I came into jewelry design after a career in science. Science and art were always the strongest draws to me in school so when it came time for college I opted for the sciences. I graduated from the University of Minnesota in 1984 with a degree in clinical laboratory science and worked at a toxicology laboratory for several years.
In 1998 I returned to more creative pursuits. I quit my job and set up a studio in my home. I took a few rudimentary metalsmithing classes and set about finding my groove. That was no small task. Without any formal arts education the learning curve was steep to get my head around design and composition. My early work was very simplistic, two dimensional and symmetrical, i.e. boring! Over time, with much trial and error and a few ‘aha’ moments, a body of work that felt good to me began to emerge. Now more complex, three dimensional and certainly asymmetrical, I am creating pieces that resonate well with what I am trying to achieve. Interestingly, my designs seem influenced by the science and biology I always loved. Pieces seem to take on a botanical or marine aesthetic with an industrial edge.
As a charter board member of the Minnesota Jewelry Artists Guild (MNJAG) I’m working to build community within the craft as well as engage the greater public in their awareness of our work and the value and satisfaction of being a collector.
While I continue down this path of exploration in jewelry, I am expanding my design work to a new line of leather belts for men and women. I’ve designed buckles that are a subtle nod to my jewelry roots and I have incorporated interesting design elements into the leatherwork. Prototypes were completed in May.
Member at Large and Chair of the Communications Committee:
As a founding board member of MNJAG, I am excited to see what can happen on the grassroots level when like-minded people decide to start something.
As a native Minnesotan growing up in a rural community it has been interesting to help build a local organization from scratch with the mission to support its members’ professional growth.
As a working metalsmith it has been extremely helpful meeting and interacting with my fellow jewelry making members.
I bring to MNJAG a background in design, metalsmithing and sustainable supply chains. I also serve on the board of Ethical Metalsmiths, whose organizational growth and operational processes benefit my ability to serve on MNJAG’s board.
My career in metalsmithing began after I graduated from the University of Minnesota with a Bachelor of Science in Design specializing in metalsmithing. I fell in love with metal and design and have been creating original, and wearable jewelry ever since.
My career as an artist began quickly right out of college (UW Stout – BFA 1995) with a job in a Colorado ski town working as a custom goldsmith. Ski towns are dangerous places to begin a career because work is always secondary to skiing and outdoor activity and my career fell victim to the ski bum lifestyle. I always had creative work during that time but I never considered myself a working artist. It wasn’t until I moved back to Minneapolis in 2002 that I really began to focus on my work as a fulltime artist.
Now, I split my time between my sculptural visual art and my work as a metalsmith/ jewelry designer. The two disciplines are essential for me and directly influence one another. Jewelry is very intimate, both in scale and function. It has a unique quality in that it must be handled and its longevity is measured by the quality of construction since it is created to adorn the body.
That quality of construction is carried over into my sculpture. Most of my sculptural pieces are either mechanized by clock motors or manipulated by the viewer in order to make the pieces come to life. Breaking the barrier of “look but do not touch” is a direct link to jewelry for me. My art is meant to move.
My influences for the sculptural work stem from my love of sailing and being on the water. I sail Lake Superior with my wife and two teenage boys. Lake Superior has always had a special place in my heart; its enormous size and frigid temperatures give it an unsettling, yet beautiful character. The physics of sailboats and how they move are an endless source of inspiration for me. The journey of moving from place to place using only the wind as the means of propulsion is ingrained in our being.
After a decade of honing my skills as a metalsmith and building my visual vocabulary in the sculptural work, I’ve started down a new path as an educator. I currently work as an Instructor of Metalsmithing at Carleton College. Teaching can be a very rewarding and humbling experience. It amplifies where my strengths are and shines a spotlight on my deficiencies. I’ve learned as much from teaching as from being taught. We should never stop learning.
This past year has opened up another avenue of growth. I am a founding member and board member for the Minnesota Jewelry Arts Guild (MNJAG). Our focus is on promotion of members and their work. Education is also a key component to our mission.
My path as an artist has had its stops and starts, but it’s as ingrained in my being as my passion for sailing and exploring; I’m lucky to be able to intertwine the two.
Danny Saathoff Designs
Secretary of the Board and Chair of the Education Committee:
I have been pleased and honored to serve on the board of MNJAG since our very beginning; first as an interim member helping to found the organization, and now, as I serve my second formal term. I currently contribute in the roles of Secretary of the Board and Chair of the Education Committee. It is a joy to work with our dedicated volunteers to present our educational workshops, panels, and speakers, and to organize our monthly MN JAG Mix meeting.
I bring to MNJAG previous experience on the board of two other non-profit arts organizations, one of which I helped to navigate through a difficult leadership change. Because of these experiences, I am interested in thinking strategically about our long-term goals and what we need to do both structurally and culturally to build a robust organization. I am committed to working on transparency and inclusion in our community as we continue to grow.
I am a Minneapolis-based jewelry designer, working primarily with metal and exotic gemstones. I am inspired by shapes that I see repeated in the natural world, and intrigued by how we, as humans, create meaning through symbol. There is an alchemy in the mixture of artist, wearer and meaning, and I love to see my work take on a new life as it is worn and enjoyed after it leaves my workbench.