soldered together using a mix of lead and tin, plus flux (a gel).

According to Julie, the process is very dirty and smelly!

The fused glass process, on the other hand, is essentially baking glass sheets in a kiln until they fuse together. With fused glass, you can create bowls, plates, jewelry and works of art. Unlike stained glass, fused glass doesn’t crack.

In the same year that she learned about fused glass, she met Dan, her husband, and was also gifted with a kiln, which allowed her to begin experimenting making fused glass pieces.

Incorporating technology: laser marking

Shortly after giving birth to twin girls, the couple moved to NY, a move which proved a blessing in disguise, because shortly after the move, Dan lost his job.

“I had to do something,” says Julie, “and had just received an old laser marker from my father. I had a lightbulb moment: I would etch my fused glass pieces.”

Industrial laser markers are used to add codes, marks, and other information to packaging, parts that make up assemblies, and even that schwag mini-flashlight the vendor is giving away at a trade show.

Julie, on the other hand, used it to add visual interest to her fused jewelry and art pieces. “I kept creating products and attending shows to figure out what people liked. I learned which shows to do, how to make my booth better, how to make the product more appealing, and most important, how to sell.”

Fused Glass with Etched Tree © Glimmer Glass Gifts

The big break: Silver Dollar City & Dollywood

Fast-forward to 2016 – and another set of twins; boys this time! – and Glimmer Glass was now a viable concern. Julie did the Atlanta Gift Show and picked up Silver Dollar City as a client. A theme park attraction, the company has ties to Dollywood.

“2016 was a very successful and crazy year,” says Julie. “I picked up more clients and for several years, I was completely overwhelmed with business and being a mom. The pandemic was another blessing in disguise – it gave me the gift of time.”

Julie used the down time to create a new line of fused glass art and began experimenting with Dichroic glass products. Developed by NASA, D-glass means “two color.” Instead of being fused together in a kiln, it’s created in a vacuum chamber; the resulting vibrantly colored glass presents different colors depending on the angle from which it’s viewed.

Examples of Fused and Dichroic etched glass jewelry © Glimmer Glass Gifts

Dan joins Glimmer Glass in 2023

Dan, a marketer by profession, had been laid off twice within two years, and was having a very tough time finding a job in the post COVID world. He wanted to work remotely because he didn’t want to move his family yet again.

Julie, who had watched him struggle, invited him to work for Glimmer Glass.

“I needed help with everything, especially marketing!” she says. “He’s now doing all the stuff I should have done in the past, including managing our social media presence and growing sales.”

The results speak for themselves. Since joining the company in July 2023, Dan has helped bring on 53 new wholesalers and boutiques that resell Glimmer Glass products in the United States, including Alaska. He also helps with product manufacturing, shipping, etc.

“Who knew it would have gone this well!” she says. “And best of all, he now has a freedom he never had when working corporate.”

All products made by Glimmer Glass are made in the USA by Julie and Dan, except for the wooden frames made by an artist in Virginia (Julie found him on Etsy) and the silver jewelry chains, which come from India.

When asked what advice she has for anyone wanting to start a business such as Glimmer Glass, Julie says, “Don’t give up. Dan and I also coach a girls’ volleyball team and it’s what we tell them. ‘Don’t stop until you’re successful.’”

Source Links

Glimmer Glass Product Shop / Website:

Time: Why the Maker Movement is Important to America’s Future

Discover Magazine blog: What is the Makers Movement and how you can get involved

Keep It Made USA blog: Barn Light Electric Infuses Each Light with a Passion for Quality

Keep It Made USA blog: The Floyd Engineered Sofa

Keep It Made USA blog: Collaring Success: How LupinePet Keeps its Collars and Leashes Made in NH

Full Disclosure

I’m not paid nor asked to write about Made in the USA products or the companies or people that make them. All links in this piece are “free.”

My mission is to keep manufacturing jobs stateside and this blog is my way of giving back. We like to think a “small” choice, such as purchasing something made in the US by American workers or craftspeople, won’t make a difference. It does.