Entries by Christina Claassen

Museum Store 2021 Holiday Gift Guide

In need of some gift inspiration this holiday season? Our holiday gift guide from the Museum Store has you covered. We have a wide selection of gifts for everyone on your list, from art lovers to inquisitive kids and outdoor enthusiasts.

By shopping at the Museum Store, you’ll be supporting a local business working to recover from the pandemic. You can shop with peace of mind knowing the Museum also has rigorous cleaning and safety measures in place, including mask requirements for staff and visitors.

Are you a Museum member? Members save 10% on store merchandise (excluding consignment items). 

Holiday Gift Guide

Take a peek at just a fraction of the fantastic items available at the Museum Store. From books and jewelry to children’s games and puzzles, our holiday gift guide has plenty of ideas. Please note some items have limited quantities and may no longer be available.


Have an art enthusiast on your list? Gift them something unique this year. The Museum Store offers a great selection of art by local and regional artists, including works by Rob Vetter, Melonie Ancheta, Steve Klein, Vincent Feliciano, Katrina Hude, Rebecca Meloy, and others. 

Staff picks: Mini Bellingham Woodblock Paintings by local artist Rob Vetter ($50-$100)


Two painted pieces of wood blocks


Know a budding bookworm? We have tons of wonderful children’s books! In addition to books for young minds, we also offer a great selection of books for adults covering a variety of topics, including local and regional history, nature (birding, hiking, etc.), art, and more. 

Staff picks: Camp Cricket ($16.95), Eat the Cake ($16.95), ¡Mézclalo Bien! ($15.99)

Three children's books


Give the gift of indoor entertainment this winter with a fun puzzle. The Museum Store offers puzzles for all ages and skill levels, from easy kids’ puzzles to challenging 1,000-piece masterpieces. 

Staff picks: Marine Animals ($30), Vintage Bellingham Map ($35), Coffeeology ($13.99)

Three puzzles


Dazzle your loved one with creative earrings or a timeless necklace. We have styles ranging from casual to dressy and feature multiple artists from Washington State. 

Staff picks: Handmade Glass Earrings by local artist Carol Cuminale ($22.50)


Three sets of glass earrings, one orange, one blue and one green

Home Goods

Know a homebody or someone who loves entertaining at home? We have the perfect gifts! From fancy cups and tea towels to fun candles, our home items offer both form and function.

Staff picks: Paddywax Impressions Candles ($22)


Three candles with hand signals on the side expressing peace, love, and good

Outdoor Adventure Supplies

For the camper, backpacker, or just general outdoorsy person in your life, give the gift of camping-themed goodies. From campfire games to cookbooks to elevate their wilderness meals, these gifts are sure to be a hit.

Staff picks: The Camping Life ($24.95), The Camp & Cabin Cookbook ($24.95), Happy Camper Socks ($12), Happy Trails Mug ($20), Camping Tic-Tac-Go! ($12)

Outdoor Adventure


Keep your loves ones warm and cozy with socks, hats, and scarves in a variety of fun patterns.

Staff picks: Good Luck Socks ($12), Custom Whatcom Museum Socks ($20)


Four pairs of socks featuring sea creatures, the Whatcom Museum building, sasquatch, and squirrels.

All About Bellingham

Share the local love with merchandise that shows off Bellingham and this beautiful corner of the Pacific Northwest. From posters to candles and keychains, choose from many items that highlight the City of Subdued Excitement.

Staff picks: Bellingham Print by local artist Brinn Hollander ($20), Bellingham Candle ($20), Beautiful Ride Keychain ($4.50), Nautical Chart Coaster ($4.50), Wooden Old City Hall Pin ($6), North Cascades Tea Towel ($10.50), Bellingham Sticker ($3.50)

Bellingham merchandise including a poster and more

Art Supplies

We have art supplies and art inspiration galore at the Museum Store! From fancy pens and pencils to sketchbooks and art-themed books, these gifts will satisfy artists of all ages.

Staff picks: Marvelous Multi-Purpose Markers ($20), Studio Oh Sketchbook ($18), Artsy Cats ($12.99), Washi Tape ($3.75), Jotters Gel Pens ($2.50)

Art supplies including pens and a sketchbook


Looking for some family fun? We have tons of games, from classics like checkers to new options. Have little ones to buy for this year? There are plenty of games just for kids.

Staff picks: Life on Earth Memory Game ($22), Sloth in a Hurry Game ($25)

Two children's games

Stocking Stuffers

Don’t forget the little extras! The best stocking stuffers are small but mighty. From pins and stickers to delicious tea, we have many marvelous minis that are perfect for a stocking.

Staff picks: Explore and North Cascades Stickers ($3.50), Bike/Bottle Opener Keychain ($5), Northwest Breakfast Tea ($6), Sea Life Note Pals ($3.75), Fabric Thumbtacks ($5), Cosmic Spinner ($4.50), Glass Pins by Ellen Dale ($16)

Stocking stuffers, including a sticker, bottle opener, tea, and more

How to purchase

The Museum Store is open for in-person shopping Wednesdays-Sundays from noon-5pm. Have a question about our holiday gift guide or something on our website? Call us at 360.778.8975 during Store hours. All purchases from the Store directly benefit our educational programs and exhibitions.

We hope to see you at the Museum Store this holiday season!

Fantastic Fashion: Inside the Museum’s Clothing Collection

Lacy evening dresses, leather pants, beaded shoes, and incredible hats adorned with feathers. These are just a fraction of the roughly 3,500 articles in our clothing collection. Explore examples of historic garments spanning from the 1800s through the mid-20th century in our exhibit All Dressed Up… at Old City Hall through Oct. 31, 2021.

Clothing Collection

The garments on view in All Dressed Up… stand out as exceptional in their design and exemplary of the aesthetics of their time. The exhibit allows us to examine fashion over the last century as a form of communication. Choices in attire can signal important information: the wearer’s status, affiliations, activities, or even their mood. 

Curated by Maria Coltharp, the Museum’s Curator of Collections, the exhibit invites visitors to immerse themselves in the styles and color palettes of the past century.

From women’s dresses to hats and shoes, Coltharp offers insights into the various styles and materials on view. Below is a brief selection of the fantastic garments you can see in All Dressed Up… Visit us Thursdays-Sundays from noon-5pm before the exhibit closes Oct. 31!

Tea Dress, circa 1910

Silk and lace
Gift of Joyce Yorkston

The formality of the Edwardian era required changing dresses several times a day depending on one’s activity. A white tea dress was a wardrobe staple of middle- and upper-class women who would change into the airy dresses in the afternoon to socialize with one’s peers. Keeping the dress a crisp white was costly and impractical – an obvious signifier of wealth.  

Sports Dress, 1936

Cotton with metal zipper
Gift of Clara Neilsen

This 1930s floor-length dress was worn as athletic wear, most likely to play tennis or golf. A short-sleeved bolero jacket would have completed the ensemble along with oxford-style shoes, or perhaps even a short heel. Pants were still widely considered menswear until World War II, so dresses were worn for practically all occasions. 

Evening Dress, circa 1950

Taffeta, grosgrain ribbon, netting
Gift of Galen Biery

In 1947, designer Christian Dior unveiled his “New Look,” consisting of a prominent bustline, a cinched waist, and a full skirt. The hourglass silhouette was not exactly “new,” as Dior borrowed heavily from Victorian styles. What was new was the relinquishment of wartime rations and the return of some level of opulence to women’s dress. A full skirt can take up to 13 yards of fabric to create – an excess that was impossible during World War II.

Shift Dress, circa 1966

Synthetic materials
Gift of Frances D. Smith

This shift dress is a bright example of 1960s fashion. The influential style of Jackie Kennedy made the shift dress popular. Characterized by fabric falling straight down from the shoulders with darts around the bust, it is a simple construction that allowed total freedom of movement.

Leather Pants, circa 1973

Designer: Bonnie Cashin
Leather with synthetic lining
Gift of Virginia Weller

One of the most important designers in fashion history created this pair of electric blue leather pants. Modern fashion owes much to Bonnie Cashin and her quest to promote freedom of movement in women’s everyday clothing. Cashin was responsible for making leather and suede popular in the 1960s and 1970s and was the first to feature knee-high boots as part of her fashion ensembles.


There are 267 pairs of shoes in the Museum’s collection, spanning from the 1820s through the 1980s. The shoes on display offer a brief survey of women’s shoe fashion, beginning with the Victorian Era.

Footwear in the Victorian Era (1837 – 1901) focused heavily on the daintiness of women’s feet, prompting many women to wear shoes that were several sizes too small for them, Coltharp writes. By the early 1970s, athletic shoe sales started surpassing that of high fashion shoe sales.

The small selection on display in All Dressed Up… begins with an extravagant pair of “dinner shoes” from 1910, featuring intricate beading and glass buttons. They belonged to the family of lauded Bellingham artist Helen Loggie.


There are 613 hats in the Museum’s collection, from 1800 through the late 1970s. The hats on display span from a Victorian feathered bonnet to an early 1960s pink geometric beret.

As with much of fashion history, certain hat styles went in and out of fashion through the years, Coltharp writes. Smaller hats were en vogue at the turn of the 20th century but became larger into the 1910s with more masculine styles and wider brims.

Several important hat designers are represented in All Dressed Up…, including Elsa Schiaparelli, Leslie James, Gene Doris, Lilly Daché, Sally Lynne, and Miriam Lewis. These women were not only creative geniuses but also business titans who shaped fashion trends for decades, Coltharp writes.

A note on diversity

All the items in our clothing collection have been donated, mostly by local enthusiasts. Coltharp writes that while the works are striking examples of changing design trends, there are many gaps in the story.

Most of the garments in the collection would have been worn by women with financial means, meaning that they were mostly wealthy white women, Coltharp writes. One reason for this disparity is that historically, clothing tended to be passed on through sale or gift, then used until completely worn out. The people who tended to keep special occasion clothing as mementos were women with means.

