Tacoma’s Museum of Glass

Museum of Glass Cone by Gagliardi Photography
Museum of Glass. Image by Gagliardi Photography

If your travels take you to Tacoma (which they should because Seattle’s sister-city is filled with underrated gems), do yourself a favor and visit the Museum of Glass. It’s a celebration of art, history, and the science of glassmaking. The captivating institution is home to the largest and most active museum glass studio on the West Coast.

Displays feature works by some of the most renowned glass artists from the 20th and 21st centuries. While exhibits lean towards contemporary art, classics are also on display. But the real draw here is the museum’s Hot Shop.

Step inside the active glass studio, where visiting artists are transforming molten glass into works of art. Live demonstrations are offered every day the museum is open. Seating is stadium style, offering an elevated view of the fire-filled furnaces, blocks (wooden tools used for shaping gathers of glass), blowpipes, torches, and more. 

Spotting the Museum of Glass

The Hot Shop is housed in a 90-foot amphitheater, a distinct stainless-steel cone that can easily be spotted when driving through the city (or flying over it on a scenic tour). Constructed from 2,800 diamond-shaped stainless-steel panels, it tilts to the side, counterbalancing the horizontal lines of the building. The design is a nod to the sawmills that used to dot Tacoma’s waterways — echoing the shape of the wood “beehive burners” which glowed nearly all day and night. While the waterfront is now scattered with buildings and roads, take a moment to imagine what this bustling city once looked like when its primary economy was focused on timber.