Photo by Visual Photography
The Stanwood-Camano area has a rich artist history and glass art as well as glass blowing is a speciality for many local artists. Pilchuck Glass School – founded by legendary Dale Chihuly is located within minutes of Stanwood, WA. Glass Quest Studio run by father and son team Mark and Marcus Ellinger is a must see destination – in addition to purchasing beautiful works of glass art, you can watch them blow glass, take lessons, and participate in the Annual Great Northwest Glass Quest (held every February for 10 days.) .
PILCHUCK GLASS SCHOOL
Pilchuck Glass School was founded in 1971 on a serene 60 acres, surrounded by the Pilchuck Tree Farm. (Pilchuck is on the east side of I-5 between Stanwood and Mount Vernon off Exit 215.) The school was founded by legendary glass artist Dale Chihuly and patrons John and Ann Hauberg. The site was first a camp for Chihuly and fellow artists who landed there as free-spirited artists looking for space to create. Each year, from April through September, Pilchuck offers over 35 intensive residential sessions. The school opens the campus to public tours and demonstrations twice per year. (Check their website for dates—www.pilchuck.org—where you can also pre-register for tours.) The spring tours are staffed by artists invited for a five-day residency. They each bring a team who puts on a display of glassblowing, shows examples of their latest creations and welcomes the public to watch. With little knowledge or equipment, the Pilchuck founders began what has endured today as a spirit of experimentation and exploration. In time, European master glass artists and designers visited the campus and introduced traditional materials and techniques, combining Old World craftsmanship with New World individual artistic expression. The effect on the world of art glass continues to reverberate across the globe. “We enjoy an international reputation,” said Jim Baker, executive director of Pilchuck Glass School. “Dale Chihuly got it started. There are many other artists who have become well known.” Baker proudly notes the Emmy Award-winning documentary recently produced: Pilchuck, A Dance with Fire. In the documentary, narrated by Jeff Bridges, Pilchuck’s founders were described as “hippies with chainsaws.” The school’s timing and artistic energy led to Pilchuck attracting glass artists to the Seattle area until “there were more glassblowers here than there are in Venice,” said Chihuly. “Seattle is actually more alive than Venice,” said another artist in the film. The glass art taught and demonstrated at Pilchuck Glass School isn’t limited to blown glass, though witnessing an art form born through fire is dramatic. Less drama but as much creativity go into the neon, scientific glass, kiln casting, architectural glass and the carved and etched glass of cold working. Pilchuck students and teachers are masters of many forms of glasswork. All this and the picturesque campus are on display during the Open House, an annual event filled with hot glass demonstrations, docent led tours of the campus, a hike off the beaten path to the Chihuly Cabin and the historic “Buster Simpson Treehouse,” and ends at Inspiration Point for the breathtaking, 1,500-feet above sea level view of Port Susan. There are also hand-on activities and art for sale. This is one of the few times when art created at the campus is available for sale. The school’s founding is based on artists teaching artists, not on creating art to be sold. The school doesn’t boast a gift shop full of campus-created art for sale. Commercial pieces are ultimately created by each of the school’s students as they work within their own studios and communities. Over the past 45 years, thousands of artists from across the nation and around the world (49 states and 72 countries) have come to learn and grow in their skills. Pilchuck Glass School is a world player in the art scene, as well as a treasured part of Stanwood’s history and its future. Spring is a fabulous time to visit, as your timing might be right to both catch the spring tour at Pilchuck, and witness the explosion of 400,000 daffodils at the Bonhoeffer Botanical Gardens nearby. The gardens are, coincidentally, the only place you will find a complete collection of the glass vessels created over 26 years at the campus and sold at the Pilchuck Glass School’s annual fundraising auction.
Pilchuck Glass School is on the east side of Interstate 5, just off exit 215. Open during specific tour periods or by appointment. Please call or visit their websites for details.
Pilchuck Glass School 1201 316th St NW Stanwood, WA 98292 www.pilchuck.com (360) 445-3111
THE GREAT NORTHWEST GLASS QUEST
If you are not already a bonafide, self proclaimed “Quester” – you will be soon. Thousands of people flock to the Stanwood-Camano area for The Great Northwest Glass Quest for 10 days in February hoping to be one of the lucky ones to win a limited edition, hand-blown glass treasure. Get ready to experience The Greatest Treasure Hunt in the Pacific Northwest.
The idea behind The Great Northwest Glass Quest was crafted when local artists saw an opportunity to bring visitors to Stanwood-Camano during the 2010 Olympics held in Vancouver, BC. One of those artists – world renowned glass artist – Mark Ellinger has been blowing the glass ball treasures for the past 10 years. With his son, Marcus, the father-son team produced 450 limited edition glass balls last year, close to 150 more than the year prior. Glass Quest Studio is open to Questers during the event, not only can you search for a clueball but you can also watch glass blowing demonstrations. A special limited edition glass ball will be created to commemorate the 10th anniversary.
Over the past decade the event has grown tremendously, drawing visitors from all over the country and encouraging locals to get outside during the rainy month of February. Glass Quest is a great way for family and friends to get outside and enjoy the area’s many parks, beaches and businesses. While traveling through the community in search of clue balls, Questers can look forward to breathtaking views, friendly shop owners and a variety of culinary options. Whether you are a pro or a novice, The Great Northwest Glass Quest is a unique experience you don’t want to miss.
The Official Quester Manifesto:
- Let’s be clear – you can win a beautiful, one of a kind, hand-blown glass ball but the glass balls themselves are NOT hidden (they are glass afterall…)
- You will be looking for a “clue ball” – 3 inch plastic balls which are clear but can be camouflaged.
- Clue balls can be tricky to find but you should NOT have to move store merchandise to find them.
- If you are lucky enough to find a clue ball – inside the ball will give you instructions on where to claim your limited edition glass ball.
- Glass Quest 2020 begins on Friday February 14th and ends on Sunday February 23rd.
- Planning ahead? The event always begins the Friday of Presidents Day weekend and runs through the following Sunday.
The Great Northwest Glass Quest happens all over the Stanwood-Camano area. Pick up a Quester Guide Book or visit www.thegreatnwglassquest.com for additional information.
Glass Quest Studio is open by appointment year round. Address: 31808 West LK Ketchum Rd Stanwood, WA 98292 (360) 629-7005