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Glass gallery opens

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We used to call them head shops, and they were loaded with pipes, bongs, black light posters and guys who called you "dude."

Forget all that. Many of those kinds of shops have evolved today into respectable, high-end "functional glass" galleries, where the hand-blown glass pipes have become collectible works of art that can cost upwards of — whoa, dude — $1,000.

Curious? Best Peace of Glass, Wenatchee's newest glass and art gallery, opened Tuesday in a compact house-turned-shop on South Wenatchee Avenue. Its grand opening — complete with glass blowing demonstrations, free hot dogs, music and a chance to win a 30-inch hand-crafted pipe — will run from noon to 10 p.m. Saturday.

"This isn't just a pipe shop," said manager Scott Ostreim (in photo). "We feature all kinds of handmade glass art — beads, bowls, statues, paper weights — and plan to bring in even more styles from more local glass blowers."

The shop will also feature paintings and other works by local artists, he said. "Our intention is to offer an additional venue where local artists can connect with the public and, hopefully, sell some of their works."

Still, the gallery's main features are hand-blown glass pipes (priced from $5 up) in all sorts of styles and shapes — fish, birds, elephants, dragons, human heads — that really are quite artful. For instance, one crystal-clear tropical fish with bluish fins is something Grandma might display on the mantel.

"These types of collectibles have been around for decades," said Ostreim. "But in the last 10 years or so, interest in this kind of art has soared."

Wenatchee is home to five or six popular glass blowers, said the shop manager. These include Ian Michaels and part-time resident John Craddick (Johnny Glass), owner of West Coast Glass in Eugene.

Details: Best Peace of Glass, 1173 S. Wenatchee Ave., next door to Urban Garden Specialty. Phone: 888-4406. Open 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday.