Art of Glass
Lesbian entrepreneur Becky Suriano wants you to savor your favorite wine from a work of art.
Becky Suriano loves wine, but when it came to finding a suitable vessel from which to sample her favorite beverage, the glass was often half empty, so to speak. Last year, the New Jersey 27-year-old was shopping for a souvenir wineglass to use for sampling at the many wine-tasting events she attended. As usual, she found what was on offer to be generic, unimaginative and certainly far from aesthetically pleasing. “Nothing felt fresh, unique or edgy to me, and none of the glasses were geared to appeal to my generation. I wanted to drink out of a glass that reflected my own personal style. I had always wanted to start my own business, but never had a solid enough idea.” That day, which also happened to be Suriano’s birthday, she went home, bought some art supplies and painted her first glass.
So began her wineglass-painting business: Wine Me? But in reality, the business had its roots further back in Suriano’s history. The self-taught artist has had no professional training in painting, but her evident talent had been encouraged by her mother since she was a small child, and later by her teachers. “Painting has always been something I enjoyed doing, something that fulfilled me and gave a lot of pleasure to others, when I did it.”
For her first wineglass-painting adventure, Suriano made four glasses in assorted colors depicting the silhouette of a tree over a starry background. She and a few friends went to the next wine-tasting festival and took the glasses with them, to use. “People kept coming up to us, asking us where we bought our glasses. I would hand them my business card and sometimes even sold them my glass on the spot, if they insisted. I did that all summer, and eventually took the next step and paid for a table at a local flea market, set up for business, and the whole thing took off like a rocket ship.”
That “tree” design—the first one she ever conceived of—has been her most popular to date. However, Suriano paints many other designs and accepts custom requests. (Her interpretation of Vincent van Gogh’s “Starry Night” is a favorite.)
Suriano’s approach to adorning each art-glass is both admirable and authentic. “I start with a clear glass and use glass paint for everything. A lot of people ask me if I spray or dip them, but I don’t. Everything is done with my good ol’ paintbrush.” (In case you were worried, the paints are nontoxic and durable, although Wine Me? glasses must be washed by hand in warm water, rather than dumped in the dishwasher.)
Suriano prices her glassware from $15 to $100 per piece—which sounds like a lot, but not if you consider that these are hand-painted artworks. The price of a custom glass depends on the design and the degree of detail, of course, and Suriano is happy to give estimates. No design is too obscure or too personal: The most unusual order Suriano received is in fact the first custom order she took. “The background of the glass was painted as the world, and it had a dragon boat, ice skates, an ice luger, a diver, a kite, and, well, you get the point—it was quite unusual.”
In spite of the labor-intensive nature of her business, Wine Me? is growing by leaps and bounds. Suriano has no need or time left to pursue any other work. Currently 100 percent self-employed, the glass artist is now at the point where she’s just trying to keep up. “I would like to hire qualified artists to help with the rapidly growing demand.”
Suriano, who identifies as a lesbian, is keen to get the word out about Wine Me? to other gay women. As a small-business owner, she would welcome the support of the community, and we will no doubt be inspired by her vision and dedication. “Realizing and embracing my sexuality somehow helped me be more confident to listen to my gut, to trust myself, to be an independent thinker.”
And it’s that spirit that is likely to take Suriano to the top of her field. Her achievements so far are remarkable. “I was just recently honored to be named the Grand Prize winner in winemaker Georges Duboeuf’s Nouveau Expression—Be Heard national art contest. My work was showcased in New York City during Nouveau Day events and received a $1,000 prize. I also won the People’s Choice Award from the Empact 100 List [it recognizes the top entrepreneurs under 30], where Wine Me? was honored in Washington, D.C., at the White House.”
Let’s drink to that! (winemecompany.com)