Another reason for the dominance of women’s clothing as opposed to men’s is the greater interest and attention given to women’s costume by historians.

Moving forward, we hope to acquire the items needed to create a more inclusive and socially relevant clothing collection. We feel strongly that designers from diverse backgrounds, clothing worn by BIPOC communities, more men’s fashion, and more non-gendered fashion should be included in this story.

Exploring themes in Fluid Formations

A seashell with barnacles. A flaming electric guitar. What do these have in common, you might wonder? They are both made of glass and on view in Fluid Formations: The Legacy of Glass in the Pacific Northwest. The exhibition in the Lightcatcher building features 57 artists working in glass and showcases their striking range of processes and ideas.

About Fluid Formations

The exhibition draws from the Museum’s permanent collection, loans from artists, and loans from Museum of Glass in Tacoma. It celebrates the region’s impact as the epicenter of glass, spurred by the establishment of Pilchuck Glass School in Stanwood, Washington, in 1971.

Fifty years later, the region’s glass community has expanded significantly, defined by shared knowledge, teamwork, and an experimental spirit.

Fluid Formations shares the work of artists including Nancy Callan, Dale Chihuly, Jen Elek, Dan Friday, Kelly O’Dell, Preston Singletary, Ethan Stern, Erich Woll, and many more.

The exhibition runs through Oct. 10. Learn more about the art and artists by taking a curator or docent-led tour.

Exploring themes

Museum Curator of Art Amy Chaloupka spent more than a year working to curate Fluid Formations in close partnership with Museum of Glass. While the exhibition shows great diversity of process, visitors are likely to notice a few themes.

Here, Chaloupka shares insights and highlights some of the artworks that touch on themes of nature, humor/play, portraiture/narrative, and light/shadow.


Several artists directly comment on both the resilience and fragility of species and ecosystems through their work. Most of the artists in the exhibition live in the Pacific Northwest, where access to rich coastal habitats and dense forests are within reach. In many cases, personal and artistic identity entwine with nature as artists connect art and daily life through activities like fishing, hiking, foraging, and more.

William Morris
Fish Trap

An avid outdoorsman who fishes, dives, and climbs, William Morris lives his art and explores the entwined relationship between man and nature. Particularly, he examines symbols and rituals across cultures, such as fishing, to probe this bond.

Morris can transform glass into something entirely unexpected. Using acid washes, etching, and surface powders to push the material beyond recognition, the artist creates textures that resemble stone, bone, clay, wood, fiber, or other natural materials.

Credit: William Morris; Fish Trap, 2007; Blown glass with steel stand; 11 x 26 x 6 in. Courtesy of William Morris Studio. Photo by Rob Vinnedge.

Shelley Muzylowski Allen
In The Morning Light

Shelley Muzylowski Allen works with the expressive forms of animals to create contemplative scenes that call out the fragile nature of animal species through the vulnerable material of glass.

In her piece In the Morning Light, a horse rests only for a moment, possibly to view its reflection or to take a drink, and like the title of the piece suggests, expresses a still and fleeting moment in time.

The artist currently lives and works alongside her artist husband Rik Allen, in Skagit County.

Credit: Shelley Muzylowski Allen; In The Morning Light, 2018; Blown, hand sculpted and engraved glass, steel; 35.5 x 10 x 7 in. Photo by Daniel Fox. Courtesy of the artist.

Glass sculpture of two horse heads touching noses and mouths together, appearing as a reflection of one looking down

Kelly O’Dell and Raven Skyriver

Raised in Hawai’i, Kelly O’Dell grew up familiar with glass. Her parents worked in stained and furnace glass and she gravitated to the material as a student at the University of Hawai’i, which provided further opportunities to study at Pilchuck Glass School. 

Raven Skyriver was raised on Lopez Island, and began working in glass in high school under the mentorship of Lark Dalton. He met O’Dell at Pilchuck where they both worked on William Morris’ team for many years.

Both artists communicate their deep connection to nature through their work—with Kelly O’Dell centering on conservation and the fragility of endangered species, and Raven Skyriver focusing more specifically on marine ecosystems, such as the Salish Sea he explored in his youth.

Credit: Kelly O’Dell and Raven Skyriver; Treasure-trove, 2016; Blown and sculpted glass; 12 x 16 x 13 in. Collection of Museum of Glass, gift of the artists. Photo by Kp Studios.

white blown glass shell with yellow stripes and white and purple barnacles


The choice to create playful or humorous art can serve as a visual bridge, making ideas and messages more accessible. Many artists take advantage of the vibrant array of colors available, and capacity for glass to be sculpted into rounded, cartoon-like shapes to create disarming and approachable forms.

In Fluid Formations, guitars, beach balls, toy cars, exclamation points, and fire extinguishers are familiar objects, but they are delightfully unexpected when materialized in glass.

Richard Marquis
Teapot Cartoon Car

Richard Marquis’ sculptures are humorous and colorful and play with ideas of kitsch and nostalgia, achieved through incredibly technical and sophisticated forms.

Marquis is also a prolific collector of a vast array of objects including antique oil cans, rubber squeeze toys, paint by number paintings, and more. Marquis will sometimes combine his collected objects with glass to create assemblages that reveal his folk art interests and idiosyncratic vision.

Credit: Richard Marquis; Teapot Cartoon Car, Made at Museum of Glass in 2013; Blown glass; granulare technique, wood; 8.5 x 12.75 x 7.5 in. Collection of Museum of Glass, gift of the artist. Photographed in gallery. 

Ben Beres
Incantations in the Round

In his work Incantations in the Round, Ben Beres composes poems that he works into the vessel surfaces in a graphic pattern through a process of masking and sandblast etching. The words create a swirling typography that snake around the shape of the vessel.

The meandering text is only deciphered as one walks circles around the piece to read it, submitting the viewer to participate in a dance with the work.

Credit: Ben Beres; Incantations in the Round, Made at Museum of Glass in 2019; Blown and sand-blasted glass; 10.25 x 8.25 in. Collection of Museum of Glass, gift of the artist.


The capacity for glass to convey narrative, complex ideas, or reveal truths about human nature is vast. For this reason, artists have approached this versatile material to explore their ideas. Many artists use the vessel form as a metaphor for the human figure, envisioning body and mind as container. They work with the surface as both canvas and anatomic structure to relay emotion, breathing life and character into their work.

Sabrina Knowles and Jenny Pohlman
Untitled from the Himba Portrait series

As collaborators for 28 years, Sabrina Knowles and Jenny Pohlman draw inspiration from life experiences, travels abroad, and studies of both ancient and contemporary cultures with an emphasis on women.

The artists traveled to northwest Namibia in 2008, meeting and photographing women from the Himba culture. They incorporate photographic portraits with blown glass surfaces, allowing them to maintain the image quality by using a process similar to screen printing.

They achieve this by applying fine grain enamels through a screen onto a blown glass patty, or flattened sphere. The glass is then blown into large orbs which are later set in metal and embellished with beads and patinas resembling large jewels to further reinforce ideas of feminine sensuality and power.

Credit: Sabrina Knowles and Jenny Pohlman; Untitled from the Himba Portrait series, Made at Museum of Glass in 2016; Original Image: Screen printed, kiln-fired, blown, sand-carved, and sand-blasted; steel with patina finish; copper, beads; 33 x 18 x 5 in. Collection of Museum of Glass, gift of the artists.

Cappy Thompson
Sweet Dreamer

For more than 40 years, Cappy Thompson has honed a variety of techniques, including engraving and painting on glass to create her detailed, stylized narratives. Thompson maps out her scenes in sketches that she then translates to either flat glass or vessels.

Through a folk-art style, she draws from her own dreams and life experiences intertwined with universal mythologies and references to spiritual traditions across cultures.

Experiencing her “picture poems” in the round gives the feeling of viewing a medieval scroll painting and the circle format implies a timeless and continuous flow to the story.

Credit: Cappy Thompson; Sweet Dreamer, Made at Museum of Glass in 2003; Blown, cased, and hydrofluoric-acid-etched glass; 10.5 x 10.5 x 11.5 in. Collection of Museum of Glass, gift of the artist. Photographed in gallery. 


The optical qualities of glass are varied, with surfaces that can range from opaque to transparent. Glass can amplify light, color a shadow, or become a lens to look through, creating illusion or distortion. Shadow becomes holistically part of the piece.

Bennett Battaile
Third Wave

In Third Wave, Bennett Battaile’s lace-like stitching of glass rods is created by heating and melting the rods together while shaping their forms using a hand-held torch. The effect is an interconnected webbing that creates a strong structure while maintaining an airy and delicate appearance.

Battaile’s formal education is in mathematics and computer science, subjects he folds into his glass creations.

Credit: Bennett Battaile; Third Wave, 1998; Flameworked glass; 36 x 36 x 8 in. Whatcom Museum collection, gift of Safeco Insurance, a member of the Liberty Mutual Group, and Washington Art Consortium. Photographed in gallery.


Ellen Ziegler
Hypnagogue 1

Ellen Ziegler explores reflection, transparency, and opacity as light travels through the glass in Hypnagogue 1. Using light and shadow to create compositions on the wall, Ziegler hints that optics and perception are the subjects at hand.

“This medium suggests to me the visual and auditory hallucinations that sometimes occur during the period between waking and sleeping known as the hypnagogic state,” writes Ziegler.

Credit: Ellen Ziegler; Hypnagogue 1, 2009; Diptych of mirrored glass, light and shadow; 24 x 3 in. and 8 x 13 in. Whatcom Museum collection, gift of the artist. Photographed in gallery. 

Collaborative Effort: The Making of El Zodíaco Familiar

A man holds the glass horns of a bull sculpture
George Rodriguez and Marilyn Montúfar test the glass horns on "Recollections—Atravesando con el Toro."

