This weekend I had a chance to visit Tacoma and Seattle to meet with some artists and gallery owners who helped create the modern American glass movement. The Pacific Northwest has become the American capital of glassblown Art and is home to world renound glass blowing artists such as James Mongrain, Lino Tagliapietra, Dale Chihuly.
Photo of Dante Marioni in his studio curtosey of the art allegiance of contemporary glass
I had a chance to meet and see the studio of Dante Marioni, who is one of the most respected living glass artists in the PNW. His work is influenced by Greek and Roman anaphoric vases and includes creative patterns and shapes made out of glass. His work is also brightly colored and whimsical in a remarkably oranate way. He kept four motorcycles in his studio surrounded by blown glass vases. Dante is a true artist and it was inspirational to hear about his own career and passion.
I saw Preston Singletarys show “Premenitions of Water” at the Traver Gallery which consisted of blown, casted, and sculpted glass pieces representing the precious relationship humanity has with water. His work is deeply influenced by his Tlingit heritage and the struggle native communities are currently having with protecting their freshwater resources from mining threats. I was most impressed with the casted glass totem poles he created. He used sculpted clay to make a plaster mold which was then sent to a factory in Czechoslovakia to be casted. Since the material used in the casting is a lead crystal mixture the actual pour cannot happen in the US because it is illegal to work with lead.
“Killer Whale Totem” Casted Lead Crystal 36″h x 11″w x 8″d
I spent some time observing the glassblowing proceess in the hot shop at The Musuem of Glass in Tacoma. The teamwork and skill that goes into glassblowing is incredible. It takes perfect choreography and synchronization to carefully mold and shape glass. One artist will constantly spin and shape the piece so it does not sag while other team members blow air, add glass, and help the main artist manage the piece. It is a fast art, the glass can only be molded for about a minute until it cools and needs to be reheated. I was in awe of the work I saw this weekend. The glass medium requires incredible skill and determination for perfection. I hope to get the chance to try it one day. I am considering how I can use the casted glass process within my own foundry work. I will be exploring the possibilities of casted glass a I design the bases for my upcoming projects.
Finally, I had the chance to meet with Dick Weiss, a well know stained glass artist who has an installation in the Seatac airport. Dick graduated top of his class at Yale with a biology degree. Once he graduated he moved to Seattle and began making stained glass and pottery art. I went to his house and studio in Seattle which is one block from the Freemont Troll. We drank apple juice talked about what it means to be an artist. He told me that it’s takes passion and confidence in your work and determination to create. I understand the path of an artist is difficult but it was reassuring to hear through Dick’s perspective what the art world can be. While each artists path is different, I learned a lot from speaking with Dick and I feel more comfortable about my own risks and journey as an artist. His house was decorated completely with work of friends and those he is deeply inspired by. I could tell that his creativity has poured out of him and filled up the space with life. All of Dick’s pieces has little memories, dates, names, and poems written among the drawings. I enjoyed his work because I could see his own personality and thought process reflected in his work.
This trip was made possible by my incredible godmother, Grace Pleasants. She introduced me to some incredible artists and helped me to understand the complexities of the world of glass. I am blessed to have her in my life.