Submitted by Taryn Kama

Tacoma’s Museum of Glass will host a Céili Mór (a large Irish Dance Party) in its grand hall to celebrate Irish culture and also its on-going exhibition of contemporary Irish glass on Sat. March 22 from 7 to 10 p.m.

The event will include traditional Irish music with performers: Liam Ó Maonlaí of Hothouse Flowers fame, and the Carrigaline Celtic Band. Full details can be found at here.

Céili dancing is a popular form of Irish folk dancing and this is a family event where children and adults learn and practice dancing to live music. Everyone will have an opportunity to get on the floor and dance without any pressure. A full bar and food service will be available. The event is open to all ages.

The Céili Mór event is part of the Irish Heritage Club of Seattle’s full slate of Irish Week festivities. However, the Irish glass exhibit, called “CAUTION! Fragile. Irish Glass: Tradition in Transition,” is in Tacoma until September 2014.

Club member and glass artist Paula Stokes was involved in this exhibition. She said it is significant because it is the first museum exhibition of contemporary Irish glass in the America.

“It marries the tradition of the past with the contemporary. It celebrates the essence of Ireland in a proud, poetic and authentic way,” Stokes said.

Irish glass artist Róisín de Buitléar helped develop the exhibition, which takes a deep look at the Irish glass industry and the impact of recent factory closures on artists, tradition and personal identity.

The collaboration with three of the best masters: Fred Curtis, Eamonn Hartley and Greg Sullivan, has resulted in an exhibition of work celebrating their skills in glass cutting and engraving. Many of the pieces in the exhibition were made at Museum of Glass and shipped to Ireland to be cut and engraved.

For centuries, the Irish have been regarded as supreme artists in crystal glass, particularly in the techniques of cutting and engraving. Apprentices, under the guidance of Master Craftsmen, began working as teenagers to learn the intricacies of the art of working with crystal and these skills have been handed down over generations.

Now, however, crystal glass manufacturing in Ireland is hanging by a thread. The famous Waterford factory, which served for decades as a symbol of Irish artistic heritage, closed in 2009 and other famous glass factories in Cavan, Galway, and Tyrone have closed, selling off equipment and putting hundreds of glassmakers out of work. Once known worldwide as the best and finest, Irish crystal glass manufacturing has faced impossible challenges partly due to economic shifts, which were beyond the control of the thousands of families intertwined in the decline of the industry.

Stokes studied in Ireland with Róisín. “Róisín was my first glassmaking teacher in Ireland. I studied art at the National College of Art in Dublin. Since I moved to Seattle in 1993 to pursue my career, we have worked together on many projects over the years to create a dialog and relationship between the glass scene in Ireland and in the Pacific Northwest.”

“Róisín’s plan to work collaboratively with Master Cutters with sensitivity, and vision resonated profoundly with me,” Stokes said.

Stokes helped her in the hotshop and, on occasion, she schlepped glass back to Ireland in her suitcase. Stokes then got together with some amazing Irish women in Seattle to help fundraise for the exhibition.

Stokes said people should see the exhibit because: “It is simply wonderful on so many levels. It celebrates contemporary Irish culture through music, art, history and storytelling. The work is poetic and resonates with authenticity and is uniquely Irish.”

A full listing of Irish Week events can be found at http://irishweek.com.