Preston Singletary has Carved His Career to Combine His Heritage with His Artistic Form

July 30, 2019
Note: This year we're featuring a number of artists involved in the 2019 Seattle Art Fair in various ways. Preston Singletary and his studio are part of the 2019 VIP Program.

Staying true to yourself and the artistic style in which you create is central to any artist’s evolution.

Seattle-based glassblower Preston Singletary has always maintained a close relationship with who he is and has seen the form of his art adapt to fit his styles over the years.

Preston Singletary amidst his studio.

“I started blowing glass in 1982 and by 1988, I was trying to figure out how to create something distinctive to me,” said Singletary, a member of the 2019 Seattle Art Fair VIP Program. “That’s when I turned to my cultural background. I didn’t know a lot about it at the time, other than the family connections and some stories recorded by family members.”

Investigating his heritage has opened a multitude of doors for Singletary, both creatively and functionally, with his Alaskan roots acting as a core staple of his amazing creations. Currently adorning such esteemed establishments as The British Museum in London, The Fine Arts Museum in Boston and our own Seattle Art Museum, the works are a reflection of not only Singletary the artist but his forbears as well.

Baskets Singletary and his studio create.

“I have Tlingit ancestry, and my great-grandmother comes from Sitka, Alaska,” noted Singletary of his family background. “She moved down to Seattle in the 1920’s, and from that point forward, the whole family grew up in Seattle.”

While born in California, Singletary was raised in Seattle and considers himself a Seattle native. This led to his decision to permanently set up in the town that helped form recent generations of his family. He has since established a studio in the South Lake Union neighborhood of Seattle.

In a city and region known internationally for its glassblowing prowess, there has been a clear lack of influence from the Native American community with that particular type of art…at least until Singletary began experimenting with the form in the 80s.

One of Singletary's team members carving over his designs.

Now three decades into his craft, Singletary has expanded his purview even further with insight and techniques from different groups that he’s got to know along the way, all while centering himself in his Pacific Northwest lineage.

“There’s not many Native American glassblowers with native ancestry that actually blow glass. There’s other people that work with the material as a designer, and I collaborate with indigenous artists – from Māori, Australian, and Hawaiian. Over the years, I’ve done special shows we’ve built together.”

“I’ve travelled quite a bit, interacting with other indigenous people. We would share our art and our culture, make cultural presentations and interesting connections.”

Singletary has seen the growth of the arts (as well as his own) in the region and even participated in the Seattle Art Fair last year with the Traver Gallery displaying his art. Growing the fair in the years to come is something he’s extremely excited for.

Masks hung on the walls of Singletary's South Lake Union studio.

“Last year, I participated with the Traver Gallery and they showed my work,” said Singletary. “It was really exciting to be a part of [the Seattle Art Fair] because of all the art coming together and all the different galleries from different regions. I’ve participated in a couple of different art fairs in Chicago and Santa Fe, so it’s nice to have one here. I hope it can stay strong and be a thing that continues to grow.”

The Seattle Art Fair will take place August 1-4 at CenturyLink Field Event Center. Tickets are on sale now.