My work grabs the attention of people who are adventurous,” says blacksmith Daniel Hopper, whose not-for-the-faint-of-heart creations have ranged from a 2-foot-tall sconce shaped like a wasp’s nest to an 8-foot-tall tornado-like chandelier. Inspired by the graceful lines of Art Nouveau designs, Hopper finds practical uses for natural silhouettes— such as the meandering of an octopus tentacle or the undulation of a wisp of smoke—to create his fluid and evocative works. “The pieces are sexy and a little menacing,” he notes of his custom furniture, lighting and architectural elements. “I want people to feel compelled to touch them, but to be attentive when they do.” Hopper found his way to metalwork after pursuing previous interests in fine art, illustration and furniture making, and he now forges each of his expressive “functional art” pieces by hand from his studio in Port Costa. “Every time I heat the metal and strike it with a hammer, I learn a little more about the nature of the material,” he says. “And there’s a lot to learn.”
LX: Design icons:
DH: Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, British sculptor Andy Goldsworthy and Belgian architect Victor Horta. Calatrava first drew me in with his brilliant kinetic addition to the Milwaukee Art Museum.
LX: Current projects:
DH: I am getting ready to start two chandeliers for the restaurant Bottega in Yountville and two large fixtures for a client in Nebraska.
LX: Design period you find most engaging:
DH: I am enthralled by the Art Nouveau period. The beauty of the lines inform the movement and flow within my design aesthetic.
LX: Inside tip:
DH: Learn to draw; it saves so much time talking.
LX: I'm reading:
DH:The Ultimate Encyclopedia of Knots and Ropework, by Geoffrey Budworth, and Contemporary Follies, by Keith Moskow and Robert Linn.
LX: Favorite city:
DH: My favorite getaway is a toss-up between New York City and Alaska. Both places are utterly beautiful yet require survival skills.