Ben's Lens: An Interview with Dan Hoffman

Ben's Lens: An Interview with Dan Hoffman

April 09, 2020

Dan Hoffman has had my mind blown since I first caught wind of his work years ago on Instagram. His scientific knowledge applied in an artistic manner is unmatched, and he may be working on the smallest scale of any borosilicate glass artist.

A few years ago in the summer when Dan was driving to his parents in Santa Cruz from Salem Community College, he stopped by my studio for our first time meeting at the suggestion of a mutual friend. We threw down on a handful of fun collaborations, and Dan worked on some of his own work for a few days. He went camping a few miles down the road from my studio and blew glass in his hammock next to the river on his personal mini torch setup. We traded one of my early fully worked cups for a pair of his micro lattice sculptures. It’s truly incredible to work with him, and a real pleasure to watch him work. During that first trip, Blake Winegard also came by and hung out. We all had a great time together, and the young guys energy definitely got me excited to work after a lot of hard work to build out the studio. They were some of my first guest artists at the time.

Dan’s second visit was after graduation, again driving home to Santa Cruz from New Jersey. My studio is five minutes off i70 and a convenient stopping point when driving across the country. I was stoked to throw down with Dan again, and our second round was a big improvement from our first session. Most of that has sold, but we have a mug left featuring the caffeine molecule as the handle. 
We pulled an all nighter, listening to “Workingonit” by J. Dilla on repeat until the sunrise. It was one of my most memorable sessions blowing glass in my entire career. It was all a blur, but we were going as hard as we could all night. I took a nap around 5:30am while Dan finished a few things before my final assembly as the sun came up. We both slept as the kiln cooled and then he hit the road once the cups were signed.

BB: Who are you?
DH: Dan Hoffman is a glass artist currently living and creating in Santa Cruz, CA.  His work is mostly informed by studying Chemistry at UC Santa Cruz and Scientific Glass Technology at Salem Community College. Dan focuses on creating accurate molecular structures and other sculptures based on the geometry of nature using Borosilicate Glass in an effort to promote an appreciation of chemistry and its relation to the human experience.

Tell us about your educational background in science and glass, and how they intertwine.
I graduated from UCSC (Univ. of CA, Santa Cruz) in 2017 with a BS in Chemistry.  I focused on organic chemistry and was immediately drawn to the concepts of molecular geometry, specifically the fact that all these trillions of different molecules share the same handful of geometric building blocks and that the slightest of difference in structure can manifest as a radical change to its character. I then attended Salem Community College, graduating in 2019 with AAS in Scientific Glass Technology and AFA in Glass Art. Salem really helped me refine and develop my technical skill and cleanliness of my work, and gave me the connections and confidence to pursue many new opportunities like a class at Pilchuck in WA and the ASGS Symposium in Corning NY. Living in CA and going to school in NJ also gave me the opportunity/necessity to drive back and forth across the country which led to meeting SO many artists (such as yourself!)

How long have you been blowing glass and how did you get into it?
I've been blowing glass for just about six years now (five years daily with my own creative freedom, and around three years micro work). I started with a local class studio in Santa Cruz CA taught by Nate Bennett (@santacruzglasspics) and then became his apprentice for about six months. Nate teaches just to spread the love of glass and allow people the opportunity to play with this fascinating medium. His classes are super affordable and still going so I'd highly look into them if you're in the Bay Area!

How did you find Drinking Vessels and Bat Country Studios?
Honestly not entirely sure. I know I saw Ben's whole trading adventure and I was vaguely familiar with Drinking Vessels but don't think I knew they were the same.  I was driving to New Jersey being very social media heavy with my plans and Ben graciously invited me to check out Bat Country on my way through Colorado.

Tell us about your experiences here at the studio. What’s your favorite part of Bat Country Studios?
I have stayed at Bat Country a few times now and every time has been unforgettable! One thing that impresses me is how efficient the space is used and how each time I've been there it's been reorganized or upgraded in some way.  My favorite part has to be the location. It's pretty surreal looking out the window and seeing the mountains right there, or driving only a few miles to find pristine fly fishing and camping.

What’s your favorite collaboration that you and I have made together?
I'm partial to the small LSD goblet we made on my last time in Bat Country. It featured a great blend of your rainbow confetti notebook style with some simple line work from me, and a micro LSD molecule set in the stem.  At the time, I had only just started to do my molecule capsules with more than just clear glass.  When I pulled the inside out frit section thin for the back of the molecule it created a beautiful faded vortex and I couldn't have been happier with the overall piece.

Who is your favorite cup maker? Other cup makers who inspire you?
My favorite cup maker is Kiva Ford. Although I've rarely seen him make standard cups, his large ornamental chalice style pieces with sculptures enclosed in a clear globe are extremely inspirational. He's also a really nice guy.

Do you have a favorite cup or series of drink ware?
One of my favorite series of drink ware (besides Kiva's chalices mentioned already) is a recent series by Canadian artists Cedric Ginart and Karina Guevin. They were my teachers at Pilchuck; Cedric is a master scientific glassblower and his partner Karina is an expert at sculptural work. Together they make beautiful and technical pieces that really show what glass is capable of. They collaborated on a series of large goblets featuring different fairy tale scenes and characters in the stems.

Does anyone use less gas than you to melt glass?
So actually, despite how small my flame is and the fact I exclusively use a Smith Little for my molecules I burn through Oxygen. I have my molecule kit rigged up to be completely self-sustained running off of tiny Bernzomatic disposable tanks. This allows me to set up anywhere - be it in a river, on a mountain, in a random corner of someone's studio or in my bedroom at home. The inefficiency is worth the freedom and comfort. But funny story: one time while traveling I had plugged into a liquid oxygen tank and went out to start working before the others in the studio. Set my flame, started going, and an hour later someone came out to work only to notice the tank hadn't been turned off! I was able to run my micro flame for almost an hour off what oxygen was left in the lines.

How will you get on without that trailer? Sure had a lot of character.
Definitely sad to see it go but it was on its last legs for sure and it was also a weight off my (and my Camry's) shoulders. I'm more sad that I recently totaled the Camry - which had taken me to SO many places in such a short time. I'm now trying to find a decent van/truck/etc to be back on the road adventuring and camping as soon as possible.

How’s your cup collection?
Not too impressive but it's got some gems. I have one beautiful red & orange cup from from you. An extremely unique cup made by Snic at the Tipper and Friends 4321 Festival in Missouri; he used a geode found at the festival grounds as a blow mold to make a textured bottom, then I dipped it in Bismuth. I have two official Roor cups from my two visits out to Germany. And a few nice goblets from friends at Salem (we did a Christmas Goblet Exchange each year) and a nice one by Nate that he gave me.

Would you like to tell people about our recent all nighter on your way across the country?
I'd love to, but the region of my brain that processes memories is still Workin On It ;)

Please send us any pictures that best represent you and your work.

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