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GLANC Group at the Museum of Glass, Tacoma, Washington, September 2005

Simpatico is a word I heard applied to the group who went to Seattle….everyone got along so well and seemed to enjoy each other, contributing to the success of the trip. People were very interested in others perceptions of what they were viewing. Individuals brought varied backgrounds and experiences, so had a variety of impressions and tastes which became further refined with the opportunity to enunciate their thoughts and hear those of others going through a similar experience.

The bus held 22 GLANC participants and wonderful indigenous guide Marjorie Aronson.

We began with a visit to the home of Anne Gould Hauberg, co-founder of Pilchuck. Her apartment was on the top floor of a building on 1st Hill, the first neighborhood settled in Seattle. Her apartment had an art collection a museum would envy. She had early pieces from many famous contemporary artists. One highlight was a lovely glass façade to her fireplace made of cast glass blocks with a surface design by Paul Marioni and Anne Troutner. 

Next we visited the Chihuly studio in Ballard, a large cinderblock building which is used to set up and preview large scale installations. One would not guess from the outside what is going on within. There is a large inventory here, and it emphasized the Chihuly proclivity to “think big”. From here, we visited the Boathouse where Dale Chihuly has his personal collection of Pendleton blankets, Indian baskets and children’s books. There is an Italo Scanga room, where this Italian master slept when visiting Seattle. We saw the lap pool whose floor is adorned with a rotating installation of sea forms. We also visited his salt water aquarium, a concept on which he has been working, and the 88 foot table, cut from one tree where he has guests over for Thanksgiving.

Last stop the first day was the garden, home and studio of artists Nancy Mee and Dennis Evans, each of which revealed a different facet of these creative artists. The visit culminated with a tasty catered dinner at Nancy Mee’s cottage/gallery. We were treated to a multimedia intersection of stone and glass, metal and wood, painting and poetry, nature and philosophy and two delightful human beings.

The following day we visited Benjamin Moore and his wife Deborah and watched Sabrina Knowles and Jenny Pohlman blow and sculpt glass. Both Ben and Deborah were very gracious in elaborating on their work, some of which is now residing in homes of our tour members! Ben spoke of how he got started in glass when he graduated high school and his parents gave him tuition for Pilchuck as a graduation present. Once there, he met Dale Chihuly who offered him a scholarship at the Rhode Island School of Design.

We visited the home of Becky and Jack Benaroya, which has been featured in Architectural Digest, and which would be the envy of any gallery in town. One of our touring members said his initial view of the apartment with a circular 360 degree view of Seattle left him “speechless”. The collection was well placed, well lit and for a time loaned out to the Seattle art museum. We visited a contemporary Australian Aboriginal artworks exhibition which was discussed by the collector, Robert Kaplan. Next, the studios of Preston Singletary, Janusz Pozniak and Dante Marioni. Preston gave insight into his work referencing his Native American heritage, and Janusz his latest executions, Dante was out of town, but we enjoyed touring his studio and viewing his impressive inventory. We saw Paul Cunningham at his studio and watched a blowing demonstration.

Saturday morning was a visit to the large studio of Joey Kirkpatrick and Flora Mace. They gave a detailed lecture and explanation of their work and their direction. We enjoyed some of the ‘stick’ pieces, including the evolution into a bronze owl and smaller birds. They explained the process, of soaking alder wood, steaming it, bending it to shape. Sculpting with pliable metal rods, then bisecting the alder, hollowing out the center and reattaching the halves around the metal, with resin to hold it in place. The results were fantastic and can be viewed at their website, www.kirkpatrick-mace.com They had a variety of other work, including the oversized pieces of blown fruit. What an opportunity this was to get inside the artist’s mind and find out what led to doing the work and what they see when they look at the work. Joey does the drawings and has the ideas. Flora executes them, moving from wood to metal to glass, whatever the best medium is for the project, solving the technical problems along the way. At certain points she had to develop the equipment to put Joey’s ideas into effect.

We traveled to Museum of Glass, Tacoma. Closed on the day we planned to visit, due to their big annual auction that night…. but then opened for our Group on a private tour by Executive Director Josi Callan. We were indeed privileged to be able to see their excellent exhibits with such a knowledgeable docent as director of education Susan Warner. People marveled at their large auditorium/amphitheater for blowing glass. The exhibit by Ginny Ruffner was fabulous and full of energy as was the exhibit by William Morris: Myth, Object and the Animal. His sculptures show he has little technical limitation He can get where he wants to go. He can express what he wants to say through glass.

Sunday we went to the Chap and Eve Alvord’s home to view their private collection. This was a privilege, as the collection is really special.  They were intimately familiar with each piece and with the artist who had created the piece. It was most interesting to hear Chap Alvord talk about glass in the Northwest from a historical perspective. In fact, they frequently had 3 or 4 works exhibited by many of the artists in their collection. They were astute in recognizing talent and showed a sense of history in watching that talent evolve, collecting as they went and then displaying it years later. I enjoyed hearing Chap answer the question, “How do you clean your glass?” I was surprised and amused to hear that he does it himself, by submersing each piece in a bathtub full of water with a touch of Sprayway, which he purchases by the case at Costco! After the bath, the pieces are air dried.  Wiping or dusting the pieces would risk breaking off some of the delicate appendages.

The architecture of their house itself was so perfect for displaying their collection. It was pleasurable to meander from level to level, looking through the windows at the garden, the lake, the sky and then back to the art work. It added a lot to be able to see works of Nancy Mee and Dennis Evans displayed in the context of an installation, a few pieces commissioned with specific sites in mind. These works, which we had visited the first day in great concentration in the garden, house, and studio of the artists, really came to life in the setting of the Alvord’s home.

Next we visited Ginny Ruffner. It was especially nice to meet her after seeing her installation, The Flowering Tornado, at the Museum of Glass in Tacoma. The word  we heard applied to Ginny was “inspiring”. She was so sweet and down to earth, it was a little hard to imagine her working at the large scale she sometimes does. One was appreciative of her creativity and her ability to direct a team to execute her ideas. We had a magnificent breakfast at her home/studio/garden before departing for the airport. The whirlwind trip was educational and enjoyable and there are already murmurings for an encore.

Muni Barash