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Behind the Design: Hennepin Made

Behind the Design: Hennepin Made

What happens when you merge design instincts, impeccable craft and good ol' fashioned Midwestern roots? A seriously covetable lighting collection. Based in the heart of Minneapolis, Minnesota (on Hennepin Avenue no less!) – Jackson Schwartz and Joe Limpert have been working their made-in-the-USA glass magic since 2011.

The artists behind Hennepin Made, Jackson Schwartz and Joe Limpert, have been working their made-in-the-USA glass magic since 2011. The impressive and successful launch of their Parallel series led them to release mini pendants. Whereas Hennepin Made’s previous collections focused on pieces that were substantial in size, Vela and Carina were more on the petite side, but retain the same finishing touches, colors, quality and artistic depth that we have come to know and love about Hennepin Made pieces.

We caught up with co-founder and maker Jackson Schwartz to delve a little deeper into their designs.

What inspires or influences your work?

We start with the process of blown glass and use that means to investigate light. We are also very inspired by materials and how they respond to different processes.

How much experimenting do you do before deciding if you want to move forward with a design?

It varies per collection—but for instance, with the Parallel Series, we spent a few years working through design considerations, engineering, and problem solving to get the aesthetic outcome we wanted.

You've said you have a fascination with materials—especially glass. What do you love about it?

Its immediacy. It is a completely responsive material in that each action you take you get a direct result. Also once we start the process to make a light, it's fluid to the end because we never set the glass down. It is similar to music in that there's a rhythm that follows the entire length of the work and if it's interrupted you have to stop and start over.

There is an organic feeling to both Vela and Carina— acorns come to mind especially with Vela— what drew you to these shapes?

Prior to the launch of these two pendants, all of the Parallel collection designs had an opening at the bottom of the light. We were wanting a continuous contour and fully enclosed shape. Glass is a fluid material and a super cooled liquid, meaning, it never stops flowing! So our thought process was focused on the fluid shapes and enclosed vessels.

Vela and Carina Pendant by Hennepin Made

Hennepin Made’s Vela Pendant (the longer, acorn-like shape) and the Carina Pendant.

What inspired you to go smaller and bring mini pendants into your line?

There were two core concepts that we started with. First, with the increase of urban living and having space constraints, we wanted to produce pendants that could fit the scale of these environments.

Second, we were looking to introduce pendants that would scale well with clusters and multi-light installation to create larger compositions.

What's inspiring or different about designing in the midwest?

For one we don't feel the pressure that exists on both coasts to try and fit quick trends. It's a little more geographically isolated, which we believe allows for better reflection and focus. There's also a history of amazing design and architecture here dating back to the modernist movement.

What do you think people love about your designs?

We strive to create designs that have an integrity to materials and that can be flexible to fit different environments. Our hope is that people recognize the effort put in to create these refined designs with quality craftsmanship.

Carina and Vela Pendants available in 6 glass colors

The Carina Pendant (top) and Vela Pendant (bottom) are each available in 6 glass colors. Each Hennepin Made fixture is crafted by hand in Schwartz and Limpert’s Minneapolis studio.

Vela and Carina were over a year in development and process. What was it like to bring those designs to fruition?

We are committed to keeping handmade processes in our designs and it takes time to problem-solve these processes for production. We typically have to build in tolerances since each piece varies just slightly. There are several iterations that we go through on the design which take into account the technical challenges that come up as well as aesthetic concerns. We want each piece to have the unique attributes of being made by hand while maintaining the consistency of a repeatable product.

If you could drop everything and travel to anywhere in the world tomorrow, where would it be?

We are interested in Scandinavia. There are some amazing glass and design companies there and both these domains have been part of their culture for a long time. Interestingly, there is also a rich Scandinavian heritage right here in Minnesota, which is something we feel shapes our culture, as well.

Anything you haven't created or designed that you'd like to?

We're working on ideas in the pipeline but we can't say yet. With having our own production facility, we are able to prototype a lot and there's always the curiosity to try new things.

Watch Hennepin Made in action: