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Posts Tagged ‘glass art’

IMG_7564  The glassblower faces an open, white-hot furnace, 2400 degrees Fahrenheit, the same temperature as the molten lava pouring out of Kilauea volcano at this moment. The heat is intense, from this and the room’s slightly cooler (900 degrees) ovens, as you’d expect in any glass forge. This one is the Glass Forge Gallery and Studio in Grants Pass, Oregon. It’s a warm summer day here in southern Oregon, but a breeze wafts through the large, warehouse-like studio, open to visitors who can watch the entire process. Inside the furnace, a ceramic crucible holds liquid glass–pure silica, I’m told, mined in Texas and mixed with 10% soda ash and lime.

The long hollow pole dips it into the hot pool in the furnace. Turning the pole constantly, the glassmaker pulls it out, spins it in a bowl of multi-colored glass bits, and carries it to a curved stand. He attaches a mouth tube to the pole, and now it’s my turn.IMG_7592 IMG_7566“Blow hard, as if you were blowing up a balloon,” he says. I blow, but nothing much happens. “Harder.” I puff my cheeks and blow, and the glass, which will drip and ooze if it’s not continually turned, begins to fill with air and round into a ball. “Now softer.” I blow more gently, and the ball grows bigger. The expert knows exactly when to nip the ball closed, make a swirl at the top, and set it to cool. I, with considerable help, have just made a beautiful, colorful ornament.  In sixteen hours it will be completely cool and ready to handle. The folks at the Glass Forge will mail it to me.

Hundreds of hand-blown glass items, from simple balls like mine to elaborate lamps, IMG_7571chandeliers, curved vases and art pieces, are created in the forge by a co-op of glass artists.  Most have been here awhile, and everyone bears a few burn scars despite the protective shields. The shop, a showcase of their artworks, is open every day but Sunday. If you want the fun of blowing your own glass art–and I can testify that it is fun–come on a weekday (except for 3 weeks in August, when the place is closed for cleaning). At this writing it costs $15 to make an ornament and $20 for a more complicated piece. IMG_7837

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beach at Lincoln City, with Cascade HeadCasinos, outlet stores, heavy traffic–that’s how I pictured Lincoln City, on the Oregon coast, and it’s not what I look for in a vacation. But I’m singing a different tune now, and it’s “Here be treasures, me hearties.”

The treasures start with a wide, sandy beach, rocky tidepools, and a rolling surf. Of course, you get those everywhere on Oregon’s coastline, which is totally open to the public (thanks to Governor Oswald West, who declared it so in 1913.) In town, I start with the remarkable Jennifer Sears Art Studio. From the sidewalk I can see someone with gloved hands holding a long tube with hot molten glass at the end, turning it in an open, roaring furnace. An expert glass blower? tourist glass blowing in lincoln cityNo, it’s a tourist, creating his own glass float. For $65, anyone can, with the help of an artist, make a piece of glass art to take home. The studio also sells artists’ glass creations.

Next I drop anchor at the Historic Anchor Inn, another offbeat place of charm. historic anchor inn lincoln cityTo say this little inn has a sense of nostalgia doesn’t begin to describe it. The front porch holds maritime memorabilia and a diver mannequin with a welcome sign; inside, dozens of posters of 1940s movie stars grace the walls. From the lounge ceiling hangs a life raft, a canoe, and an upside-down bicycle, along with a few hundred other things. Books cram the shelves, copper pots glint on the fireplace. I’d stay here just to soak up the atmosphere.  However, we’re lodging at the cozy Sands Condos, on the north end of town. The rooms are clean and comfortable, we have a fine ocean view, and we’re welcomed by cheerful, smiling Lynn, the capable manager.

Lincoln City has some good restaurants. I’m told that Mo’s is still serving classic chowder, and for the best in the sausage realm go to Beach Dog Cafe. For me, the top two spots are Blackfish Cafe and Fathoms.

We start at Blackfish for lunch with a generous plate of delicate, crispy calamari and move on the clam chowder and perfectly cooked fish and chips. Delicious. Later, as the sun lowers over the Pacific, we head for Fathoms. This 10th floor restaurant in the Inn at Spanish Head gives a whole new meaning to oceanview dining. While we watch the evening sky turn red in the west, we feast on great food, served by a fast and helpful waitress (thanks, Pam). Garlic shrimp with pilaf, medium-rare blackened ahi tuna, grilled prawns on mandarin orange and arugula salad  . . . beach food isn’t supposed to be this good. Dessert is a cappuccino mousse thing on a chocolate brownie with nuts, and a scoop of ice cream on top.  (Fathoms is expensive, for the coast, but serves cheaper Early Bird dinners.)

These, plus some intriguing gift shops along Highway 101, are all good reasons to visit Lincoln City. But the final piece that changes my outdated tune for good is Robert’s. Robert's book shop, lincoln city oregonThis book shop, in an unassuming blue building on the south end of town, is heaven for readers looking for used, rare, and out-of-print books. “How many?” I ask, after browsing among the filled floor-to-ceiling shelves, the stacks on the floor, the warren of nooks and crannies. “Not sure,” says the clerk. “Maybe 200,000? That’s probably about right.”

Needless to say, I’ll be back to Lincoln City. This is the stuff that keeps Oregon unique.

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ceiling panel, chihuly bridge of glass, tacoma, washingtonTo get to the Museum of Glass, in Tacoma, Washington, I’m told I have to cross the Chihuly Bridge of Glass. That’s intriguing. A glass bridge? Isn’t it kind of, um, fragile? I’m staying at the Marriott Downtown, across Pacific Avenue and a block or so from the museum, so I trot over and look for the bridge. I find it up the stairs from the plaza where the Washington History Museum, Tacoma Art Museum, and Union Station are located. There it is, 500 feet long, a covered pedestrian bridge high above the I-705 freeway.

Happily, I’m not walking on anything breakable. The glass part is in the ceiling, where at least 20 panels are filled with shapes that resemble undersea life–kelp, jellyfish, octopus–in brilliant blues, yellows, greens and reds. The sides of the bridge have display windows, each holding a stunning piece of art glass.

A strange-looking building stands on the other side of the bridge. Museum of Glass, Tacoma, WashingtonIt’s the Museum of Glass, a giant, tilted cone on a broad plaza by the water, with pools and glass sculptures. Inside are galleries of changing and permanent exhibitions showing amazingly creative glass art works. One gallery has pieces designed by kids and made by the Hot Shop Team.

The Hot Shop is an amphitheater in the museum where artists blow and shape molten glass, and that alone is worth a visit. I watch enthralled as a blob of red-hot glass on a tube becomes an elegant, twisted . . . something. The museum also has a cafe and gift shop (wearable art glass, anyone?)

More glass sculpture in astonishing shapes is on showcased in the nearby  Tacoma Art Museum, and yet more in Union Station, a former railway station that is now a federal courthouse and historic landmark. Tacoma, south of Seattle on Puget Sound, has become a center for glass art because of one Tacoma native, the world-renowned glass artist Dale Chihuly. Chihuly led the contemporary movement toward large-scale, handblown works and the recognition of them as significant art.

The Museum of Glass is open 7 days a week in summer. It’s closed Mondays and Tuesdays the rest of the year and some holidays. Admission is free for museum members, $12 general,  $10 seniors and students, $5 children 6-12, and free if you’re under 6. It’s free to everyone the 3rd Thursday of the month from 5 pm to 8 pm.

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