Featured in the Kent Reporter, Renaissance Yarns gives knitting newbies the chance to stitch their own scarf or world's largest sock. In the Knitting 101 workshop, yarn spinners mingle with fellow dexterous divas while learning to fashion a scarf from scratch. Give fingers a break from manipulative touchscreens as Renaissance Yarns’ friendly instructors teach how to cast on, knit, purl, and bind off. Throughout, various stitch combinations are demonstrated for future projects, such as knit hats or woven hotplates.
Inside Children's Bookshop & Teaching Supplies, one can find literature for adolescents and infants just as easily as shelves and tables overflowing with colorful games and toys. Though the full-service bookstore's two retail locations focus on educational materials, such as school and art supplies, they also aim to give kids equipment that inspires fun. The store proffers a rainbow of glitter, crayons, and pastels; colorful picture books accompanied by CDs; and a range of modernized and classic board games such as bingo, dominoes, checkers, and mancala. To facilitate creative learning and instill children with an early understanding of zoning codes, the store carries interlocking-piece construction sets. Store staffers also arrange a wooden railway table and a Calico Critters Play Table.
Thousands of hand-blown ornaments and floats glint from the shelves of Tacoma Glassblowing Studio, which earned recognition as the No. 1 attraction in Tacoma by TripAdvisor, and western Washington’s Best Art Gallery by CityVoter. Shoppers browse a polychromatic panoply of 3- to 4-inch glass spheres blown onsite ($15–$25), which can adorn mantelpieces, float in ponds, or serve as attractive lane dividers in the kiddie pool. A husband-and-wife duo runs the studio, and deploys a dedicated six-person staff to help inflate the translucent orbs and assist customers with bauble selection.
Bathed in the intense light of its blazing furnaces, the industrial brick walls and naked concrete floors of the hot shop at Area 253 Glassblowing belie the delicacy and beauty of their creations. Experienced artisans instruct students of all skill levels, manipulating glowing gobs of molten glass on the ends of rods to produce floating balls, bowls, and decorative shards. Pointed blue-tip flame-working torches coax glass into shiny beads and borosilicate into baubles such as pendants and swizzle sticks. The shop also rents out its amenities for visiting artists, including furnaces, torches, and garage space.
Originally used by Japanese fishermen to keep their nets from sinking, glass floats would frequently escape their netting and be found by treasure seekers on the beach. Two such treasure seekers were Bellaballs' co-founders, glass artist Diane Hansen and designer Lesli Jacobs-McHugh, who quickly became fascinated by the strikingly gorgeous glass orbs and began making their own as decorative items. Today, each bellaball is a hand-blown glass orb individually made by local artisans. Available in 77 rich colors, Classic bellas ($40) all come stamped with a fig leaf gilded in sterling silver. Signature bellas ($40), meanwhile, can be customized with nine stamp designs—including a baby pram, a lucky horseshoe, and a pineapple—to commemorate occasions such as a birth, a new job, or successfully swallowing an entire pineapple.
Within the century-old confines of Uptown Glassworks' warehouse, furnaces melt handfuls of kaleidoscopic frit into malleable shapes manipulated by a team of professional glass blowers. But these tradesmen don't just create works for the gallery; they also share their secrets with students in a variety of activities, from introductory courses on making beads and paperweights to advanced instruction that can be applied toward college credit or used to fix the pockmarked walls of glass houses.
During the shop's Blow-Your-Own sessions, participants apply color to clear, molten glass that has recently emerged from a 2,000-degree furnace, then blow their mixture into 1 of 20 different shapes. The next day, patrons can pick up their cooled and packaged creations, comparing their handiwork to the gallery's collection of products, which are made by more than 90 local and regional glass artists.