Alder House Glassblowing

A mizzly afternoon seemed like a fine time to watch an artisan ply his craft so I drove over to The Alder House. The studio sits in a wild meadow on the southern edge of the Siletz Bay National Wildlife Refuge. It seems an inspiring place to create art as there is beauty both inside and outside the building.

The day of my visit Treasure was the glassblower on duty, capably assisted by his wife Michelle. Both were welcoming and patient with my barrage of questions. (Hey, in my defense, I’m a very curious person.) I was so captivated by the transformation of molten blobs of glass that I stayed to watch multiple pieces.

Glassblowing has been a big part of Lincoln City for decades (The Alder House opened in 1971). I imagine in the early years some of the glass art was inspired by the Japanese glass fishing floats that washed ashore. The North Lincoln County Historical Museum has a huge display of glass floats of all sizes that were found on local beaches.

The Japanese glass floats are highly prized by collectors but are rarely found any more since most floats are now made of other materials, like plastic. Some coastal towns have cashed in on the craze by placing locally-made glass floats on their beaches. Lincoln City has elevated the concept with their Finders Keepers campaign; during winter and spring they place around 3,000 colorful orbs on the beaches.

The last drop for the season was Memorial Day weekend, so I’ll have to wait until mid-October for my chance to find one. Perhaps I’ll find one made by Treasure, since he’s one of several local glassblowers that create the orbs for the city. A glass float by Treasure would be something to treasure!

Tidepool Tidbits

Lincoln City uses a portion of the local bed tax on hotel rooms to pay for educational programming which is offered free to the public, spring through summer. Thus far I’ve attended a Beachcombing Clinic, a Bird Walk, and now a Tidepool Clinic. Each of the outings was led by a local expert and though I’m not a novice there was still plenty for me to learn.

For instance, I learned that some species of sea stars can live 150 years. Wow! Ochre Sea Stars, the ones most common in Oregon’s nearshore tidepools, can live up to 40 years. Ochres primarily prey on California Mussels so when their population crashed due to sea star wasting syndrome a few years back there wasn’t a predator to control the mussels.

Thankfully, sea stars are rebounding along the Pacific Northwest Coast. However, some of the mussels are now too large for the sea stars to eat. This imbalance has led to a dramatic reduction in diversity in some tidepools since the large mollusks have dominated the available “anchor space”. A healthy, balanced tidepool is akin to old growth forest; its diverse habitats supporting a plethora of species.

Giant Green Anemones primarily owe their namesake color to a symbiotic relationship with photosynthetic algae. Did you know anemones can move? They appear to be permanently suctioned to the rock but nope, when they decide to move they let go and float away. Wild!

I think I’ll pursue a degree in lifelong learning…