In El Zodíaco Familiar, those born in 1984 were not born in the year of the rat. Instead, they were born in the year of the chapulín, or grasshopper.

This exhibition is the fifth iteration of sculptor and ceramic artist George Rodriguez’s playful and personalized reinterpretation of the Chinese zodiac. In the series, Rodriguez reimagines the classic zodiac animals as analogous creatures of Mexican origin, bridging cultures and creating new narratives.

The sculptures on view are a collaborative effort between Rodriguez and 13 Mexican and ChicanX/Chicane artists of various artistic disciplines.

“The goal of this project and collaboration is to showcase the breath of artistic expressions within the Mexican and ChicanX community, to give these artists a platform to express their voice and vision, and to use a familiar tale to comment on the need for human connection and community,” Rodriguez writes.

El Zodíaco Familiar

When reimaging the zodiac signs, Rodriguez says he considers the characteristics of the traditional animals. That’s how he chose the grasshopper to represent the rat.

“The rat is sneaky and stealthy, and for me the grasshopper is very similar,” he explains. “You can hear them, and you know that they’re around, but you can’t see them. It’s the correlation of resiliency and stealthiness.”

The grasshopper is also more connected to Mexico than the rat.

“Rats are everywhere, but they aren’t a cultural icon of Mexico,” he says.

One requirement for the series is that artists work on the zodiac animal that corresponds with their birth year.

“The history of the zodiac is directly connected to people,” Rodriguez says. “I don’t get to choose the animal that I’m born into, but I can choose which characteristics I decide to take on.”

Rodriguez also wanted to feature a diverse range of techniques and forms, from fiber arts to photography to poetry.

“I know the clay part, but I wanted to know their art forms and how to incorporate that into a new piece,” he says.

All the sculptures use Rodriguez’s ceramic base forms for continuity. But that’s where the similarities end. Each sculpture incorporates different materials and perspectives.

Guerrero (Quetzalcoatl) by Rodriguez and Yosimar Reyes includes an audio component. Visitors can listen to the words of Reyes’ 86-year-old grandmother.

For Recollections—Atravesando con el Toro, Rodriguez’s collaboration with photographer and educator Marilyn Montúfar, their family histories in the United States and Mexico are seen in photographs transferred onto the bull’s face. Some are archive photos of parents and grandparents, while others were taken by Montúfar.

And in La Peyotera (Mono), Rodriguez’s collaboration with Gabriela Ramírez Michel, the sculpture’s face is brought to life by colorful yarn.

George Rodriguez and Moises Salazar; "Grillx (Chapulín)," 2021; Ceramic with glaze, fiber, glitter, steel.

George Rodriguez and Gabriela Ramírez Michel; "La Peyotera (Mono)," 2021; Ceramic, wax, fiber.

A Collaborative Process

Each collaboration is different, but Rodriguez says most start by brainstorming ideas. Some of the artists were able to visit his studio in Seattle. In other cases, Rodriguez would begin the sculpture and then ship it to the artist.

Over the last year, Rodriguez sent his ceramic base forms to artists in California, Illinois, Minnesota, New York, Texas, Washington, and Jalisco, Mexico.

With 1977 (Iguana), Rodriguez cut the dewlap – the skin under the iguana’s chin – into the shape of the U.S./Mexico border. Artist Eric J. Garcia then completed the illustration work in Minneapolis.

For Rodriguez’s collaboration with Samirah Steinmeyer on Cacomixtle del Desierto Sonorense, they had to get creative.

Since Steinmeyer, who is based in Arizona, was going to be using marbled clay throughout the piece, she had to construct the base herself. Rather than ship a pre-made base, Rodriguez sent her a four-part plaster mold and detailed instructions about how to use it.

“It was kind of intimidating,” Steinmeyer recalls. “I was unfamiliar with certain parts of the process, but I was up for the challenge.”

For her sculpture, Steinmeyer incorporated material from the nearby Sonoran Desert canyons.

“I took a hammer and crushed the rocks, experimenting with the grain size and how it would respond to firing in porcelain,” she explains.

She added those minerals to clay, marbling it in with other clay layers to form a patterned base.

Rodriguez says he was always excited to see how the sculptures turned out.

“I had some expectations of what the pieces would look like because I know the artists, but the sculptures always looked way different and way better than I could have imagined,” he says.

Clay marbling blocks
Samirah Steinmeyer prepares clay marbling blocks before pressing into the sculpture's plaster mold in Tucson, Arizona.

Brown clay animal sculpture with large ears
Extra clay adds distinct features to "El Cacomixtle del Desierto Sonorense."

"Venado Azul de los Cielos Claros" arrives in Brooklyn with grid of holes ready for weavings.

Eric Garcia’s preliminary sketch on "1977 (Iguana)" is seen in his Minneapolis studio.

Sharing Experiences

Through text panels in English and Spanish, the exhibition allows the artists to share their process and stories.

In Recollections—Atravesando con el Toro by Rodriguez and Montúfar, a reference to the wall dividing the U.S./Mexico border runs down the bull’s face. Pink crosses labeled Ni Una Más (not one more woman missing) reference the missing women and ongoing femicide in Juárez.

“Painter Vincent Valdez has been creating artwork that touches upon resisting collective amnesia within the United States, meaning sometimes history is forgotten,” Montúfar says. “Parts of Texas and California were once Mexico, and I would like for people to continue talking about the history of these locations.”

Montúfar says her intention through the collaboration is to share experiences, stories, and histories.

That theme is reflected throughout the exhibition.

Ramírez Michel writes that La Peyotera is a celebration of life and a tribute to the Wixarika (Huichol) people.

“It is pure joy, hope, and above all a declaration of love to my country, Mexico,” her gallery label reads.

As for Rodriguez, he hopes the exhibition helps visitors discover new artists and their works.

“There’s storytelling in each animal, and I really hope that people will seek out the artists they like,” he says.

Bull sculpture with sprig ornamentation
Aztec sprig ornamentation adorns the form of "Recollections—Atravesando con el Toro."

Colored yarn creates a face pattern on a sculpture
"La Peyotera" gets adorned with colored yarn on top of wax in Jalisco, Mexico.

See El Zodíaco Familiar

El Zodíaco Familiar is on view in the Lightcatcher building through Oct. 24, 2021. The gallery labels and texts are in both English and Spanish.

Want to take a deeper dive into the exhibition? We’re offering guided docent tours in English and Spanish as well. You can learn more about the tours here.

For a list of participating artists and their zodiacs, as well as links to see more of their work, check out the exhibition web page.

Man is seated while working on an animal sculpture with horns
Gustavo Martinez works on "Cabra Cabron Cabrona" in Seattle.

Close-up look at carving in clay animal sculpture
Christie Tirado carves into "Burro Mezcladero" in Rodriguez’s Seattle studio.

New FIG play spaces open in 2021

The Family Interactive Gallery (FIG) has been refreshed for our 2021 reopening! During our year-long closure due to COVID-19, staff took the opportunity to update the FIG with new features. From a river adventure to a lookout tower, there are now even more opportunities to learn and play. Read on to explore some of the exciting new FIG play spaces.

Interactive LumoPlay experience

One of the main additions to the FIG is our LUMOplay interactive playground experience. Using a floor projector and motion sensor, moving graphics appear on the ground and react to gestures and movements.

“You basically just have to walk into the space, and it comes alive,” explains FIG Supervisor Susan Buck.

With LUMOplay, the FIG has access to tons of designs that can be projected for interactive fun. For example, kids can jump on dinosaur eggs to help them hatch or herd animals into a barn. LUMOplay even has interactive games to play, all hands free.

Skills: encourages physical activity, coordination, movement, sensory experience.

River adventure

Our river adventure offers tons of fun for littles ones to enjoy! Kids can jump around the river designing their own path thanks to movable steppingstones made of heavy-duty plastic. They can also fish off the bridge and catch magnetic wooden fish. The new steppingstones give children more room to play and jump around.

Skills: weight transference, coordination, balance, strength, practice moving with purpose

Lookout tower

New to the forest area is a lookout tower built by Preparator Paul Brower. The tower is meant to replicate one of the many fire lookout towers in the Pacific Northwest.

The lookout platform features two telescopes at different heights. Children can use the telescopes to play I Spy looking for animals throughout the FIG. Will they spot an owl hiding in the tree or a wolverine chasing its prey? Will they warn us of approaching storms or a wolf howling in the distance? Imaginations will run wild!

Skills: encourages physical activity, imaginative play, communication skills, cooperation

Two children using telescopes

Bug area

Next, children can investigate real bugs encased in resin using a magnifying glass on our light table. They can also get an up-close look at bug x-rays. Come see the fascinating bugs on loan from Merrill Peterson, a biology professor at Western Washington University. There are two cases, one of native bugs and the other of camouflaged bugs. We also have an Asian giant hornet on display!

Skills: investigations, comparisons, biology, natural curiosity about the world.

Toddler track

Our toddler area is now focused on cars! Children can ride on or push a toy car through an obstacle course they create with colorful cones. Safe but challenging physical play helps kids build strength and develop their balance. The area also includes a train table donated by the Railroad Museum that we transitioned into a car track.

Skills: coordination, movement, experimentation, balance, imaginative play

New reservation system

In addition to our new FIG play spaces, there is also a new reservation system. When the FIG reopened April 1, it did so with reduced hours and at 25% capacity. All visitors (including members) must ­make a reservation to visit the FIG. Each reservation is for two hours and available Thursday – Saturday at two time slots: noon – 2pm or 2:30 – 4:30pm. Each reservation is for up to 6 people.

Learn more about the FIG and how reservations work here.

We look forward to seeing you in the FIG!

Holiday Shopping at the Museum Store

Looking for the perfect gift this holiday season? Support a local business and start your holiday shopping off right at the Museum Store. We have something for everyone on your list, whether it’s toys for your favorite tot or jewelry for a friend.

