Monthly Archives: March 2016

Shelley Muzylowski Allen on Nature, Glass, and Gender

By Hillary Ryan, Director of Marketing and Communications

Nestled in the North Cascades, Shelley Muzylowski Allen welcomed us to her home and studio, earlier this year, to learn more about her and her work. She shared with us a story about the deer that visit her cherry tree and showed us her amazing collection of rocks, many of which find their way into her sculpture. With her relaxed manner and warm smile, it’s easy to see how her personality is reflected in her approachable and beautiful creations. We look forward to welcoming her back to the Hot Shop this April.


Horses seem to be the focus of your current work. What is your connection to horses?

Horses have been a recurring form in my work since my early paintings and drawings in childhood. I felt very connected to their form and more importantly, our relationship with them and what they have meant to us and our civilization throughout history.


About 10 years ago, my father gave credence to this relationship when he told me that he had found evidence that our eastern European family name traced back to early cavalry who roamed the Eurasian Steppes on horseback and were among the early domesticators of horses.

Although many members of my family raised horses, I was never as interested in riding them as I was in drawing or painting them. My feeling of connection to them always made me a little uneasy and I have tried to venture away from rendering their form many times.

Since your last residency at Museum of Glass, what have you been up to?

During my last residency at MOG in 2009, I created a new body of work that I titled the Netsuke Pots—a series that would give reverence to commonplace creatures and would be created devoid of color. This body of work opened up new avenues in my creative thought and allowed me to concentrate on different forms of flora and fauna and gesture and incorporate more narrative in the pieces.

I’ve since been developing these ideas, capturing a moment in time, or timelessness, creating tension in the pieces and exhibiting my work as much as I physically can. I’ve been collecting large rocks and using them to dynamically support the glass form and become part of the visual field. The texture and colors of both rock and glass contrast and complement each other—adding to the visual tension and the composition and feeling evoked being very similar to a scene painted in oils.

In 2012, I was invited to Murano to continue making a body of work with Davide Salvadore that we had started at Pilchuck. I had been intrigued and mystified by the horse-headed violins of Mongolia. We explored that concept and created 12 animal-headed instruments. In 2016, we are planning to make another collaborative body of work.

When I’m not in the hot shop…

I discovered aerial yoga and practice this weekly. Doing inversions and hanging from the silks can decompress and balance my spine after standing on concrete and working asymmetrically in the hot shop. Rik and I also like to get outdoors and hike or go to the San Juan islands on our little Boston Whaler. On these trips I’ve often found the rocks that I use in my work.

What precipitates a collaboration with your husband and fellow artist Rik Allen? How do you plan and work together to execute your collaborative pieces?

Although we don’t work in the hot shop together as frequently as we used to, Rik and I collaborate in many ways in our life together. It often comes in the form of dialogue as we discuss each other’s respective work and offer our insights or ideas to each other. We rely on each other’s strengths and find balance in doing this. Rik and I have taught many workshops and really enjoy teaching together. Our demonstrations are often collaborations made in the hot shop to illustrate effective communication and teamwork as part of our teaching curriculum. We spend time talking about the theme and drawing it until we are both satisfied with the idea and design.

What do you think are the challenges for women working in glass?

Working with glass, especially hot glass requires extreme focus, stamina and perseverance. You have to be willing to work extremely hard and work because you love the medium and not because you have certain expectations of the end result. The learning curve is steep which may deter a number of people of both genders.

The glass world largely in the past was male dominated. I’ve heard from a few women that this held them back from pursuing a career with hot glass. I don’t believe that this is the current situation in this country. The opportunities are out there for both men and women. Men generally have a stronger physical build so in some specific cases that may be the reason for their hiring. Staying healthy and in good physical shape can help for both genders in working with this medium. When I went to Murano, many of the maestros had never seen a woman working at her own bench before.  I was nervous about what their reaction might be but I was treated very well and with respect for my physical space and my work.


Shelley Muzylowski Allen will be the Visiting Artist in the MOG Hot Shop from April 6 – 10, 2016 through Fuel Their Fire IV. Learn more about her work at


Sip and Savor at Slider Cook-Off


The fifth annual Slider Cook-Off is just around the corner! On March 26, seven Puget Sound restaurants will bring their slider A game to Museum of Glass to compete for the Judges’ Choice and People’s Choice awards.

While each restaurant’s slider is top-secret until the evening of the cook-off, we can share what guests can sip on throughout the night, courtesy of Heritage Distilling Company.


Which cocktail will you pair with your sliders?

Jail House Rock
1 1/2 oz Elk Rider Bourbon
5.5 oz Ginger Ale
Garnish with lime

Rockin’ Sour
1 1/2 oz Elk Rider Bourbon
3/4 oz. fresh lemon juice
1/3 oz. maple syrup (or more, to taste)
1 small sprig fresh rosemary
Shake and strain over ice, Garnish with sprig of rosemary and/or lemon

Blue Suede Shoes
11/2 oz Blueberry Vodka
4.5 oz lemonade
1 oz club soda
Garnish with fresh blueberries and mint

Pin Up Punch
1 oz Pomegranate Vodka
1/2 oz Mango Vodka
4.5 oz Orange Juice
1 oz Club Soda
Garnish with maraschino cherry

Classic G&T
1 1/2 oz Batch No. 12 Gin
6.5 oz tonic
Garnish with lime

No matter what kind of slider each restaurant serves, Heritage Distilling Co.’s drink selection will help you create the perfect cocktail and slider pairing to sip and savor. Hope to see you at Slider Cook-Off!


