Artisan Manufacturing: Hennepin Made
Location: Minneapolis | Employees: 24 | Specialty: Handblown glass lighting
An artist with a business leader’s sensibility, Jackson Schwartz proves that it’s possible to scale a manufacturing company without sacrificing artistry.
Hennepin Made, the lighting company Schwartz co-founded in 2011, embraces the imprecise nature of handcrafted products, while practicing “a certain amount of restraint and consistency.” Today, the company’s blown- and cast-glass lighting is sold by Room & Board and in partnership with interior designers and architects all over the world.
At Hennepin Made’s Minneapolis manufacturing center, artists work side by side with engineers to continue evolving both design and process. Currently, teams of three work on each piece, producing between 35 and 50 products per day. In addition to blowing the glass, they grind and polish it and work with metal and wood to complete each piece in-house. Chip-on-board LED technology—an advanced mounting process—gives Hennepin Made control and consistency in its designs. And Schwartz says the company is innovating with mechanical fastenings to hold glass shades on fixtures in a way that is both efficient and refined.
The company’s clientele loves sophisticated design and is “into design, art, and architecture that resonates with our brand experience,” says Schwartz. Deep appreciation for the craft is something Schwartz strives for in all aspects of his work. “Business needs to be a vehicle to build meaning and needs to be a vehicle for me to build community. I am interested in place-based entrepreneurship, and what I care about is how we establish our organization. The meaning is around having a set of values around quality, craftsmanship, and treating our people really well.”
For Hennepin Made, that “place” is the Root District, an industrial area just west of downtown Minneapolis best known for the Minneapolis Farmers Market. Schwartz has been working to evolve the area’s claim to fame since 2016 when he moved the company to a 30,000-square-foot building dubbed the Glass House. There, manufacturing happens alongside a a café, event space, and lighting showroom.
The building has on-site solar power to help offset about half of its energy use, and Hennepin Made expects to earn a zero waste certification within the next two years. “I would like to build a model that shows what can be possible,” says Schwartz, who hopes to light the way, both literally and figuratively, for other businesses to think sustainably. It’s possible, he says, to do just that while “building amazing, beautiful products that will last a lifetime.”