As a bonus, members can save 15 percent and non-members 10 percent on most items (except consignment) by shopping in person or by phone Friday-Sunday, Nov. 27-29.

Safe holiday shopping

The Whatcom Museum is committed to the safety of our visitors. Although our campus is closed, the Museum Store is open at 25 percent capacity. Shop safely knowing that in addition to reduced capacity, the Museum also has rigorous cleaning and safety measures in place, including mask requirements for staff and visitors.

You can find all our COVID-19 safety and cleaning measures here.

Gift Ideas

Let us take some of the stress out of holiday shopping! Use our brief gift guide for inspiration. Want to browse more items? Visit our Museum Store page here. Please note some items have limited quantities and may no longer be available.


Have an avid reader in your life? Give them a book (or two)! Our books cover a wide variety of topics, including local and regional history, nature (birding, hiking, etc.), women’s rights, and more. We also offer plenty of children’s books.

Staff picks: Urban Trails Bellingham ($16.95), Birds of the West ($22.95), The Campout Cookbook ($19.95)

Three books


There’s nothing better than sitting down with a puzzle during these dark winter months. The Museum Store offers puzzles for all ages and skill levels, from easy kids’ puzzles to a 2,000-piece challenge. Browse great brands such as Pomegranate, Lemonade Pursuits, and more.

Staff picks: True South 500 or 1,000 pieces ($24), Pomegranate 1,000 pieces ($19.95), Lemonade Pursuits 1,000 pieces ($30)

Two jigsaw puzzles


Know someone who loves local art? Gift them something unique this holiday season. The Museum Store offers a great selection of art by local and regional artists, including hand-signed Giclee prints by Tlingit/Vashon Island artist Israel Shotridge, pottery by Bellingham artist Larry Richmond, and hand-printed linocuts by Rebecca Meloy.

Staff pick: Don Salisbury Fence Post Toppers: bird ($155), finial ($52)

Two fence toppers, one of a bird


Spark joy by gifting someone something sparkly this year. We have styles ranging from casual to dressy. Looking to support Washington State artists? Check out jewelry from Magpie Mouse Studios, No Man’s Land Artifacts, Samantha Slater Studio, and BeeBiota (by Bellingham artist Erin Lange).

Staff picks: No Man’s Land Artifacts Lagoon Brass Earrings ($34), Magpie Mouse Green Tulip Earrings ($60)

Two drop earrings

Toys & Games

Give the gift of family fun with a classic board game such as Mandala or Chess. Looking for something new or different? Consider Katamino or Quarto. We also have toys for all ages!

Staff picks: Janod DIY Firetruck ($35), Kikkerland Mancala ($19)

Toy fire ladder truck and board game

Home Goods

Our home good items are perfect for those who want something pretty, yet practical. From cups and mugs to tea towels and decorative serving boards, these gifts are sure to be used time after time.

Staff picks: Cary Lane Ceramic Cups (small $14, large $18, extra-large $20)


For the fashionistas in your life, browse our great selection of scarves in multiple price points. Looking for a one-of-a-kind gift? Consider a beautiful felted wool hat by fiber artist Flóra Carlile-Kovács.

Staff pick: Winding River Wrap ($60)

Stocking Stuffers

Don’t forget the little extras! The best stocking stuffers are small but mighty. Consider Bellingham-themed stickers, mini notebooks, fancy art supplies, and more.

Staff picks: Ooly Fountain Pens ($2.50 each), Streamline Classic Water Game ($3.50), Channel Craft Bug Top ($3.50), Compendium Mini Journal ($12), Stickers Northwest Vinyl Stickers ($3.50 each)

How to purchase

If you can’t make it into the Store, don’t worry. We also accept orders by phone for curbside pickup or shipping. See something you like on our website or have a question? Call us at 360.778.8975 during Store hours. Please be sure to provide us with the product information, price, or a visual description based on the photographs.

All purchases from the Store directly benefit our educational programs and exhibitions.

We hope to see you at the Museum Store this holiday season!

Building a Museum Collection

In the 10 years since the Whatcom Museum opened the Lightcatcher building, we’ve welcomed hundreds of works into the permanent collection. Now, we’re excited to share a selection of these stunning works with the public in our upcoming exhibition Anatomy of a Collection: Recent Acquisitions & Promised Gifts.

This exhibition showcases nearly 70 works, many of which are on view for the first time at the Museum. In addition to acknowledging long-standing relationships with area artists and patrons, it also shows how the collection has expanded and changed over the years.

So, what goes into building a museum collection? Here, we’ll touch on the ways these works enter the collection and highlight eight pieces on view in Anatomy of a Collection. We hope you’ll come see them after we reopen Sept. 19.

The Whatcom Museum Collection

As the Whatcom Museum approaches its 80th year as a museum, its capacities have been expanded in many ways, including increasing collection storage. Works generally enter the collection through private donors, organizations, or the artists themselves.

Many recent acquisitions and promised gifts expand existing holdings of significant works by artists of the Pacific Northwest. Other acquisitions are tied to important solo exhibitions hosted by the Museum that delve into an artist’s career, such as those about the art of Ed Bereal and Lesley Dill. 

Read on to learn about some of these exciting artworks and artists.

Building relationships: Works tied to past exhibitions

Shimmer, 2005-2006, by Lesley Dill

Wire, metal foil; Gift of the artist

In 2011, the Museum organized the touring exhibition Lesley Dill’s Poetic Visions. The exhibition featured large-scale installations of metallic, silhouetted figures intermingled with expressive phrases of poetry.

Dill is among the most prominent contemporary artists working at the intersection of art and language. She experiments in a wide range of tactile materials to create mixed-media works that fuse poetry and image. After her exhibition finished touring, the artist gifted the large installation Shimmer to the Whatcom Museum in 2015. Its re-installation in Anatomy of a Collection is the first showing since its acquisition into the collection.

With this work, Dill wishes to capture the play of silvery light reflecting off the ocean. To accomplish this, she spent more than 300 eight-hour days with the help of assistants, winding 2 million feet of fine wire to form the 60-foot-long silvery curtain. It cascades down the wall resembling tendrils of hair or, in the artist’s words, “a kind of electrical waterfall.”

Shimmer by Lesley Dill

Untitled, 1961, by Ed Bereal

Mixed media, paper, and pigment; Collection of Chuck and Dee Robinson

In 2019, the Whatcom Museum mounted the exhibition Wanted: Ed Bereal for Disturbing the Peace, a retrospective of the work of nationally known, Bellingham-based artist Ed Bereal. The exhibition featured works across six decades of the artist’s career, including drawings, paintings, assemblage, and large-scale installations.

This drawing is from Bereal’s early career when he was an up-and-coming artist in Los Angeles. Exhibited last year in the retrospective, it helps chart his explorations from drawing to collage and eventually to assemblage.

Amy Chaloupka, Curator of Art at the Museum, worked closely with Bereal in developing his retrospective.

Wanted was incredibly well-received by our audiences,” Chaloupka says. “Many in the community expressed the impact Bereal’s work had on them and mentioned the importance of  his work being represented in the collection, so we are thrilled that two of the artist’s works have been promised to the Museum.”

Recently, Bereal’s career and work was featured in an article by Hyperallergic.

Untitled by Ed Bereal

Recent Acquisitions from the Washington Art Consortium

Several works in Anatomy of a Collection bear the following credit line on their label: “Gift of the Washington Art Consortium through gift of Safeco Insurance, a member of Liberty Mutual Group.” The Whatcom Museum was a member of the Washington Art Consortium, which was founded in 1975. The cooperative of seven museums shared a goal of making world-class art accessible to regional audiences.

The Consortium promoted a spirit of collaboration through the shared responsibility of the collection by member institutions. In addition to the Whatcom Museum, its members included the Tacoma Art Museum, Seattle Art Museum, Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture, Western Gallery, Museum of Art at Washington State University, and the Henry Art Gallery at the University of Washington.

In 2009, the Consortium facilitated the distribution of more than 800 works from the Safeco Art Collection, one of the most renowned corporate collections of Northwest art. When the Consortium disbanded in 2017, the works were distributed among the partner institutions, including the Whatcom Museum.

Untitled (Eastern Washington Landscape), 1936-40, by Z. Vanessa Helder

Watercolor on paper; Gift of the Washington Art Consortium through gift of Safeco Insurance, a member of Liberty Mutual Group

Born in Lynden, Zama Vanessa Helder went on to study at the Art Students League in New York.

In 1937, Helder was employed by Washington’s Works Progress Administration (WPA) art program. Through this, she depicted urban and rural scenes from across the region. She worked in a realist style and used hard lines, stark shadows, and precise depictions of architecture and landscape to create moody scenes not typically expressed through the medium of watercolor.

One of her greatest achievements is a series of 22 watercolors from 1939-1941 detailing the construction of the Grand Coulee Dam. Helder is one of Washington State’s most distinguished artists from the early 20th century.

Landscape art

Whispers, 1989, by José Luis Rodríguez Guerra

Lithograph; Gift of the Washington Art Consortium through gift of Safeco Insurance, a member of Liberty Mutual Group

José Luis Rodríguez Guerra was born in Sabinas, Coahuila, México, and had a talent for drawing and painting from childhood.

In 1969, his family immigrated to the United States to live in Oregon. There, Rodríguez Guerra became a farm worker, studying English and drawing in his spare time. In 1978, Rodríguez Guerra chose to focus more fully on his art and moved his family to Mexico City. While there, he found what he described as a rich fountain of inspiration in the Mexican muralists, the emerging avant-garde, as well as the cultural traditions of his ancestral homeland.

Returning to the states a year later, the artist began developing a body of work exploring human behavior through expressive paintings and prints that translated his visual observations, dreams, and the subconscious. He currently lives in Seattle.

