Chihuly: Glass Artist

American Artisans,People
January 10, 2012

Dale Chihuly shapes a modern art movement

The artist collaborates with glassmaker James Mongrain in Chihuly’s Seattle “hot shop.”Using the collaborative approach to glassmaking, Chihuly directs his creative team in Seattle.Sea-like shapes crown the Bridge of Glass in Tacoma, Wash., Chihuly’s hometown.Team member Daryl Smith uses heat and motion to form a fiery icicle shape.Chihuly’s Lime Green Icicle Tower is on display at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.Chihuly credits his mother, Viola, for helping him appreciate the beauty in nature. “That’s what she loved, and I loved her,” he says of his mother’s influence.Chihuly’s The Sun, displayed at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, Calif.Chihuly began developing his glassmaking skills at the University of Wisconsin during the late 1960s.Float Boat, exhibited in 2010 at the Morean Arts Center in St. Petersburg, Fla.American glass master Dale Chihuly stands amid his 2007 exhibit at the Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens in Pittsburgh. “I think people like to look at something they’ve never seen before,” he says.An internationally acclaimed artist, Chihuly stands in 1996 beside his Isola di San Giacomo in Palude Chandelier in Venice, Italy.
Scott M. Leen, courtesy of Chihuly Inc.
Russell Johnson, courtesy of Chihuly Inc.
Scott M. Leen, courtesy of Chihuly Inc.
Michael Good
Scott M. Leen, courtesy of Chihuly Inc.
Courtesy of Chihuly Inc.
Terry Rishel, courtesy of Chihuly Inc.
Courtesy of Chihuly Inc.
Terry Rishel, courtesy of Chihuly Inc.
Terry Rishel, courtesy of Chihuly Inc.
Russell Johnson, courtesy of Chihuly Inc.
The artist collaborates with glassmaker James Mongrain in Chihuly’s Seattle “hot shop.”
Using the collaborative approach to glassmaking, Chihuly directs his creative team in Seattle.
Sea-like shapes crown the Bridge of Glass in Tacoma, Wash., Chihuly’s hometown.
Team member Daryl Smith uses heat and motion to form a fiery icicle shape.
Chihuly’s Lime Green Icicle Tower is on display at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.
Chihuly credits his mother, Viola, for helping him appreciate the beauty in nature. “That’s what she loved, and I loved her,” he says of his mother’s influence.
Chihuly’s The Sun, displayed at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, Calif.
Chihuly began developing his glassmaking skills at the University of Wisconsin during the late 1960s.
Float Boat, exhibited in 2010 at the Morean Arts Center in St. Petersburg, Fla.
American glass master Dale Chihuly stands amid his 2007 exhibit at the Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens in Pittsburgh. “I think people like to look at something they’ve never seen before,” he says.
An internationally acclaimed artist, Chihuly stands in 1996 beside his Isola di San Giacomo in Palude Chandelier in Venice, Italy.
http://pgoaamericanprofile2.files.wordpress.com/2012/01/d-dale-chihuly-salk_sun.jpg

Daryl Smith, 39, blows and twirls a glob of glowing glass at the end of a long stainless steel pipe, rolling the molten mass on a table to fashion an orange-red icicle shape at the Seattle studio of American glass master Dale Chihuly.

Using an array of torches, files, crimps, tweezers and shears, Smith curls, imprints and cuts the fiery shape—moving it in and out of a 2,150-degree furnace to keep the material pliable—before a fellow craftsman places the glass in a cooling oven.

The finished object is one of 1,800 pieces being used to create a massive sculpture for Chihuly’s most ambitious project to date—the 1½-acre Chihuly Garden and Glass exhibit opening later this year in Seattle. The venture’s hallmark glass house will feature a massive installation 100 feet long and 25 feet high.

“People are going to see it and go, ‘Whoa!’” says Chihuly, 70.


One of America’s most prominent and prolific living artists, Chihuly is credited with elevating the craft of glassmaking to a fine art. His inventive sculptures—abstract baskets, colorful sea forms, lavish towers and effusive chandeliers—appear in the permanent collections of more than 200 museums worldwide and countless private collections.

Chihuly himself is a striking figure, with a barrel chest, a patch covering his blind left eye and a crown of curly hair. He offers a simple explanation for his success in recasting glass as a popular artistic movement.

“I think people like to look at something they’ve never seen before,” he says. “And that’s what I try to do.”

Shaping a vision
One of two sons born to a butcher and a homemaker in nearby Tacoma, Wash., the unconventional artist remembers a traditional and happy childhood.

While attending high school in the 1950s, however, Chihuly saw his world change abruptly when his older brother was killed in a Navy flight training crash and his father died from a heart attack the next year. To pay the bills, he worked at a meatpacking plant, and his mother took a job at a bar.

Chihuly studied interior design and architecture at the University of Washington—his ambitions stirred by a fiber weaving class and his work remodeling a room in his family’s home in the style of celebrated architect Frank Lloyd Wright, one of his creative idols.

In 1965, he graduated from college and experienced an epiphany that changed his artistic direction. Exploring how to incorporate glass into a weaving, Chihuly melted glass in a kiln in his Seattle basement and used a pipe to blow a glass bubble.

“It’s usually very difficult to get a bubble. So I think I was very lucky,” he says. “And from that point on, I wanted to be a glassblower.”

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