Summer Resident Artist, Dan Alexander’s artistic philosophy is to challenge himself. Dan’s glass works range from large, patterned vases, to small and intricate flowers and everything in between. The variety of scale and technique used in Dan’s work is a testament to his artistry, as there are unique problems to solve in creating each piece. Although hot glass is a thrilling and seemingly spontaneous medium, due to the danger associated with fire and heat, it requires levels of calculation and precaution that are not as crucial in other mediums that allow for direct control of the medium with one’s hands. Many of Dan’s pieces are ethereal, with fluid forms and intricate patterns. Keep reading to learn how Dan made “playing with fire” his career, and why he is so passionate about it.
- Where are you from?
I am originally from a small town called Pierpont, Ohio.
- What is your preferred medium and/or subject matter?
The main focus of my work involves glass to some capacity. Occasionally I will use carved wood, steel, or other materials if needed.
- What draws you to this medium/subject matter?
I am drawn to glass because of the team work required to create a beautiful object, its physical appearance, and the wide range of possibilities of what could be created.
- What’s your educational or career background?
I graduated from Kent State University in Ohio. Since then I have worked at The Corning Museum of Glass, Corning, NY; Murano, Italy; and a number of other studios across the USA.
- How long have you been creating art/working on your current craft?
I have been working with glass for 17 years now.
- Tell me about the first creative experience you can remember. How did it impact you?
My first time creating glass was a fiery mess on the floor! The level of difficulty required to make glass and the possibility of playing with fire for a career is what made me want to master this craft.
- Can you describe your artistic or thematic focus?
The pieces I create are inspired from a wide range of different things. Nature, architecture, textiles, and patterns are a few things I am drawn to for inspiration.
- Are you rigid or spontaneous with your creative process?
I always go into the studio with a plan. Sometimes the plan is to create an animal, geometric pattern, or cup to drink out of. Other times the plan is to experiment or try something new. I’ve found that going into the studio with no plan at all doesn’t give the best results for my process.
- Is there any place in particular you hope to go with your craft or a milestone you would like to achieve?
I tend to set several small goals at a time and think of these as stepping stones to eventually achieving the “famous artist” status. If I am challenging myself, applying for shows, displaying my work in galleries, and learning something new, then I am on track.
- What is the current or next step to achieving that goal?
The current step is making new designs and pieces I haven’t tried before at GoggleWorks! I am very fortunate to receive this residency, and it has been great working in your studio.
- What is your most memorable creative achievement in your artistic career so far?
The most memorable achievement I’ve had so far was the first time displaying my work at an exhibition called Sculptural Objects and Functional Art in Chicago. This is a huge exhibition with artists and galleries from all over the world. It was an honor to have my work displayed with some artists I’ve admired since college.
- Outside of your current artistic medium, what are your favorite hobbies or interests?
My hobbies include cooking, fitness, traveling, and spending time with my dog.
- What do you do in times of lack of inspiration/motivation?
That usually means I need to revisit old ideas, refine a technique, or travel and find something new to be inspired by. Inspiration should come naturally and not be forced.
- What does a day in your studio look like? From the moment you park in the parking lot to when you walk out the door… outline a typical studio day!
The day at the studio usually first involves a cup of coffee! After arriving, I would light the furnace and lay out the tools and color needed for that day. Go through emails while the oven is heating up, create my work, clean up, then plan the activities and dinner for that evening.
- What one piece of advice would you give yourself 5-10 years ago?
10 years ago I would tell myself that life and becoming an artist is a marathon and not a sprint. Trying to get ahead of yourself you often miss crucial steps that are required to get where you are going.
- What would you tell someone who has never picked up your material/medium and wanted to start today?
I would tell them to help out as many people and be at the studio as much as possible. The more artists you are able to work with and the more studio time you get, the faster you will succeed.
- How do you hope to grow during your time in the Artist Residency at GoggleWorks?
I am hoping to expand on some of the bodies of work I have already been working on. I have several new ideas that I haven’t tried before which is exciting to have a studio and the time to try something, without knowing what the end result will be. The chance to have a studio to make new work in and experiment has already helped me learn new ways of making pieces and also give me ideas that could take my work in a new direction. This has been a great experience!
- What is one thing you are looking forward to experiencing in Reading/Berks County while you are here?
Most of all I was excited to meet the artists in the community and work with a new set of people in the glass studio. I always love to see new art spaces and learn how they operate. Without public art studios and co-op makerspaces, I wouldn’t be the artist I am today! I love how art can bring people together who have never met before.
One of the greatest takeaways from Dan’s answers is that, due to the nature of hot glass, he prefers to go into the studio with a plan for what he wants to do so that he makes the most of his time in the studio. The fire in Dan’s soul for hot glass shines through the way he speaks about his process and every piece that he makes. For many artists like Dan, community studios and maker spaces like GoggleWorks play an integral role in the ability of the artist to produce artwork which advances their knowledge, skills, career, and supports their livelihood. We are so glad to be able to host a program which allows artists to do just this. Having Dan and the rest of the summer residents in the studios at GoggleWorks allows learning to be facilitated between students, developing artists and career artists naturally, exchanging ideas about fundamental skills and specialized techniques alike. Like Dan says, the more artists you work with, the more you will learn and succeed. The Artist Residency program allows artists like Dan to continue working in new spaces, challenging themselves, meeting new people and bonding over a shared love of art and medium. We are so excited to see what new designs Dan fires up in the furnace next! Make sure to check out all of the Summer Resident’s works on view now in the hallway gallery next to GoggleWorks’ main entrance.
Dan Alexander’s residency at GoggleWorks is sponsored by the Art Alliance for Contemporary Glass (AACG).