'Spawning Salmon (detail),' by Preston Singletary, 2013

Graceful Glass Sculptures by Preston Singletary [10 Pictures]

Dominique Godreche

Tlingit artist Preston Singletary first started blowing glass at 19 years old, working at Seattle's Glass Eye Studio, and later studied at the Pilchuck Glass School. There he learned from American glass artist Dante Marioni and Lino Tagliapietra, a world-famous Venetian glass-blower from the Italian island of Murano, the Mecca of glass art. Singletary's artworks are exhibited at the British Museum in London, the Museum of Fine Arts  of Boston, the Seattle Art Museum, and the Heard Museum in Phoenix, and he is represented by the Blue Rain Gallery
 (Santa Fe), the Spirit Wrestler Gallery (Vancouver), and the Traver Gallery (Seattle).

Under the Still Water, 2013

Your work is a harmonious mix of traditional patterns and highly sophisticated modern designs -- what is you creative process?

I studied the Tlingit mythology and symbolism with Elders, adapting the culture to the glass, incorporating Tlingit designs in which symbolic emblems represent specific families. I come from a family of eagle and raven, wolf and bear. In the old days, you would not marry in your own group -- that is how they kept the bloodline. I did not go to school, so -- looking at primitivism, and modern art, admiring Picasso, Henry Moore, Jackson Pollock -- I made decorative art, transitioning it to Native designs, adapting bowls, sculptures. Understanding the balance and proportions, I have the freedom to create new designs and shapes.

House Beneath the Water, 2013

Is glass-blowing a common art form among Native Americans ?

No. I am the only Tlingit glass-blower today, and an ambassador among Natives for glass blowing. I teach, and collaborate with other Native artists, Hawaiians, Maori -- It is great to learn how contemporary Natives interpret their traditional cultures in their work.

When Bears Could Talk, 2013

So how do you see the evolution of glass-blowing among Native artists?

The glass is a transformational medium, changing liquid into solid. As it changes throughout the day, with the light casting shadows, it becomes a kinetic representation, bringing a different kind of attention, and another dimension to indigenous art. The shaping of the glass creates a distinctive, modern signature. We, as Natives, should evolve towards using  new materials.  Personally, I do have a sense of purpose, representing my culture with the glass.

Spawning Salmon, 2013

For more information about the artist, and to see more examples of his work, visit PrestonSingletary.com.

Thunderbird and Killer Whale, 2013

The Storyteller, 2013

Into the Woods, 2013

Lightning Snakes, 2013 (Collaboration with Joe David)

Chasing Eagles, 2013

Richness of Imagination, 2013

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Sue Hall's picture
Sue Hall
Submitted by Sue Hall on
We have been so lucky to have some of his work displayed at my workplace - Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. It's so beautiful and inspirational. I love having these traditional images present in a place that focuses on scientific discovery.

Phyllis Bala's picture
Phyllis Bala
Submitted by Phyllis Bala on
Oh, how I would enjoy seeing his art in person. The two that touched my heart the most are Lightning Snakes and Chasing Eagles. I feel the living spirits of each, dancing with distinct characteristics of fire, air, earth and water. They are of my dreams, powerful gatekeepers and ancestors holding templates of creation. Mahalo.

Aurora 's picture
Submitted by Aurora on
Your work is so crisp and meaningful , I really enjoyed the carving and the colours. I wish you great success .

Lee Lakeman's picture
Lee Lakeman
Submitted by Lee Lakeman on
Breathtakingly beautiful, wonderful development of the existing forms and symbols, wonderful in the true sense of the word, luminous as only glass can be very exciting work