The Seattle-Tacoma metro area is an international epicenter for glass art with more glass blowing shops than anywhere else outside of the world’s preeminent location on Murano island, a district in Venice, Italy.
In addition to glassblowing studios, the Puget Sound region boasts world-renowned glass museums and glass art galleries featuring the work of local artists.
Whether you are interested in the history of glass and glass making techniques, want to watch glassblowers at work, or want to see or buy glass art objects, you have a wide range of choices in Seattle, Tacoma, and elsewhere in the region.
Below, you will find:
- a brief history of glass and how it came to the Pacific Northwest
- a list of glass museums and art galleries where you can view glass art
- glass studios and hot shops, some with free live glass blowing demonstrations
- a list of glass galleries offering glassmaking classes
- a list of annual glass art events
- a calendar of art & craft events in all medium
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Brief history of glass making
Naturally occurring glass, such as volcanic obsidian glass, have been known since the Stone Age. Manufactured glass, glass blowing, and glass art is much more recent.
History suggest that manufactured glass began as early as 3,500 BC as a by-product of metalworking. Archaeological evidence indicates that the earliest glass manufacturers were found in what is now Syria, Egypt, Turkey, and Iran. Techniques were developed to make carvings, beads, vessels, building materials, and other glass products.
Glass making spread throughout Western Asia (aka the “Middle East”) and later to Europe (especially Italy) and then across Asia to India and China.
In Europe, the art of glass making reached new heights during the Renaissance period when stained glass windows were made to adorn cathedrals in Europe. Murano, Italy became the center of glass blowing and glass art on the continent.
Glassmaking was brought by early American settlers to the United States. Glass manufacturers sprang up around the country to create pressed, blown, molded, formed, and cut glass pieces.
Many of the early American glass manufactures are still known today. You’ve likely heard of many of these glass companies:
- Anchor Hocking (named after the Hocking River in Ohio)
- Ball (named for the five Ball brothers: Edmund, Frank, George, Lucius and William)
- Corning (formerly Flint Glass, re-named after financier Erastus Corning)
- Libbey (named for William Libbey)
- Steuben (named for Steuben County, NY).
Even though glassblowing is a relatively recent phenomenon in Puget Sound history, glass art is already steeped in the region’s history.
Dale Chihuly and the American Art Studio Glass Movement
In 1962, ceramics professor Harvey Littleton started the first university glass art program at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. This was made possible in part through an invention by his associate, glass research scientist Dominick Labino. The pair devised a small, inexpensive furnace in which glass could be melted and worked.
This affordable glass making process made it possible for artists to blow glass in small, independent studios. Some of Littleton’s early students included Marvin Lipofsky, Fritz Dreisbach, and Tacoma native Dale Chihuly. These artists played important roles further developing the art of glass making.
And so began the American Studio Glass movement.
While glass technologies prior to this time focused on proprietary manufacturing processes, the American Studio Glass movement highlights the artist as designer and maker, leading to “open source” sharing of technical knowledge that would not have been possible in prior industrial productions. This gave way to one-of-a-kind objects and art works with unique character representing the artist’s vision.
Two years later in 1964, Marvin Lipofsk started a glass art program at the University of California in Berkeley.
That same year, Dale Chihuly and patrons Anne Gould Hauberg and John H. Hauberg hosted the first glassblowing workshop at the Pilchuck Glass School in Stanwood, Washington (about 55 miles north of Seattle).
Pilchuck Glass School in Stanwood, Washington
The Pilchuck campus is situated on a 15,000-acre site, formerly a tree farm, along the banks of the Pilchuck River.
Pilchuck means “red river” and is the anglicized pronunciation of x̌ičəc stuləkʷ in Lushootseed, a language used by Coast Salish tribes in the Skagit-Nisqually region. The river’s name eludes to its banks, which are red from iron deposits in the surrounding soil.
Over the years, Pilchuck glass artists and students, along with European master glass artists who brought knowledge of traditional materials and techniques, worked together to invent new glass forms and glass working methods.
