Chihuly brought old-world team glassblowing to Seattle when he cofounded the Pilchuck School in 1971. Guests can visit this avant-garde international center, located on a tree farm in the Cascade foothills, during docent-led group tours in May, which often feature working artists firing it up in the hot shop.
In 2012, Chihuly opened a new flagship bearing his name, Chihuly Garden and Glass, a 1.5-acre exhibition at the base of the Space Needle. Galleries range from spiky forests of poured molten glass to dimensional chandeliers to beautiful baskets with fluttery edges.
Fans can also spot Chihuly’s signature swirls and curls around his Tacoma hometown at the Museum of Glass and the adjoining Bridge of Glass, the offices of The News Tribune and Union Station. Or just toast his masterworks at The Swiss Pub and Restaurant, where eight brightly colored, tentacled shapes writhe above the craft-beer taps.
But in a city with such a rich, hands-on history, glass isn’t just for gazing. Roll up your sleeves and spin some silica hot from a 2,000-degree furnace at Tacoma Glassblowing Studio, creating bowls, vases or ornaments. Area 253 antes in with flamework classes that let you fashion delicate items like beads. And the Museum of Glass itself hosts workshops at which attendees can fuse beads, copper and glass shards into tiles.
Not to be outglassed, Everett showcases Chihuly sculptures in the lobby of its Performing Arts Center, which regularly opens its kilns, torches and hot-glass studios to aspiring artists. Hobbyists may not knock Chihuly off his perch any time soon, but they’re keeping glass art burning brightly here.