Tony Jojola is an artist who works with glass.

For almost 20 years, his glass bears have been presented to honorees of the Taos News annual Tradiciones series. Jojola was born at Isleta Pueblo, and began working as a potter at a young age, inspired by his grandfather, who was also a silversmith and woodcarver. After enrolling at the Institute of American Indian Arts, he had his first encounter with molten glass, and discovered his medium of preference.

Today Jojola is one of the premier hot-blown glass artists in the nation. To further his training he received a scholarship to the Haystack Mountain School of Crafts in Deer Isle, Maine, which led to a period of study at the Pilchuck Glass School in Seattle, Washington, where he served as an apprentice to Dale Chihuly, the acknowledged master of American glass art and eventually became a member of his famed team of glass artists.

Jojola credits his time at Haystack Mountain School of Crafts for cementing his commitment to the medium. Later, he would be artist in residence there.

In 1999, he established the Taos Glass Workshop in Northern New Mexico, giving back to the community by training at-risk youth in a viable and fulfilling skill. Jojola's work has been exhibited in Wheelwright Museum, the National Museum of the American Indian, the Heard Museum and the Burke Museum. His work is included in many public and private collections internationally.

Three years ago, Jojola moved back to Isleta to be close to his elderly mother, who is now 93.

We spoke to Jojola last week and asked him about his weighty glass bears, among other things.

Your bears are legendary - more of them are going out next week.

Well, I've been making these bears for almost 20 years now - there must be at least 200 of them in Taos already.

The bears just keep coming.

How has the pandemic affected you and your work?

Everything slowed down beginning in March. People mostly stopped buying, but that's totally understandable, I think. When you are concerned about your health, art is probably quite low on the list of necessities.

In terms of making work, that hasn't changed for me. There's still so much to make. It's more a matter of how much and when I actually get to make it.

Are you missing Taos at all now that you are living full time at Isleta?

I was in Taos for 37 years - that's a long time, but I made the decision to move back to be close to family and especially my mom, and I am glad I did, now we are in this situation. I miss Taos a lot - I love Taos - I had solitude and quiet there, things that I require to make art. Here in Isleta there's much more going on, but I'd rather listen to the coyotes than the sirens.

And the bears too, no doubt.

Tony Jojola can be reached via email at tonyjojola@icloud.com.

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