As the Glass Art Hub for the U.S., Seattle is Set to Host Refract: The Seattle Glass Experience This October

The inaugural event will attract long-time glass art lovers to the Emerald City.

Pictured: Glassybaby Hot Shop in Berkeley, Calif.| Photo credit: V. Sheree Williams

If you have been to Italy before, chances are you were introduced to more than good wine. The country is also known for the art of glass blowing with beautiful pieces handcrafted by some of the most talented artists in the world.

My first introduction to glass blowing was years ago while visiting Venice. After taking a factory tour and witnessing my first demonstration there, I definitely could not have imagined that I would get a chance to try my hand at making my own piece 15 years later.  This happened last month in the city of Berkeley, Calif. at a shop called Glassybaby.

From Italy to Washington State and… California

Little did I know that Seattle is the hub of glass art in the U.S. and home to more than 700 glass artists.  This includes emerging artists and master glassmakers.  In addition, there are more than 100 glass art studios in the region.

Naturally, it is no surprise that Seattle is also the home base for Glassybaby, a company founded by three-time cancer survivor Lee Rhodes which makes “hand-blown glass art crafted to support causes of hope and healing.” With locations in Washington, California, Illinois and Oregon, Rhodes donates $3 from each sale to nonprofits that provide services to those in need through the glassybaby white light fund.

Experiencing glass blowing for yourself is a must.  If you are a glass art collector or someone who is curious about the process, I would highly recommend stopping by glassybaby’s hot shops in either Seattle or Berkeley where you can watch for yourself and even participate in making a piece of your own.  Together with my glass maker, I was able to make a beautiful bowl (pictured below) that was delivered to me safe and sound.  However, if the idea of being around a furnace that is 2300 degrees (don’t worry, you can barely feel the heat), you can read all about the process and stop by the shop to check out the pieces before taking one home with you.

Pictured: Glass bowl at Glassybaby in Berkeley | Photo credit: V. Sheree Williams

Bringing the Glass Art Community Together

With my glass blowing experience being a prelude to its inaugural event, Visit Seattle and Chihuly Garden and Glass along with local and regional organizations and artists are preparing to host Refract: The Seattle Glass Experience October 17 – 20. Created for both long-term collectors and those new to the art form, Refract will offer four full days of events and the opportunity to meet more than 30 participating artists that include living legends (such as Lino Tagliapietra), some are mid-career masters (such as Debora Moore) and some are fresh, emerging voices (such as Morgan Peterson).  

With interest in such an event going back as far as 2015 with a steering committee formed in 2018, Refract is deliberately designed to appeal to a wide range of attendees. Serious glass art collectors will want to attend the Pilchuck Glass School Auction & Gala on Saturday, October 19, and visit the high-end studios. Others who are just curious will enjoy Fused, a party at Pratt Studio with open studio demonstrations, a great indigenous rock/funk band, food trucks and more, on Friday, October 18. 

Visit new exhibitions from celebrated glass sculptors John Kiley and Dante Marioni or indigenous artists Raven Skyriver and Preston Singletary. Watch demonstrations of glassblowing, flameworking, mosaics, and more. Discover new talent and take home pieces from independent artists at a pop-up shopping experience hosted by Seattle Glassblowing Studio. Tour the studios of Benjamin Moore Inc.Lino Tagliapietra, or one of the individual artists offering open studios throughout the weekend. There will also be hand-on class opportunities for those who prefer to participate. Finally, mingle with new friends made over the weekend at Pike Place Market’s closing night party on Sunday, October 20.

Make it a Weekend Getaway

Refract is a perfect opportunity for a four-day escape to Seattle. Travelers can experience this incredible festival with great rates and discounts offered by some of the region’s best hotels.

Pictured/Photo credit: Marjorie Restaurant in Seattle

While there, be sure to check out Seattle’s award-winning restaurants that include Edouardo Jordan’s Salare and JuneBaby as well as Donna Moody’s Majorie.  Up for a little wine tasting?  Be sure to plan a few visits to the region’s growing wine community. Here is a little list to help you get started.

For a full list of programming for, links to tickets, or to sign up for free events, visit RefractSeattle.org. For additional information to complete your Refract weekend getaway in Seattle, go to Visit Seattle.org.

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