Jul 28, 2014

Caledonia Woman Receives Patent For Fireplace Cover Design

Sherry Martin took a small idea and turned it into a big idea. Now she just received a patent and she'll be looking to take her product to market.

Caledonia Woman Receives Patent For Fireplace Cover Design

Good things come to those who wait and yes, persistence pays off.

Local artist Sherry Martin received a patent today from the US Patent office for her decorative fireplace covers six years after she designed the first one.

“I’m on cloud nine,” Martin said. “This is so cool. God is so good.”

Martin submitted a provisional design patent and had her design published in 2008, but now the patent is officially hers.

The big "aha"

Martin was cleaning houses when she noticed one of her clients had an old chalkboard covering their fireplace opening. She asked why they had it there and they told her their drafty fireplace was too expensive to repair. So they put up the chalkboard to keep the draft out. Martin asked if she could work on a better solution and she came up with her design.

She uses a process similar to mosaic, but she instead uses shattered tempered glass and paint to put a pretty face on a useful, energy efficient cover that prevents fireplaces from being drafty old things. And because she uses items like the doors off of refrigerators used in grocery stores and old picture frames, she keeps those items out of landfills – something she calls up cycling.

“It’s the new thing, you know. It’s taking an object that is being discarded or not used anymore, and making it better than it was,” she said.

Martin has 100s of frames. She fits the art to the frame, not the other way around like a lot of other artists.

After coming up with the design and selling them on the side, Martin met Peter Jansson, a local patent attorney at her church. She pitched the idea to him and he thought the idea had merit. He helped her through the patent process.

“I remember there were a number of times that I wanted to quit because it was taking so long, but he wouldn’t let me,” Martin said.

Commercializing her idea

Martin realized she needed help if she wanted to get the product to market.

So she went to a new product development session in January that the Small Business Development Center and the Wisconsin Women Initiative Corporation put on.

Kate Walker, business service director for the Center for Advance Technology and Innovation Center in Sturtevant, said she remembers how Martin was unsure of whether or not the seminars would help her.

“I told her she would be able to learn something from it from all of the resources we had available and she could do some networking,” Walker said.

During the session, Martin met people from a company called EigerLab in Rockford Il, and they helped do the prototyping for her and commercialized the manufacturing process.

Walker said they formed a group to help Martin address issues from navigating products to market.

“We met weekly and we kept the conversation and we strategized on how to get her to the next step,” Walker said.

Martin received a $2,500 Racine County manufacturing renewal grant and a $2,500 minority grant from the SBDC and WWBIC.

Attitude and opportunity is everything

Walker said she's been seeing a lot of creativity coming out of a poor economy.

"Last year the U.S. Patent and Trade Office had the highest number of patent approvals they've ever had," she said.

So what made Martin stand out?

Walker said she was impressed with Martin’s tenacity. She wasn’t afraid to ask for help and she knew she wasn’t an expert in everything.

“She also wouldn’t take no for an answer,” Walker said. “If she was discouraged, she went somewhere else to get what she needed.”

But getting the patent was key.

“Now we’ll work on licensing the patent to a company that can do this product justice,” Martin said. “We need a company in the area that has had experience taking products to market. We know that 65 percent of the homes in U.S. have fireplaces, and we’re hoping to get into even 1 percent of those homes.”

To learn more about Martin’s work, click here to visit her website at Shattered Glass Designs.

Interested in finding out more?

What: Check out the Inventors & Entrepreneurs Club of Greater Racine and Kenosha
Where: Gateway Technical College, 4949 88th Avenue in Kenosha, in the Horizon Center, Conference Room
When: 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. on the third Tuesday of every month

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