Behind the Design {Peter Zelle}

Meet Peter Zelle!

He is an amazing local glass artist with a very cool basement studio in NE Minneapolis.

He started his life as an artist actually creating pottery in high school. Then went to high school at St. Paul Academy and studied drawings with hazel Belvo & ceramics with Bob Jewett.  After those amazing experiences he moved onto Rhode Island School of Design, where as he describes it, he fell into glass. Following school at RISD he apprenticed for Howard Ben Tre´.

He describes his apprenticeship as graduate school for his degree in fine arts. He work long and hard during the 2-1/2 years he worked in Howard’s studio and learned a lot about glass, inspiration and the business of art. After this wonderful experience he moved back home to St. Paul and set-up shop where he blew colorful water glasses and wine glasses and sold them wholesale which allowed him to work freely on his sculptures and any commissions that came along.

During our conversations we talked a lot about life as a working artist and that it really is more about the lifestyle that the amount of money you make. Living and working as an artist is really about having amazing freedom as well as discipline to work and understand how to make a living at it and knowing when to ask for help.

Curious about collaborations,I asked if there was anyone in particular he would like to collaborate with, his answer:Andrew Goldsworthy. I love finding new people and artists to love from others!

His advice for young artist starting out? Be open minded and do something that people can afford. Starting out simply like this will lead to bigger commissions and more work over time as he has found out. Collaborations and individual projects just come one after another over time, you just never know where you will be getting your next commission.

THE DESIGN: He starts out with an idea and then begins working with the material and together they come up with the finished product. He wants his pieces to be thoughtful yet accessible to the general public.

A whole series of his houses as shown below.


House Series

The basic design idea started with the boxes or boundaries that people put around themselves and from that came these beautiful pieces.



Peter is currently working with Craig David a muralist & painter on a sculpture that will be residing on Raspberry Island in St. Paul, Minnesota just below the Wabasha bridge and will be installed sometime in the fall.

***Check back later for a post about the unveiling***

The sculpture will be a 14′ tall granite fountain and Peter is casting the glass that the water will stream down. Below you can see his preliminary samples… so cool! He is pulling rods of glass out and then casting those into the large water fall piece…

Glass rods to be cast into the flowing sculpture

the pictures just don’t do this justice

Sample to test color & texture

Current projects you can find in Peter’s studio:

A line of glass tiles he is creating for a high end tile group. Very cool, very dimensional, and very colorful.

I have so many ideas of how I could use these tiles. Especially in some of my past high end casino projects. Don’t you just hate when you find something fabulous a year or two after project has been completed!? I’ll keep you posted as to when and where these will be available as I know you are itching to specify them on your next project.

Glass Wall Tiles

He is also working a on a couple of bathroom counter tops for local Interior Designer, Michelle Drenckhahn of Spacial Adaptation. He is working on creating the molds at the moment when that is done he can cast the glass and viola an amazing vanity piece.

Check out the glass samples that have been specified.

Um… how fabulous is that redish, orange one! I can’t wait to see the finished product.

Working on the mold for the counters.

The samples for each counter.

The biggest project he has taken on to date is this fabulous new kiln.  Check this bad boy out.

I can just image the amazing and not to mention, huge castings he will be able to create with this kiln. He is hoping to be done sometime this fall after things slow down a little in the studio. What you see here is the bed of the kiln that can move on the runners you see on the floor. The heating element comes down via a pulley systems at each of the corners. Genius. I am anxious to see the first piece as it comes out of the kiln.

Amazing new kiln

Side view of the new kiln & smaller kilns in the background

Peter will be showing this fall in North Oaks on November 19th & 20th. That particular show is benefiting Children’s Hospital. Join him for a great cause!  Peter is a truly wonderful guy.

I look forward to following up with him in the years to come… and I can’t wait for my next house as I have so many ideas of things I want him to design and create!

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