Stunning glass art is one of the defining elements of the art scene in Seattle and the Pacific Northwest. The region is a training ground for glass artists thanks to both the Pilchuck Glass School and access to workspaces that provide the unique environment and equipment necessary for artists to hone their craft.

It all began when Dale Chihuly founded the Pilchuck Glass School in 1971. Initially, it was meant to be a summer-long glassblowing workshop, but 50 years later, Pilchuck has established itself as the world’s top center for glass art education. As the school grew, artists began traveling to Washington for the opportunity to work and create at Pilchuck. Many eventually chose to stay for good and set up shop. Sharing their experience with peers and setting up studios and hot shops in the area inspired their fellow artists to join them, helping to establish the Pacific Northwest as the home of the art form.

Unlike other mediums, such as painting, where artists can set up makeshift workspaces almost anywhere, glassworking requires an investment. Flameworking is done via a torch, but glassblowing requires special equipment. In the Pacific Northwest, one of the most unique glassblowing studios can be found at the Museum of Glass.

“Museum of Glass has one of the largest and most active hot shops on the west coast,” explains Melinda Longabaugh, assistant development director at Museum of Glass. “Our shop features several large glory holes and benches and a cold shop. The workspace provides artists with the ability to complete large-scale, complicated projects.”

In addition to providing a high-capacity space and equipment, places like the MOG Hot Shop offer the opportunity for glass artists to collaborate with the Museum’s Hot Shop Team, who are some of the best glassblowers in the world. The MOG team is comprised of a diverse group of glass artists who each possess their own unique skills and knowledge. “This collaborative team works with artists to create their pieces,” Longabaugh explains. “They help [artists] push the boundaries of innovation and make images of their work a reality.” 

This type of shared workspace also offers artists the opportunity to support and inspire one another. The Museum of Glass has a visiting artist program that brings glass artists, and those from other mediums, to create in the Hot Shop. “Artists come to experiment and try new ideas. This innately creates a cross-fertilization where the artists’ new ideas influence the Museum of Glass team and the team’s expertise influences artists’ work,” she explains. “This is how glass art evolves and is shaped.”

Longabaugh emphasizes that these Visiting Artist Residencies are crucial for artists who create at the Hot Shop. Due to COVID-19, the residencies were put on hold entirely in 2020 and returned in a limited capacity in 2021. “We look forward to a full 2022 calendar,” she says. “It’s important that the museum brings back a full visiting artist schedule in 2022, which means providing artists with a five-day residency and a place to stay. It’s then that artists can create without constraint.”

For the glass artists based in the Pacific Northwest, there are also opportunities to showcase their work once it’s complete. The Museum of Glass’ museum shop showcases work from the MOG Hot Shop Team, as well as other artists from around the world. Traver Gallery and Vetri Gallery in Seattle carry the work of glass artists from all stages of their careers — Chihuly Garden and Glass is hardly the only place in the city for glass art appreciators to view and enjoy this very special art form that’s unique to our region.

Museum of Glass is the West Coast’s largest and most active museum glass studio. The Museum is dedicated to igniting creativity, fueling discovery, and enriching lives through glass and glassmaking.