Doing my job

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April 19, 2004 // UPDATED 1:20 pm - April 25, 2007
By: Tom Carothers
Tom Carothers

Phil Daniel

Stained-glass artist, 321 2nd Av. S.

Passing by a rusty shack clinging to a Warehouse District storefront, one would never guess that inside are ornate stained- glass designs that belie the facade.

The 321 2nd Ave S. shack is Phil Daniel's workshop, attached to his architectural stained-glass firm, from which beautiful works have sprung since he moved there five years ago.

With his wife Shawnee, Daniel toils over light-grabbing designs that are featured in homes, companies, restaurants and churches throughout the metro area. You may have seen his work Downtown at Gluek's, 16 N. 6th St., and Kieran's, 330 2nd Ave. S. He is currently working on an Egyptian-influenced glass panel to be used in a window at the Walker Art Center overlooking the Sculpture Garden.

I notice that you don't have any windows in your workshop, what's up with that?

[Laughs] I know, it's a cavern back there. I've gotten used to it; actually, we have another studio down in Northfield with a lot more windows in a beautiful setting.

How long have you worked with stained glass?

Eighteen years now, and I've had this business for 15. I kind of stumbled into it when I was a musician and another musician got me into it. I served some different apprenticeships, including one in London for a 200-year-old studio called Goddard and Gibb and for various people in town here. I struck out on my own about 16 years ago.

What about stained glass appealed to you?

I've always liked it. I was captivated looking up at cathedrals when I was a kid. I used to think it was amazing that in the Middle Ages, in the midst of people's heads being lopped off, that they could create this delicate, intricate play of light that was timeless and has never really been improved upon.

Who are your clients? Whom do you do a lot of your work for?

When I got into this, I was thinking most of our clients would be corporate. But it's ended up being 90 percent residential. A lot of our clients come to us and they want a transom or a French door done, and I love those jobs. Residential work is so fun because you are dealing with a homeowner, so it becomes very personal.

What goes into the process of creating a piece for someone?

We'll go to their home or wherever so that we can match the work to its surroundings. Then we will draw it out and discuss the color and intricacy. It comes down to what people's tastes are but also how we are inspired by the location. Once we have a go-ahead, it takes about 60 to 90 days for the finished work.

How much does one of your works cost?

It's hard to price out many times because sometimes it's art and sometimes it's just something practical, like a bathroom window. It also depends on the materials used. But, it usually is anywhere from $150 to $300 a square foot.

What, to you, is the beauty of glass as art?

We like to use a lot of clear glass and metal to create a meditative space between the inside and the outside environment where the eye and mind can rest. Then, if it likes, the eye can leap out and look at the scenery past it, we don't block out what's out there. A window is something you can either look at or look through.

Do you know someone Downtown with an interesting job, or who does his or her job in an interesting way? We'd like to talk to them! Let us know via e-mail at srich @skywaynews.net, by fax at 825-0929 or by mail at 1115 Hennepin Ave. S., 55403.