I had seen some beautiful 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 in glass. The breakthrough for me was recognizing that heat and gravity were the tools to be used to make these forms.
Some Thoughts on the Baskets
I remember when I started the Baskets in the summer of 1977. Jamie Carpenter and Italo Scanga and I were scheduled to have a three man show at the Seattle Art Museum at the end of the summer, curated by Charlie Cowles, who later became my dealer in New York. Everyone assumed that I would show the Blanket Cylinders, which had become my first popular series (first series popular with the public). Of course I got very interested in the Baskets and soon forgot about the Cylinders, and when it came to install the exhibition my primary interest was to show off the Baskets in the best light possible.
I had a 24-foot steel table made out of diamond plate steel and I let it rust outside. I had blown about 100 Baskets during the past couple of months and I decided to show them all—all 100 down this rusty 24-foot table in the middle of the gallery. I thought it looked very good, but as usual there were no reviews that I can remember. Although I distinctly remember the reviews from Jamie and Italo—they didn't like the Baskets at the time. But later they were very supportive. I think when an artist is in the middle of making something new they don't really care what someone thinks, even their best friends. The Baskets was the first series that I did that really took advantage of the molten properties of the glassblowing process. Now, for the first time, I really felt I was breaking new ground with an ancient technique.
Dale Chihuly. Unpublished statement, written October 12, 1990.