The Artists Defining Glass Now

Chihuly put Seattle on the map, but a new batch of Northwest glass artists are redefining the medium

By Marianne Hale April 10, 2012


This article originally appeared in the May 2012 issue of Seattle magazine.

^ “Glass is one of those materials that have been incorporated into so many of the banal parts of our landscape; commercially, domestically and technologically we use it and are surrounded by it. We throw it away, crush it, melt it, refill it, break it, clean it and re use it.” >>> Seattle artist Rebecca Chernow critiques mass consumption and materialism through her colorful creations (think overflowing ash trays, rotten banana peels, surprising glass versions of plastic bottles), some of which will be on display this August at the Pratt Gallery in the Tashiro Kaplan Studios.

“This Land Is…” (blown glass, steel)

“Glass is my ‘cave painting,’ my way to create future artifacts that will be around long after I’m gone.” >>> Fremont-based Daniel Joseph Friday, who has sculpted glass at the Tacoma Museum of Glass, Pilchuck and Chihuly’s Boathouse hot shop, credits his Pacific Northwest homeland and Lummi heritage as strong artistic influences. Friday’s work includes the series “Trail of Tears,” which features American flags adorning a crying eye, an axe and a musket.

“Collective Rise 2” (blown, acid-etched glass)
“We try to tell the story of the cycles and seasons that inform our daily lives.” >> Husband-and-wife duo Jeremy Newman and Allison Ciancibelli find inspiration in the environment surrounding their barn turned studio in Twisp, WA. Earthy glass vessels and sculptural forms reveal abtracted imagery—blackbirds on a wire, bear scratches on a tree and pastoral winter scenes (on display at the Waterworks Gallery in Friday Harbor through May 12).


“My work is inspired by my interest in scientific and personal exploration.” >> Rik Allen’s glass-meets-metal sculptures embody both nostalgia and a dream of the future. Having worked with William Morris Glass and at Pilchuck, Allen shares a studio in Sedro-Woolley with his wife, Shelley Muzylowski Allen (see her work below). His silvery spaceships and delicately detailed rockets are sci-fi fantasies come to life. 

Shown right: “Ocularious Otonaut” (blown glass, silver, mixed metals) 









“The mark left by each pass of the cutting wheel is a fingerprint carrying information.” >>> Originally a ceramist from upstate New York, Ethan Stern switched coasts and crafts. His blown and engraved glass sculptures, completed in his SoDo studio, are often inspired by geography, topography and cityscapes. His abstract pieces will be on display in a solo exhibition at Traver Gallery in August.
Shown above: “Cumin Coastline” (blown and carved glass)

“Lumen” (blown, sculpted, and engraved glass with horsehair, leather, concrete and steel)

“The quality that first attracted me was the sensuality of the medium. It’s warm in color and temperature, and moves like liquid honey.” >>> Working from her studio in Sedro-Woolley, which she shares with husband Rik Allen (see his work above), Shelley Muzylowski Allen creates a mystical menagerie of hand-sculpted and engraved glass animals. Her “avatars” (rabbits, elephants and horses made with actual horse hair) can be seen at Traver Gallery.


“I started blowing glass at the age of 14 and fell in love with it.” >>> Benjamin Cobb uses biology and botany as inspiration for his smooth, cellular, shapely pieces. Lead gaffer at the Museum of Glass (MOG) hot shop, Cobb will show his lustrous, abstracted internal organs and muscular structures at Traver Gallery this summer (7/28–9/9). You can also see him in action at the MOG hot shop.

Shown left: “Sutured Stomach” (blown glass)








“As I continue to learn the rules, I’m simultaneously learning how to break them. There are so many untapped possibilities in this medium.” >>> Rachel Rader considers her whimsical, sea-inspired work the manifestation of her childhood fantasies. The Seattle-based artist’s nautical delights include starfish-adorned layer cakes, a coral-encrusted crown and a pearly scepter, all inspired by Queen Scarlatine, a mythical sea monarch. Her work is featured in the newly released book Humor in Craft.
Shown right: “Five Layer Starfish Creme Surprise Cake” (blown, sculpted and sand-cast glass, and Austrian Crystals)






“When I have an idea and the process begins, I completely lose myself.” >>> All of J.P. Canlis’ work is rooted in Mother Nature, whether it be curvy oceanic forms, sturdy bamboo reeds, rain drops or delicate wheat installations, the last of which are made by hand-pulling hundreds of feet of glass. Canlis shows some of these large-scale, nature-inspired installations at Canlis Glass Studio in Belltown.

Shown left: Detail from “wheat installation” (hand-pulled, lampworked glass)


“In a time when we are losing culture and tradition to mass production and homogeny, I feel it especially important to help keep alive a dying form of expression and human ingenuity.” >>> Blending an “endangered,” traditional craft (glass carving) with scenes from modern life (a day at the market, a street performer on a busy sidewalk), April Surgent’s work appears both familiar and entirely new. Working from her own photographs, the SoDo-based glass carver translates everyday scenes from urban landscapes into permanent, out-of-focus works of art hued in grays and blues.


“I found a source of strength and power that brought me back to my family, society, and cultural roots.” >>> Celebrated Seattle glass artist Preston Singletary has worked with extensively with local glass gurus Benjamin Moore and Dante Marioni, but perhaps his biggest influence comes from the designs of his Northwest Native Tlingit heritage. Singletary has translated traditional patterns to glass masks, shrines, baskets and other Tlingit-inspired artifacts, including the 7-foot glass totem pole he’s currently creating. See his work at the Traver Gallery through May 13.

Shown right: “Spirit of a Goose”


“Part of the appeal of it is that I like being able to create this sort of mathematical precision from this tank full of molten goo.”
World-renowned glass crafter Dante Marioni (son of glass artist and frequent Pilchuck instructor Paul Marioni) is known for his tall, slender, brightly colored vessels, which reflect both his classical Venetian glass training, as well as his contemporary twist. Find his work at the Traver Gallery.


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