Monthly Archives: October 2015

The Great Glass Pumpkin

By Alex Carr, Communications Manager

In honor of National Pumpkin Day, which took place on October 26, I thought it appropriate to share the story of the Great Glass Pumpkin.

On October 15, Tacoma Glassblowing Studio and Hilltop Artists joined together in the Museum of Glass (MOG) Hot Shop to blow an enormous glass pumpkin. The much anticipated event occurred on the evening of Third Thursday, during which the Museum offers free admission between 5 and 8 pm, sponsored by Columbia Bank. The word had spread that the two teams were going to attempt this festive feat, drawing hundreds of visitors to the Museum of Glass Hot Shop.

Before I dive into the making of the Great Glass Pumpkin, let’s take a quick journey to the east coast. The Corning Museum of Glass (CMOG) in New York claims the record for the world’s largest glass pumpkin, which measures 97 inches in circumference and weighs 70 pounds. It took CMOG 50 hours of work and 17 attempts to create the largest blown glass pumpkin!

With only three hours to blow an enormous pumpkin, the Tacoma Glassblowing Studio and Hilltop Artists teams were not planning to break this record.

Pumpkin 4

World records aside, what the artists accomplished at Museum of Glass in those three hours was nothing short of spectacular. Glassblowing is a team sport, and due to the number of gathers (the process of collecting a mass of molten glass on the end of a blow pipe) required for the Great Glass Pumpkin, this particular event was a massive team effort.

Once the mass of molten glass had been gathered and rolled in color (to make it orange, of course), the teams had to insert it into a blow mold.

It was make or break. Literally. Once blown into the mold, the glass would either hold its shape or shatter once the mold was removed.

To everyone’s relief (and joy!) the Great Glass Pumpkin survived. With the final touch of the stem fused on top of the pumpkin, the Hot Shop crowd roared in applause!

The fun didn’t stop there. Once the Great Glass Pumpkin came out of the annealer, it was time to measure it, and who better to measure a pumpkin than an official state fair pumpkin judge?


Ron Barker gets ready to measure the Great Glass Pumpkin.

Ron Barker was the man for the task, and he went above and beyond in making what could have been a very quick wrap-the-tape-measure-around-the-pumpkin feel very official. Ron has traveled around Washington and Oregon measuring enormous home-grown pumpkins, and on the day of the Great Glass Pumpkin measure, he brought two of these specimens to the Museum!

While the Great Glass Pumpkin may look small next to these enormous real pumpkins, which weigh over 1,500 pounds each, Ron’s measuring tape revealed a circumference of 88 and 1/2 inches, just under 10 inches shy of CMOG’s world record.


This was truly a spectacular achievement for a glass pumpkin that was created in only three hours!

Ron was also able to take enough measurements to calculate what the Great Glass Pumpkin would weigh if it were a real gourd. As a glass pumpkin, it weighs between 50 and 60 pounds, but if it were real, it would weigh a whopping 360 pounds!

The Great Glass Pumpkin is on display in the Museum of Glass Store through October 31, after which it will head home to Tacoma Glassblowing Studio.

Congrats to Tacoma Glassblowing Studio and Hilltop Artists on the Great Glass Pumpkin!

Tacoma Glassblowing Studio and Hilltop Artists teams after making the Great Glass Pumpkin.

Tacoma Glassblowing Studio and Hilltop Artists teams after making the Great Glass Pumpkin.

Alex Carr is the Communications Manager at Museum of Glass. When she’s not circulating the Hot Shop floor trying to get the perfect Instagram shot for the Museum, you’ll find her baking at home, running at Green Lake, or exploring Washington’s wineries.

How Much Does it Weigh?

By Greg Owen, Manager of Audience Engagement and Hot Shop Heroes

This is a question I get asked all the time as the Museum of Glass Hot Shop emcee. My stock answer is “I don’t know, I haven’t weighed it.” Well, people want to know! It was time for the Hot Shop Team to figure out a solution!

In the past, the Hot Shop has used a cumbersome hanging scale on a hook. These work great for weighing your latest haul of Coho salmon, but are tricky to use on a constantly-turning blowpipe. More importantly, using a scale of this sort does not give us the weight of the glass; instead, it gives the weight at the fulcrum point. This will double the weight for every foot of distance between the glass and the fulcrum point, giving a distorted reading. We knew there had to be a better way.

