A totem is an animal, plant, or natural object serving among certain tribal or traditional people as the sigil of a tribe. A totem pole is a structure carved and sculpted to tell a story or mark a historical event using those representations. It is the representation or affiliation of the totems which particular groups of Native peoples use to trace their heritage & beliefs. Today, glassblower Daniel Joseph Friday introduces ancient totems brought to life through glass. “Native cultures have always carved totems in wood, which have deteriorated and decomposed over time” he says. “However, casting totems in glass is similar to stone, though it is fragile. It is also durable and can withstand time.”
Daniel Joseph Friday is a Native of the Lummi Nation from the Washington state Puget Sound region. Friday has spent the past few decades dedicating his time to the study and manifestation of cultural and ideological aspects of totems. Friday creates his representation of totems through his work with blown glass. Totems are often not religious objects; however, they communicate and commemorate aspects of the spirit. Friday explains, “My work is a contemporary representation of my culture, as well as a totem. My grandfather was a totem carver and my grandmother a basket maker. I learned how to work with my hands from an early age.”
Using his hands, Friday produces stunning original pieces that masterfully combine color and form. Friday’s vibrant collection includes, owls, totems, ravens, bears, and baskets. Each piece constructed by Friday creates a glowing silhouette, hollow and distinct. Color is a central element of his work. Friday explains, “Through the use of colors I can make each piece my own and exercise my freedoms.” The thinness of each layer of color creates a glowing effect, catching the light and magnifying each individual color. The co-mingling colors found within the glass totems are indigenous to the sculptures very purpose and creation.
There is an art to shaping a mass of molten glass and Friday has mastered that art. During the long glass blowing process, Friday explains, “the glass begins to take on a life of its own.” His totems begin to tell a story, commemorating his history and culture. Native American tradition has survived through Friday’s need to create. His love for his culture, as well as his family ensures many generations will be able to appreciate his totems. “I want my art to represent things that are special to me.” Friday continues, “I create them knowing that they will become a future artifact.”