Art and Alchemy of Glassmaking: Tacoma, Washington

After viewing Chihuly’s Glass and Garden site in Seattle, the following year we took the train 45 km. south of Seattle to Tacoma.

Retrofitted harbourside with mountain backdrop. Tacoma, WA 2019. Photo by J.Chong.
Another glass ceiling inspired by D. Chihuly, international glass artist based in Tacoma. Photo by J.Chong 2019.
Harbourside sculpture of sea otters and seaweed. Tacoma WA, 2019. Photo by J.Chong

Tacoma has been historically a poorer, smaller sibling town to Seattle. It has had a predominantly blue collar population with some water vessel building and maintenance facilities for the military and private firms. Fifteen years ago when we first dropped by, there wasn’t much to see and do in this town.

Boullabaise soup with freshly caught seafood, including Dungeness crab, for large lunch before free museum evening. Tacoma, WA 2019. Photo by J.Chong

Fast forward to this year, Tacoma’s waterfront has been slowly rehabilitated with a pleasant boardwalk for cyclists and pedestrians, artwork, street lighting, cafes and condos. Still quiet, but far more liveable and safer to hang out in the evening.

On short pedestrian walkway bridge, “Glass Bridge” with window showcases of glass art. On right, is Museum of Glass. Tacoma, WA 2019. Photo by J.Chong
Glass flower sculpture featured in outdoor case display on “Glass Bridge” walkway. Tacoma, WA 2019. Photo by J.Chong

After filling ourselves with a leisurely seafood large lunch, we headed over to the Museum of Glass, a white grey glass semi-oblong modern stub building that rose near a highway cabled bridge by the waterfront. We were taking advantage of their monthly free museum evening.

On oher end of walkway with downtown elevated view. On right was a courthouse which seemed to have hanging glass art inside but we never took time to inquire. Tacoma, WA 2019.
Dancing swirly glass banners festooned art vase. Glass Bridge, Tacoma WA 2019. Photo by J.Chong
Museum of Glass –captivating shape also has practical use. The roof top allows ventilation of high heat from glass firing kins to safely dissipate. Tacoma WA 2019. Photo by J.Chong

Enroute to the Glass Museum, you can stroll over the Glass Bridge. It is a short wide concrete elevated walkway with glass encased displays of glass sculptural artwork. We have seen this artwork at night on our first visit and during the day. Flanking the bridge entrance, are towering sculptures of stacked blue glass ice cubes.

Whimiscal large glass painted mural of glassmaking and handblowing art traditions with Muse angels bestowing inspiration. Museum of Glass, Tacoma WA 2019. Photo by J.Chong
Exhbiit of artwork by Preston Singletary, a Tiglit northwest native Indian artist. Exhibit was “Raven and the Box of Light”, featuring artwork in glass and some wood. Museum of Glass, Tacoma WA 2019. Photo by J.Chong
Entry into exhibit of glass scutptures, “Raven and the Light of Box” by Preston Singletary. Museum of Glass, Tacoma WA 2019. Photo by J.Chong
Sculpture on conception of life. By Preston Singletary. Museum of Glass, Tacoma WA 2019. Photo by J.Chong

The signature art work that was most inspiring was inside, near the gift shop: a large whimsical glass painted mural of glass blowing artists and various Muse figures trying to spawn artistic inspiration. Then there was the special exhibit, “Raven and Box of Daylight” by Preston Singletary, a Tiglit northwest coast Indian artist, on on his glass and wood sculptural art.

Glass art panel part of ambitious tripglytch “The Clan House” by Preston Singletary. Museum of Glass, Tacoma WA 2019. Photo by J.Chong
Glass sculpture by Preston Singletary. Museum of Glass, Tacoma WA 2019. Photo by J.Chong

The exhibit was a fabulous sculptural storytelling journey of the Raven and what the Raven brought to the Tiglit people.

Glass sculpture by Preston Singletary. Museum of Glass, Tacoma WA 2019. Photo by J.Chong
Glass sculpture by Preston Singletary. Museum of Glass, Tacoma WA 2019. Photo by J.Chong

Afterwards we slid into seats at the Hot Glass theatre to watch glassblowing artists forge and fashion quickly their blazing molten glass artwork. No wonder the Musuem of Glass was architecturally designed to also house hot molten glass foundry and kilns as well as to dissipate high above the super-high heat from the kilns.

Glassmaking artist works with molten glass for shaping a vase. In protected public theatre area to watch glassblowing and art shaping by the public. Museum of Glass, Tacoma WA 2019. Photo by J.Chong
Looking up through Museum’s architectural cone to dissipate some intense heat from glass firing kilns. Museum of Glass, Tacoma WA 2019. Photo by J.Chong

Repeated reshaping of molten glass in and out of the firing kiln was required to mold the glass to its perfect shape  — a skill that must be honed by years of practice and literal sweat.  And no doubt, some broken art pieces along the way before completing their dream artwork.

Fanciful ark takes a family along a journey to an glass art-lover’s home. Part of glass painted mural. Museum of Glass, Tacoma WA 2019. Photo by J.Chong

5 Comments Add yours

  1. Mabel Kwong says:

    It sure does look like art all round in Tacoma. It might not be a massive city but creativity does look like its on full display. Lovely you got to revisit 15 years later and see how different it has become. The Museum of Glass has an unusual shape but practical to act as a sort of chimney. Interesting how these days this kind of design, glass, clean, sparse and light coloured, is a popular choice for modern building facades. Really amazing murals. Such vivid colours. And what a treat to get close to the glassmaking process.

    Like

    1. Jean says:

      You’re right that glass art and use of glass is getting some use in colour. But gone are the days of more elaborate architecture with innovative use of glass vs. structural design.

      Like

      1. Mabel Kwong says:

        These days clear glass or lack of cololur glass seems to be the go-to for many outer modern buildings – in line with minimalism. Maybe it’s harder to use elaborate glass for construction.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Jean says:

          It maybe purely financial…developers being cheap.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. Fantastic guided tour, Jean, thank you– and I simply must get one of those Fu Manchu Lamps!! 😊

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply to Jean Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s