Dan Neff on the Torch

 After my first class at age 17, I was hooked.  In this molten form, glass loses its fragility, and responds only to gravity and myself.  By shaping, stretching, and blowing I bring the glass to life.

Artist Bio:

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Glass is not only a way to express myself but also a way to fulfill my need to work with my hands and to have something to show at the end of a day’s work.  At a young age I learned a strong work ethic from my family but especially my grandfather. He was a stone mason and I started working with him at age 11.  From these experiences, I learned the value of hard work and the persistence associated with mastering a craft.  After two years of “playing” with glass, I decided that I wanted to master the medium.  So, I gave up virtually all of my other passions and dedicated every spare moment, aside from school and work, to pursue the mastery of lampworking glass.

I started selling my work at outdoor art festivals a few years later as my summer job during college.  As I was finishing my degree, I started taking professional level glass classes from world-renowned glass artists.  After 3 years of learning from over a dozen glass artists, I began to focus on my career as a glass artist and began pursuing grants, larger art shows, and galleries to carry my work.

 Artist Statement:

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My inspiration is twofold.  The first is technique based. Glass is a very technical medium.  From the physical skill-set to the chemistry of working colors, this aspect of the medium fulfills my desire to learn, practice and master.  The second is my passion to express myself through glass.  These two areas must exist in equal proportions.  Without the technical side, I am unable to express myself.  Without the passion, there is no drive to continue the path towards mastery. Many have said that glass is an unmasterable medium.  I face this challenge every day and try to convey this to people through my work by using techniques that will foster a sense of amazement in those who view my art.

Technique:

Starting with sized rods and tubes of different colors, I create my work, by lampworking borosilicate glass, also known as pyrex glass.  This form of glassblowing utilizes a torch rather than a furnace and allows for the creation of more intricate work than is typically created from furnace glassblowing.  The reduced thermal expansion of pyrex glass allows me create large, intricate sculptures without fear of cracking.

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Training:

I starting working with glass at age 17 while working as an apprentice for a lampworker in Northern Minnesota.  After three years of apprenticing, I began teaching myself through books, institutional videos and the internet.  After finishing my BAS in Environmental Education,  I began taking classes from world-renowned glass artists, including Jason Howard, Robert Mickelson , John Kobuki, Mike Shelbo, Salt, Marcel Braun, Dale Sommers, Matt Eskuche, and Paul Stephan, just to name a few.  These artists have given me the foundation to develop skill-sets that allow me to express myself artistically.  I am continually furthering my knowledge of glass through experience and experimentation and I incorporate these discoveries in my new work.