Dale Chihuly
Statement in Out of the Fire

Glassblowing is an ancient craft developed by the Romans 2000 years ago. Traditionally, it has always been done in teams of three to six people. Most of the glass I make is created similarly to how it was done then, except that my teams are sometimes as large as twelve to fourteen people simply because the scale is larger and the pieces are more complex.

People ask, “How does the team work?” and “How are you able to direct the team?” It’s not easy to explain. I sometimes make the analogy of myself as a filmmaker. First of all, I come up with a concept, which might be like a script. I don’t work on the team itself but make drawings while the team is working. The whole process is a very exciting and inspiring one, and it is the time when I do all my drawings.

People ask me if I get too removed from the process because of its complexity and the numbers of people involved. But when the numbers involved in making film increase, it doesn’t necessarily put the director further away from the concept of the film. Having the support and skills of a large team can be tremendously gratifying. I feel very fortunate to be able to have such talent at my disposal, especially now that I am getting more involved with large architectural projects and installations. I suppose it would be possible to do these things on one’s own, but the whole process would just be too slow for me. Glassblowing is a very spontaneous, fast medium, and you have to respond very quickly. I like working fast, and the team allows me to do that.

Published in Out of the Fire: Contemporary Glass Artists and Their Work, by Bonnie J. Miller, Chronicle Books, 1991.

©1991 Bonnie Miller