Loyal to Local: MSW Stained Glass

Loyal to Local: MSW Stained Glass
Artist Marisa Whittemore with a piece - credit Chloe Kuhn

Editor’s Note: The Riverside Arts Market, now in its 14th year, is a weekly makers and farmers market hosted by Riverside Avondale Preservation on Saturdays, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., rain or shine. Each week, more than 100 small-business owners gather under the canopy of the Fuller Warren Bridge to sell their products to the local community. Keep reading Loyal to Local to learn more about some of the incredible vendors that make RAM a must-visit part of every Saturday.

Saturday mornings begin at 4 a.m. for stained-glass artist Marisa Whittemore. While most of Jacksonville is still asleep, she is busy preparing for her unique role as both a Riverside Arts Market (RAM) vendor and Riverside Arts Market staff. The early morning may seem daunting to some, but for Whittemore, it is crucial to give herself enough time to arrive beneath the Fuller Warren Bridge to set up her business, MSW Stained Glass, and then the Market as a whole.

Holding a dual role as vendor and market manager has brought Whittemore special insight into market operations; her experience began before her hiring. Whittemore applied to become a RAM vendor after being let go from her job during the pandemic. Shortly after, she saw an opening at Riverside Avondale Preservation (RAP) as a Social Media & Events Coordinator. RAP hosts the weekly RAM event.

“I was actually approved as a vendor before I got hired”, says Whittemore. Her first market date was Halloween 2020, which she describes as her “perfect start date”, and then began working for the organization a week later.

Experiencing RAM as a vendor has helped Whittemore to realize the challenges that new vendors face.

“I made a lot of mistakes,” she said, recounting her first market.

Creation Process - credit Instagram
Creation Process – credit Instagram @msw_stainedglass
MSW Stained Glass Artist Statement
MSW Stained Glass Artist Statement
MSW Stained Glass piece – credit Instagram @msw_stainedglass

More experienced artists helped her find her booth spot, correctly install grid display walls, and gave encouragement that Whittemore attempts to recreate for new RAM vendors, today, as a seasoned expert.

Producing the Riverside Arts Market is no easy task.

“RAM has an intense amount of behind-the-scenes work,” she said.

As other vendors begin to arrive, Whittemore leaves the operations of MSW Stained Glass to a trusted employee and “No. 1 fan”: her mother, Christina Carrin.

Marisa with her mother, Christina- credit Chloe Kuhn
Marisa with her mother, Christina – credit Chloe Kuhn

Whittemore is grateful for her mother’s support and “willingness to help me all the time.” Saturday visitors to the MSW booth are sure to be greeted by Carrin, who is quick to share details and information about each piece.

Whittemore works to connect personally to visitors at her booth with a displayed letter to guests sharing her story as an artist. She has found her passion in working with stained glass, but not before trying many artistic mediums over the years. She finds inspiration in “anything and everything,” from something she overhears to music lyrics, tattoos, and even her favorite television shows – a recent piece was inspired by a scene from “Euphoria.”

Euporhia-inspired MSW Stained Glass piece- credit Instagram
Euporhia-inspired MSW Stained Glass piece – credit Instagram @msw_stainedglass

As she continues to grow, Whittemore hopes to make her way into the world of gallery work or enter museums that highlight local artists.

“You don’t see much stained glass in museums or galleries, and I’d like to see that change,” she said.

Overall, the vision of MSW Stained Glass is to expand people’s perception of the art form.

“Stained glass isn’t just for your grandma!” said Whittemore.

Framed MSW Stained Glass piece - credit Instagram
Framed MSW Stained Glass piece – credit Instagram

Whittemore’s art, vision, and creative process is cataloged on Instagram at @msw_stainedglass, and pieces can be found on her website, mswstainedglass.bigcartel.com. Whittemore herself is at the Riverside Arts Market each Saturday and works at the historic Buckland House RAP office during the week.

Are you interested in becoming a RAM maker? Please visit the Applications tab on RAM’s website for details. Before applying, please note that the market is at capacity for many products and therefore not accepting applications, including: ceramics/pottery, clothes, jewelry, soap/body products, candles, cut flowers, macrame and all food items. If this includes you and you’d still like to share your products with the market, please fill out the Future Vendor Interest Form.

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