Maestro Lino Tagliapietra's hands flick and fly around molten glass, expertly forming it into inspired creations. One of the world's preeminent glass artists, the Italian master visits the Museum of Glass for a five-day Hot Shop residency, which kicked off Wednesday and runs through Sunday, to celebrate the museum's 10-year anniversary.
"The MOG, in my opinion, is a very important institution because it showcases that this area is where glass art flourishes," Tagliapietra says.
The musuem has repeatedly exhibited his work, including the current 65-piece show, "Maestro: Recent Works by Lino Tagliapietra" (through Jan. 6). Tagliapietra's current Hot Shop appearance is an opportunity for the public to observe him blow glass in person.
The 78-year-old master is a living link between the thousand-year traditions of Italian glassblowing and the techniques of the modern glass movements. Born and raised in Murano - Italy's legendary glass epicenter - Tagliapietra was apprenticed at 12 years old and a master by the time he turned 21.
"My family, we always talked about glass. With friends, we talked about glass. I thought about it all the time," he says.
It was a local way of life, but Tagliapietra's personal reverence for the medium is what sustains his burning desire to create.
"Glass is one of the most wonderful materials that an artist has to work with. What makes this material so unique are its characteristics of being fragile and strong at the same time," says Tagliapietra. "A well-made piece of glass work would show this incredible duality."
He figures strongly in the Northwest's evolution of glass arts. He first visited the United States in 1979 to teach at the newly founded Pilchuck School co-established by Dale Chihuly. Generations later, he remains passionate about education and collaboration.
"I like the concept to teach. It's very beautiful to see young students become great artists and people - fantastic," Tagliapietra says.
Numerous members of MOG's resident Hot Shop have previously worked with Tagliapietra and are continually impressed by his talent and work ethic.
"There are less than a handful of people in the entire world who have the skill, compassion and drive for making glass like him," says Benjamin Cobb, MOG's lead Hot Shop gaffer. "He walks into the studio around 7:30 a.m., starts making something almost immediately and doesn't stop until 2 or 3 p.m. He can really show young folks how to work!"
Tagliapietra finds artistic inspiration everywhere - talking with people, nature's vibrant colors, light and shadows, flowing water. He prefers to let the relationship between himself and the piece evolve naturally while working rather than create a detailed, advance plan.
For MOG and its visitors, Tagliapietra's visit is an appropriate way to celebrate the fluid nature of the past, present and future.
"I am a glassblower. I need to touch the glass. I need to see the glass moving and see the lines. I need to talk with the glass in order for me to express myself," he explains.
Museum of Glass
1801 Dock Street
Tacoma, WA 98402
Museum hours and admission vary.
Visiting artist Lino Tagliapietra
Free with museum admission
October 10-13, 9:00 a.m.-3:00 p.m.
October 14, 12:00 p.m.-5:00 p.m.