Interior, 1941, by Gwendolyn Knight

Gouache; Gift of the Washington Art Consortium through gift of Safeco Insurance, a member of Liberty Mutual Group

Gwendolyn Knight was born in Barbados and moved to the United States at the age of 7. In the 1920s and 30s, Knight lived in Harlem at the height of its cultural renaissance and met icons like Langston Hughes. While in Harlem, Knight was mentored by Augusta Savage, and through the Works Progress Administration she worked with muralist Charles Alston. It was at Alston’s workshop where she would meet her future husband, artist Jacob Lawrence.

Knight painted Interior in 1941, the year she met and married Lawrence. The painting shows a quiet and comfortable domestic scene. While Knight focused mainly on portraiture and the figure in her work, this scene implies its inhabitants through the warmth of a stove and clothes causally draped over a chair and nearby hook. The scene is an unpretentious view of a home’s interior.

In 1970, Lawrence accepted a position at the University of Washington’s School of Art, and the couple settled in the Seattle area. While Lawrence found recognition early in his career, Knight gained attention much later in life. Her first museum retrospective was at the age of 89 at the Tacoma Art Museum.


Gifts from Private Donors

Many works enter the Museum collection through gifts by private donors. With funds for acquisitions limited, the Museum is grateful for the generosity of those who support its collection and exhibitions through donations and promised gifts.

Night Sky, 1991, by Philip McCracken

Maple and mixed media; Collection of Tim and Gail Bruce

Born in Bellingham in 1928, Philip McCracken attended the University of Washington and later studied sculpture with the British artist Henry Moore. His diverse works embrace both abstraction and realism and span traditional materials like bronze as well as new media like epoxy and resin.

Nature is the central inspiration for the artist as he explores witty visions of the animal world, such as his bronze Heron (1977) which sits behind the Whatcom Museum’s Old City Hall. Works like Night Sky express the wonders of the cosmos as interpreted through carved and painted wood.

Chaloupka says the Museum’s sustained relationships with donors and supporters such as Tim and Gail Bruce are essential.

“Collectors like the Bruces have a passion for art and often provide unique insights from their years of living with an artwork,” she says. “Often, they have personal connections with the artists whose work they collect.”

For example, Tim and Gail Bruce have close ties with McCracken and his wife Anne and have a deep knowledge about his work through their years of acquaintance.

Weyerhaeuser Mill at Everett, Washington, no date, by Victoria Savage

Gouache and mixed media; Gift of Charles and Nancy Bagley

While little has been written about Victoria Savage or her artwork, this donation to the Museum is a significant one. The painting allows us to dig deeper into the artwork and life of an artist who made significant contributions to a Northwest regionalist style of painting in the early- to mid-20th century.  

Born and raised in Spokane, Savage graduated from Washington State University with a degree in fine arts. She moved to Seattle in the late 1950s, embedding herself in the arts community.

Savage was a longtime member of the Northwest Watercolor Society and an active member of the Women Painters of Washington. Her first major solo exhibition that brought her regional attention was at the Frye Art Museum in 1964.

This painting gives a glimpse of mid-century industry in the region, depicting one of the active Weyerhaeuser mills in Everett. Savage incorporates aspects of cubism in her interpretation of the buildings, water towers, and smokestacks. Lyrical, dynamic brush strokes infuse the structures with the energy reflective of the activity of production.

Painting of a mill

Diving Loon, 1994, by Tony Angell

Belgian marble; Gift of Charles and Nancy Bagley

Tony Angell is a naturalist who has studied birds his entire life. Despite never formally studying art, Angell was a constant drawer and observer from a young age. He trained and rehabilitated falcons and hawks and closely studied their physical features. He has written and illustrated more than a dozen books about nature.

In the late 1960s, Angell discovered sculpture as a medium. Many are familiar with Angell’s sculpture of two ravens that greet visitors at the entrance to Mount Baker Ski Area.

Diving Loon describes the movement and form the loon takes as it dives for fish. Charles Bagley commissioned the piece as a gift for his wife in the mid-1990s. Now, the collectors wish for the piece to be appreciated by a wider audience.

Chaloupka says the Museum is “grateful to have these inspiring gifts of art presented in the exhibition and looks forward to building programming around the many ideas these works generate.”

To experience these works and more, visit Anatomy of a Collection when we reopen. We can’t wait to welcome you back on Sept. 19, 2020. Learn about what to expect during your visit on our COVID-19 response page.

Loon sculpture

From the Archives: Sports photos through the years

With sporting events canceled due to COVID-19, we’re taking this opportunity to bring sports (photos) to you! Below, you’ll find a selection of sports photos from the Whatcom Museum Photo Archives. The photos cover a wide variety of athletic pursuits, from bowling to lacrosse and basketball. While many are posed team shots, some capture the athletes in action!

Sports photos through the years

Photos progress by year, starting in 1891 and ending at 1983. Have a favorite sports photo or recognize a face? Let us know in the comments. Now, let the games begin!

The 1890s

Wheelmen Ride Bicycles, June 22, 1891

The 1880s saw invention of the “Safety,” a bicycle that featured front and rear wheels of moderate and relatively equal size. Safety models were enthusiastically adopted in Bellingham Bay towns where penny-farthings, with a huge front wheel and tiny back wheel, were anything but safe on mud-rutted streets.

The “wheelmen” pictured here were part of a parade welcoming the first Canadian Pacific train’s arrival in New Whatcom. They took his portrait at the Dobbs & Fleming studio on Holly Street to commemorate the event.

The New Whatcom Wheelmen, a cycling organization “open to ladies and gentlemen,” formed in the 1890s to lobby for good roads and raise funds for a bike trail out to Lake Whatcom.

📷: Dobbs & Fleming | Gift of Gordon Tweit

Sports photo from 1891

Early 1900s

Diamond Cutters, 1903

When Whatcom High School opened on Halleck Street in 1903, it celebrated its inaugural year by fielding these dug-out dandies. 

In the front row (left to right) are Earnest Tafel, first base; Roy Brown, catcher; Page Fowle, manager; Homer Dean, team captain; and Charles Peters, short stop. Back row (l to r): Errol McLeod, pitcher and third base; Will Butler; George Simmons, right field; Arthur McCoubrey, left field; Hugh Rickerson; and Glen Barlow, second base. 

Homer Dean, Whatcom’s star pitcher, must have forgotten his uniform on picture day as the school initials appear tacked to his shirt in this sports photo.

📷: J.W. Sandison | Whatcom Museum Archives

1903 baseball photo

Lacrosse Clubbers, August 26, 1906

The Bellingham Lacrosse Club pioneered the sport locally when it formed in 1905.

Dan Murray played for and managed the team, which mostly found competition across the border against British Columbian squads. Home games were a streetcar ride away on the Silver Beach baseball grounds at Lake Whatcom.

In the front row (left to right): W. Knight, O. Pearson, Ed Decker, J. Chisholm, Frank Robbins, captain; Dan Murray, manager; and C. Rickerson. Standing (l to r) are Jim Craske, J. Lewis, the “substitute”; C. Walling, Bob Tate, goalie J. Larson, E. Brown, and H. Carswell, club secretary.

The Bellingham club, which disbanded in 1908, saw its greatest triumph on May 24, 1907, when they defeated Chilliwack in an away game.

📷: Gift of Minnie Johnson via Darla Castagno | Whatcom Museum Archives

Lacrosse sports photo

The 1930s

Triumphant Sticklers, 1930

This Whatcom High field hockey team celebrated their third straight championship in 1930. They captured the top title as surprising sophomores, repeat juniors and undefeated seniors. The squad saw only one goal scored against them during their last season.

In the front row (left to right) are Ethel Jacobsen, captain Pearl McFarland, and Violet McDonald. In the second row (l to r) are Esther Hovde, Irene Sulton, Lois Magnuson, and Eloise Rankin. Back row, (l to r) standing are Elizabeth Korthauer, Helen Howell, Iola Grue, Doris Benedict, and Ernestine Dix.

Field hockey, exclusively a girls’ game, was introduced at Whatcom High in 1925. The sport’s last year at the school came in 1932 before being slashed from the district’s Depression-era budget.

📷: J.W. Sandison | Whatcom Museum Archives

Field hockey team

The 1940s

Gritty Gridiron Action, October 22, 1948

The Whatcom Junior High Warriors struck early when Bill Tarr went on a 34-yard gallop at Battersby Field against South Everett. Coached by Frank Geri, Whatcom went on to win 32-0. 

Battersby Field at Girard and F streets was a muddy mess during football season, serving as home turf to Whatcom Junior High, Bellingham High and Western Washington College of Education. The dirt doubled as a baseball infield in another season, leaving it especially sloppy. This led players and fans to nickname the field “Battersby Bog.”

 📷: Jack Carver | Whatcom Museum Archives

Football players

Close Play at First, May 8, 1949

Bellingham Bells’ player Tom Jones stretches for the bag in a home game against the Seattle Elks at Battersby Field. 

Seattle’s shortstop had bobbled Jones’ grounder and Jones was safe despite Elks first baseman Warren Parkhurst’s reach for the late throw. Bellingham went on to win 3-2. 

The semi-professional Bells first took to the diamond in 1940 but didn’t hit their stride until after the boys returned from World War II. Under manager Joe Martin, the team won 20 State Championships between 1946 and 1973.

📷: Jack Carver | Whatcom Museum Archives

Sports photo Baseball players

The 1950s

Abrupt Change in Strategy, April 5, 1957

Sedro-Woolley High School’s Gary Moon soars over the final barrier in the 120-yard high hurdles just as his teammate Jeff Heverling stumbles and relinquishes the lead. 

Moon won the race with Bellingham High’s Larry Clevenger (left) coming in second. Heverling wasn’t hurt and returned to win the 200-yard low hurdles later in the day. 

Despite losing a few races, Bellingham won the season’s opening track meet hosted by Sedro-Woolley.

