Tag Archives: Hot Shop

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.   

Lino, Lino, Lino!

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

Lino Tagliapietra is in town and Museum of Glass is hopping! Lino actually arrived last week and prepared for his residency by making parts. Lino, Jennifer Elek, Erich Woll, and our own Museum of Glass Hot Shop Team of Benjamin Cobb, Gabe Feenan, and Sarah Gilbert, worked together to pull hundreds of feet of cane, which will be used to create the expressive lines in Lino’s pieces this week.


Then, they picked up bundles of cane and made it into various other canes and murrine. Some of the parts were made into long, narrow bubbles, which were then cut apart into smaller sections.


All of these parts will be recombined over the next two weeks. First thing Wednesday morning, Lino laid out patterns of murrine onto a slab of ceramic kiln shelf.


Murrine is the name for small tiles of glass, often with intricate patterns encased inside. Murrine is made by bundling canes together with wire, and then heating them up again and pulling them into more cane, sometimes with a square profile.


Erich Woll is an expert at making these murrine, and he makes nearly all of the murrine that Lino uses.


Once the murrine has been stretched out long and cooled, it is chopped into smaller sections and laid out on a kiln shelf (like the one in the photo above). The entire set up is then reheated and squeezed together. Jennifer Elek is responsible for blending all of those small parts together into a flat disk, which is then picked up on a clear, glass bubble.


Once the piece gets picked up on a clear collar, it is formed into a round bubble and handed off to Lino to work his magic.

To see what Lino makes, tune into the Museum of Glass live feed from 9 am to 3:30 pm, Wednesday through Sunday during the next two weeks.


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. 

10 Things You Didn’t Know about the Museum of Glass Hot Shop Team

  1. Their favorite beer is Rainier.
  2. They go fly fishing—for salmon and trout. Team member Sarah Gilbert caught her first steelhead on a dry fly (something most people only dream about).
  3. They love 1980s soft rock favorites—especially Gabe Feenan, who often sings along.
  4. They go camping together once a year (this involves a lot of Rainier beer).
  5. They are major foodies.
  6. They bring sushi to staff potlucks (from fish they caught themselves—naturally).
  7. They always dress up for Halloween. This year they wore their best formalwear to work in the Hot Shop; last year they were convicts.
  8. They are handy, and own old houses in Tacoma that they like to renovate.
  9. They make their own light fixtures!
  10. One member can eat 22 tacos in one sitting. We can’t tell you what their favorite taco truck is—that’s proprietary information.
The Museum of Glass Hot Shop Team on Halloween.

The Museum of Glass Hot Shop Team on Halloween.

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.