To break into this popular new market, the company brought on board well-known glass beadmaker John Winter to aid their artists create the new product line.
"I love the Fenton Beads because it's a great combination of contemporary methods and history," Winter said. "Beads are one of the first things humans made and for Fenton to use the new technology in this ancient art."
Winter, who lives in Flatwoods, W.Va., began making glass beads 30 years ago and has become known in the international bead art community with work in permanent collections in the Bead Museum in Washington, D.C., and a special display in the Bead Museum in Glendale, Ariz.
The beads are handmade through the lampwork process, which manipulates glass by the use of tools, gravity or blowing air, according to the Fenton Art Glass website (www.fentonartglass.com). This type of glasswork uses a gas-fueled torch to melt rods of clear and colored glass and has been used for thousands of years to create glass objects and became widely practiced in Murano, Italy, in the 14th century.
Debbie Cline, co-owner of Twisted Sisters and Sorelle of Marietta on Front Street, said that the Sorelle boutique began selling Fenton Beads last November. The response has been positive.
"Customers really seem to like them and the reaction when they find out that Fenton made them is very positive," Cline said. "And I am just amazed at the detail of the glass and the beads that are handpainted all of them are very beautiful."
Fenton said the beads were introduced into the market through the website, the factory gift shop in Williamstown and Sorelle.
"Last year, we continued the process of trying to re-energize our market and I think our retailers and ourselves are still seeing the effects of the tough economy," Fenton said.
The 106-year-old business has been hit hard since the economy began to crumble several years ago.
The company announced in August 2007 it would close after struggling for years to restructure. The closure was delayed several times until December 2007 when it was announced Fenton Art Glass would stay open.
"The Fenton Beads are similar to Troll and Pandora beads that are already on the market and are very popular," Fenton said. "With our glass we are able to make unique beads."
Winter said that by using the types and styles of glass that Fenton is known for, including milk glass, the company is able to make beads that sets them apart from the other beads available.
"It's a wonderful opportunity for me to be a part of this partnership of Fenton Art Glass and beadmaking," Winter said.
Fenton Beads can be used in conjunction with Pandora and Troll beads to create one-of-a-kind bracelets and necklaces, Cline said. "We, at Sorelle, are proud to be able to sell these locally made beads," she said.
Helping Fenton Art Glass in this new venture, the Economic Roundtable of the Mid-Ohio Valley has provided a bridge loan of $150,000 to the Williamstown-based glass company.
"We have developed a partnership with Fenton's bank and the Wood County Economic Development office to provide them with the five-year loan," said roundtable President Cam Huffman. "We believe in Fenton Art Glass and want to help them succeed in this new venture."