Hanging scale

Last week, while working with Visiting Artist Kit Paulson, Hot Shop gaffer Gabe Feenan came up with a great idea. He figured out that if he weighed himself before he was holding the glass, and then while he held the glass, the difference would be the weight of the glass and the blowpipe.


Gabe came in at 160 pounds, which is pretty light for a guy who works out as much as he does. Anyway, we then put him back on the scale holding a big wad of glass that he would be stuffing into a cup made of cane. Kit asked the Team to “go big,” so there would not be much time to wait for the hot glass to settle down. Watch the needle of the scale bounce around while Gabe stuffs the cup!

As you can see, after Gabe stopped bouncing, the scale read at 203# (203 pounds). If we subtract the weight of Gabe and the pipe, that leaves 36 pounds of moving liquid to wrangle around. You can try this at home with a wild wolverine on the end of a broom handle to approximate the feeling (on second thought, don’t try this at home).

Tune in next time to see more fun facts from the Hot Shop!

Greg Owen is the Manager of Audience Engagement and Hot Shop Heroes at Museum of Glass. Greg can be seen working the mic as the Hot Shop studio emcee, assisting Visiting Artists, and teaching soldiers how to blow glass during Hot Shop Heroes: Healing with Fire classes. 

Care and Handling of Artwork at Museum of Glass

By Rebecca Engelhardt, Registrar/Collections Manager


All exhibitions at Museum of Glass (MOG) are supported by the curatorial team. It is our job to make sure the galleries look spectacular for our visitors to enjoy.

In addition to keeping our objects looking beautiful, it is also our job to keep them safe. And as a museum, we are challenged to keep them safe “in perpetuity” (which means forever)!

How do we do that, you ask? Fortunately, we have colleagues throughout the world who study the effects of the environment on a variety of historic and art objects and set out guidelines for their care.


We use a system of policies and procedures (called “Preventative Conservation”) to combat the effects of all “agents of deterioration”.

Defined by the Canadian Conservation Institute, “The agents of deterioration identify ten primary threats specific to heritage environments and encourage their prevention at the collections level.” The ten agents are: Direct Physical Forces, Thieves and Vandals, Fire, Water, Pests, Pollutants, Light, Incorrect Temperature, Incorrect Relative Humidity, and Dissociation.

So, how do we at MOG go about combating these agents, and how does what we do apply to your own collections at home?

In a series of blog posts, we will share how MOG implements the preventative measures for every one of the agents.

This post is dedicated to “Direct Physical Forces” which includes things like: shock, vibration, abrasion, and gravity. This is a big one for glass!

Since the Museum is seated in the Ring of Fire, our staff is always thinking about how to protect our fragile artifacts from the vibrations potentially caused by earthquakes.

At the same time, we are taking precautions against the rumbling trains rumbling past our building and the possible accidents that might result from a potentially clumsy visitor or while setting up an exhibition.

Objects are at risk from damage every time you handle them.

We use several methods to secure objects to the platforms they are displayed on. One of our favorite materials is a sticky substance called Rhoplex N580™ that aids our team in securing objects of many sizes.

Rhoplex is placed on the bottom of artwork. These sticky dots keep objects from sliding around or falling over.

Rhoplex is placed on the bottom of artwork. These sticky dots keep objects from sliding around or falling over.

For larger objects, or ones that are more at risk of toppling over, we use a latex water based adhesive (it’s a lot like silicone). Once it dries, the adhesive “glues” the artifact down.

Museum of Glass crew member securing segments of work by Stanislav Libenský and Jaroslava Brychtová, 2002.

Museum of Glass crew member securing segments of work by Stanislav Libenský and Jaroslava Brychtová, 2002.

For objects that don’t sit flat on the top of the display case, or need a little more security, we call a “mount maker,” a specially trained technician who builds a customized support—usually out of metal—that locks onto the object and generally gets screwed to the display furniture. For really large artifacts, we consult with structural engineers who make sure that we have designed our mounts according to the proper building codes.

When you visit our Museum, or any other, there are always many more objects stored behind-the-scenes that will be used in future exhibitions, or by researchers. We want to keep those objects safe, too. Our storage shelves are very carefully designed to prevent the glass from sliding off the edge as well.