The fusion of Old World craftsmanship with New World artistic expression propelled the Pilchuck Glass School to the epicenter of glass art education around the world.
Today, Pilchuck hosts hundreds of artists and students each year, continuing to inspire creativity in the world of glass art.
Glass museums & art galleries
These glass museums and art galleries feature glass artwork in permanent and rotating exhibits. Most also have a museum store where you may purchased select glass and other art objects.
(Listed alphabetically by name)
Chihuly Garden and Glass, Seattle Center (map), 305 Harrison St, Seattle, WA 98109. Permanent exhibition of artwork by Tacoma native and internationally renowned glass artist Dale Chihuly. The Exhibition includes eight Galleries featuring his significant works and inspirations, the 100-foot long sculpture Glasshouse (occasionally closed for private events), and an outdoor Garden punctuated with stunning glass sculptures. To enhance your visit, use the free audio tour on their website. Don’t miss the bookstore with many unique gifts and Northwest artisans products.
Chihuly Bridge of Glass, Museum of Glass, 1801 Dock St, Tacoma, WA 98402. The 500-foot pedestrian walkway connects the Museum of Glass to the Washington State History Museum. Free and open 24/7, it’s most spectacular on a sunny day.
Pilchuck School Art Gallery, 240 Second Ave S, Seattle, WA 98104. Showcases the glass artists who’ve worked with Pilchuck. Enjoy rotating exhibits and hear stories of glass artists from around the world.
Schack Art Center, 2921 Hoyt Ave, Everett, WA. The center features an art gallery, gift shop, hot shop, and art classes. The gallery exhibits diverse artwork from locally and internationally known artists, as well as emerging young talents.
Tacoma Museum of Glass, 1801 Dock St, Tacoma, WA 98402. Museum and glass blowing hot shop. The museum galleries feature a wide range of permanent and temporary exhibitions, including the works of international artists and co-founder Dale Chihuly.
Glass blowing studios & hot shops
These glass blowing studios offer the opportunity to watch live glass blowing in the hot shop when artists are at work. Most also have an art gallery featuring art works for sale.
(Listed alphabetically by city. Seattle is sorted by zip code.)
Schack Art Center, 2921 Hoyt Ave, Everett, WA. The center features an art gallery, gift shop, hot shop, and art classes. From the center’s main art gallery, visitors can watch glassblowers at work in a state-of-the-art hot shop.
Glasshouse Studio & Gallery, 311 Occidental Ave S, Seattle, WA 98104. Visit the glass art gallery, watch glass blowing demos, or take an exclusive tour. Free demos 6 days a week.
Blowing Sands Glass Studio & Gallery, 5805 14th Ave NW, Seattle, WA 98107. Art gallery and glass studio where you can buy unique glass art works and watch glass blowing demos.
Rainier Glass Studio & Gallery, 6006 12th Ave S, Seattle, WA 98108. Glass blowing studio and art gallery with glass blowing activities.
Glassbaby Hotshop & Gallery, 3406 E Union St, Seattle, WA 98122. Flagship store and hot shop where you might catch glass artisans at work making glassbaby products. Buy the latest glassbaby votives and glasses. Pricey objects, but very special.
Seattle Glassblowing Studio & Gallery, 2227 5th Ave. Seattle, WA 98121. Art gallery and interactive glassblowing studio where you can learn about glassblowing techniques. Free demos 7 days a week.
Avalon Glassworks, 2914 SW Avalon Way, Seattle, WA 98126. Glass art gallery and working hot shop where you can talk to the artists, see the process, and buy gifts of glasswork made on-site. Free demos 5 days a week.
Pilchuck Glass School, Stanwood, Washington. Public tours available in spring. Learn about the art of glass, see glass making, talk with artists, and tour the campus.
Tacoma Museum of Glass, 1801 Dock St, Tacoma, WA 98402. World class museum and glass hot shop. Watch contemporary glass making demonstrations daily with members of the Hot Shop Team in collaboration with Visiting Artists.
