glass artist

Mark Zirpel

From the moment you set foot in Seattle, you can feel it: art is everywhere.

The thriving arts scene is a priority in this city—in fact, Seattle has been recognized for having more arts-related businesses and organizations per capita than any other metropolitan area in the U.S., according to Americans for the Arts. Glass artist Mark Zirpel is one of the contributors to this creative city. Read on for a look at the city through his artistic lens.

Q&A with Mark Zirpel

What do you teach at the University of Washington?

The major is called 3D4M, and we’ve merged sculpture, glass, and ceramics under one umbrella. We’re tucked away on 300 acres of wetlands near the main campus in the CMA (Ceramics and Metal Arts) Building. Tuesday nights we have visiting artists and it’s open to the public, and at the end of the program, our grads have shows both at the Henry and at our gallery space.

What places would you recommend for people wanting to see glass art?

This is a good city for glass, probably the densest concentration in the world. There’s Chihuly Garden and Glass, which is totally retinal with eye-popping color and imitation-of-nature type stuff. The Museum of Glass in Tacoma has an extravagant hot shop where you can see glass being made. Of course Pilchuck Glass School, 50 miles north of Seattle, is one of the premiere glass centers in the world. During the summer, it has open days when the public can visit.

What do you do when you’re not in the studio?

This is a great beer town if you drink beer. This part of the country is where the whole microbrew industry started. I used to live right across the street from Redhook Brewery. Hale’s Brewery is in Fremont, and the Elysian is on Capitol Hill. We drink a lot of Georgetown Brewery beer at school because they give us a great deal on kegs for our openings.

I’m also nature person. For an urban center, Seattle is really rich for that. I like to be on the water. I have kayaks, and I’ve kayaked all up and down the coast of Alaska and British Columbia and Vancouver Island.

How can visitors get easy access to a kayak?

If it was a beautiful day, you could just drive up Westlake and go to the Northwest Outdoor Center, rent a kayak for $20, and go out and paddle around Lake Union. There’s another place, Agua Verde, that rents kayaks and also happens to be a very good restaurant. There’s also the Waterfront Activities Center, which is tucked away by the UW stadium, and they have a whole fleet of sailboats and kayaks and canoes.

If a person was visiting Seattle, one of its best features is access to the water. Get on a ferry, not even in a destination-minded way: get on any ferry, have a look around the sound—it’s a spectacular body of water. We have this dual thing where you can tool around Lake Union if you want something small or intimate, or you can go out to Lake Washington where there are actual waves and stuff going on, or you can paddle out through the Locks which is one of my must-see features of Seattle. I have a little sailboat and I sail around. It’s one of my favorite things to do: there’s nothing like getting in a boat of any sort and leaving a lot of stuff at the dock.



Interview by Jess Van Nostrand, 2012.

Photo taken in the UW 3D4M studios.


A closer look at Mark Zirpel’s Hot Glass Roadshow demo at the Glass Art Society Conference.



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