📷: Jack Carver | Whatcom Museum Archives

Man jumping a hurdle

Battle Under the Basket, January 14, 1955

The Viking men’s basketball team dominated the backboards against rival Eastern Washington during a Friday night game on Western’s home court in this January 1955 sports photo.

In this tangled tussle, Western center Bob Forbes (at left) wasn’t about to relinquish the ball as he was swarmed by (left to right) Ken Hill, Bob Underwood and Will McGillivray. Western won the contest 73 to 54.

📷: Jack Carver | Whatcom Museum Archives

Basketball players

The 1960s

Timber Tumblers Get Trophies, 1960

Whatcom Junior High’s girls’ bowling team pose with their trophies at 20th Century Lanes on State Street.  

Pictured (left to right) are Carla Anderson, Linda Thomas, Linda Allen, coach Agnes Tweit, Kim McCullough, and Sharon Chandler. 

Whatcom first offered bowling as an off-campus sport in 1958. The boys met once a week to play at Park Lanes and the girls at 20th Century. 

Agnes Tweit, math teacher by day, was one of Bellingham’s best bowlers and could provide the girls’ team of 35 “timber tumblers” with plenty of pointers. In 1945, Tweit rolled a three-game series score of 648. In 1947, she won the Class “A” Women’s Singles Championship of the Northwest International Bowling Congress.

📷: Jack Carver | Whatcom Museum Archives


The 1970s 

Unforeseen Champions, 1970

In August 1970, Bellingham roller hockey team the Bruins returned from Lincoln, Nebraska, having won the national championship. Without fanfare, the team had traveled without coach or manager, battled in a tournament of 17 teams and come away victorious. 

Pictured on their home rink in the Armory on State Street are (front row, left to right) Mickey Strickler, goalie Ron Perry, and Mark Friedl. 

Standing (l to r) are Jim Stevenson, Craig Angell, Rich Tawes, Ray Moore, and Bruce Ingells. Moore scored 14 goals during the competition and Stevenson had scored 10, including the game winner in the sudden-death final.

📷: Jack Carver | Whatcom Museum Archives

Roller hockey team sports photo

The 1980s

Duck and Cover, June 4, 1983

A base runner for Joe’s Drive-In ducks to avoid possibly getting hit with a ball during a softball game at Geri Fields.

📷: Tore Ofteness | Whatcom Museum Archives

Softpall sports photo

We hope you’ve enjoyed this roundup of sports photos from our archives. You can see more photos and items from our collection by viewing our Virtual Exhibits web page.

Inside “The Global Language of Headwear”

A Kayapo/Mekranoti headdress from Brazil made of feathers, cotton, and reed. A Shinto Priest’s Hat from Japan made of silk, wood, and metal. A Woman’s Skullcap from Afghanistan is made of cotton, metal, and coins. These are just a few of the stunning headdresses on display in The Global Language of Headwear, on view in the Lightcatcher building Feb. 1 – April 26, 2020.

This exhibition features 87 headdresses curated from Stacey W. Miller’s private collection of more than 1,300 extraordinary pieces of international headwear. The pieces hail from 42 countries across Asia, Africa, Europe, the Middle East, and South America.

As an independent curator of ethnographic headwear, Miller has spent decades collecting and researching headwear. For her, headwear offers a window through which to learn more about other cultures. Beyond being wearable works of art, each piece has profound significance, often reinforcing spiritual and social values.

The Global Language of Headwear

The Global Language of Headwear is on tour in collaboration with International Arts and Artists, a nonprofit dedicated to increasing cross-cultural understanding and exposure to the arts internationally.

Visitors to the Whatcom Museum will notice the exhibition is organized into five themes: cultural identity; power, prestige, and status; ceremonies and celebrations; spiritual beliefs; and protection. While the pieces on display are visually and culturally diverse, most are from the mid-to-late 20th century.

In touring these diverse headdresses, Miller and International Arts and Artists are hoping to encourage “an awareness of cultural differences and an appreciation of basic human commonalities.”

Headwear with colorful pompoms
Quechuan Wool Hat, Peru, wool, glass beads.

Headdress with colored feathers
Cameroon Bamileke JuJu Headdress (Tyn) late 20th century, fiber, feathers, string.

How it started

Miller started collecting global headwear somewhat unintentionally. In 1979, while living in Spain after college, Miller joined a group of strangers on an overland trip to India. It was on that journey that her collection began.

“I bought my first hat in Istanbul, an inexpensive souvenir that disappeared into my backpack but evokes memories of Turkey,” she recalls.

She purchased more hats during that trip, and her collection grew as she became fascinated by the variety of designs and materials.

“Through research, I was increasingly aware that each country has traditional headwear that is unique and meaningful to its cultures and its people.”

As an avid traveler, Miller picks up many of the headdresses herself. She estimates that about one-third are directly from her trips.

Other pieces come to the collection from friends and family who seek out hats during their travels. “They often report back that the search was one of the highlights of their trip.”

Miller also uses the internet and social media to track down hats, often connecting with strangers across the globe. “The internet has been a godsend for both finding hats and conducting research.”

Contributions from the Whatcom Museum

In addition to the headwear from Miller, the Whatcom Museum is contributing at least seven pieces from its permanent collection, including Northwest Coast cedar bark hats.

Victoria Blackwell, director of exhibitions and programming, says the headwear exhibit is the perfect time to showcase some of the Museum’s lesser-known pieces. That includes two Victorian hats — a wedding cap and mourning cap — as well as a tatami kabuto helmet from Japan.

Blackwell says the kabuto helmet pre-dates the samurai class in Japan and have been dated back to the fifth century. The samurai later took up wearing these types of helmets. The one on display from the Museum’s collection would have been worn by lower-ranking foot soldiers.

The helmet was gifted to the Museum in 1971. “We’d never get to exhibit this otherwise,” she says. “This is our chance.” 

Blackwell says she sought to link the Museum’s pieces to some of the themes in the exhibit. The Victorian hats relate to ceremonies and celebrations, while the tatami kabuto is for protection.

“There aren’t that many opportunities to reflect cultures on a global level,” Blackwell says. “While many of these hats aren’t specific to the Pacific Northwest, the themes they represent are universal.”

Beyond the hats, there will be multiple interactive opportunities. A 6-foot-long magnetic map will encourage visitors to match hat silhouettes to their country of origin. The exhibition also features several touch stations. The stations will allow visitors to feel materials used in some of the hats, from karakul wool to cowrie shells.

The Museum will host two related events: a felted hat workshop with Flora Carlile-Kovacs and a lecture with millinery designer Wayne Wichern.

Kabuto helmet
Tatami kabuto helmet from the Museum's collection.

Mourning headdresses
Victorian headdresses from the Museum's collection.

The future

At home in Rochester, New York, Miller has about 150 hats on display throughout her house. Moving forward, her goal is to write a book about her collection. She wants to continue to share her stories of headwear, people, and places with a wider audience.

“It’s really easy to look at some of these and think ‘I can’t believe people wear these,’” she says. “I think they are a temptation to judge people just because they’re unfamiliar. But what may look odd to one person isn’t odd to everyone. They really represent something that everyone has in common.”

A guide to Deck the Old City Hall 2019

The holiday season is in full swing at the Whatcom Museum! Now in its seventh year, our annual Deck the Old City Hall celebration offers fun for all ages. Here’s everything you need to know about this special time of year.

Deck the Old City Hall

From Nov. 29 to Dec. 29, (Wednesdays-Sundays) our historic building is decked out with holiday trees, garlands, and more. In addition to the dazzling décor, we offer a variety of events. From our annual holiday cocktail party to visits with Santa and weekly crafts, you won’t want to miss Deck the Old City Hall.

The trees

This year, we have 16 themed holiday trees on display. Trees are decorated by individuals and community organizations in a style of their choosing.

Interested in a nautical theme? Check out the trees by Schooner Zodiac or the Community Boating Center. If you’re a fan of “Alice in Wonderland,” you’ll be enchanted by the Mad Hatter’s Holiday Tree by Karen Sage-Stockwell. Like elves? The Assistance League of Bellingham’s “helping the community” tree embraces elves as a symbol of helpfulness.

Museum Advocate co-chair Cherie Walker says some organizations and individuals have been participating for multiple years. Walker herself has been involved with Deck the Old City Hall since the beginning, when she helped to create it.

While trees come and go, the Museum Advocate tree is a constant presence. Decked out in more traditional decor, it towers above the other trees and serves as a backdrop for photos with Santa.

The Advocates tree at Deck the Old City Hall

A nautical-themed tree at Deck the Old City Hall 2019
A nautical-themed tree at Deck the Old City Hall.

Trees at Deck the Old City Hall 2019
A Mad Hatter tree (right) is seen at Deck the Old City Hall.


Visits with Santa

Grab your camera and wish list! Santa’s making a stop at Old City Hall on Saturday, Nov. 30 & Sunday, Dec. 1, from 12:30 to 2:30pm. The jolly old elf has an uncanny resemblance to our very own preparator Paul Brower. Photos are self-serve in the Rotunda Room.

Holiday cocktail party

Kick off the holiday season in style at our cocktail party on Friday, Dec. 6, from 5:30 to 8pm. Break out your holiday attire and enjoy appetizers and drinks, dancing, and more. This year we’re happy to announce we’ll have live music by the Thomas Harris Sextet.

Tickets are $35 and are available at brownpapertickets.com/event/4426670. Must be 21+ to attend. Sponsored by Lori & Scott Clough.

Weekly crafts

New for 2019 is weekly holiday crafts! Each Saturday afternoon in December we’re holding craft workshops where visitors can create unique projects to take home. All activities are drop-in from noon to 4pm. and are suitable for all ages. We’ll provide the supplies. Here’s the lineup:

Dec. 7: Paper ornaments

Dec. 14: Sock snowmen

Dec. 21: German paper Scherenschnitte

Dec. 28: New Year’s noise makers

Admission to Deck the Old City Hall

Admission to Deck the Old City Hall is by donation (regular admission applies to the Lightcatcher building). The Museum offers admission by donation as a seasonal gift to the community.

