How Weaver’s Welcome came to be…
Finding inspiration at the Burke Museum
The Burke Museum holds a very special place for indigenous people in the Northwest. It is a must see for anyone interested in the study of the history of the region. It has long been the home of some of the best minds in Anthropology in the Northwest. The Burke Museum has been home to such noted experts as Bill Holm, Robin Wright and now Katie-Bunn Marcuse. The Museum at the University of Washington has long been recognized as the place to find out about just about anything about this region.
When the University of Washington decided to build a new and updated building for the Burke Museum they wanted to revision the entire museum experience. The project was designed by Olson Kundig Architects. Their work was successful and embodies a new modern version of what a natural history museum could be. It has grown from a repository of the things of the past to one that embraces the continuum of local indigenous cultures and our collective history.
Forming the Team
New works of art were being commissioned for the new Burke Museum. Two of my friends and collaborators Brian Perry and Preston Singletary were invited to apply for a major indigenous art commission for the building. Preston thought that teaming up would be a great approach to a project that needed to exemplify local Salish culture. Brian’s cousin, Anthony Jones Sr., an artist, lawyer, engineer and tribal culture carrier, was also engaged to be a part of the team. His deep knowledge of S’Klallam culture and language, combined with his engineering background, made Anthony an invaluable resource for the project.
The Burke Museum was kind enough to invite us into their collections to find context and inspiration. This can be a bit of an overwhelming experience, but the staff helped point us in the right direction. There were so many beautiful and powerful treasures to see, but a few special ones caught our attention. From this research a number of ideas were tossed around. Eventually a concept inspired by what we saw at the Burke Museum was sketched up.
Brian and Anthony shared memories of their grandmother/great-grandmother Cecilia Jackson who wove and traded her weavings in Seattle long ago. Preston grew up in Seattle, not far from where the Burke Museum is located. Preston is also is also an important part of the local studio glass movement. A movement that is an important part of the modern identity of this region, as a world class center for glass making. We were interviewed, and incredibly our collaboration and concept was selected for the project.
We also met a number of people from the Margaret A. Cargill Philanthropies who were so generous to fund this project. We had a great lunch and toured the Burke as it was being built. They were all very engaged and connected with in the museum and the work going on there. We began to work with Eldon Tam, project manager, on the details of how we would pull this off. We decided on the best location for the piece in the Museum and began to build it.
Beginning with the Basics
First came a basic digital model which was used to make the original parts that would be cast in glass.
The Carving Begins
High density foam was chosen for is stability in making the parts that would be made into glass. Together we went to work on carving the details.
Creating the Glass Castings
Soon, the foam was ready to send for molding and casting by Ray Ahlgren at Fire Arts Glass Studio in Portland Oregon. Ray is a true master of his craft. His depth of knowledge paired with his meticulous workmanship are unsurpassed. Having him on the team was a huge asset to the project. His workmanship shows in the finished product.
Assembling the Structure at Classic Foundry
Classic Foundry did all the metalwork and installation for Weaver’s Welcome. Ion Onutan did an amazing job in an extreme time crunch. Their craftsmanship captured some of the carved details. They executed the beaded chest that would be the base of the sculpture to perfection.
The Classic Foundry team installed the project. They also saved me from getting my car towed that morning. It was incredible to watch the product of our collaboration come to life.
Celebrating the artwork on Indigenous People’s Day
We were honored to have the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe Canoe Family dedicate and honor the project. The singing of Joe Price and the Canoe Family was a powerful way to present the sculpture to the public. Preston’s ideas, and the skills and stories brought by Brian and Anthony combined into a beautiful collaboration. The celebration day was shared with Jeffrey Veregge (Port Gamble S’Klallm Tribe) who’s wonderful project “Forces of Nature” was also dedicated that day. It was a day that seemed to bring a lot of threads together, fulfilling a lot of old connections and making new ones. The Jones and Jackson families were there in full force as well as so many others. It was really wonderful to see Preston embraced by his new friends and family. It was a great day and a privilege to be a small part of it.
The Stranger did a great article breaking down the symbolism of the piece which can be read here.
The Burke Museum
The Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe
Margaret A. Cargill Philanthropies
Joe Price and the
The S’Klallam Canoe Family
Ray Ahlgren Firearts Glass Studio
Ion Ountan and Classic Foundry
Eldon Tam Gina Steiner
Kara Horton Donna Jones
Warren King George
“Bud” and Clara Jones
Earl and Nancy Hooper
Rachel and Josh Kopel
Dedicated to Cecelia Jackson
and in memory of Jake, Mike and Oliver Jones.
A special thanks to my amazing wife Joanne and my kids.
The team would also like to thank Gina Steiner who did a great job as spokesperson for the dedication and helped put it together.