Glass blowing classes
These glass art galleries feature the works of local glass blowers, the opportunity to watch live glass blowing, and also offer glass making classes.
(Listed alphabetically by city.)
Schack Art Center, 2921 Hoyt Ave, Everett, WA. The center features an art gallery, gift shop, hot shop, and art classes. The center’s hot shop and seven other specialized production studios accommodate classes in glass making and a wide array of other mediums.
Art by Fire Glass Gallery & School, 195 Front St N, Issaquah, WA. Glass school and art gallery. Watch glass blowing, buy unique glass objects, take classes, or hold your event in their gallery. Free demos 5 days a week.
Redmond School of Glass & Gallery, 7102 180th Ave NE, Redmond, WA 98052 (near SR 520 and 202). Watch glassblowing, buy unique glass objects, take classes, or hold your event in their gallery.
Pratt Fine Arts Center, 1902 S Main St, Seattle, WA 98144. Community programs and art instruction for all ages, all skill levels and all abilities in professionally equipped glass making studio. Also offers classes in metals, wood, stone, drawing, painting, and printmaking.
Tacoma Glassblowing Studio & Gallery, 114 S. 23rd St, Tacoma, WA 98402. Family business and glass art gallery offers glassblowing classes. Free demos 6 days a week.
Molten Works Glass Studio, 12810 NE 178th St., Woodinville, WA 98072. A fused glass studio focused on teaching classes that introduce you to the art of fusing glass.
Annual Glass Art Events
Several of the above glass art galleries offer annual events briefly described here. Find these and many other upcoming art & craft events in the calendar list below.
(Listed by month or season during the year.)
Pilchuck Glass School welcomes the public for tours of the scenic, private campus. Visitors can view the fascinating processes of glass making, talk with working artists, tour the studios, and hear about the history and the future of the school. Tickets must be purchased in advance. When: Spring. More info: https://www.pilchuck.org/springtours
Pratt Fine Arts Center hosts an annual open house featuring live art demos and hands-on art making activities in glass making and other media offered at the school including metals, wood, stone, drawing, painting, and printmaking. When: September. More info: https://www.pratt.org/
Tacoma Glassblowing Studio presents seasonal glass artwork that is signed and dated by the artist. You’ll find many color choices, sizes, shapes, price ranges, and one-of-a-kind pieces. You can also shop online. Prices begin around $35. When: September-October. More info: https://www.tacomaglassblowing.com/glass-pumpkin-patches-puyallup-wa
- Tacoma Glassblowing Studio Glass Pumpkin Patch. In 2020, instead of different pumpkin patches, Tacoma Glassblowing Studio will offer an online store (https://tacomaglassblowing-com.3dcartstores.com/) and a seasonal store in a new Tacoma location: 5003 Tacoma Mall Blvd, Suite 104, Tacoma, WA 98409. Store dates: Sept 2 – Oct 25, 2020. Hours: Wed-Friday 10am-7pm, Sat-Sun 9am-5pm.
- Tacoma Glassblowing Studio Christmas Glass Store. Location: 5003 Tacoma Mall Blvd, Suite 104, Tacoma, WA 98409. Store dates: Nov 6-29, 2020. Hours: Wed-Friday 10am-7pm, Sat-Sun 9am-5pm.
Upcoming Art & Crafts Events
The following list of arts & crafts events is updated throughout the year for upcoming art festivals, crafts fairs, makers markets, artist studio tours, and holiday bazaars around the Puget Sound region.
But wait, there’s more!
- Ultimate guide to museums in the Seattle-Tacoma metro area
- 93 Free attractions around the Puget Sound region
- Best retailers for gifts, party supplies, holiday decor
- Find free and cheap things to do every day on the Greater Seattle on the Cheap calendar.
- Visit the Greater Seattle on the Cheap home page and choose from a menu of free and cheap activities in the Puget Sound region.
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