Thanks to Netflix’s ‘Blown Away,’ more people are learning about this Washington city’s glass art community
“Blown Away” contestant Minhi Su England doing a demonstration at Seattle Glassblowing Studio — Photo courtesy of Ian Lewis Media
Thanks to the popularity of “Blown Away,” Netflix’s competitive glassblowing reality show, glass art is hotter than ever. Words like “annealer,” “frit,” “hot shop” and “glory hole” have become familiar to millions of viewers, who have devoured all three seasons. For those who can’t get enough of the medium, there’s one city worth a pilgrimage: Seattle.
Seattle is widely regarded as the heart of North America’s studio glass community. The city claims to have more glassblowing shops than anywhere else in the world outside of Murano Island, the district in Venice, Italy, where Murano glass originated.
Seattle is home to the Pilchuck Glass School and more than 700 glass artists, according to Refract, including Dale Chihuly. One of glass art’s most prominent trailblazers, Chihuly may be best known for his jaw-dropping “Fiori di Como” glass sculpture that hangs from the lobby ceiling of the Bellagio Resort and Casino in Las Vegas.
Whether you want to look at, buy or create glass art, here are 10 places that make Seattle the best place for it.
Chihuly Garden and Glass
Mille Fiori, one of the breathtaking galleries at Chihuly Garden and Glass — Photo courtesy of Lois Alter Mark
Open since 2012, Chihuly Garden and Glass is reason enough to visit Seattle. Located right next door to the Space Needle, the museum features eight stunning galleries, filled with Dale Chihuly’s works. You’ll want to take photos of them all. The permanent exhibition continues outdoors in the Garden, where his glass sculptures punctuate nature’s own beauty.
Glass color samples in The Boathouse — Photo courtesy of Visit Seattle
The Boathouse is Dale Chihuly’s personal “hot shop” (the space where the glass is blown and created). It’s only open to the public on rare occasions or by appointment. If you’re given a chance to visit, don’t hesitate. It’s fascinating to see his amazing collections of items that inspire him and to stand in the place where the magic happens.
Seattle Glassblowing Studio
Artist and glassblowing instructor, Ronnie Phillips, at Seattle Glassblowing Studio — Photo courtesy of Lois Alter Mark
This gorgeous gallery features the artwork of more than 100 glass artists, including many of the stars of “Blown Away,” like Dan Friday, Minhi Su England, Rob Stern, Cat Burns and Nao Yamamoto. You also can have a piece custom-made for you or make one yourself with the help of a professional glassblower.
Pike Place Market
Bring home an original piece of glass art from KOBO Art Garden at Pike Place Market — Photo courtesy of Megan Swann Photography
Seattle’s famed Pike Place Market is an ideal place to shop local vendors, including Glass Eye Studio and KOBO Art Garden, the latter of which features hand-blown creations by artists Joshua Swanson and Motoko Hayashi. You’ll find everything from jewelry to bowls to one-of-a-kind designs, and you’ll want to pick up gifts for friends, family and, of course, yourself.
Sheraton Grand Seattle
Chihuly’s flowers in the lobby of the Sheraton Grand Seattle — Photo courtesy of Visit Seattle
The Sheraton Grand Seattle is not just a great place to stay; it’s also a great — and surprising — place to get up close and personal with the city’s glass art. It’s seamlessly incorporated into the hotel’s décor. Grab a coffee in the lobby and start your day in front of Chihuly’s “Flower Form 2,” one of the capstones of the Sheraton Grand Seattle’s art collection.
Glass art feeds the soul at Aerlume — Photo courtesy of Aerlume
This renowned restaurant is celebrated as much for its glass art as its amazing food. The stunning water views outside the windows have inspired equally stunning glass pieces inside. Created by bespoke glass design studio, Idlewild Union, the art illuminates Aerlume’s mission to source locally and celebrate Seattle’s bounty. Check out the lovely votives lighting up your filet mignon or buttermilk-fried chicken — all works of art in their own right.
Museum of Glass
The Museum of Glass is a celebration of the medium — Photo courtesy of Museum of Glass
While in the area, head a little south to Tacoma, where the Museum of Glass is a must-visit. Since 2002, this exciting space has given visitors the opportunity to watch live glassblowing, see examples from both the masters and the best emerging artists and even try the art form. Once you’ve seen what can be created from glass, you’ll want to be a gaffer in the hot shop, make a mosaic or learn fusing or tacking — all hands-on experiences offered at the museum.
Maestro Lino Tagliapietra’s gallery in Belltown — Photo courtesy of Lois Alter Mark
You’ll want to spent time exploring the public galleries of glass artists, including that of Lino Tagliapietra (yes, he’s the “maestro” whom one of the “Blown Away” contestants got in trouble for copying) and Traver Gallery, which features notable artists in glass, sculpture, painting and installations.
Refract: The Seattle Glass Experience
The city hosts ‘Refract: The Seattle Glass Experience,’ every October — Photo courtesy of Lois Alter Mark
Visit in October to participate in Refract: The Seattle Glass Experience, one of the world’s premier glass art festivals. This annual event includes programming by more than 50 organizations and 70 artists. There’s something for everyone, whether you’re new to the scene or a serious glass art collector. It’s a great time to visit typically closed-to-the-public studios, like Chihuly’s Boathouse. It’s a popular event, so you’ll want to get your tickets early.
Gather at the Glasshouse at Chihuly Garden and Glass — Photo courtesy of Megan Swann Photography
The kick-off event for Refract, this annual gathering takes place at Chihuly Garden and Glass and features live glassblowing demonstrations, cocktails and small bites and a private reception in the Glasshouse. Best of all, it gives you a rare opportunity to mingle with some of the biggest names in the business — while raising a glass of your own.