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Dale Chihuly

“The process is so wonderfully simple, yet so mystifying.”

© William Anthony Photography LLC

Born in 1941 in Tacoma, Washington, Dale Chihuly was introduced to glass while studying interior design at the University of Washington. After graduating in 1965, Chihuly enrolled in the first glass program in the country, at the University of Wisconsin. He continued his studies at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), where he later established the glass program and taught for more than a decade.

In 1968, after receiving a Fulbright Fellowship, he went to work at the Venini glass factory in Venice. There he observed the team approach to blowing glass, which is critical to the way he works today. In 1971, Chihuly cofounded Pilchuck Glass School in Washington State. With this international glass center, Chihuly has led the avant-garde in the development of glass as a fine art.

His work is included in more than 200 museum collections worldwide. He has been the recipient of many awards, including twelve honorary doctorates and two fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Chihuly has created more than a dozen well-known series of works, among them, Cylinders and Baskets in the 1970s; SeaformsMacchiaVenetians, and Persians in the 1980s; Niijima Floats and Chandeliers in the 1990s; and Fiori in the 2000s. He is also celebrated for large architectural installations. In 1986, he was honored with a solo exhibition, Dale Chihuly objets de verre, at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Palais du Louvre, in Paris. In 1995, he began Chihuly Over Venice, for which he created sculptures at glass factories in Finland, Ireland, and Mexico, then installed them over the canals and piazzas of Venice.

In 1999, Chihuly started an ambitious exhibition, Chihuly in the Light of Jerusalem; more than 1 million visitors attended the Tower of David Museum to view his installations. In 2001, the Victoria and Albert Museum in London curated the exhibition Chihuly at the V&A. Chihuly’s lifelong fascination for glasshouses has grown into a series of exhibitions within botanical settings. His Garden Cycle began in 2001 at the Garfield Park Conservatory in Chicago. Chihuly exhibited at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, near London, in 2005. Other major exhibition venues include the de Young Museum in San Francisco, in 2008; the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, in 2011; and the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts in 2013. Chihuly Garden and Glass, a long-term exhibition, opened at Seattle Center in 2012.   



Chihuly Garden Cycle
Denver Botanic Gardens
Dale Chihuly: Beyond the Object
Chihuly Garden and Glass
Dale Chihuly
Chihuly at the Salk
Chihuly at Kew
Jerusalem Wall of Ice
Chihuly in the Light of Jerusalem
Chihuly Over Venice
Chihuly Over Venice - Finland
Icicle Creek Chandelier


Where were you born?

I was born in Tacoma, Washington and currently live in Seattle, Washington with my wife Leslie and my son Jackson.

Where is your studio?

My Boathouse hotshop and studio are located in Seattle, Washington. I also have a building in my hometown of Tacoma, Washington where we store and ship the glass.

Is your studio open to the public?

Chihuly Garden and Glass, a long-term exhibition of my work located near the base of the Space Needle in Seattle, is open to the public. The hotshop and studio locations are not open to the public.

When did you first realize you wanted to be a glassblower?

As a kid I was always interested in glass, but it wasn’t until I had to take a weaving class at the University of Washington in the early 1960s that I made my first artistic use of it—I started weaving small pieces of glass into tapestries. One night a few years later, I melted some glass in a little oven and blew a bubble. I had a poster on the wall of a glassblower with his cheeks puffed up so I gave it a try. As soon as I blew that bubble I decided I wanted to be a glassblower.  

Where did you get your undergraduate and graduate degrees?

My mom Viola really wanted me to go to college. I started out at the University of Puget Sound, and after redecorating my mom’s basement during my freshman year, decided to transfer to the University of Washington to study interior design. I graduated in 1965 and got a job with a large architectural firm here in Seattle. When I realized I wanted to become a glassblower, I raised money for graduate school by working for six months as a commercial fisherman in Alaska. I graduated from the University of Wisconsin with a Master’s in Sculpture, and continued my studies at the Rhode Island School of Design where I received an M.F.A. I later established the glass program at RISD and taught there for more than a decade. In 1968 I was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship and went to work at the Venini glass factory on the island of Murano. It was there I first observed the team approach to blowing glass, which is critical to the way I work today.