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Oct
13

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talking to marsha glaziere about the art of coffee — and coffeehouses!

If it were up to me, I would spend my days in coffeehouses, reading, writing and drinking iced tea! I am, ironically, not a coffee drinker but I love tea, frappuccinos and the whole buzz-y atmosphere of coffeehouses. In fact, my gold Starbucks card is one of my prized possessions.

So, when I received a copy of Eclectic Coffee Spots in Puget Sound, I headed to my local Pannikin for a Mexican hot chocolate and an almond croissant to set the mood.

It was easy to get lost in this beautiful book. Artist Marsha Glaziere has compiled a delicious collection of her own paintings and photographs of dozens of unique coffee places in the Pacific Northwest, along with musings and recipes. After talking to Marsha, I’m ready to take a road trip to visit every one of these spots.

Let me know some of your own favorite local coffeehouses. And if you live in Puget Sound, I’d love to know if you’ve visited any of the places Marsha mentions here:

As someone who could happily live in a coffeehouse, I adore everything about this book and am ready to move to the Pacific Northwest to try every one of the ones you feature here! What gave you the idea for this book?

Like most subjects that inspire me, the exact moment gets muddled. Coffee spots and references about coffee abound in Seattle and are hard to ignore. Having been immersed in painting urban landscape, it just clicked. But it did take a year before I actually began to embark on the more-than-I-bargained-for journey.

What is it about coffeehouses that make them so universally appealing?

Coffeehouses are magnets for people to gather. They have been since their inception. What makes one coffeehouse distinct from another varies widely but the intoxicating aroma of coffee always beckons, signaling a welcoming vibe – a tarmac of sorts.

In big city neighborhoods and in small towns coffeehouses are regarded as community centers. More and more, coffeehouses are offering a diversity of music, events, edible goodies plus beer and wine. The coffee, coffee perks, the people-watching factor and unique eclectic décor are what make them so charismatic.

Let’s talk a little about the process of putting the book together. What kind of research did you do? Did you spend months hanging out and painting at all of these coffeehouses?

Before I did anything else, I spent many hours researching coffee books to make sure that what I wanted to do had not been done before. Before heading north or south geographically to visit various coffee spots, I did an online search, mapping out the territory for that day. Often, places online had closed, but serendipity usually played its hand and I discovered places totally uncharted. While visiting any particular spot, I would take photographs or sketch, sometimes drink coffee and always take lots of notes.

Over a three year period I interspersed my visits to coffee spots with the actual creation of the paintings while describing/logging in my impressions of each eclectic coffee spot selected for the book.

What did you learn about coffee that you didn’t know before?

Visiting over 230 spots ultimately convinced me that coffee is just the excuse for people to come together to get a sense of visceral human connectedness that we perhaps find missing in our lives. They also provide a destination within neighborhoods – experiencing mutual coffee enjoyment with people we know or may not know anchors our days and perhaps our daily lives.

How important is “personality” and atmosphere to a coffeehouse? 

The personality or vibe of a coffee spot is an assemblage created by décor, baristas, dog-friendliness, seating configurations (inside or out), artwork on the walls, background music, fireplace, on-site roasting, panoramic views, and sometimes just the intimacy of a small space. Where there are several choices of coffeehouses in a given neighborhood, the personality or ambience is what makes them a place that feels like a “home away from home.” Great coffee is expected!

I won’t ask you to pick a favorite of all the places you visited but were there any that were particularly fun to capture on paper (or canvas)?

All the paintings are on paper; most are 41” x 51.” The coffee spots which I chose to capture in paint (versus photographs) had to provide me with artistic challenge – which, during the course of painting 40 paintings, made it fun.

Here’s brief list of some I really enjoyed painting and drawing:

Joe Bar in Seattle is always crowded. It’s a very intimate space with a mini-mezzanine level, making it picturesque and complex; the Kinetic Koffee Kompany in Port Townsend was loaded with eclectic funky elements everywhere on the property; depicting Monorail Espresso Company involved capturing an entire streetscape in downtown Seattle; The Woods (which feels like a ski lodge) in Bellingham, incorporates many aesthetic elements—from hand wrought furnishings to a glorious waterfront setting.

Your work is gorgeous, and I would think the coffeehouse owners would be so flattered to have their own creations so beautifully honored. Are the originals hanging in any of these places now?

Four of the paintings were on exhibition at Brix /Espresso Vivace in Seattle (across the street from their espresso sidewalk bar in the book) between November through February. I am actually seeking sponsorship to mount an exhibition of the entire collection.

My beloved first dog was a chow chow so, of course, I am totally enamored with your canine research assistant, Ocho. What was his role in the book and did he like certain places better than others?

Ocho, an Aussie Chow, keeps me company no matter where we go. He actually likes lattés! Many times, his very presence made it easier to engage with people. As a very alert Aussie and a Chow guard dog, he was always happy if he could keep his eyes on me from where he waited outside. He got plenty of attention wherever we went.

I know you are involved with a number of charities and do a lot of pro-bono work. Can you tell us about some of the organizations you work with?

I participated as an Artist-in-Residence in the Seattle Public School System for several years as well as pioneering an art component within the Seattle Youth Employment Program. I took an artistic sabbatical in Florida from 1996 to 2004 where I volunteered with the Sierra Club’s Inner City Outings program, but for the last four years I have had zero time to do anything but work on creating and/or marketing my book!

I do look forward to engaging artistically with ‘at-risk’ kids again at some time in the future.

Are you sick of coffee by now?!

Hardly! I can’t imagine being sick of coffee, but I admit to being somewhat jaded, expecting good coffee everywhere throughout Puget Sound. I burned out on lattés long ago – too much milk. I’m pretty satisfied with my daily single cup methodology and an occasional double iced Americano at a coffeehouse.

Comments

  1. What a great concept. How very talented and a great combination. More than ‘A coffee table book’! I have to make more coffee!

  2. Sally Prangley says:

    This falls in the category of “great idea– wish I’d thought of it first!!!”
    As both a Seattleite and coffee lover, I will certainly look for Marsha’s book! I already recognized Pegasus Coffee on Bainbridge Island in one of Marsha’s beautiful paintings, and wonder if she included Zeitgeist Coffee in Pioneer Square with its kitschy collection of vintage coffee urns! I shall have to get the book and find out!

  3. I have been in Puget Sound since Sunday and so bummed that I just read your article since I leave this morning. Drove to Portland yesterday and visited Powell’s Bookstore 🙂

  4. Henry L. Williams says:

    I really enjoyed the article because the author’s insight into this subject matter is very keen. I am not a regular coffeehouse patron but I am considering becoming one after reading Marsha Glaziere’s interview. In fact, I am savoring a delicious mocha at Corina’s in Tacoma, WA as I make this comment!

  5. Carolyn Osborne says:

    What a wonderful idea and fun way to experience the area! From an artist’s perspective I would say this is amazing!

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