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Life

One Man. Many Stories.

The world knows Dale Chihuly as a glass artist. But that is just one facet of his life. Read on to see the many ways Dale expresses his creativity and impacts the lives of others.

One Man. Many Stories.

The world knows Dale Chihuly as a glass artist. But that is just one facet of his life. Read on to see the many ways Dale expresses his creativity and impacts the lives of others.

REDEFINING WHAT'S POSSIBLE

Chihuly the Trailblazer

Dale Chihuly's ideas are big ones, often stretching the limits of his chosen media. He loves a good challenge.

Over the years, Dale has developed a host of innovative techniques to achieve his artistic vision. He is keen to experiment and unafraid of failure. Whether attempting to make Macchia up to four feet in diameter, or stretching the limits of glass for his Rotolo series, experimentation is an essential part of Dale's creative process.

James Mongrain, Chihuly, and Andrea Lesnett, Rotolo in process, The Boathouse hotshop, Seattle, 2013

Chihuly, Paul DeSomma, and Richard Royal, Pilchuck Glass School, Stanwood, Washington, c. 1986

Letting glass be the guide

Traditional glass factory production was about symmetry and creating perfectly formed vessels. Dale’s work represents a departure from the past. He pioneered a new way of working, utilizing gravity and centrifugal force to let molten glass find its shape in its own organic way. Asymmetry and irregularity is a defining principle of his work.

Cylinder in process, Museum of Glass, Tacoma, Washington, 2006

Drawings fused onto glass

Dale began his career with weaving. During a weaving class at University of Washington, he first incorporated glass shards into woven tapestries in 1963. This foray into glass led him to blow his first glass bubble in 1965, by melting stained glass and using a metal pipe. Years later he revisited the idea of textiles and glass, drawing with intricate threads of glass, then fusing the threads onto molten glass. This pick-up drawing technique was used by Dale and his team in his Cylinders and other series.

Cylinder in process, The Boathouse hotshop, Seattle, 1995

The Sun and Black Niijima Floats, Salk Institute for Biological Studies, La Jolla, California, 2010

Architectural installations

Dale has always been interested in architecture and the way form interacts with light and space. His installations are created in dialogue with the spaces in which they are sited, interacting harmoniously with interior and exterior spaces and often creating emotional experiences. He is renowned for his ambitious architectural installations, inside and out, in historic cities, museums and botanical gardens around the world.

"I want people to be overwhelmed with light and color in some way that they've never experienced."

–CHIHULY

Squero di San Trovaso Chandelier, 1996, 10 x 4', Venice

Public exhibitions

Chihuly creates unexpected experiences in unlikely places. He has presented formidable and complex public exhibitions all over the world – from Venice, to Jerusalem, to Montreal. From 1994 to 1996, the artist worked with glassblowers in Finland, Ireland, Mexico, and Italy to create Chihuly Over Venice, a series of Chandeliers which he hung over canals and in piazzas of his favorite city. Four years later, Chihuly’s most ambitious public exhibition, Chihuly in the Light of Jerusalem 2000, was seen by more than one million visitors to the Tower of David Museum.   

Dale Chihuly with Blue Tower, Jerusalem, 1999

ART IS FOR EVERYONE

Chihuly the Advocate

Dale Chihuly is passionate about making art accessible and enjoyable for people around the world, from all walks of life. His exhibitions and installations, such as the landmark Chihuly Over Venice in 1996 and Chihuly in the Light of Jerusalem in 2000, bring art to the public on a grand scale in surprising and disarming ways, inviting interest and interaction. An advocate for beauty and institutions, Chihuly began his forays into botanical gardens in 2001, bringing art lovers outside, and inspiring garden lovers to see art in a new light. 

Dale Chihuly, Armand Hammer United World College of the American West, Montezuma, New Mexico, 2000

Dale Chihuly, Museum of Glass, Tacoma, Washington, 2013

Hot Shop Heroes: Healing with Fire

In appreciation of our armed forces, Dale partnered with the Museum of Glass in Tacoma, Washington to provide free admission for soldiers, veterans and their families on President’s Day in 2013. The event was such a success, it led to the creation of the Hot Shop Heroes program, which provides a vital creative outlet for veterans and soldiers with physical and mental injuries.

James Mongrain and Hilltop Artists, Museum of Glass, Tacoma, 2014

Hilltop Artists for youth

In response to a growing need in the community, Dale co-founded Hilltop Artists in his hometown of Tacoma, Washington. For more than twenty years, this glass arts program has served as a refuge for youth ages 12 to 20 from diverse backgrounds. It transforms lives through the power of art and mentorship, serving more than 650 public school students every year.

