Arden Creations: Functional art for real life

Studio Location

My studio is located in Arden Hearth at 202 N. 15th Street, Richmond, Indiana. Map and directions

Early influences

Dan Sims was born in Sitka, Alaska, and lived there until he was 3. Sitka is located in the lush temperate rainforest of the southeastern panhandle. Sitka’s far northern location is counteracted by the warm Japanese ocean current, just as England’s climate is made moderate by the Gulf Stream. Sitka is a small town on a large island, and had only 7 miles of road at that time. Consequently, residents are in intimate contact with the natural world. This probably contributed to his development of interests in plants and nature. He moved with his family to Indiana when he was 3 and grew up in the Richmond area. He graduated from Earlham college and went on to earn Masters and PhD degrees in Botany at the University of California, Davis. Since then he has worked as a post-doctoral research associate in diverse areas of the country (Pullman, WA; Durham, NC; Atlanta, GA; Reno, NV; Los Angeles, CA; Muncie, IN; and Bloomington, IN).

Artistic development

Although Dan Sims does not have graduate education in Art, he took art classes throughout high school and college. Throughout his career doing botanical research, he also pursued interests in art and developed his own style in media that fit his artistic inclinations. Early interests in pattern and design lead to work in stained glass, as well as marquetry. In these media, the artist must work with the preexisting patterns and colors of the materials (stained glass sheets or wood veneers). It also requires the artist to simplify the subject of their work into a pattern of pieces that can be cut out of the glass or veneer.

Artistic philosophy

Science and art, although employing very different techniques, spring from similar motivations to understand and express the truths of the world around and within us. In his scientific work, Dan Sims develops numerical models that capture the relationships between plants and their environment. In his artistic work, he creates physical models in wood and glass that endeavor to capture the spirit of the natural world. His objective is not so much to bend the material to his own will, but rather to become intimate with the material so that he can bring out its natural beauty. Stained glass and wood veneer bring their own beauty and patterns that can inspire the creation of a work of art. Dan is fascinated by creative analogies in art, seeing the flow in a solid piece of wood or the way stained glass leading can be used to depict tree trunks or veins in a leaf. Giving up our preconceived images of the world and being open to reality is the essence and challenge of art, as well as science, relationships, and so much of life.

Increased focus on art

Since full time research work did not leave sufficient time for development of his artistic pursuits beyond the hobby level, Dan Sims decided in 2003 to move back to Richmond, IN from southern California. Part of the motivation for this move was to care for aging parents, but he also realized that he could live much more cheaply here, and that that would allow him to reduce his research work and devote more time to art. Since then his parents have passed away, but he has remained here working on his art. He has been able to produce a much larger body of work and to begin focusing on the marketing of his work, including development of this website. He has also been recently accepted as a member of Indiana Artisan, a state funded program promoting artisan food and art producers in Indiana.

Current location

Dan Sims and his wife Jan purchased a beautifully restored Victorian home in an historic district of Richmond in 2007. His stained glass studio is located in the basement and many of his artworks are displayed throughout the home. The house (named “Arden Hearth”) is open to the public during various events that he and his wife hold there. Arden Hearth is also available as an event space for use by other groups. Dan and Jan’s vision is to develop the house into a place that fosters community and explores connections between the arts and spirituality.

Indiana stained glass history

Dan Sims work is based in a long tradition of stained glass artisanship. The basic techniques of copper foil construction were developed in the 19th century by John La Farge and Louis Comfort Tiffany. His work builds on these methods and attempts to further extend them. His work also flows from the long tradition of opalescent glass manufacture in Kokomo, IN. After natural gas was discovered there in 1886, Charles Edward Henry opened a factory for the manufacture of opalescent stained glass sheets. At the time, there were only 3 other such manufacturers in the US and the Kokomo plant was the only one west of the Appalachians. Thus they manufactured much of the glass used in Tiffany and other stained glass windows in Indiana as well as across the country. The company, now called Kokomo Opalescent Glass (KOG), remains in operation today as the oldest opalescent glass manufacturer in the US and is the only one to continue to use the same traditional techniques that they did in the 19th century. Although Dan makes use of glass from several manufacturers as needed to find the right colors for a particular piece, a large portion comes from KOG.

Other interests

In addition to art and science, Dan Sims is an avid gardener. He is developing Victorian style flower gardens around Arden Hearth. Dan and Jan also own two other properties in Richmond where they rent out the houses and use the yards for fruit and vegetable gardens. He has planted a large selection of heirloom apple varieties as well as pear, peach and cherry trees. Other fruits include currants, gooseberries, raspberries, and “wild” strawberries. This past summer they started selling fruits and vegetables at the local farmers market. They are also involved with local foods organizations and regularly attend a monthly 100 mile radius food potluck in Richmond. He also enjoys cooking of all sorts. He does a lot of canning and preserving of foods that they grow and makes most of what they eat from scratch. Over the past year he has particularly enjoyed learning how to make artisan bread.

Exhibition history

2009 Work for sale at “Mrs. Vincent Pater, Distinctive Gifts” in Centerville, IN

2008 Group show “Sentience” with the Whitewater Valley Artists at the IU East Gallery in Richmond, IN

2007-2008 Member of “Art IN Hand” gallery in Zionsville, IN

2006 Group show with Whitewater Valley Artists at the IU East Gallery in Richmond, IN