Since 1975, Chihuly has used his Cylinders to create glass-thread drawings on vessels inspired by Native American textiles. Colorful threads are carefully laid out in an intricate design and fused onto the vessel when it is in its molten stage. This is known as the “pick-up drawing” technique. From the Irish Cylinders to the White Cylinders, Chihuly continues to experiment with this form.
“The Baskets turned out to be one of the best ideas I ever had. I had seen some beautiful Northwest Coast Indian baskets at the Washington State Historical Society, and I was struck by the grace of their slumped, sagging forms. I wanted to capture this grace in glass. The breakthrough for me was recognizing that heat was the tool to be used with gravity to make these forms.” –Chihuly
“I love to go to the ocean and walk along the beach. If you work with hot glass and its natural properties it begins to look like something that came from the sea.” –Chihuly
While experimenting with ribbed molds on the Basket series, the works started looking like sea forms, which brought about the Seaform series.
Chihuly began the Macchia series in 1981 with the desire to use all 300 colors in his hotshop, and named the series after asking his friend Italo Scanga the word for “spot” in Italian. Each work is speckled with color, which comes from rolling the molten glass in small shards of colored glass during the blowing process. He separates the interior and exterior colors by adding a white layer in between, known as a cloud, and eventually pushes the scale up to four feet in diameter.
The Soft Cylinders are the union of two earlier series. They express the same asymmetry and movement of the Baskets while incorporating the pick-up drawings of the Cylinders. The Soft Cylinders exploit the glassblowing process in a way the earlier Cylinders do not, responding to the “fire, gravity and spontaneity” that attracts Chihuly to the medium.
“I just liked the name ‘Persian.’ It conjured up the Near East, Byzantine, Far East, Venice – all the history, trades, smells and senses. It was an exotic name to me, so I just called them Persians.” –Chihuly
Chihuly began the Venetian series with Lino Tagliapietra as an homage to Italian Art Deco vases he saw on a trip to Venice. He loved the aesthetic and symmetry of the vases; however, the artworks quickly lost their symmetry and became bolder and brighter.
“The Putti are little male characters, and they were used in Renaissance and Baroque times. They were put up in churches or in paintings and carved out of wood or made out of plaster. The Putti were always playful and a bit mischievous and as such probably made people think about youth.” –Chihuly
The Ikebana evolved from the Venetians. In 1989, inspired by the Japanese art of flower arrangement, Chihuly began to “arrange” large organic and otherworldly floral elements into vase-like forms.
In 1999, Chihuly began the Jerusalem Cylinders in which he began to fuse different colors of glass crystals to cylindrical forms. He created them to commemorate his historic exhibition Chihuly in the Light of Jerusalem 2000.
“I've always wanted to do a series of blown objects with chunks of crystals on them—I love the look of glass crystals.” –Chihuly
“Working on my new series, Rotolo, rekindled my excitement for working with clear glass. I was really amazed by the complexity and brilliance of the form, which started from a simple coil.” –Chihuly
Chihuly is renowned for his ambitious architectural installations around the world in historic cities, museums and gardens.
Works on Paper
“You can more directly sense my energy in my drawings than in any other way. And from the beginning, I painted with a lot of gesture, spontaneity and speed.”–Chihuly