Reflecting back, 32-year-old Colorado-born Mindy S. Leher says she stumbled upon her two artistic mediums quite by accident.
Now though, the two businesses she runs out of her Collingswood home—Red Dog Glass, and MSLeher Photography—are Leher's life work.
Red Dog Glass came first.
"Eight years ago, I was doing an independent study in jewelry design, and we had a sandblasting cabinet (used to) put textures on metals," she said. "At the same time, I was working at a glass shop. I cut out some glassware to make gifts for a friend's bridal shower, (etched them using the sandblasting tools), and it kind of snowballed from there. Friends started asking me to make them custom glassware pieces."
Using the Red Dog Glass website, Leher takes orders for customized glass items and creates them at home.
From personalized, etched mugs, to mirrors, to stainless steel objects—including dog bowls—Leher makes occasions like weddings, birthdays, anniversaries personal, lifelong gifts.
Her art even extends to creating vinyl signage and decals, featuring the names of sports teams and even marking local businesses.
While many wouldn't know that Leher's name is attached to numerous local business' signage, her work is visible everywhere in Collingswood.
"I did all Inde Blue's signage, I cut it all out," said Leher of intricate vinyl decals that flit across the bay-front windows of Inde Blue's new location. "I did the signage for Zeppoli; hand-painted the large sign above The Pop Shop's doors."
Red Dog Glass' inventory will also soon include customized T-shirts, hats, and apparel.
But Leher's favorite thing about running her business in Collingswood? Collingswood.
"I feel like I make friends with the people I work with," she said of creating signage for clients, like Zeppoli Restauranteur Joe Baldino. "For instance, Joey will swing by here and say, 'I need you to fix this menu for me.' The people here are amazing."
About a year ago, Leher decided to expand her home-based entrepreneurial empire.
"I've always taken photographs; my father owned a slew of camera shops in Colorado," said Leher. "So photography was always part of my life. Then I started taking shots of my friends as they got married and had kids, and people began to make comments about how I should do it professionally."
Thus, MSLeher Photography was born.
Leher uses a Nikon D40-X, which she prefers using for out-of-studio work.
"I don't want to take someone's kid, sit them on a rock, and take photos of them in a rigid pose. I prefer to catch people in their element, in their own homes or spaces," she said. "Growing up in Colorado was very chill and artsy and outdoorsy. My favorite things to photograph are scenic, nature shots; and I think those turn out to be my best work."
Leher's professions are her passions—and she's pretty sure she knows how it all happened.
"My mom is a quilter, so I probably got my artistic side from her. And my dad owned camera shops; he's a businessman, so maybe that's why I started my own businesses," she said, laughing. "Regardless, I love what I do. I love living and working in a small-town atmosphere."
To learn more about Leher's businesses, and to order a custom piece, visit www.reddogglass.com, or www.msleherphotography.com. Inquiries can be addressed by emailing Leher at email@example.com. Also visit Red Dog Glass' Facebook page, at www.facebook.com.reddogglass, and MSLeher Photography at www.facebook.com/MSLeherPhotography.