Walker says Deck the Old City Hall helps build community, highlights the Museum’s diverse offerings, and provides fun for all ages. Proceeds from donations benefit the Museum’s programming and exhibitions.

Come see the magic for yourself.

Haunted Old City Hall: Tales from the Jail

Is Old City Hall haunted? Some have asked this question, and with good reason. The building, which is now part of the Whatcom Museum, once housed criminals and the accused in its basement jail cells. If you venture into the rooms today, you’ll find prisoners’ names etched into the walls. So, who spent time in the basement jail? Read on to find out.

Haunted Old City Hall

Many suspects went in and out of the jail cells in the basement of Old City Hall. The following brief stories are summarized from the Murder in the Fourth Corner book series by local author and Whatcom Museum Visitor Services Attendant Todd Warger. Want to learn more? Pick up a copy of Warger’s books in the Museum Store.

Ben Worstell

Ben Worstell was a sometime barber living in Bellingham in the 1920s and 1930s. He lived with his domineering mother, and he may have suffered some developmental disabilities. He was committed for a time to a mental hospital, but by 1933 he was back living with his mother.

One morning that year, his mother threatened to have him recommitted because he wasn’t living up to her moral standards. In a fit of madness (or rage), he strangled her. He was quickly apprehended and placed in the padded jail cell. While there, the jailers report he was joyful to be out from under his mother’s thumb.

Eventually he was tried for murder and found not guilty by reason of insanity. He was committed to Walla Walla and moved to the Eastern State Hospital a year later. He died at that institution in 1945.

August Friedberg

In 1907, Russian sailor August Friedberg found himself on shore leave in bustling Bellingham. Looking to have some fun, he and a friend sought entertainment in the Red Light District. By the early afternoon they were drunk and observing the dancing of Odia Briscoe, also known as Snowball Wallace, an African-American performer.

After an hour of dancing, Ms. Briscoe was worn out and decided to take a break. In a drunken rage, Friedberg demanded she continue dancing. When she refused, he took out a gun and told her he would show her how to dance. Friedberg then fired twice, hitting Ms. Briscoe in the abdomen. The men were quickly taken into custody, and Ms. Briscoe passed away a few hours later.

Friedberg’s defense was that he had drank so much he had no idea what he was doing. The jury convicted him of manslaughter rather than murder. Within a few years, Friedberg was out on parole.

Guisseppe Stumpo

In 1914, the Bellingham & Northern Railway crew noticed one of their number, Guisseppe Stumpo, was acting a bit odd, eventually walking off the job. The foreman, knowing Stumpo had frequent bouts of conflict with his wife, decided to check at their home.

As he approached the Stumpo homestead, he heard the wailing of children. His knock at the door went unanswered. As he walked around the perimeter, he spied through the kitchen window Dominica Stumpo lying in a pool of her own blood. All three Stumpo children were in the room, the two youngest crying uncontrollably and the oldest staring silently.

Mrs. Stumpo had been slain with a firewood ax. Stumpo was quickly found and admitted to the crime. He later changed his tune and attempted to fight the charges to no avail. He was sentenced to life for first-degree murder. After 15 years, Stumpo began suffering from delusional paranoia. He eventually passed away in state custody at the Eastern State Hospital in 1943.

Hugh Finnian

In 1909, four lumbermen were playing cards late into the night. Words were exchanged and tempers flared. Hugh Finnian, a 56-year-old wiry mill hand, felt wronged by George Shoemaker.

Thrown out by the barkeep, Finnian and Shoemaker took their exchange outside. Here accounts differ, but the results are agreed upon: George Shoemaker was stabbed to death with a rusty pocketknife. Finnian was arrested.

At his trial, Finnian said he was acting in self-defense because Shoemaker was following him and harassing him. The jury agreed with his account, and Finnian was found not guilty. A few years later he committed suicide.

Newell Barr

In 1893 John Erickson, a Swedish laborer new to the area, was looking for a place to rest after work. Lacking funds, he saw a cabin that appeared abandoned. He pried off the boards over the door and started to make his way in when BANG. He was shot dead.

The cabin’s owner, Newell Barr, had set a trap to deter vandalism while he was away on a week-long hunting trip. Barr boarded the place up and set up a gun to fire when the door opened. Barr was found guilty of manslaughter and sent to Walla Walla. He was pardoned by the governor one year later.

Old City Hall jail cell
A prisoner's name on the wall of a jail cell in the basement of Old City Hall.

Inside of the padded jail cell
The inside of the padded jail cell.

The making of “Wanted: Ed Bereal for Disturbing the Peace”

Bold. Relentless. Provocative. These are some of the words that describe the exhibition Wanted: Ed Bereal for Disturbing the Peace.

The exhibition opened in September 2019 and is the first museum retrospective for 82-year-old Bellingham-based artist Ed Bereal. The show spans six decades of art, from assemblage to radical street theater and oil paintings. Bereal’s more recent works examine racial inequity, gun violence, corporate greed, and political power.

RELATED: Wanted: Ed Bereal for Disturbing the Peace

Although the idea for the exhibition had been floating around for a couple of years, it wasn’t until 2019 that it took shape. When Amy Chaloupka joined the Whatcom Museum as Curator of Art in January, she dove into planning the exhibition. She says it helped that she has known Bereal for two decades, ever since she took several of his art classes at Western Washington University.

So, how does a show like this come together? The carefully curated gallery in the Lightcatcher building is the product of months of effort. Here’s a peek at how it happened.

The process

Chaloupka says one of the first steps is having a conversation with the artist to identify key works. Fortunately, many of the pieces were in Bereal’s archives, but some proved difficult — or impossible — to track down.

She and others spent months going through art at Bereal’s Whatcom County farm. “We kept finding new work he didn’t realize he had,” Chaloupka says. To borrow other pieces, the Museum reaches out to potential lenders, including institutions and private collectors.

The next step is creating loan agreements for pieces that will be exhibited. Chaloupka says the Museum must adhere to certain standards for handling, lighting, and conservation in order to display the art. For works on paper, lighting must be below certain lumen and heat levels. “That’s why when you walk into the gallery it may seem like the lighting is a bit dim,” she explains.

Chaloupka then mocks up a map that shows where each piece will be displayed. She says the layout plays an important role in a visitor’s experience. “It’s about the way you want to tell a story and direct the flow of traffic through the gallery. All of that has to be considered.”

Ed Bereal exhibition challenges

Tracking down several key works from Bereal’s early years proved to be difficult. “Some works were lost or stolen, or sold to private collectors who we couldn’t locate,” Chaloupka recalls. “It was a bit of a scavenger hunt.”

They spent a lot of time reaching out to private lenders to convey the importance of the exhibition. One piece they were never able to acquire was Junker Ju, which was auctioned by Sotheby’s in 2014. Despite their efforts, they were unable to connect with the buyer. The piece was last on public display in 2012. Now, its whereabouts are unknown.

Another challenge was digitizing some of Bereal’s work. Photographers/videographers David Scherrer and Steve Johnson were instrumental in compiling clips and creating a video of Bereal’s street performances.

“A football team of volunteers made this exhibition possible,” Chaloupka says. “It was amazing how many people rallied to get this show installed.”

Bereal agrees. Many people had a hand in the process, from preparators to volunteers who assembled the art, painted words on the walls, contributed catalogue content, and more.

Part of Ed Bereal's Exxon: Five Horsemen of the Apocalypse"
A letter from Exxon: The Five Horsemen of the Apocalypse.

Working on Ed Bereal exhibiiton
Preparator Paul Brower (left) helps install a piece of art.


“Exxon: The Five Horsemen of the Apocalypse”

On display for the first time, Exxon: The Five Horsemen of the Apocalypse is a 40-foot-long installation that combines assemblage and projection. Five figures spell out the word “Exxon,” and each represents a horseman of the apocalypse.

Bereal has been working on the piece on and off for about eight years. Much of the work took place in his two-story barn in Whatcom County. “The reason it took so long was because I gradually let it come together; I didn’t force it. It was a true evolution.”

He says the narrative behind the piece changed over the years. He originally wanted to spell out “Texaco,” but that was slightly too long. “I thought about the statement I wanted to make and that’s where the idea of the four horsemen of the apocalypse came in.”

With four horsemen and five letters, he had to get creative. That’s when predatory capitalism became the fifth horseman.

To create the piece, Bereal found objects and scraps of metal. “The nice thing about assemblage is the world is your resource,” he says with a laugh. He scoured the county to find the perfect scythe for the “death” horseman, finally locating it in a rummage store in Ferndale.

When it came to installing the horsemen, it wasn’t all smooth sailing. The gallery’s high ceilings meant the team had to be strategic with lighting and hanging projectors above each horseman to illuminate holographic imagery.

Museum preparators Paul Brower and David Miller spent long hours assisting with the installation of the piece, as well as with the rest of the exhibition.

“We build so much of the work on site,” Brower says. “This work (The Five Horsemen) didn’t really exist in its entirety in his studio. We did a lot of adjustments.”

Looking back and looking forward

Ed Bereal admits his feelings about the exhibition are complicated. “It’s a bit overwhelming. I’m dealing with my history. I have an emotional reaction to each piece because I go back to what was going on when it was created. Some of those were not comfortable periods in my life. There’s no direction I can look to rest emotionally.”

Despite this, he says it turned out well, and he’s pleasantly surprised by the positive reception.

Chaloupka says Bereal’s work is especially important today. The exhibition provides an opportunity for people to directly engage with art and its messages. “Politics and social justice issues are front of mind for many these days. Ed’s compelling work provides a forum for provoking conversation.”

