Apr 8, 2013

That's Hot (Shop) For The WA Visitors Guide

Italy may have elevated glass to high art, but these days, Washington is keeping it there. In fact, Puget Sound alone has more hot shops than all of Murano, Venice’s glass-making epicenter.

The impresario behind this glowing accomplishment is Dale Chihuly, who brought old-world team-glassblowing here when he co-founded the Pilchuck School in 1971. As it matured into an avant-garde, international center, the Tacoma-born artist has exhibited in more than 200 museums worldwide. Last year, he went a step further, opening a new flagship: the Chihuly Garden and Glass, a 1.5-acre permanent exhibition just below the Space Needle.
The original in the WAVisitors
Guide 2013
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Fans can spot Chihuly’s signature swirls around his hometown from the Museum of Glass’s iconic bridge to The Tacoma News Tribune chandelier and the Monarch-butterfly-colored blossoms soaring in Union Station. And they can even toast his masterworks at The Swiss Pub and Restaurant, where eight bright, tentacled shapes writhe above the craft-beer taps.

But in a city with such a rich hands-on, artisanal history, glass isn’t just for gazing at. Roll up your sleeves and spin some silica hot from a 2,000-degree furnace at Tacoma Glassblowing Studio. For $65, visitors can shadow a craftsman for an hour, creating bowls, vases or ornaments. Area 253 antes in with three-hour classes that flamework delicate items like beads ($125). But the Glass Museum hosts the cheapest and easiest introduction to this Northwest scene: workshop attendees can fuse beads, copper and glass shards into tiles there ($38 for non-members).

Not to be outclassed, Everett—an hour north—showcases some Chihuly sculptures in the lobby of its Performing Arts Center. And the new Schack Art Center regularly opens its kilns, torches and hot-glass studios to aspiring artists.

Lena Schultz numbered among them. The Marysville resident attended her first glass-blowing workshop with her family. “Everyone loved it,” Schultz said – even her hard-to-shop-for sister. They crafted swirly-stemmed pumpkins ranging from lime-green to speckled sky-blue. “We made great memories that day,” she noted. “And pumpkins so awesome that someone offered to buy them on Facebook.”

Schultz and other hobbyists might not knock Chihuly off his perch any time soon, but they’re keeping glass art burning brightly here in Washington!

– By Amanda Castleman

Read the published version in the Washington State Visitors Guide 2013 or order a hard copy (p48). Mac users: Safari works best!
I created this fused-glass tile at a Tacoma Museum of Glass workshop.
Image by www.amandacastleman.com

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