From the sandy beaches of Hawaii to the frigid Wisconsin winters, John Hasseler has crafted specialty jewelry art pieces all over the country.
Hasseler, a Rochester goldsmith and jewelry maker, went to school in Wisconsin and took jobs on the East Coast before coming to Rochester. He briefly moved to Hawaii, where he refined his skills in a studio built on the side of a lava flow. His clientele has included Queen Noor of Jordan and King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz of the United Arab Emirates.
Lasker Jewelers originally drew Hasseler into town, and after moving back from Hawaii, he opened, owned and operated Broadway Gallery and Visual Arts in downtown before its closure in 2014. While at Lasker’s, he designed and crafted a small silver chair decorated with diamonds, pearls, garnets and moonstone for the annual Boys & Girls Club of Rochester Chair Affair charity auction.
He now works as an artist full-time, displaying his work in galleries and taking jobs from local businesses. On the side, he enjoys singing and playing the guitar with two cover bands, one in Minneapolis and one in Rochester.
His art is on display and for sale at the Tres Leches Art Gallery and the Northrup King Building in Minneapolis, as well as the Mantorville Art Guild.
You had quite a few different jobs before settling down in Rochester. Was there any experience you had that stands out as particularly valuable?
When I moved to Georgia, I worked at a shop where everything was done while you wait, and it was just really cheap jewelry. The day after Christmas in 1991, I did more than 100 sizings in one day. That was insane.
When you do that, you really become good at what you do by repetition. On top of that, I was working with cheap stuff, so when I was trying to fix it, it would fall apart, and I’d have to fix it all over again. It was really good learning experience.
So how is being self-employed different?
Well obviously, I don’t get a weekly paycheck. But I do have more freedom. I can do basically what I want to do, and I can be a lot more creative.
What was the experience of opening your own gallery like?
It would be tough to make a living as an artist in Rochester. I had between 30 and 35 artists in gallery, really world-class artists that have worked for places like Disney. It was unbelievable stuff. I think a little bit was that if I would have been a block closer to Mayo that would have helped, but also what I found was that when you’re close to a big city like Minneapolis, people like to go and say, “I got this there.”
People have the income to do it. I don’t know why they don’t. That’s what makes me scratch my head. I can’t figure out why it didn’t work. It’s one of those things that if I knew, I probably would still be open. I’ve always been kind of optimistic about things. I don’t like to dwell on the past about stuff because it doesn’t make sense to. You can just end up wallowing in self-pity, and what good does that do you?
How would you describe your style?
I like to do one-of-a-kind pieces. My least favorite thing to make are earrings because you have to do two of the exact same thing. I try to do wearable jewelry art for people who like to be individuals in a mass-produced world. If you see something in my jewelry that expresses who you are, you’ll see that and you’ll probably buy my work. I have evolved from jewelry store jewelry to more of the bent on art, and something that’s more interesting than just a diamond solitaire ring.
Where do you find inspiration for your art?
That’s funny because having worked with a lot of artists, I know some artists get really deep with what they are doing. The deepest I get is, “Gee, if I do that it might look really cool.” I guess it’s more just the joy of seeing something come together. I’m really lucky because with what I do, and most people can’t say this, I could make somebody’s most prized possession. If I make somebody’s wedding sets, that could be handed down for a lot longer than I’ll be around.
As a matter of fact, that was one of the things that was different about being a gallery artist versus working at Lasker’s. At a gallery your stuff gets sold and you don’t get to meet the people. At Lasker’s, I got to see the look on people’s faces. It’s kind of weird to say that I know I did a good job when I make somebody cry. That’s very cool. When someone loves your work, it can’t get much better than that.