In 2013, Preston Singletary was the first artist to create a glass totem pole that reached an astonishing 7-feet tall and took nearly five years to complete. Glass casting in a scale of that size had never been accomplished before and Singletary has since become an expert in creating large-scale glass art and telling stories through a medium so complex, yet pristine. Today, Preston Singletary presents a traditional glass totem pole that required this rare talent and provides insight into the symbolism of the Tlingit culture with a piece called, “Raven and the Box of Daylight.”
Preston Singletary’s recent work began in Alaska where the story behind “Raven and the Box of Daylight” originated. “You have to understand the cultural style and significance to be able to differentiate one totem pole from another,” Singletary explains. Knowing the meaning behind each figure on the totem pole can allow someone to pinpoint the exact clan that the story was derived from. This particular totem pole tells the tale of how the stars, birds and daylight were trapped in a box until one day, the Raven opens the box and tosses them up into the sky where we can find them today.
This story began to take form when Preston Singletary traveled to the Czech Republic where this work of art eventually came to life. Singletary describes the process as “a collective effort,” as one could only imagine when thinking about moving a piece of this scale, let alone creating it. Traveling over 5,000 miles to the Czech Republic was necessary for the materials, technology and surprisingly, the bead making industry. “They are known for their bead-making culture, especially when it comes to creating unusual colors based on the current fashion.” Inspired by these beautiful hues, Preston Singletary plans to offer this totem pole in a series of colors.
“I’ve spent the past twenty years developing my style and focused, not only on the innovation of the object, but now the scale,” Singletary states when describing the 125-pound totem pole. There is no denying the amount of time, detail and calculation that is essential to creating a piece of this magnitude. But to have the ability to etch an entire narrative into a piece of glass is best described by Singletary himself as, “a natural evolution of indigenous art in a new medium.”