Sharing the Fire

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by Katie Buckingham, Curator at Museum of Glass

Even after six years at Museum of Glass, I am still captivated by our Hot Shop. The low hum of the furnace, a vague smell of burning cork, and, of course, the startling heat of molten glass makes for an arresting experience. But the thing that draws me in time and again is the simple fact that glassblowing is not a solo enterprise – sculpting, molding, blowing, and shaping molten glass into art requires an entire team of immensely skilled artists working together to achieve a single artist vision. In this way, the story we tell at Museum of Glass is broader than the Studio Glass Movement in the Pacific Northwest – we tell the story of collaboration and creativity.

The best part of my job is the jump between the Hot Shop and our galleries. Where else can you watch artists at work, and then stroll around the corner to see the end result? Our newest exhibition, Preston Singletary: Raven and the Box of Daylight, features work made in our Hot Shop over a series of residencies. The exhibition takes visitors on an experiential journey with Raven, and the transformation of darkness into light using new glass works, large-scale installations, music, Tlingit language and video. We have been working with artist Preston Singletary and curator Miranda Belarde-Lewis since 2014 to achieve this exhibition, and their connection and collaboration with Tlingit tribal elders in Southeast Alaska has resulted in a vibrant, experiential exhibition.

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Image: Preston Singletary (American, Tlingit, born 1963). White Raven, 2017. Blown, hot-sculpted and sand-carved glass, steel stand. 18 ½ x 7 x 9 in. Photo by Russell Johnson.


Creativity is investigated from an entirely different perspective in Foraging the Hive: Sara Young and Tyler Budge. As you enter the gallery, you are immediately enveloped in a swarm of 8,000 test tubes, each containing a miniature sculpture. These vials, the result of an ongoing artistic collaboration between Young and Budge, illustrate the connections between the productivity of a beehive and human creativity. Just as a single bee cannot be responsible for the contents of an entire hive, our society’s creative output is amplified by collaboration. The artists invite you to join in the creative process by making your own test tube to be added to our Grand Hall wall, in hopes that you will take the time to consider materials around you, which can become transformed when you allow yourself to imagine their possibilities.  collected and stored. Inviting visitors to participate in the act of making art is a great example of MOG at its best.

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Image: Foraging the Hive: Sara Young & Tyler Budge. Photo by Duncan Price

Museum of Glass’ mission is to ignite creativity and fuel discovery of glass and glassmaking. From the impactful and engaging artist residencies we host in our Hot Shop (supporting more than 525 artists and counting), to the exhibitions and collections we host in our galleries, we believe our visitors leave the Museum curious about art and excited to engage in some creative making of their own.

Even before it opened in 2002, MOG has also served as a catalyst for change in Tacoma. Our building sits in the midst of a Superfund cleanup site, a zone on the Thea Foss Waterway which the EPA designated as a site in need of cleanup for environmental contamination in 1983. Today you will find a thriving arts and culture center, with six museums all within walking distance. This Museum District sets Tacoma apart from other cities in the Pacific Northwest, and as the city grows and changes, we are working to collaborate with our neighbor institutions on joint events, and an inclusive Museum District Pass. MOG is also one of the collaborative partners on Tacoma Creates, an initiative that will be on Tacoma’s citywide ballot in November.  The non-partisan initiative is aimed at supporting our youth, neighborhoods, and businesses by expanding equity and access to arts, culture, science, and heritage programs, and it has the support of city leaders, educators, community groups, and businesses who see the value in enabling our communities to experience these activities. Visit to learn more.

Each year over 100,000 visitors explore the Museum, and we are excited to host our Western Museum Association colleagues during the conference in October. It’s rare to find a place where you can watch and experience creativity in action – come join in on the fun!


Header photograph by Tarin Erickson

About the Author

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Katie Buckingham, the Curator at Museum of Glass, has been with the Museum for more than 6 years.  Katie works with the curatorial team to develop and implement exhibitions, research the Museum’s collections, and coordinate the Museum’s Visiting Artist Residency Program. Katie is a Board Member of the Washington Museum Association and serves as the Association’s Membership Secretary. Prior to working at Museum of Glass, she worked at the Museum of History and Industry, Kirkland Arts Center, and Bellevue Arts Museum. Katie received an MA in Museology from University of Washington with a focus on exhibitions and audience research, and a BA with Honors in Art History and Visual Culture Studies from Whitman College. Outside of museum life she is...well…outside, donning a pair of hiking boots as often as skis.