Connections through Art and Home – Made at the Museum: Native American Artists

By Beth Luce, Communications Manager at Pierce County Library System

One of the great events planned for Pierce County READS 2016 happens at Museum of Glass (MOG) on Thursday, March 17. It’s called Made at the Museum: Native American Artists.

It’s an interesting blend of pieces created by Native American resident glass artists over the past decade and the written art of Sherman Alexie.

The special display will include artist Corwin Clairmont’s piece, Traditional Cedar Bark Berry Basket.

Corwin N. Clairmont (Member of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Indian Tribes, born 1946); Traditional Cedar Bark Berry Basket, 2009; Blown and hot-sculpted glass; Dimensions vary; Collection of Museum of Glass, Tacoma, Washington, gift of the artist.

Corwin N. Clairmont (Member of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Indian Tribes, born 1946); Traditional Cedar Bark Berry Basket, 2009; Blown and hot-sculpted glass; Dimensions vary; Collection of Museum of Glass, Tacoma, Washington, gift of the artist. Photo by Duncan Price.

Here’s something he wrote about it: “The cedar basket is a reminder of the place we live, and a direct connection with our ancestors and the important lessons embedded in this wonderful form.

“Creating the cedar basket in glass is also a reminder of the fragileness of many things that the natural world provides, enabling the human being to survive. We need to be respectful of each other and that which makes up the natural world we live in. All is connected and a part of the great circle.”

We asked Clairmont a discussion question, inspired by Alexie’s best-known and most controversial book, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian.

Part-Time Indian

Can you have the same relationship with your home when you’ve moved beyond it?

Clairmont answered (in part) this way:  “Not sure if you can ever completely move beyond home as we are tied to the land/place, family, friends and tribal community.

“Leaving home can give you new and exciting experiences and provides insight and a variety of perspectives not found at home. It invites adventure and limitless growth potential.”

I’m looking forward to exploring what connects these two people and the other glass artists represented, including Preston Singletary, Raven Skyriver, Marvin Oliver and Joe Fedderson.

Preston Singletary (American Tlingit, born 1963); Killer Whale, 2009; Blown and sandcarved glass; 25 x 16 x 7 inches; Made at Museum of Glass, Tacoma, Washington, gift of the artist.

Preston Singletary (American Tlingit, born 1963); Killer Whale, 2009; Blown and sandcarved glass; 25 x 16 x 7 inches; Made at Museum of Glass, Tacoma, Washington, gift of the artist. Photo by Russell Johnson.

The Made at the Museum: Native American Artists and Pierce County READS book presentation takes place on Third Thursday, March 17, from 6 to 8 pm. Admission to Museum of Glass is free.

Find out more about Sherman Alexie and Pierce County READS 2016.

Beth Luce works at telling the story of Pierce County Library System, which has 20 locations throughout the county.

The Kiley

By Katie Phelps, Curatorial Assistant and Visiting Artist Coordinator

Last month, I found myself lagging at 3 pm on a Friday. Luckily, my office has something better than a cup of coffee. We have the Hot Shop, where I can watch my coworkers coax hot glass (essentially molten lava) into world-class sculptures.

I tucked myself into a front row seat to watch artist John Kiley work with our team to create his dramatic, optical sculptures. As I sat down, I could tell that my afternoon blues were shared with my coworkers—energy on the Hot Shop floor was low. The glass, our emcee Greg Owen informed me, was infested with bubbles. The team couldn’t figure out why, but the results produced surfaces too pock-marked to create finished pieces.

The frustration was palatable until John Kiley grabbed the iPod attached to the Hot Shop speakers and silenced Pandora™’s mellow, artsy blues. Familiar, energizing power chords filled the Hot Shop.

“Jessie is a friend/ Yeah, I know he’s been a good friend of mine/ But lately something’s changed/ It ain’t hard to define/ Jessie’s got himself a girl and I want to make her mine…”

By the time Rick Springfield’s iconic chorus came along, I found myself pulling out my air guitar along with the rest of the Hot Shop. The next few songs turned the swagger in the Hot Shop back up to 11 and struck a new energy that was relaxed, confident and fun.


With the atmosphere reenergized, the next piece concluded successfully with a dramatic flair we’ve officially dubbed “The Kiley.”

It’s hard not to reflect on teamwork while sitting in MOG’s Hot Shop, and that Friday the lesson was loud and clear—attitude is contagious.

Katie Phelps is the Curatorial Assistant/Visiting Artist Coordinator at Museum of Glass. She is an alumnus of Whitman College (BA) and University of Washington (MA). In her life outside of the Museum she is outside as much as possible, wearing skis as often as she does hiking boots.