Bereal hopes visitors leave with the desire to think critically.

“You can’t accept anything on face value, and certainly not my work,” he says. “People are always trying to sell ideas, and people need to deconstruct what they’re being asked to buy. We live in a world where you’ve got to think critically.”

Painting words
Lesley Broadgate paints Ed Bereal's handwriting on the wall in the gallery.

Ed Bereal in the gallery
Artist Ed Bereal works to install Miss America: Manufacturing Consent: Upside
Down and Backwards.

Featured image (top of page): Ed Bereal in his studio. Photo by David Scherrer.

Ask an expert: Collecting minerals in the Pacific Northwest

Those looking to try their hand at collecting minerals in the Pacific Northwest will find a wealth of opportunities. From the North Cascades to the Columbia Basin, collectors can find everything from amethyst to agates.

Toby Seim, president of the Friends of Minerology – Pacific Northwest Chapter, has been an avid mineral collector for the past five years. Here, he shares photos, personal stories, and tips for those just starting out.

Toby collecting minerals in the pacific northwest
Friends of Mineralogy - Pacific Northwest Chapter President Toby Seim holds a smoky quartz specimen in Idaho.

Left to right: Collectors Brandon Boyd, Nick Valdez, Toby Seim, and Cory Torpin in Idaho.

How he got started

Seim’s path to collecting minerals arose out of a desire to get into the outdoors. “I was spending too much time on social media, watching too much TV,” he says.

He started hiking, but it wasn’t exactly the right fit. “I’d get to a destination and look at the view, but it didn’t capture me,” he recalls. So, he turned to a childhood hobby: collecting rocks.

After some research, he bought tools and set out on his own. While he originally did most of his collecting solo, he found like-minded friends through the Facebook group NW Rockhounds and later became involved with Friends of Mineralogy. Now, he often collects with four friends.

Seim says the goal of Friends of Mineralogy is to spread interest in minerals and related activities.

RELATED: What Lies Beneath: Minerals of the Pacific Northwest

Collecting minerals in the Pacific Northwest

Those looking to start collecting minerals will need to gear up, research locations, and learn how to properly pack and clean what they find. Here are some tips.

Tools of the trade

First, you’ll need the tools of the trade. While some locations are fine for surface collecting, or simply picking through loose dirt and rock debris by hand, others will require some elbow grease.

Basic tools for collecting minerals include a hammer, chisel, shovel, gloves, and protective glasses. A sifter or pry bar can also come in handy at some locations.

Locations in Washington

Collecting minerals in the Pacific Northwest can seem overwhelming. Where should you begin? In Washington, Seim recommends two locations for those starting out: Walker Valley in Skagit County and Hansen Creek near Snoqualmie Pass.

Hansen Creek is an easy hike on a well-maintained trail. It’s great for those who want to surface collect and find quartz, including amethyst.

Quartz is also found in Walker Valley, along with agates and calcite. Seim says this location may require hammers and chisels. “If you want the really, really good stuff, you’ll have to move rocks,” he says.

When looking for minerals, Seim says to look for signs such as iron staining (orange) on rocks or rock folds that could indicate mineral deposits.

“Often, you’ll leave empty-handed,” Seim says. “But you’ll still get something out of it because you now know where not to go.”

Some lands are off limits. Collecting rocks, minerals, and fossils is generally prohibited in national parks.

Collecting minerals in the pacific northwest
Quartz from the Snoqualmie area in Washington.

Man with pacific northwest mineral
Brandon Boyd holds a specimen collected from the Snoqualmie area.

Packing and cleaning minerals

After finding a specimen, it’s time to transport it. To protect it, Seim suggests wrapping it in bubble wrap, newspaper, clothing or even clean diapers.

Also, resist the urge to clean all the dirt off the specimen right then and there. A bit of dusting is fine, but you should wait to clean it thoroughly. The dirt acts as a protective buffer that can prevent damage during transport.

When you’re ready to clean it, you can soak it in muriatic acid, a strongly acidic chemical compound. Iron Out is good for removing stains.

Muriatic acid is best used for minerals other than calcite or to remove calcite from a specimen. It can be found at Home Depot.

“I’ve soaked something in the wrong acid before and it just dissolved the crystal,” Seim recalls.

Storing specimens

Seim says some minerals may need to be protected from light or they will lose their color or luster. An example is realgar, a red mineral that can be found in King County. Realgar also contains arsenic and is somewhat toxic. Seim says those who handle this specimen should thoroughly wash their hands afterward.

Collectors should also catalogue their specimens. A list will help prevent information from being lost.

Smoky amethyst
Toby Seim's favorite specimen he collected isn't from the Pacific Northwest. This large smoky amethyst is from Petersen Mountain near Reno, Nevada.

mineral in hand
Cory Torpin holds a Japan Law Twin quartz specimen from Washington.

Stories from the field

While Seim’s favorite specimen he collected from the field is a football-sized smoky amethyst from Petersen Mountain near Reno, Nevada, he spends much of his time exploring Washington.

Many collectors go to great lengths (and heights) to collect minerals, and Seim and his friends are no exception. On a trip to Mason County, he and his fellow collectors noticed a pocket of natrolite — a mineral that forms in clusters and resembles white, puffy balls — high up in a rock face.

“We could see this big, open hole, and we knew there was something in there,” he recalls. “We didn’t have a rope or ladder, so we improvised. My collecting partner stood on my shoulders.”

Their effort was a success, but not all outings go as planned.

Seim said rock collectors are no strangers to injury. On a trip to Devil’s Canyon in King County, his friend was injured by a flying shard of quartz that was dislodged during the collection process. The shard hit his friend in the eye, resulting in a trip to the hospital.

Moral of the story? Always wear proper safety gear.

Moving forward, Seim said his goal is to one day find his own locality in Washington. “I just want to find a really nice, undiscovered area,” he says.

A selection of specimens, including some collected by Seim, can be seen in the exhibit “What Lies Beneath: Minerals of the Pacific Northwest.” The exhibit runs through Feb. 2, 2020, in Old City Hall.

RELATED: Video of Cory Torpin extracting a specimen.

Man repelling down cliff
Lukas Ris rappels down a cliff in Chelan County.

Specimens on bubble wrap
Specimens ready to be packed.

Man standing on another man's shoulders to collect minerals
Cory Torpin stands on Toby Seim's shoulders to reach a pocket in Mason County.

Two men collect minerals
Cory Torpin (top) and Toby Seim collect quartz in the Middle Fork area of Washington.

Spotlight on Lummi glass artist Raya Friday

“People of the Fire” by Lummi Nation glass artist Raya Friday glows as if it has a life of its own.

The glass sculpture was recently installed in the lobby of the Lightcatcher building at the Whatcom Museum, and it commands attention as soon as you enter the room. With a series of flames standing between 3 to 6 feet tall, you’re first confronted with its size. Next, you notice the faces.

Raya used sand casting to create each flame, then hand-carved faces into the surface. She says the piece represents the spirituality of the elements. “The thing I really wanted to explore in my own culture was this idea that everything in the natural world has its own energy, its own spirit,” she says.

She decided to explore that idea through the elements, starting with a smaller sculpture called “People of the Water” to see if her idea would work visually and functionally. Once she committed to creating a large-scale work of glass, she went all in.  

“I mustered my courage, took out all the loans that I could and just set out to do this thing,” she recalls. “It felt very much like swimming out into the ocean and seeing how far you could get without knowing if you could get back to shore.”

She credits Italian glass artist Narcissus Quagliata, whom she met at Pilchuck Glass School, with inspiring her to take on her project. His determination to see a multi-year project through prompted her to think of doing something bigger.

SEE ALSO: “People of the Sea and Cedar”

Raya Friday cleaning sculpture
Raya Friday cleans her sculpture after installing it in the Lightcatcher building.

Raya Friday cleaning glass sculpture
Raya Friday puts the finishing touches on her piece "People of the Fire."

The process

It took Raya about eight months to create the 2,700-pound sculpture of glass and bronze set into a pedestal of stone. She completed the piece in 2007. Raya says the piece took a small village to create. “There were a lot of meals for friends, six-packs of beer,” she recalls.

Raya was involved with each element, from mixing the bronze to cutting the stone to pouring the molten glass. “The glass is like cold honey,” she says of how it slowly spreads into the casts. The flames get their color from frit, or concentrated crushed glass. This gives the unpolished sides a slightly rough appearance.

Her biggest challenge, she says, was cold working, or polishing, the surface of the glass. The size of the piece and high cost of equipment meant she couldn’t have it professionally polished until years later.

Now, she tries to tweak the piece a bit each time she installs it. “It’s such a beast, so changes are small,” she says. “I can’t make huge drastic changes.”

Her background

With nearly 25 years of glass experience under her belt, it’s no surprise Raya was interested in art at a young age. But her first love wasn’t glass. It was ceramics. She loved working with glaze — the more the better to achieve that glossy look. Then, at 11, she discovered glass.

“You take glass for granted, you don’t think about it,” she says. “You drink out of it every day and just live with it all the time. Then you actually see people manipulating it. I just had no idea.”

At 17 she started taking weekly classes but soon realized they weren’t enough. Before long she was moving on to production glass work in Seattle. Seven years later, she left for New York to continue her education at Alfred University. It was in New York that “People of the Fire” was born.

Recently, Raya was involved in the Tacoma Museum of Glass exhibition “Translations: An Exploration of Glass by Northwest Native Carvers and Weavers.”

Now, she’s turning her attention to pursuing studies in art conservation for indigenous art. “It’s important that we be stewards of our culture,” she says.

“People of the Fire” by Raya Friday will be on display in the Lightcatcher lobby through early October. The work is the first in our “In the Spirit of the People: Native Contemporary Artists” series.

Raya Friday with her sculpture
The artist stands with her piece "People of the Fire."