Lummi artist Dan Friday honors the Coast Salish tradition of woven cedar baskets through a very different medium. He makes them in glass.
He’s studied the designs at the Burke Museum and he also finds a lot of inspiration from his aunt Fran James’ basket patterns, a Lummi master weaver.
“It’s been really great to go look at some of – and to hold – my great-great grandfather’s personal artifacts,” Friday said.
Friday’s great-great grandfather was Xa-Tel-Ek, also known as Frank Hillaire, who established a traveling dance troupe in the 1930s. Friday’s great-grandfather was the famed totem pole carver Joseph Hillaire whose work was commissioned for the 1962 World’s Fair.
Friday incorporates what he’s learned from the past in his artwork today.
“It helps my identity to who I am, how I feel connected to this place. That’s one of the things I do love about exploring these things in glass – I’m creating future artifacts in a lot of ways.”
Although he comes from a long line of artists, Friday never considered an art career for himself when he was younger. He was trained as an auto mechanic.
But Friday knew he had to pursue art when he saw glassblowing for the first time at the Glass Eye Studio when he was 20.
But, Friday’s career hasn’t been easy. In addition to the hard work and dedication that he’s put into his art, he also has overcome a rough childhood and previous drug abuse.
“I was just sort of a wild kid and I was caught up in drugs and alcohol and petty crime,” he said.
Friday’s father died when he was young and his mother raised him and his siblings in Seattle on her own.
Friday got sober years ago and it changed his art.
“About eight years ago you see a marked difference. It’s like all of sudden I start creating my own work,” Friday said.
Now Friday makes a point of volunteering with struggling youth through Teen Feed, an organization that works with homeless youth in the University District, and by teaching glass through Hilltop Artists.
“[You need] other people to believe in you and help you and that comes from being available to help other people too,” he said.
You can see Friday’s work regularly on display at Stonington Gallery in Pioneer Square district. He will have a solo show at the gallery in September 2018.
Correction: An earlier version of this story misidentified Frank Hillaire as a Lummi chief, based on an incorrect usage of the term in non-tribal sources. This has been corrected in this version.