How Hennepin Made puts a modern spin on centuries-old glassblowing techniques
Though glassblowing techniques have remained largely the same for centuries, the world’s tastes have changed. Hennepin Made — cofounded by Jackson Schwartz and Joe Limpert — was created with a goal of updating the craft for the 21st century. The company has two collections; one is exclusive to Room and Board and can be purchased online or in Room and Board’s stores. The second collection, the Parallel series, is available only through Hennepin Made’s website.
We recently spoke with Schwartz to learn a little bit more about the craft, the company (which is based in Minneapolis), and what it takes to keep the creativity flowing.
How is glass different from other materials?
Glass is unique because once you start the process you can’t stop it. The process is a continuous flow until the piece is finished, much like a song. It is a very visceral and dynamic material in that it’s a super-cooled liquid that “freezes” around 1,000 degrees.
How did you come up with the name Hennepin Made?
Part of our philosophy is not just to design goods but to produce them. We wanted there to be a real locality to it. Hennepin is a name synonymous with the city of Minneapolis. Hennepin Avenue is the main corridor of the city. There’s a Hennepin Avenue bridge. We’re in Hennepin County. Within a mile of our studio, we have hundreds of businesses — distilleries, breweries, chocolatiers, violin makers — that had respect for their respective crafts and were producing high-quality goods. We wanted to connect to that.
Can you describe the Hennepin Made aesthetic?
Our style really comes from the material and the process. We attempt to have designs with a simple elegance — pieces that retain a handmade warmth while feeling refined and intentional from a design perspective. We don’t have hard style guidelines but soft boundaries.
Perfection is a sought- after trait in products. Given that Hennepin Made’s pieces are all handmade, how do you approach this?
The guiding principle for the whole company is that we want to make sure the products remain handmade, but there’s not so much variation that if you got two lights from us, you’d be like, “Oh my god, they sent us two designs!” There are enough parameters that they look the same, but there are still unique aspects [to each piece].
What don’t most people know about the work that you do?
How much work goes into it. We’re not open to the public [in Minneapolis], but when we do studio tours, people are like, “Oh my god, you guys are literally pulling this stuff out of the furnace, shaping it with a newspaper all day.” It’s really hands-on. An average piece takes three to four hours to complete, so you’re only making three or four pieces a day.