Photo Credit: Stephen Vest
“People for centuries have been fascinated with glass. It transmits light in a special way, and at any moment it might break. It’s the most magical of all materials.”
– Dale Chihuly, 1992
Glass art is a medium that has the ability to take your breath away – leaving you awestruck that something once molten liquid is now solid, with colors that swirl together and change with the light, fragile yet strong. In the mid-twentieth century, glass art (or studio glass) was virtually unknown in the United States, with all glassware traditionally made in an industrial setting. Yet today, nestled in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains amidst a working tree farm in Stanwood, Washington is an international center for glass art education – the Pilchuck Glass School.
Founded in 1971 by glass artist Dale Chihuly and patrons Anne Gould Hauberg and John H. Hauberg, what began as a single summer camp on a $2,000 grant has grown into the most comprehensive center for glass art education in the world. In June 1971, three artists – Dale Chihuly, John Landon, and Art Wood, along with 18 students set up camp based on Chihuly’s vision of creating a space where artists working in glass could create, collaborate, share ideas, and learn from each other. With extensive knowledge but little equipment, and no electricity or running water, students constructed their own housing (tents or rudimentary tarps over planks) and built a hot shop from scratch – poles to support the roof were collected from the forest and the roof was sewn from Army tents and tarps. The spirit of experimentation and exploration of the Pilchuck founders during that summer of 1971 has endured the test of time and the core values of the school remain the same today – to inspire creativity, transform individuals, and build community.
During the months of May through September, The Pilchuck School hosts more than 500 students and artists from all over the globe. What once started as a camp – has become a 54 acre campus set within a 15,000-acre tree farm with breathtaking views of the Puget Sound. The campus has a quintessential Pacific Northwest design, and embraces the surrounding environment with rustic wooden structures, river rock fireplaces and large windows with panoramic views. It is in this setting that a special sense of community is formed, new ideas are created, art comes to life and friendships are forged forever. The philosophy of education at Pilchuck stems from Dale Chihuly’s idea of “artists teaching artists” and is evidenced by the extensive program offerings. The list of class offerings include glassblowing, hot casting, kiln casting, coldworking, neon, fusing, flameworking, glass painting, stained glass, printmaking and more. Classes range from one to three weeks and offer a wide range of learning for artists of all skill levels. New for the 2020 Season is a special one-week session for families to explore campus together where youth camp participants (accompanied by an adult enrolled in a class that session) will have the opportunity to explore materials and techniques such as printmaking, 3D designing and printing, clay and glass. Visit www.pilchuck.org/courses for the complete Summer & Fall 2020 Course Catalog. Update: Summer 2020 events & programs are cancelled through mid-August.
Pilchuck means “red river” in the Native American language of the region. The school is named after the tree farm where the campus is situated. The tree farm was named for the nearby river, which has substantial iron deposits that cause the banks to turn red.
Pilchuck opens its doors to the public once per year during its annual Spring Tours. View the fascinating process of glass making, talk with working artists, tour the studios, and hear about the history and future of the school. If you are interested in visiting Pilchuck Glass School – docent led tours (appx 60 min) are available (visit www.pilchuck.org for tickets.) Update: the Spring Tour for 2020 has been cancelled.