Biodiversity reigns in Seattle glassblowing artist Debora Moore’s exhibit, “Glass Orchidarium,” up through Nov. 8 at the Northwest African American Museum.

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Seattle glassblowing artist Debora Moore lay on the ground, looking up at an installation in her new exhibit, “Glass Orchidarium.”

Moore remembered one of her inspirations for the piece, called “Orchidarium”: hanging gardens she saw while traveling in Thailand, packed with thousands of suspended orchids.

“It was overwhelmingly beautiful but also overwhelming in the volume,” she said, as she lightly pushed the hanging wooden frame supporting colorful glass orchids suspended from wires. The fragile blooms swayed as if rustled by a summer breeze.


‘Glass Orchidarium’

11 a.m.-5 p.m. Wednesdays, Fridays-Sundays, until 7 p.m. Thursdays through Nov. 8, Northwest African American Museum, 2300 S. Massachusetts St., Seattle; $5-$7 (206-518-6000 or

On a walk-through at the Northwest African American Museum (NAAM), she showed off a trio of glass nurse logs, complete with dense, knotty green moss made of crushed and powdered glass. Orchids “sprouted” from the bark like mushrooms in a piece called “The Hosts.” These were influenced by her trips to rain forests on the Olympic Peninsula and in Costa Rica, and by mossy rocks she saw in Antarctica.

Biodiversity reigns in “Glass Orchidarium,” at NAAM through Nov. 8, which meshes Moore’s global botanical exploration with her exhibition, named for an orchid-exclusive greenhouse. Within the orchid family, there are more than 25,000 species of the flowering plant, according to the nonprofit Rainforest Alliance.

Moore didn’t get quite that many kinds of orchid into the exhibit, but she created a host of realistic and invented blooms in the six installations that make up “Glass Orchidarium.”

“A rose is a rose, but an orchid is — I don’t know,” she said, laughing about the bounty of orchid species. “I would never live long enough to make all of them.”

Orchids have been a longtime muse of Moore’s. Some pieces in the exhibit are from as far back as 1987, when she had just begun to blow glass. She called “Glass Orchidarium” a “collection, within a collection, within a collection.”

Moore attended the Pratt Fine Arts Center in Seattle and studied at the famed Pilchuck Glass School under Dale Chihuly and master Italian glassmaker Lino Tagliapietra.

Moore said she was taken by the ability of glass to reflect light, how it’s “airy and transparent,” and “liquid, yet it freezes.”

“It seemed to be the perfect medium with what I was trying to say and how I was trying to execute my work,” she said.

Moore’s husband, Benjamin Moore, is also an accomplished glass artist. He was a teacher at Pilchuck and is a member of the school’s board of trustees. The two met in 1992.

“[Debora’s] technical virtuosity is amazing,” he said, toting a ladder around the exhibit, setting up lighting and adjusting orchids. “The things that she’s completely figured out on her own and developed — these surfaces and so on that are totally unique to her — are remarkable.”

Moore was the first African American, and the first woman, to be in residency at Abate Zanetti, a glassblowing center on the island city of Murano, Italy. She has been teaching glassblowing at studios and schools since 1992 and taught young people in Tacoma’s Hilltop Artists program. Her work is found in many collections, including the Corning Museum of Glass in Corning, N.Y., the Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento, Calif., and the Chrysler Museum of Art in Norfolk, Va.

“I wanted to share with the African-American community, and I wanted women and young men to know that anything is possible,” she said about “Glass Orchidarium.” “[Glass] is a very hard medium to deal with, and it’s a very expensive medium, but if you keep working and keep working very hard your dreams can come true.”

More than anything, she said, she wanted viewers to “feel a little bit of mother nature, a little bit of Earth,” from rain forests to the Antarctic.

“I wanted to bring outdoors inside.”