What Most Tourist Miss, You’ll Want to See!

A few tips for viewing this Seattle craft and a hidden treasure of a hot shop just west of Downtown

By Wendy Sloneker; Photos by David Rosen

Some visit Seattle for the seafood.

For others, it’s the coffee.

And some, perhaps those like you, must see handcrafted Northwest Studio Glass.

Just the style we create, here in Seattle.

 

 

Dale Chihuly helped make Seattle famous for studio art glass. The city is dotted with smaller glass studios you can visit to see glass blowing up close.

What Most Tourists Miss

Art glass IS everywhere here. But if you’re just going to museums, you’re only seeing a fraction of what’s around you.

Discover the glass on display when you are:

  • Flying in or out of SeaTac airport;
  • Window shopping, it’s in downtown hotels and in the lobbies;
  • Strolling through the city, see some Chihuly in the lobby of Benaroya Hall, even from the street;
  • Dining in restaurants, either as fixtures or as stand alone sculpture, just look up and around.

Plus, there are studios, schools and hot shops dotted throughout the Greater Seattle area and beyond.

You may recognize bigger names, like Pilchuck Glass School; and groundbreaking artist Dale Chihuly, of the Chihuly Garden and Glass in Seattle Center or Museum of Glass in Tacoma. 

But there’s more to the Northwest art glass scene than big names and touristy gift shops.

A lamp-work glass seahorse is sculpted using the flame of a torch.

The Next Big Names in Art Glass Are Creating Works Now. In Smaller Shops.
From the tiniest, most intricate lamp-worked earrings, to swirled plates and vases, to massive sculptures that filter and bend light in a hypnotic dance, art glass is turned out daily by professional artists who make their living creating glasswork.

Skilled small teams of artisans work in harmony at a hot shop, excitingly close to outrageous heat and molten glass. In smaller shops and studios, the experience for a visitor is much more intimate. The chances of meeting the artists who’ve created works in-house is likely. You’ll see price benefits to purchasing directly from the artists’ studio.

Kids watch glass blowing at Avalon Glassworks
It’s free for visitors to watch glass blowers create art in the hot shop at Avalon Glassworks in West Seattle.

Experiencing a Smaller Studio Hot Shop West Seattle’s Avalon Glassworks
One such place for an intimate glass experience is Avalon Glassworks. This is a glass blowing studio and retail shop, not a museum. On the days glass is being actively worked, you can see nearly a whole piece completed (though the cooling processes and coldwork take more time). Watch as the artists work, talk with them, from just a few safe feet away… close enough that you’ll feel the heat.

This is a fascinating and unique attraction. Children are welcome and everyone is encouraged to experience, look at and even touch the smooth cold beauty of pieces in the shop. Unlike the Museum of Glass, there is no charge, it’s free to watch. And pets are welcome here too. Don’t be surprised to see leashed pups stroll on in with their favorite Seattleite sipping at a cappuccino while shopping.

Most of the work shown at Avalon Glassworks is made right onsite. A few local guest artists showcase their jewelry works here as well.

 

The King County Water Taxi is a fast and fun connector between downtown and West Seattle.

Making a Day of It: Water Taxi Ride to See West Seattle’s Hot Shop, Avalon Glassworks

  • Take the Water Taxi from Downtown Seattle across to West Seattle, watch for harbor seals on this 10 minute boat ride
  • Enjoy a stroll to Luna Park, or catch the free 773 Shuttle, which brings you straight to your destination
  • Experience the fun & funky vibe of the Luna Park area!
    • The Shack (for classic indie coffee)
    • Luna Park Cafe (for diner fare & people watching) and
    • On-site hot shop at Avalon Glassworks (have souvenirs, home décor items and gifts wrapped and shipped home for yourself)
  • Take the shuttle back to the Water Taxi, or continue to other neighborhoods in West Seattle

 

Avalon Glassworks has anchored the kitschy Luna Park neighborhood since 1993.

There’s so much to be seen and experienced in the Northwest when it comes to art glass. Check the blowing schedule at Avalon Glassworks for times when the public can watch.