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Biography: Steffen Dam

Steffen Dam
Steffen Dam

Steffen Dam was born in Denmark in 1961.  Dam learned about the natural world from his paternal grandfather, a dedicated reader of natural history, whose library was filled with illustrated volumes on biology, natural sciences, and flora and fauna. 

In 1982, after a four-year apprenticeship in technical engineering, Dam became a qualified toolmaker, and he began working as a toolmaker for a plastic molding company.  Eventually, Dam used this knowledge of mechanical construction, the qualities of different metals, and his early exposure to the natural world, in his art.

Feeling that there was something missing in his life, Dam built a ceramics studio in Århus, Denmark in 1985. The ceramics studio soon turned into a glass studio after Dam was introduced to the work of Finn Lynggaard (1930-2011) through his 1975 book, The Glas-håndbogen.  He then quit his job as a tool and die maker to make glass full time. 

In 1990, Dam opened a studio with the artist Micha Karlslund, called Dam & Karlslund GLAS, also in Århus.   In 2000, they moved their studio to Ebeltoft, Denmark.

During his first ten years working in glass, Dam studied hot- and cold-glass working techniques with the goal of becoming a good glassblower and craftsman, and to establish a studio where he could experiment with the material.  His work involves blowing, casting, fusing, engraving, cutting, drilling, grinding and polishing.

Dam’s sculptures have been compared to the lampworked flowers and sea creatures of Leopold and Rudolf Blaschka, the naturalist drawings of Ernst Haeckel, and even to the specimens collected by Ole Worm, whose 17th-century Wunderkammer is renowned.  However, unlike these well-known figures of science, Dam’s work does not imitate the natural world.  He creates his specimens in his jars and cabinets of curiosity from memory; embracing spontaneity and unexpected results.  As Dam says, “My cylinders contain nothing that exists in the ocean, my specimens are plausible but not from this world, my plants are only to be found in my compost heap, and my flowers are still unnamed.”

Dam’s work is found in public and private collections throughout the world, including the Glasmuseet, Ebeltoft, Denmark; the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe, Hamburg, Germany; Museum of Art and Design, New York, NY; the Palm Springs Art Museum, Palm Springs, CA; Seven Bridges Foundation, Greenwich, CT; The Anneberg Collections, Nykøbing, Denmark; The Danish Arts Foundation, Denmark; The Danish Museum of Decorative Art, Copenhagen, Denmark; and The National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design, Oslo, Norway.

Dam’s awards include The Crafts Prize of 1879 awarded in 1995, The Ole Haslund Art Prize awarded in 1996, and The Hempel Glass Prize awarded in 2002.