Some Thoughts on the Baskets, 1977

Dale Chihuly

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. The Cylinders took advantage of molten properties only in the drawings themselves. Now, for the first time, I really felt I was breaking new ground with an ancient technique. No, that's not really true, I guess. I had a similar feeling when I was doing the glass and neon environments with Jamie. But the Baskets were quite different in that you were forced to look closely at the forms, maybe because of their scale. I called the Baskets, the Pilchuck Baskets, in honor of the place where they were developed. A lot of very interesting ideas were developed by a lot of artists and craftsmen during the seventies at Pilchuck. The Cylinder pick-up idea was also developed at Pilchuck in the fall of '74.

From a manuscript dated October 12, 1990.