Yesterday was Birthday Sunday.
No one in our house has a birthday in February.
Usually, i have a good idea well in advance what to get for Ed – birthdays, Christmas, smaller celebrations in between. I already know what i am getting him for his birthday this year. But last year, i didn’t have a clue. He can be a tough person to buy things for, i suppose — if there is something he wants, he will tend to just go out and get it. Sometimes my gifts for him have been things i have made — things he couldn’t have bought in a store, or things that were personal to him. But last year, i was stuck. And as the day drew closer, I was getting a little antsy about it .
Then i remembered the idea of giving experiences rather than things. This centres on the notion that our loved ones would rather spend time with us than unwrap more things to use, store, take care of, wear out, or dust. I put together an envelope of coupons for different activities. And now, roughly once a month, we have Birthday Sunday. The activities vary in complexity, time investment, and expense.
The envelope of ideas was wrapped up with a new soft-edge frisbee, so the first Sunday we walked to a park near our house and tossed the frisbee around, wearing out the dog as she played monkey-in-the-middle. Another Sunday we drove north to La Conner, a seaside town with plenty of character. We’ll go play in the snow before it goes away, and on another day, we’ll go on photo safari to Pike Place Market in Seattle. We have no particular plan for when we’ll do which Birthday Sunday — we usually decide mid-week and then make it happen.
Yesterday was Birthday Sunday and we drove south. There are several museums in Tacoma, all within walking distance of each other. I thought we’d be going to the Tacoma Art Museum, which contains a large retrospective exhibit of Dale Chihuly‘s work, donated by the artist, who is from the area.
It turns out that Ed was much more interested in going to the Museum of Glass , which houses one of the largest hot glass shops around. And seeing as it was his Birthday Sunday, Museum of Glass it was. The exhibit galleries are a very small part of the draw at MoG — the hot shop is the main attraction, with visiting glass artists from all over the world. We lucked out by showing up on one of only two weekends that Lino Tagliapietra, glass-blowing maestro from Murano, Italy was working in the hot shop. What a wonder!
There were about a dozen people working on the hot shop floor, with a raised amphitheatre of seating around half of a huge cone. On the other half of the cone was a raised walkway, where we were standing when i took the above photo. Above that, the cone rises the height of several more stories, venting heat to the outside. Standing on the walkway directly above the open hot shop furnaces, we were roasting. But the venting was so efficient at taking heat away from the working floor, the folks there looked more comfortable than we did.
Initially, we thought each group of people had their own project. As the hours rolled away, we saw that all of the smaller projects eventually became components of the final masterpiece, carefully planned and timed in advance. It was art and theatre and a chemistry lab all at once, with the artisans using deft skill and more than a little care in the handling of long hot rods and boiling glass. Beginning to end, the piece above took about three hours to make, and watching the process inspired gasps, wonder, and a hearty round of applause from the audience when the piece was finally released from the rod.
The pictures i took do not nearly do justice to the process or to the end result. I’m glad i didn’t take the time away from enjoying it to take many photos. Now that we have seen some of what can be done in a hot glass shop, we are eager to return and visit the exhibits at the Tacoma Art Museum. The area around the museum is an interesting mix of modern industrial, beautiful old brick buildings (including Tacoma’s own Union Station), and miles of intersecting old — but still much used — train track. Sounds like another photo safari…
listening to: Belle & Sebastian, Ease Your Feet in the Sea