Larry LaRue

Admit it: Glass-blowing is magic

When I was a lad, my parents took the family to Disneyland shortly after it opened in 1955. Dinosaurs had been cleared from the area. 

There was Mickey Mouse, a few rides and spectacular-for-the-time buildings aimed at overwhelming young minds. Mine was overwhelmed.

In one of the Main Street shops,  magic was being performed by a glass-blower. I had never seen one, never even knew they existed, and what he was turning out was incomprehensible to me.

Ok, I was six.

Still, watching the glass-blower produce a mini-Tinkerbelle for my sister and a Peter Pan with a sword was astonishing. That flame! The delicacy of the glass! The things he could create!

On Tuesday, I did my first interview with a glass-blower, Tacoma artist Diane Hansen, the subject of today's column.

She is a delight, a woman passionate about her art, happy with a business and the proud mother of two teenage daughters, Madison and Raleigh. She's created public art, fine art and hundreds of colorful glass creations called bellaballs - the name of her product and her business.

Like many of us, she always wanted to be an artist. Like too many of us, she felt her inability to draw to her own satisfaction meant she might not have the talent.

Then she discovered glass-blowing.

"The first time I worked with a furnace, it was 2200 degrees and I thought, 'This must be what hell feels like,'" Hansen said. "But working with glass required my full attention. It was alive.

"It's like applied physics. You need to know what glass can do at what heat. And you stretch boundaries."

To make glass art, Hansen works with a team of five, sometimes seven others. Each has an assigned role in any project, and without them doing their part art doesn't happen. She likes the social nature of the work.

And, like me, she remains fascinated by the art of creating art from glass. I was sold at Peter Pan, but Hansen's bellaballs are beautiful - and her fine art was just that.

Hansen's work has transitioned and grown, and if you'd like to see some of it, drop by bellaballs shop at 747 S. Fawcett, Suite B. There you can see those balls, and on days Diane Hansen is there, you can ask to walk down to her studio one floor below.

It's even more impressive than Tinkerbelle.