For the opening weekend of the Museum of Glass’ newest exhibition, Kids Design Glass Too, the Hot Shop was abuzz with creativity and color. Visitors to the onsite glassblowing studio watched as artists wielded a 5,000-degree propane torch that whooshed through the air as they created Campy, a technically complex piece fashioned in fiery hues. The designer, Lucy Clark, watched from the front row as the team presented it for “artist approval.”
Lucy — 6 years old and sitting on her mother’s lap — smiled. The glass version of her smiling, campfire character who “loves to roast marshmallows” was perfect.
Campy is the latest creation courtesy of the Kids Design Glass program at the Museum of Glass (MOG). Launched in 2004, the program receives more than 1,000 drawings from children 12 years and under. Each month, a design is selected to be made in MOG’s Hot Shop; the public is invited to watch. One glass piece is created for the Kids Design Glass museum collection — which now boasts more than 100 pieces — and a second is given to the kid artists.
“We’re still blown away by the ideas. It shows the capacity for creativity especially amongst this age group,” says Benjamin Cobb, Hot Shop manager and lead gaffer. “It’s always hard to pick just one!”
Kids Design Glass Too
The 2015 exhibition, Kids Design Glass Too, which opened to the public on Jan. 17, showcases 28 new kid-designed glass pieces and builds on the success of the inaugural 2009 show.
A new aspect of the program is showcasing collaborations from around the world. In April 2014, Lilou Duranton, age 10, watched via Skype from Biot, France, as the Hot Shop team breathed life into her drawing La Nuit de Douphins, currently on display. Also on view are works from children in Canada as well as Iowa and Texas.
“What excited me was the thought of being able to have my own creation in the Museum of Glass,” says Reid Clark, a 12-year-old resident of Vancouver, B.C. “I wanted to sketch something unique and representative of my heritage.”
Reid visited MOG with his family as a 10-year-old and submitted a pencil-and-crayon drawing of Bart the Beaver. A friendly fellow with blue eyes and an oversized tail, Bart is on display as part of the 2015 exhibit.
“It was a privilege to watch Bart’s creation and something I’ll remember for the rest of my life,” Reid says.
The experience inspired Reid to continue with his drawing and he continues to sketch new versions to this day.
Spaces for creativity
Children as young as 4 years old have participated in the Kids Design Glass program. Addyson Beecher’s Design of Colors sculpture boasts a joyful rainbow and sparkling sun. The whimsy and unadulterated happiness delight visitors.
“It’s interesting to actually see the creative thoughts kids have,” an adult guest commented during opening weekend.
Kids Design Glass Too colorfully illustrates the importance of creating space — both literally and figuratively — for creativity. Dr. Susan Linn, Instructor in Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and co-founder and director for the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, has expressed support for the program. According to Linn, children 12 years and younger better express themselves without inhibition. Older adolescents become increasingly influenced by pop culture and advertising.
“I think it’s super cool to express yourself through artwork and have people actually see your personality,” says eighth-grader Madeline Teddy. “It’s like you kind of get to see how people’s minds work.”
As a 10-year-old, Madeline designed Girls Night Out!!!, a dolphin decked out in bows, jewelry and a yellow purse, which is being exhibited in Kids Design Glass Too. She will soon enter high school and continues to pursue her artistic inclinations with ambitions of pursuing a career in design.
MOG has expanded the program by partnering with high school students. Teams submitted proposals — complete with artist statements, mockups and budgets — to create dioramas for various pieces. Of 28 proposals, five were chosen and will be installed in spring 2015.
“Creativity knows no bounds,” Cobb says. “We have no idea whose life will be affected by this work, but it definitely touches all of us when we see it."
More fun at Kids Design Glass Too
In addition to the display of glass art pieces, the exhibit includes a reading corner where glass-themed books are available, such as Elena’s Serenade, Glassigator and Paperweight Pals. An interactive play area offers oversized chalkboards for drawing as well as blocks and costumes for dressing as one’s favorite KDG character.
If you go ...
What: Kids Design Glass Too is showing through July 12, 2015
Where: The Museum of Glass, 1801 Dock St., Tacoma, Wash.
Hot shop: An onsite glassblowing studio, the Hot Shop is open during regular museum hours and available for public viewing. Check the online calendar for Kids Design Glass days, typically the last Sunday of every month (though not in January).
To submit a design for Kids Design Glass: Kids can pick up an entry form either in person at MOG or online. It can then be submitted in person or mailed to MOG.
Parking and snacks. Pay parking is available in the garage under the museum. The onsite Museum Cafe, Choripan by Asado, offers Argentinean-style fare in addition to standards such as sandwiches, coffee and desserts.
More to do in Tacoma. Downtown Tacoma is blessed with many kid-friendly museums that are close to each other, including the Washington State History Museum (across the street from MOG); The Children’s Museum of Tacoma (free); and LeMay-America's Car Museum (slot cars, pinewood derby and more). Ride the Link to navigate between destinations. Most of these museums are free on the third Thursday of the month.