SAIC-trained artist finds his calling in glass
Carrie Steinweg Times correspondent
Westville native Sean Moldenhauer discovered drawing at an early age, and it was the beginning of a lifelong love of art in many forms.
He joined the Michigan City Art League when he was in junior high and then in high school had a life-changing teacher who encouraged him to attend the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
With her encouragement, he applied with the intention of becoming an art teacher. Once there he studied everything he could – drawing, painting, fashion, sculpture design and more. “I was in so many different departments. It was very interdisciplinary. You could be working outside of your focus,” he said.
Sculpture was one of his favorite classes. “I love the whole process of watching things go from solid to liquid and then solid again,” he explained. He also enjoyed taking classes and workshops in metal, neon, silversmithing and metal chemistry.
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He followed some of his favorite artists – Salvador Dali, Rene Magritte and Joseph Cornwall – and was fascinated by the glass art of Kevin O’Grady. These days he spends most of his time making glass lamp art and electroform jewelry. Glass art wasn’t something he learned at SAIC, rather he learned himself by watching DVDs long before YouTube was available.
“I love working with fire,” he said. “One of the best courses I took at SAIC was Foundry. Making glass jewelry satisfies my urge to use sculptural elements with fire, but on a level that is more easily attainable – it is an intimate object likely to be shared with a larger audience than traditional sculptural objects.”
Although he sells pieces through his Instagram page (@seanmglass), he loves meeting customers when he sells at the Valparaiso market in late spring, summer and fall. “I love selling at the market because I can interact with people there. Educating people about the process is fun and I love seeing people smile when they try on my jewelry.”
He prefers jewelry making to other art forms because it is so personal. “I like the intimacy of jewelry and that it’s something someone will wear.”
Moldenhauer works full-time as a buyer for a hospital group, and lamp work is something he does to unwind after his day at work. Bending and shaping sticks over a 3,000-degree torch is soothing, and pulling a glass pendant out of the kiln the next day is like the excitement of Christmas morning for him, he said. “It puts a smile on my face when I open the oven in the morning and I just want to do it all the time because it makes me really happy.”
He’s also a fan of mid-century home decor, and that’s reflected in the home he shares with his Persian cat, Spencer.