Vendor Spotlight: Cleveland Street Glass
Written By Rachel Hunt
Photographed By Breanna Kulkin
As a true comeback city, Cleveland is constantly reinventing itself. Our newest incarnation is gritty yet high end, urban and glamorous, resilient even in dark times. One emerging brand that captures that aesthetic through and through is Cleveland Street Glass, a jewelry and housewares brand born literally, from the streets of AsiaTown and surrounding neighborhoods.
Deanna Dionne’s own creative reincarnation came after moving from Michigan to a loft in the Heller Building off Superior Avenue in late 2014 determined to work on her design endeavors in the expansive and affordable spaces driving artists to the area. Soon after resettling, her car was broken into.
It was just going to be a fun project. But it’s really taken off to be a business; I wasn’t expecting that.
What began as a cathartic practice to turn tragedy into another person’s treasure has transformed into a perfect collision of circumstances for Dionne to launch her own business. Formerly a watch designer at an accessories company, she had kept her eye on trends in fashion, but was brand new to making jewelry when she launched Cleveland Street Glass in 2016.
“I thought I would sell at a couple of events over the summer and whatever was left, I might just give to local stores,” she says candidly. “It was just going to be a fun project. But it’s really taken off to be a business; I wasn’t expecting that.”
Picking up the remnants from her broken window, the beauty of the destroyed tempered glass caught Dionne’s eye. “I started out basically doing necklaces and whatever people asked for,” she explains. One thing led to another and now she has an entire line of curated bib and statement necklaces, made from car glass and broken warehouse windowpanes as well.
Earrings, bangles, and various sized rings soon populated her workspace, a medium sized desk where Dionne can examine the pieces of glass collected from hours of cruising the street; “I started driving around the city a little bit more and sort of hunting for it, looking at curbs.”
Unfortunately, many people don’t report window smashing or car break-ins to the police. Dionne notes that while she doesn’t work with cops in any way to find the glass, more people should report their break in even if nothing was stolen, to alert law enforcement of crime in the area.
Dionne’s best resource is her friends. “They’ll post about it on Instagram, tag me and I’ll contact them and see if they want to get together,” she laughs. “It’s always a little bit awkward, it’s such an inconvenience anyways and I’m swooping in to get the glass, but they appreciate it […]. It kind of turns around their day; they’ve just had this awful experience happen but now that gets to be made into art.”
She treats large pieces with a resin epoxy to reinforce the safety glass, which has already been cracked, to maintain its beauty and organic shape without compromising durability. “While I’m working with experimenting with the materials, the process sort of changes. I keep seeing what’s possible and researching,” she says, thinking of Cleveland Street Glass’ bangle bracelets. “I carve the item out of molding clay and I make it into a rubber mold. Then I cast the resin and the glass with it, sand it down and create my pieces. Those are pretty intense processes for the items I’m working on.”
Most glass has a green hue. Other thinner pieces, a light blue color. Tinted windows appear like dark obsidian. Cleveland Street Glass’s palette is built by the colors that happen to populate the Lake Erie skyline, with gold leaf and metallic silver detailing the edges of each piece. Each with their own webbed pattern or mix of glass, the jewelry is truly as unique as the people whose cars are the source of Dionne’s main material.
“What I’m working on now I hope to be able to debut at Night Market: lamps. I’ll have some hanging pendant shades and possibly some candle votives. I’m also starting to work with cement to make vases with the glass too,” Dionne says excitedly. For these larger works, more glass must be used, so one day Dionne and a budding news anchor traveled to a nearby junkyard to smash some car windows for reuse.
“Picking it up off the street, it’s really dirty. There might be cigarette butts, leaves, and rocks mixed in with it. So it kind of makes sense if I need a lot of glass, to go to the junkyard and have some fresh, clean glass,” says Dionne, emphasizing that she does not use glass from car accidents and will not take glass from cars that have not yet been discovered, as it still is the scene of a crime. Ultimately, all of the glass is washed before its set.
There’s a distinct homage to the city in the company name, an ode to not only the chaos that Dionne has seen since moving here, but also the opportunity to do something new. “I’m really appreciative of Cleveland in particular for this, because where I came from in metro Detroit, there wasn’t nearly as many opportunities. Cleveland is just so supportive of its artists and there are so many people that are eager to help you. I don’t feel like I could have really done this anywhere else.”