Sitting atop his father’s lap at 6 years old, David Jantz remembers his first experience with glass in the shop behind his home in North Newton, Kansas. That first creation began with “a glob of glass on the end of a rod” heated by the flame of a torch. With the help of his father, he used the tools to add lips, fins and eyes to make a small fish.
This was the first of many glass creations for Jantz, who is now a senior bio-chemistry major. Most of his memories with glasswork are connected to his father, who was inspired by the craft during his middle school years.
As Jantz grew older, he watched his father show his work at the Mennonite Central Committee Relief Sale.
“He used to sell glass at the MCC sale, in Kansas,” Jantz said. “He did that from when I was a really young kid, so I have a lot of really good memories of sitting on his lap and making glass art at the sale.”
These formative times in the backyard shop and at the MCC sale taught Jantz the basics of shaping glass with an open flame.
“We’ve just always had the equipment out and in our shop,” he said. “We would just go out there, and I had him teach me stuff, and I learned on my own a little bit.”
Through high school and into college, Jantz found interests in soccer, music, spending time with friends, playing cards, biking and dumpster diving, but the interest in glasswork has continued to follow him while growing older.
“I didn’t really get serious until…the summer after my freshman year of college,” he said. “That summer I put a ton of time into practicing and making lots of cool art. That’s when I got to the point where I could actually sell stuff.”
The open flame in glass artistry is part of the appeal.
“I like playing with fire,” he said. “[That’s] probably not surprising.”
Beyond the lure of fire, he finds the hands-on craft to be a challenging artistic outlet.
“It’s kind of like drawing,” he said, “but 3-D.”
Using tools to shape cylindrical glass rods over the heat, he can mold small figurines like turtles with top hats or necklace pendants.
“I really like that there is always more to improve on and more to get better at,” Jantz said. “I am always researching and googling different glass sculptures and looking for more ideas and techniques.”
His determination to keep learning urges him to master the craft.
As a passionate learner with an interest in chemistry, he found himself studying more than just new techniques. Dissecting the glasswork process, Jantz has found an even closer connection with the art.
“There’s science that comes into play,” Jantz said. “I’ve done a lot of background research on the chemical structure of glass, silicon dioxide, and then there’s a bunch of different metals that they use to color the glass, and that’s just really interesting.”
As the glass is heated, a process of oxidation and reduction happens which impacts the color of the piece. Jantz finds this process fascinating as his actions control the rate and intensity of the chemical reactions.
Almost 800 miles from his father’s shop, Jantz has found other ways to keep the flame alive.
In a corner of the Chairman Building, also known as the “Sculpture for Service,” Jantz found a home. During a sculpture class last year, Jantz approached John Mishler, professor of art, about available workspace. He needed a table, and an oxygen tank, with Jantz providing his own propane tank.
“I fortunately got some equipment set up in the sculpture room here,” he said. “John Mishler was gracious enough to give me some space in the corner of the lab.”
Jantz has benefitted from use of the Goshen College’s station and safe space to work, and Mishler helped keep Jantz’s passion alive.
“He’s been really great in helping me to pursue my hobby,” Jantz said.
As Jantz uses his space in the Chairman Building, Mishler has observed him working fervently throughout the year.
“He’s been really dedicated to it,” Mishler said. “I think he sees it as something he really wants to pursue.”
Alongside sculpture class, Jantz can be seen frequenting the Chairman Building for his glasswork creations.
Not only does Jantz utilize the space during school days, but he continues his hobby at his own pace. Mishler found the glasswork corner to be occupied “even during [fall] break,” Mishler said, “I saw him here several times.”
Although far from home and his father, he continues to learn more about glasswork. As the days grow colder in the fall of Goshen, Jantz keeps his glass warm and creations flowing.