Preston Singletary learned the art of glass blowing at a young age and through practical experience, first working as a night watchman at what was then the Glass Eye, a Seattle glass-blowing studio run by his high-school friend Dante Marioni’s father. He quickly moved to the day shift and eventually joined a production team. He learned hands-on at workshops at Pilchuck Glass School, was an assistant for local artists such as Benjamin Moore, worked the hotshops of Venetian glass legends such as Lino Tagliapietra, and studied Swedish design at Kosta Boda.
In the early 1990s, Preston Singletary’s artistic style turned from mastering European decorative forms to connecting with his Native American roots (both his great-grandparents were full-blooded Tlingit). His interest in the Modern Art Movement introduced him to the notion of “primitivism”—how modern artists tried to embody the connection that “primitive” artists had to nature. This was a turning point for the artist, who had grown up feeling disconnected to his Tlingit roots in Southeast Alaska. He saw glass as an artistic medium through which he could re-connect with his family, society, and cultural roots and visually express the stories he had grown up hearing. He has said that “native cultures are always moving forward and adapting to new materials… Representing Tlingit designs in glass felt like a logical next step to me.”
For his recent exhibition at the Museum of Glass in Tacoma, WA, the museum wrote that Singletary’s “unique interpretations of Tlingit myths and legends are visible in a plethora of stunningly beautiful objects and figurative sculptures, manifested through a complex combination of techniques, including glassblowing, sandcarving, and inlaying. The synthesis Singletary creates through his work melds three worlds—modern art, glass, and Tlingit tradition—into a unique whole.”
Preston Singletary is the recipient of numerous awards and distinctions, including the Rakow Commission from the Corning Museum of Glass (NY), the Mayor’s Award for Diversified Arts in Indian Art NW (Portland, OR) and an honorary Doctor of Arts from the University of Puget Sound (Tacoma, WA). He is also represented in major museum collections such as: the Museum of Fine Arts (Boston, MA), the Seattle Art Museum (WA), the Mint Museum of Art and Design (Charlotte, NC) and the Handelsbanken (Stockholm, Sweden). He lives and works in Seattle and can be found teaching at Pilchuck, among other institutions, and lecturing on glass around the world.