Category: New Work


The totem has been successfully cast in glass! Check out photos from the workshop in Prague that pulled off this incredible feat!

In Spring 2012, after several months of attempting to cast the totem in glass, FireArt Glass in Portland was unable to create a successful version.  The sheer volume of glass required to cast a totem of this size makes it not only difficult to manouver, but extremely volatile to cool evenly.  The type of glass used at FireArt may also have been a factor in the instability of the totem.


In the summer, Preston then contacted Charles Parriott, a longtime friend and colleague with professional ties to the glass community in the Czech Republic, to take over as project manager.  Almost immediately, we shipped the original wooden totem to the Czech Republic, where Art Fabrication Services EU set to work taking yet another mold from the totem.  


They used a tested and approved method of casting monumental glass that was pioneered for massive pieces by Jaroslava Brychtová and Stanislav Libenský in the 1950s.  They used a special kind of lead crystal to cast the totem, in a vivid light amber color, which would allow for the best light transmission and internal refraction.  It would also be much less likely to form bubbles during cooling in the annealer, but this feature came at a cost: the totem sections would have to cool in the annealer for three months.  During that time, the technicians would not be able to check on the sections to see if they had cooled correctly or exploded due to instability.


At the beginning of January 2013, Preston and Charlie traveled to Prague to see what those three anxious months of annealing would produce.  What came out was better than they had imagined.  The totem glows as if from within when lit, though it is solid and nearly 2 feet deep.  The final size is over seven feet tall and it weighs 2,000 pounds!


The photos above show the Czech technicians cleaning up the surface of the totem, to allow the original carving marks to be more prominent.  They have spent the last 6 weeks completing the surface preparation and testing the glass for stress and structural integrity. The photo of the two top sections (the bear on the hat) show the variation in color that happens when the back of the totem section is hollowed out, as in a traditional carved totem.  Preston has decided the richness of the color of the solid version is preferrable.



Yesterday, Preston and Charlie, along with Dante Marioni and our photographer Russell Johnson, flew back to the Czech Republic to give final approval for the totem and to visit other glass studios and schools.  Preston will be speaking tomorrow at the Ajeto Art Glass Museum in Nový Bor.

When they return, we will have some wonderful photos by Russell Johnson to share with you!

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The Family Story Totem was also cast in bronze for a limited edition series offered by Blue Rain Gallery.

After the pole was done with its first casting in California, it was shipped down to Prescott Valley, Arizona, for another casting by the Bronzesmith Foundry. 

Their casting and first bronze version was completed in time for the SWAIA Indian Market last week, where the bronze was debuted at Blue Rain Gallery of Santa Fe.

A limited run of full-scale monumental bronzes are available for sale exclusively through Blue Rain Gallery and Stonington Gallery.

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Photos of the investment casting process.

Here are some photos of the investment casting process, performed this spring by carver David Svenson and his colleague, Rhys Williams.



A positive plaster version of the pole was made so that our friends at FireArt Glass in Portland could take molds from its three parts.  They are working on making the molds and experimenting with the kiln-casting process.

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Carving the Family Story Totem.

Master carver David Svenson began work on the wood totem in early Spring, 2009.  Here are some images of his process and the magnificent finished piece. 

The log arriving at David's studio.

First sketch on the pole based on Preston's tiny drawing.

A power bird spirit approving the design.


In May 2010, the pole was finished….Preston went to California to visit and get started on the casting process, to be discussed in a future post.


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It is our pleasure to present a monumental project, nearly 3 years in the making to date: a 7 foot tall 3-dimensional totem.

It is our pleasure to present a monumental project, nearly 3 years in the making to date: a 7 foot tall 3-dimensional totem.

The project began in early 2009 when Preston and his longtime friend and collaborator, woodcarver David Svenson, co-designed a full-scale totem depicting a beloved family story about Preston’s great-grandmother as a child.

Preston's Great-Grandparents, Susie and Dionesio Gubatayao

They went out into the woods those uncles.  They were out gathering food.  That’s when they came across a bear out there in the woods.  They shot that bear, but what they didn’t know was that it was a mother bear that came in between the uncles and the cubs.  That is what happened.

They shot that bear and then they saw the cubs.  They took those cubs back to the village Douglas.  That is what they called it at that time.  That is where my great grandmother lived.  She was called Susie Johnson.  She lived there at that time.  She was a young girl then.  She was young.

She liked that bear cub that they uncles brought there.  She wanted that bear cub as her pet.  Her parents wanted her to be happy so they let her keep that bear cub at home.  She kept it at home and raised it like one might have a dog.  My great grandmother, Susie, loved that bear!  What a thing to have a grizzly bear for a pet!  She would get food for that hear and feed it, and take care of it.  She made a bed for that bear and it lived there with the family.

There was a woman who was Russian.  There were a lot of Russians there.  She made taffy and would sell it in the streets.  When she sold it in the streets, the bear would smell the taffy.  That bear loved the taffy that it would get from my great grandmother.

Every time that Russian woman would go through the street with that taffy, the bear would smell it.  After a while she wanted to get that bear some more taffy, so she went to get some berries from the fields at the base of the mountains.  She took those berries back to the village.  She had those berries that she sold for money to buy taffy.  That’s how she got taffy for that bear.

After a while that bear got big.  Too big to keep around the house.  The bear was getting too dangerous and big to keep.  So her uncles took it back to the woods.  They left that bear in the woods so it wouldn’t hurt anyone in the village.  She cried when they took that bear away.  She cried, but after a while she knew why the uncles took that bear away.  Because it was getting too big.  Even after it was gone, she cried sometimes.  My great grandmother loved that bear.  – Preston Singletary, 2001

Family Story Totem, 2004


Preston found inspiration from this story and produced a small table-top scale glass totem depicting it in 1998. He has revisited the form several times over the years, but this project will be the definitive physical embodiment of the tale. 

From early 2009 to earlier this year, Svenson carved the design into a large log of red cedar.  Molds were then taken of the carving to produce a plaster version for further casting.  The totem exists now in its original wooden form, here in the Seattle studio, and as a monumental bronze – just produced by Bronzesmith Fine Art Foundry for the outdoor sculpture market, available through Blue Rain Gallery.

Over the coming weeks, we’ll unveil photos of the carving and casting processes, as well as images of the finished wood and bronze totems.  This will all lead up to the goal of the project: a full-scale solid cast glass version, the prototype of which is currently being tested by master caster Ray Ahlgren at Fireart Glass in Portland, Oregon.

Stay tuned for more!

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