Written by Brittany Miller
Glass artist Preston Singletary had pieces in two exhibitions at KMAC Museum in 2000: “Millenium Glass” and “Head, Heart, and Hands”. After one of his glassblowing demonstrations, Singletary gifted Navaho Glass Bowl to KMAC. The bowl is handblown glass but is similar to traditional Navajo pottery. Navajo pottery began with functional uses and later turned into ceremonial pieces, often with little or no design. You would find random black markings from the piece coming in direct contact with the burning fuel while firing. The black accents and designs on this piece are reminiscent of the traditional Navajo bowls.
Preston Singletary started working with glass in 1982. He draws inspiration from his Tlingit heritage and often features transformation, animals, and shamanism in his works. Singletary learned the art of glassblowing in Seattle. He focused his techniques on the European tradition, studying with Scandanavian and Italian glassblowers. Singletary states, “It was only when I began to experiment with using designs from my Tlingit cultural heritage that my work began to take on a new purpose and direction.” For Singletary, his use of glass, which is not a traditional Native material, transforms the notion of what makes a Native artist.
Glassblowing is the sweltering art of gathering and shaping molten glass into the artist’s desired design. During the entire process, the glass has to be kept above 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit. Molten glass is gathered on the end of a blowpipe and has to be kept in constant rotation to keep its shape. The artist can add color by rolling the heated glass over color pieces. The glass then gets reheated to melt the color into the clear. Once the piece is shaped to the artist’s content, the piece needs to be cooled over 14 hours in an annealing oven. If the piece cools too quickly, it can crack or break.
Glassblowing Fun Fact: Venetian glassblowing originated on the island of Murano, Italy. There is a myth stating that if a master glassblower ever left the island and shared the secrets of the art, an assassin would be sent to stab the traitor with a glass dagger. They would then break off the handle and leave the blade in the victim to die a slow and painful death.
Navaho Glass Bowl
Donated to KMAC by the artist
Artist Statement. prestonsingletary.com. Retrieved August 21, 2019.
Biography. prestonsingletary.com. Retrieved August 21, 2019.
Navajo Arts. Navajo Tourism Department. Retrieved August 21, 2019.
The Process of Glass Blowing. Sacramento Art Glass. Retrieved August 21, 2019.