As the owner of Lake Superior Art Glass, a complete torch-work glass studio and gallery, Dan Neff has been blowing glass since 2003 and instantly knew glassblowing was an art that he wanted to master. Since then, Dan has shown his work around the country and has worked with and learned from world-renowned glass artists. Dan loves to share his passion for glass with others, and does so through teaching an array of glassblowing classes at Lake Superior Art Glass.
See Dan's work at the upcoming American Craft Show at the St. Paul RiverCentre April 20-22! Put on by American Craft Council, this event consists of more than 230 top contemporary jewelry, clothing, furniture, and home décor artists from across the country. More details about the show here!
What drew you to glassblowing?
As a teenager, working for my grandfather, who was a stone mason, fostered a deep appreciation for skilled craftsmanship. At the age of 17 when I discovered glassblowing, it was the perfect culmination of the creativity that I enjoyed as a musician, the physical aspects of mastering a craft and the tangibility of creating something with my hands.
What sets it apart as a craft?
The years of practice required to master one technique within the medium itself.
Have you always been creative?
Yes, I started taking music lessons at the age of 7 and was writing plays and puppet shows for many years before that.
What forms or channels have you explored in your creative journey?
I have studied music performance, recording production, and live sound engineering. Once I found glass it became the creative outlet that gave me the most satisfaction.
You make wearable glass art. What makes handcrafted glass perfect for the things you make?
Working with Pyrex glass, which is known for its durability, is great for items that get handled a lot. Working with a torch, especially when making my contemporary marbles, I can achieve a level of detail that is not commonly achieved in traditional glassblowing.
What role does experimentation play in your work?
It plays a very large role. The slightest variation in process or material can yield very different results. These results are not seen for 24 hours, so most pieces have some level of experimentation.
In terms of living and making in Minnesota, do you feel connected to this place?
Yes, I am born and raised in Minnesota. The water and the changing seasons were a huge factor in settling down in Minnesota and starting a business here.
Why is local important?
Local is important because it breeds diversity in a community. If our only source for goods are big box stores, communities lack uniqueness and do not attract a diverse population.
How has teaching classes at Lake Superior Art Glass impacted you as person and as a glassblower?
It has allowed me to find another avenue to connect people to a process that I am extremely passionate about.
Do you feel like making and creating through your business allows you to contribute to something larger than yourself?
Absolutely. By using Lake Superior Art Glass as an avenue to allow people to participate in the process, we are able to connect over 1000 people per year to the magic of blowing glass. By providing live demonstrations, even people who don't take a class can experience glass blowing.