You are currently viewing This young artist quit his day job to make marbles for a living

This young artist quit his day job to make marbles for a living

The big one quit. The big resignation. Whatever you call it, millions of people quit their jobs. We are doing a series about people who have followed their vocation. You can tell us about yours below.

In the basement of an old industrial building in Rochester, New York, there is a room where Hunter Read leads his new life.

He spends his days and nights in front of a machine that looks a bit like a turntable, with a grinding wheel that spins at high speed. All over the walls, he scribbled elaborate mathematical patterns.

What is he doing? Well, I can tell you what he doesn’t do: work in a Home Depot parking lot. A year ago, it was his job. For $12 an hour, he was storing carts and lifting bags of mulch into people’s cars. It was a lot of back and forth, back and forth.

“I had this pair of shoes that had a hole in the bottom,” Read said. “And it was like February and it was raining just and torrentially, and I just couldn’t keep my feet dry.”

All day in the parking lot, he daydreamed about what he really wanted to do.

“I just couldn’t be at work anymore,” he says. “That was all I thought about.”

Read had recently fallen down the rabbit hole in the world of glass art.

In 2019, he was racking up student debt studying computer design when he realized it wasn’t for him. So he gave up. Then a friend made an introduction.

“I had just decided that I wasn’t going back to college, and he offered to hook me up with this glass artist,” he said.

Read had been interested in glass art since high school, so he began buying this artist’s work wholesale and selling it online as a side business. Then, when this artist left town during the pandemic, he sold Read his homemade glass-cutting record.

Read had a bunch of marbles with trippy, multicolored designs inside – and he spent hours on the wheel, cutting one into a diamond using mathematical patterns. Then he did it again.

A few weeks later, he posted one of his creations on Reddit: a diamond-cut, rainbow-colored, psychedelic-looking marble.

Dozens of people messaged him, wanting to buy one. He sold six for $150 each. Suddenly he saw a way out of his dead end retail job. Moreover, he told himself that if he failed, he could always go back.

“It’s like a pulse to get a minimum wage job,” Read said. “They treat you as replaceable. Because you are, aren’t you? And in the same spirit, they were replaceable for me.

So he quit, he just stopped running. He told his partner and his parents that he got fired. He didn’t think they would understand.

“No one in your immediate circle wants to support you to quit your job, because no one wants to tell you to take a risk and then [have] it turns out badly for you,” he said.

But Read felt he had to take the leap. And things went pretty well…for a week.

One day, the glass-cutting wheel—on which he had pinned his entire life—shattered. He just collapsed on himself.

He spent days trying to fix it and finally found a solution which was to drill a hole in the axle. He got a second opinion from a friend who builds race cars.

“And I was like, ‘If I do this, is it going to kill me?’ Like, ‘If I did this and then flipped the switch, would you feel comfortable standing next to him?’ “, He said.

She gave it the go-ahead, and although the fix worked, the wheel broke again. So he sold some of his stuff and bought a brand new one for $700.

This is where, financially, things started to get complicated. Today, Read makes more money than at Home Depot. But he has new expenses. For example, he was tired of working in his garden, so he rented a studio.

He works 60, sometimes 70 hours a week. And her body hurts. His shoulder hurts from all the repetitive sweeping motions on the wheel. He also designs his marbles to be seen with one eye closed.

“I didn’t know that my eye socket and part of my brain, like the muscles, could be tight there,” he said.

Before, he made art for himself. Now he needs it to pay his bills.

He turned a passion into a profession. And it’s stressful. If he posts a marble on Instagram and it doesn’t get a lot of likes, he’s like, “You know, am I wobbling? Am I falling? People don’t like my work as much as they used to? Am I doing something wrong?”

Home Depot was just a job. He wasn’t lying in bed at night thinking about carts. But that’s not the kind of life he was looking for. And now?

“You couldn’t stop me from doing this if you tried,” he said. “Like, the bombs might drop tomorrow, whatever, and me and two cockroaches – I’ll try to show them my marbles.”

It has been a year since Read resigned. And he also started to get into glass blowing, to make the balls which he then cuts into diamond shapes.

It’s cool to watch. He places these little dots of warm-colored glass on a clear bulb, then twirls it over a blowtorch flame, like honey on a stick. And suddenly he made an oval-shaped marble with a brightly colored spiral inside.

One of the things Read likes about this job is that his marbles have no productive use. They simply exist to be admired.

“People call them pocket vibes or pocket protectors,” he said. “Just something cool to watch when you’re out in the world.”

Read is only 23, so he’s not sure if this marble stuff is forever — but what matters is that it makes sense to him right now.

Have you, or someone you know, left a job to pursue a vocation? how did it happen? Tell us in the form below.

There’s a lot going on in the world. Through it all, Marketplace is there for you.

You rely on Marketplace to break down world events and tell you how it affects you in a factual and accessible way. We count on your financial support to continue to make this possible.

Your donation today fuels the independent journalism you rely on. For just $5/month, you can help maintain Marketplace so we can keep reporting on the things that matter to you.

Leave a Reply