Five Minutes with Amber Cowan

Amber Cowan will be working in the Museum of Glass Hot Shop from May 4 through 8. MOG’s Visiting Artist is currently a faculty member of the glass department at Tyler School of Art in Pennsylvania and her work is represented by Heller Gallery in New York. Cowan is known for searching flea markets and thrift shops for discarded objects such as teacups, plates, and dishes and transforming these discarded items into decorative sculptures ornamented with of swans, lambs, roses, leaves, and floral layers.

Photo courtesy of Amber Cowan.

MOG caught up with Amber before her residency to talk art, flea markets, and pastries.

I started collecting objects at flea markets, in thrift stores, and on eBay when…

I was in graduate school, from 2009 to 2011. I began working with old glass when I found a barrel of old factory cullet at Tyler. This barrel was from an old run of easter candy dishes. Since people have started learning about my work, I now get packages from people all over the country. Sometimes people I have never met send me old glass that they don’t want to keep, but feel sad about throwing it out. They know that I will give it a new history.

Amber Cowan; Bottle Bowl, 2012; Flameworked and fused recycled wine bottles; 15 x 15 x 2 inches; Photo courtesy of the artist.
Amber Cowan; Bottle Bowl, 2012; Flameworked and fused recycled wine bottles; 15 x 15 x 2 inches; Photo courtesy of the artist.

I source most of my glass from…

An old cullet yard in West Virginia. But, I am also always looking for new places to get old glass at good prices. I just discovered an amazing store in Richmond, Virginia, that was the biggest vintage glass and ceramic store that I had ever seen.

If I wasn’t working in glass, I would…

Probably be a pastry chef.

The last time I was on the west coast was…

When I was visiting a friend in LA and then drove out to Joshua Tree. The last time I was in Washington state was last August, when a friend and I drove from San Diego to Seattle and then I taught at Pratt for the week.

During my residency I hope to…

Get inspired about new directions I can take my work. I have created a special press mold for my residency based of an old vintage milk glass hand. I had the old piece 3-D scanned and another faculty member at Tyler milled the graphite for me to create the mold. I can now reproduce this vintage piece very easily. I am excited to see where this process can take me when it is combined with the skilled glassblowers at Museum of Glass.

Plan a visit to Museum of Glass to see Visiting Artist Amber Cowan working, or tune into her residency online.

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.