Pat Casanova makes magic with heat, light, and molten glass
A master of the craft, Casanova turns out colorful, decorative vases and lamps in his studio, converted from a car dealership garage. His interest in the art form dates back to a chance encounter on a winter night in 1968, when, as a freshman at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls, he ran into two seniors outside the student commons. They told him they were on their way to blow some glass. “That’s with an ‘L,’” one of them clarified. Casanova joined them and was instantly hooked. “It was the most addictive thing I’ve ever done,” he says.
He was fascinated by the art. “For me, glass is magic,” he says. “It has all the elements of a ritual or rite, complete with fire, heat, and earth expressed in a dance with hot molten glass on the end of a hollow pipe.” The danger of working with fire and wielding molten glass “demands that I’m totally present—it’s a meditation in action.”
Photo by Maki Strunc Photography
The influence of nature and landscapes—Casanova is an avid trout fisherman and alpine skier—shows in the undulating browns, wisps of dark greens, and canopies of deep blues. His abstract scenes also reflect the influence of Japanese ceramics, an appreciation Casanova honed at Southern Illinois University, where he completed his MFA in ceramics and art history/crafts.
A decade ago, Casanova was turning out bowls, plates, tumblers, and Christmas ornaments for nearly 100 shops across the country. He refocused his work almost seven years ago to concentrate on more artistic creations, which these days are often lamps that indulge his fascination with the way glass captures light. “No other artistic medium handles light and color the way glass does,” he says.
On a winter Saturday morning, several customers at the Seasons on St. Croix Gallery wander into Casanova’s studio. They pause to watch him work: dipping, twirling, puffing, rolling, and shaping. For a moment, time is suspended by the dance of the molten glass, and they are as captivated as the artist by this ageless art form.
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John Rosengren is a Minneapolis freelance writer.
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