Nao Yamamoto

Meet the New Generation of Glass Artists in Seattle

With open studios, enchanting exhibits, and exclusive collector events, Refract: The Seattle Glass Experience showcases a variety of local artists and explores why the Pacific Northwest is the nation’s glass art center.

By Kristine White


When most people think of glass art in Seattle, they picture Dale Chihuly’s swirling blown-glass sculptures. But Chihuly is only one of 700-plus glass artists that make up Washington’s multifaceted glass art scene. Discover this wealth of Pacific Northwest talent at Refract: The Seattle Glass Experience, which brings glass artists and organizations together in a series of free and ticketed events throughout the Greater Seattle area. Meet three of the talented artists who were featured at the inaugural festival in 2019.

Morgan Peterson

Morgan Peterson

Drawn by the lure of Seattle’s glass art scene, Peterson left her home in Boston after finishing college in 2006 with a one-way ticket to Seattle and only $500 to her name—and she’s never looked back. Today, Peterson is making waves with her glass sculptures, which take inspiration from pop culture and often satirize or comment on current social issues. Her recent Modern Day Fabergé series features portraits of deceased icons like Kurt Cobain and Jimi Hendrix engraved on blown glass eggs. Always on the cutting edge, Peterson is part of a new generation of glass artists who are pushing glass beyond just beautiful, functional objects. She studied under some of the country’s most established glass artists and now she’s using her skills to create dynamic conceptual pieces. Peterson says anything is possible with glass: “If you can imagine it, you can make it.”

Peterson’s Refract recommendation: Start researching artists to see if there’s anyone that piques your interest. Take advantage of open studios, especially ones that are normally not open to the public.

Where to see Peterson’s work: See Morgan’s work at Traver Gallery (110 Union St, #200).

Nao Yamamoto

Nao Yamamoto

After moving from Japan to California to Seattle, Yamamoto fell in love with the natural beauty of the Pacific Northwest. “It’s crazy just the abundance of water, and all the trees look happy and healthy. You feel the power of life,” she says. She strives to blend the simple beauty of glass with the energy of nature in her work. For Yamamoto, molten glass resembles the natural environment, from the flow of water to the blow of the wind. Gravity pulls and shapes the substance like liquid, sometimes out of the artist’s control. Seeing the molten glass glow is Yamamoto’s favorite part of the process. “Not even the finished piece of work can carry that color—it’s only during the glass blowing that I get to see it.”

Yamamoto’s Refract recommendation: Take the time to appreciate the craftmanship and the amount of work that goes into each piece.

Where to see Yamamoto’s work: Find Nao’s work in the gallery at Seattle Glassblowing Studio (*2227 Fifth Ave).

Raven Skyriver

Raven Skyriver

Skyriver’s work evokes his Lopez Island upbringing and Tlingit heritage. “Connecting through the local animals and plants that are here, it’s like harkening back” through the millennia to the time of his ancestors, he says. With his realistic glass sculptures of marine life, Skyriver hopes to highlight “the majesty and the beauty of nature that we hold in our hands” and encourage viewers to appreciate the delicate ecosystems that surround them. While his work may not have overt social overtones, all of the animals he sculpts are at risk because of humans. Skyriver has been glassblowing since high school and enjoys the challenge of using glass to replicate certain colors, surface treatments, and textures, like an otter’s fur. He believes his art is at its best, however, when he executes a simple form cleanly.

Skyriver’s Refract recommendation: Don’t be afraid to take glassblowing classes for yourself. The glass art community is very accepting and inclusive.

Where to see Skyriver’s work: Find Raven’s art at Stonington Gallery (125 S Jackson St).


Note: this feature was originally written for the 2019 Refract Festival and has been updated in 2022.


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