Museum of Glass’ Permanent Collection is safely stored—each with a customized nest in the compact foam-lined shelves.

Museum of Glass’ Permanent Collection is safely stored—each with a customized nest in the compact foam-lined shelves.

Handling artwork is where most accidents can happen. So, at MOG, we are all carefully trained on how to follow a specific set of rules to protect our collections. We use a lot of specially designed equipment as well as some things you might see in your own home.

Transportation to and from the Museum is something we plan very carefully. There are even commercial transportation companies that work exclusively with (or have a special fleet assigned to) fine arts. We also build crates designed to minimize shock and vibration during the journey, which might be as far away as Australia!

Look for our next post about dealing with protection from thieves and vandals!

Rebecca Engelhardt is the Registrar/Collections Manager at Museum of Glass. Her background includes ten years at MOG, plus time at major museums such as Smithsonian Institution and The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art.

Love is in the Air

By John Ferguson, Manager of Events and Corporate Membership 

The summer of 2015 was a busy time at Museum of Glass (MOG) for wedding ceremonies, receptions, and marriage proposals. MOG is a popular site for weddings with an outdoor ceremony followed by a reception in the Grand Hall. Each outdoor event brings a period of weather anxiety on the days leading up to the wedding, as the lucky couple hopes for perfect conditions on their big day. In 2015, we had a wide range of conditions; from heat waves where we had to take the wedding indoors, to a wedding that concluded just minutes before it started raining.

August 8 brought the wedding of Alice Yi and Michael Oh to the lower plaza near the Fluent Steps installation. Michael is an officer at nearby Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM), and their dramatic ceremony had them walking under the drawn swords of other officers from JBLM.


On September 2, Dan Rattenbury got down on one knee on the Hot Shop floor to propose to his girlfriend. MOG emcee Walt Lieberman was in on this elaborate arrangement to surprise her and have the proposal happen during their visit to the Hot Shop.

Dan had an idea that centered around the notion that his girlfriend was like a unicorn – a mythical being and, like a unicorn, too good to be true. A month before their visit, he had the Museum’s Hot Shop Team make a unicorn out of glass. The mythical glass creature was then carefully wrapped in advance as a grand prize for the person who could answer a trivia question on the day of their visit. Dan supplied our emcee with a question that only his girlfriend could answer. When she answered the question correctly she was then invited down on the Hot Shop floor to retrieve her prize.  Once she opened the box, Dan then asked her to marry him and she said yes!


Looking on from the audience were friends and family along with the other Museum visitors. Congratulations Dan!


John Ferguson is the Manager of Events and Corporate Membership at Museum of Glass. An aviation enthusiast and private pilot, John enjoys flying out of Tacoma Narrows airport and taking in the beautiful scenery this area has to offer.

Bird Lovers’ Weekend

By the Visitor Services Team 

Another year marks another Bird Lovers’ Weekend here at Museum of Glass (MOG). This past weekend, October 2 through 4, we celebrated our 12th Annual Bird Lovers’ Weekend in conjunction with the great Professor Oiva Toikka and Iittala. Each October, Finnish master glassmakers come to MOG for a weekend of exclusive bird-making in the Hot Shop. This year’s annual bird is the Steller’s Jay, which is pictured below:

The 2015 Museum of Glass annual Bird, the Steller's Jay.

This year, master glassmakers and students of Professor Toikka, Arto Lahtinen and Helena Welling, came to Tacoma and made a flock of birds over the weekend. In conjunction with the glassblowing, we had special guest birds here on Saturday, October 3, and Sunday, October 4.


Taima, the Seattle Seahawks live mascot, was here on Saturday from 11 am to 3 pm. Taima is an 11-year-old augur hawk, and has been the Hawks mascot for six years. He was very calm during his visit and even took photos with visitors at the Museum! On Sunday, Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium brought some exotic birds to the Museum, including a Bald Eagle with a six-foot wingspan.


Professor Toikka’s iconic collection of birds first took flight back in 1972 with the creation of the small Flycatchers. Today, Iittala Birds by Toikka are enjoyed by collectors all over the world, serving as simple reminders of the poetry in everyday life. Professor Toikka has created over 400 different species of birds over the last 40 years.

Would you like a little sneak peek of next year’s annual bird? The decision is not set in stone, but the Pacific coastal Ruddy Duck is high on the list!


Till next time, bird lovers!