Working with a material that is 2000 degrees brings us out of our everyday environment. Blowing glass presents the opportunity to become more aware of ourselves and our surroundings. Perhaps it’s this awareness that let the beauty of Guemes Island speak to Donna McCord. When asked why she chose Guemes Island Donna responds, “I have never fallen in love with a place like I have with Guemes Island. I would stand in rapture watching the wind on the water and over the grass. I knew this was my home.” In her free time, you will find her in the woods or by the water.
Donna McCord first came to the San Juan Islands in 1991 on a short sea kayaking adventure, and then again in 2000 when she began to work and study at The Pilchuck Glass School in Stanwood, Washington. She earned her BFA with an individualized major in glass and photography from the California College of Arts and Crafts in 2001 and moved to Seattle in 2004.
Donna started teaching glassblowing at the Pratt Fine Arts Center in Seattle in 2005. In 2013 met Mark Linnemann, the owner of the Guemes Island General Store and Guemes Island Resort, as a student in one of her classes. Their layers of appreciation and mutual respect evolved over years of study. Mark invited Donna to help with the General Store remodel in 2016 and she has been living and working on the island ever since.
When talking about working with glass, Donna says “it changed the way I related to my surroundings on many levels. I became more aware of the objects I used in my daily life, more curious about where my cup was from and how they made toothpicks. I began contemplating the history of objects and the inherent energy that is infused in something when it is made.”
Donna couldn’t put it more perfectly. “Glass is mesmerizing. It plays a unique role in our culture and in our history that spans over 5,000 years. It surrounds us in our daily life and yet remains a mystery. Hot glass is sensitive to the natural forces of gravity and temperature. Our awareness of how that glass is interacting with the environment is integral to the success of the piece. Our body, our mood, and how we move all affect the final outcome. This creates an opportunity to be more conscious of the present moment.”
The mission statement for the Beacon Glass Center, which opened in October 2019, is We believe that glassblowing connects people with their joy, blowing glass connects. Donna is inspired by art’s capacity to connect and cultivate dialogue. Her hope is to contribute to the community of Guemes Island through art and education.
If you’re lucky, you may find a glass feather hidden under one of the benches on the Guemes Mountain Trail. Donna is leaving them for hikers as a symbol of hope. If hiking up the mountain isn’t your cup of tea, her glass is currently for sale at the Guemes Island Resort Store, or by private appointment. If you can’t make it to Guemes Island in person, you can find more information about Donna McCord and Beacon Glass Center on her websites: