Refract: The Seattle Glass Experience

Refract: The Seattle Glass Experience

Refract: The Seattle Glass Experience

Fall 2021 issue of American Craft magazine
Author Jon Spayde
Person in black tshirt shaping hot glass as part of a demonstration in a workshop with onlookers

Many artists will be offering demonstrations through the upcoming Refract event, like Tlingit artist Raven Skyriver did at the Seattle Glassblowing Studio during its previous iteration. Photo by Megan Swann Photography.

Seattle and its environs are the heartland of art glass in America, and the reason is not far to seek. In 1971, the 30-year-old Dale Chihuly cofounded the Pilchuck School of Glass in the woods north of Seattle. Chihuly became an art star, and Pilchuck grew, too, from a “summer camp” for experimentalists into one of the world’s greatest art glass centers, inviting old-world masters to join the eager Americans and producing scores of artists who established hot shops and galleries and taught others in turn.

This heritage will be on display when the Chihuly Garden and Glass museum joins Visit Seattle, Pilchuck, and a host of galleries and artists to present the third annual Refract: The Seattle Glass Experience. The citywide celebration will offer studio tours, exhibitions, demonstrations, parties—40 events in all.

Refract: The Seattle Glass Experience

Seattle, Washington
October 14–17, 2021

Major events will underscore the confluence of European and local traditions and the teacher-student succession. Lino Tagliapietra, a master of the Murano technique, will visit from Venice, Italy. Dante Marioni, who studied with Tagliapietra at Pilchuck, will show his elegant, colorful work, and Morgan Peterson—who studied with Marioni—will discuss her wry exhibition, Born of Our Culture/American Excess, with its oversize glass pill bottles and credit cards.

three glass vessels with thick amorphous bands of bright opaque colors. the vessels are pear-shaped with flat tops.

Refract includes studio visits with artists such as Melissa Misoda. Her Earthscapes series was created in response to quarantine and inspired by what is often taken for granted, such as mountains, beaches, and flowers. Photo courtesy of Melissa Misoda.

clear glass totem scultpure with representations of a bear mushroom and raven in subtle hues of gray amber teal and red

This Forager Bear Totem is by Dan Friday, a Lummi/Straits Salish artist. Photo by Ian Lewis.

Dan Friday fuses traditions in a different way. The Lummi/Straits Salish artist, who will demonstrate glass sculpting, has worked in Chihuly’s studio for years and studied with Marioni’s father, Paul, an art glass pioneer. He was also mentored by a great friend of Dante, the renowned Tlingit artist Preston Singletary, and by Fran James—often called Aunt Fran—a basketmaker he calls “one of the great culture-bearers of our people.” Friday’s elegant glass baskets pay homage to James, and his art as a whole pays homage to his great-grandfather Kwul-kwul-tw (Joseph Hillaire), a famed totem-pole carver.

“His works, in wood, have nearly all decayed and disappeared, kind of like ice sculpture,” Friday says. “I decided that I wanted to honor him in a medium that is more permanent—even if it’s also fragile.”

Keeping traditions of art and mentorship alive in ever-new forms—that’s the keynote of Seattle’s glass scene, and of this showcase as well.

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