Friday, September 21, 2012

Museum of Glass

 When the walkway to get to a museum entrance is a tourist attraction, in and of itself, you know you are in for a "feast for the eyes"!!  This photo shows the two blue sculpture towers  that help define the Chihuly Bridge of Glass, the 500 foot long structure that enables visitors to safely cross above the busy streets and railroad tracks below, to get to the 1801 Dock Street address of Tacoma's Museum of Glass ( )
 The installation in the lower right is called "Water Forest" and defines the space that leads up the grand staircase, which winds around the 90-foot-high cone, that defines the Museum of Glass structure.  The cone is covered in diamond-shaped stainless steel tiles, that has an ever-changing appearance, depending upon the sky it is reflecting. 
 There is a 210-foot-long reflecting pool on the main plaza of the Museum of Glass entrance that is the location of an installation called "Fluent Steps".  It consists of 754 individually hand-sculpted pieces of glass, forming several islands of clear-glass sculpture along the length of the reflecting pool.  I photographed these clear sculptures  at night, as well as daytime, and they look completely different, so the sculpture's appearance is ever-changing, depending on time of day, and environmental conditions.  The diagonal lines in the background are from the cable-stay automobile  bridge that spans the Thea Foss Waterway. 
 Once inside, a visitor has the option of entering the Jane Russell Hot Shop, shown on the left, or simply getting enveloped by the spacious 6,900 square foot Grand Hall.  The Grand Hall can be rented for receptions, meetings, banquets, and trade shows.
 If you choose to go into the cone, you will be entering a working "hot shop", that has been carefully designed to allow adequate ventilation for the extreme heat such an operation generates, as well as consideration for spectators who want to see how the magnificent glass objects are crafted.  Besides the guys/gals actually doing the work, there is an announcer, with a microphone, that explains the various processes going on.  In addition, the announcer was happy to take questions from the audience.  Also, I noticed that the primary artist in charge of the work for that day, came over to the gallery, and spoke individually with some of the spectators.  This gallery will be packed on Sunday, September 23, when famous glass sculptor Dale Chihuly will be working there in person.  Although, all of the timed entries into the Hot Shop gallery are sold out for his "performance" there, you can go to the museum's website to find a link to a live simulcast that is available for those who would like to see Dale Chihuly in action.
 Seeing the glass blower take the molten glass out of the blazing hot oven, then carefully work with it, to create a meaningful object, is fascinating! The first time I ever observed a "live" glass blower was on a trip to Venice, Italy, when I was a teenager.  I purchased the small, clear, pastel-colored deer figurine that I saw him make, and even was able to get it back to the states with me, without breaking it!  I still have that little figurine, and I will treasure it even more, now that I learned how much the iconic glass artist Dale Chihuly, was influenced by the glass artists of Venice, Italy!
 I waited until most of the spectator's gallery had cleared out, so that I could photograph it from the "catwalk" bridge that is above the hot shop.  I have been to several other glass-blowing shops, and none of them have been designed in such a way that makes it so comfortable for the spectators.   Very few of them have had seats, not to mention, a well-planned gallery for spectators.
 One of the first glass sculptures that caught my eye as I exited the Hot Shop, was this "blazing", red hot "guitar" sculpture.  I tried to imagine what melody such an extraordinary instrument would play for us, if indeed, it was in the hands of a capable guitarist.
 Adjacent to the Hot Shop, is the Studio, that is set up for creative projects for children, or adults, if they so desire.
 The day I was there, the project was to make artistic pinwheels.  The instructions were carefully spelled out on a large easel board, plus all the supplies were readily available, to let your "inner child" make one of these fun toys, that some of us can remember from the "good ole days" of our youth.
 This sculpture captured my attention, because the crystal ball on the figure's forehead, was reflecting an upside-down image of Union Station, that was across the street.
 Likewise, since I had recently participated in a formal "Mother's Day Tea", where the hostess showed off her collection of unusual teapots, I was completely intrigued by this sculpture (which was for sale) that had octopus legs for an "under the sea" theme, and had a pun in its name, which was "Under the Tea". 
 One section of the interior of the Art Museum, gives you a view of the entire length of the Chihuly Bridge of Glass, that connects the Museum of Glass, to the Washington State History Museum and Union Station.  There is no fee to cross the Chihuly Bridge of Glass, and it is open 24/7.
 The exhibits in the museum's gallery had glass creations like nothing I had ever seen before.  The graceful, colored glass sculptures suspended by wire from the ceiling, took my mind back to days spent on the water, with sea gulls flying overhead. 
 I recognized these works of Dale Chihuly from similar pieces I had observed when I attended "Chihuly in the Garden" at the Missouri Botanical Gardens in St. Louis.
 However, I had not seen any of Chihuly's early works, and I was thankful that the museum included extensive displays of the Tacoma native's history in the glass artistry field.  Dale Chihuly has provided SO MANY installations in the Tacoma area, that there is a free, cell-phone, self-guided walking tour that anyone can listen to, at any time, from any location (1-888-411-4220) to hear his recorded voice tell about what the viewer is seeing.   The program is called "Ear for Art", and gives interesting insight to the stories behind the installations around Tacoma that Chihuly is responsible for. 
 Not surprisingly, there is a SPLENDID gift shop adjacent to the Museum's Grand Hall, where the shopper can purchase stunning works of art to take home with them, as a reminder of their "visual feast" in Tacoma.
 Once you have seen how long it takes a glass artist to make even a simple cylinder, just imagine the time it took to create a cylinder with the amount of detail, color, and unusual shape as this one.
 Likewise, for the creation of these glass shields.  The detail on them was incredible!
 As soon as I saw this sculpture "within a sculpture", I thought of the Bible verse from Psalm 139:13-14 that says "For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb.  I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well."  If that were me who had been blowing this gigantic glass bubble, to create this wonderfully-crafted work, you can be sure I would be plenty fearful, as well!  Hopefully, seeing everything that the Museum of Glass offers visitors, you will want to start your pilgrimage to this mecca of glass artists!  If so, log on to to start planning your visit.  There is SO MUCH to see, you will want to spend the night, and I can heartily recommend Tacoma's Downtown Courtyard Marriott Hotel  ( ) that is in the heart of the Museum District, and adjacent to the FREE light rail system Tacoma offers, called The Link.  Visiting Tacoma, Washington, was MY link to Miles of Smiles!  Tricia
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