James Mongrain, Chihuly, Andrea Lesnett, and Hilltop Artists, The Boathouse hotshop, Seattle, 2013

Image provided courtesy of Path with Art

Bringing art to overlooked communities

Dale Chihuly supports several arts programs that help people in need. In 1991, he founded Seniors Making Art, giving older adults access to free art lessons. The program grew to serve seniors across the country, encouraging their artistic expression and deepening their sense of connection to others. In addition, Dale and his wife Leslie are supporters of Seattle’s Path with Art program, serving people recovering from, and living in, homelessness.

Dale & Leslie Chihuly Foundation

Dale and Leslie Chihuly formed The Dale and Leslie Chihuly Foundation in 2009 with a mission to inspire and educate the public regarding all forms of art, and to provide support to artists and arts organizations.

The Foundation’s activities focus on making grants to individual artists and art education efforts. In 2010, the Foundation began funding grants to innovative artists living in Washington State through Artist Trust’s Arts Innovator Awards,” which awards grants to two artists each year. Since then, the Foundation has made multi-year funding commitments to programs and organizations which support artists, enable youth arts education, and support some of our most fragile populations including the elderly, veterans, and the disabled. Those organizations include Artist Trust, Hilltop Artists, Hotshop Heroes at the Museum of Glass, Path with Art and the University of Washington’s Art Lecture Series.

Leslie and Dale Chihuly, The Boathouse, Seattle, 2010

EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED

Chihuly the Multimedia Artist

Dale Chihuly is not bound by the limitations of any one medium. A natural innovator, he continuously experiments with media and new ways to explore ideas and realize his vision. Over the years, Dale’s unique methods have allowed him to create artwork in unexpected and unconventional ways.

Dale Chihuly with Tacoma Tumbleweed, Tacoma Dome, Tacoma, Washington, 1993

Dale Chihuly, Benjamin Moore Studio, Seattle, 1990

Works on Paper

Drawing is second nature to Dale and it has long been core to his creative process. It is a spontaneous and dynamic way to express himself and communicate design ideas to others. 

Incorporating graphite, charcoal, and watercolor and acrylic paints—even non-traditional materials like tea, coffee and wine—Chihuly's Drawings have become significant works of art in their own right.

“Drawing is a fluid process, like glassblowing is a fluid process."

–Chihuly

Koda Study #3 (detail), 2017, Revisited by the artist based on Artpark Installation #4, 1975, created in collaboration with Seaver Leslie, The New York Botanical Garden, Bronx

Boundless ideas

Chihuly fills ceilings with colorful glass, sets his glass alongside nature in botanical gardens, and turns old wooden boats into vessels for vibrant glass sculptures. And he experiments with non-traditional materials and methods.  For more than a half century Chihuly has employed a variety of media including glass, paint, charcoal, graphite, neon, ice, and Polyvitro to explore possibilities and realize his vision.

 

Dale Chihuly painting on the Boathouse deck, Seattle, 1992

Glass Forest #2, 1982, in collaboration with James Carpenter, Providence, Rhode Island

100,000 Pounds of Ice and Neon, 1993, Tacoma Dome, Tacoma, Washington

New twists on neon

Neon has been a lifelong fascination for Dale. Lighting organically shaped glass forms with neon was a challenge, but Chihuly and collaborator James Carpenter did it successfully in the early 1970s. The artist has continued to incorporate the medium into artworks, from massive neon chandeliers and sculptures, to installations featuring neon embedded in ice, such as 100,000 Pounds of Ice and Neon.

Saffron Tower, 2008, 30 x 6 x 6', de Young Museum, San Francisco

EXPONENTIAL INFLUENCE

Chihuly the Educator

Dale Chihuly began teaching in 1967 at Haystack Mountain School of Crafts in Deer Isle, Maine. The following year, at age 28, he established the glass program at RISD, where he would share his knowledge and inspire students to re-imagine and reinvent glass over the next eleven years. In 1971, Chihuly co-founded Pilchuck Glass School, an environment for artists teaching artists. Many artists who have worked or studied with Dale have gone on to internationally significant careers. 

Chihuly and William Morris, Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, 1981

Dale Chihuly, Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, c. 1983 

Becomes head of the glass program at RISD

Dale Chihuly graduated from, then taught at Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), one of the nation’s most prestigious art and design schools. As a student, he explored environmental works using neon, argon and blown glass, and earned his Master of Fine Arts degree in 1968. The very next year, he becomes head of the glass program at RISD and taught full time for more than a decade, inspiring a new generation of artists working in glass.

James Carpenter, Italo Scanga, and Chihuly, Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, 1971

James Carpenter, Dale Chihuly, and student with Haystack Installation, Haystack Mountain School of Crafts, Deer Isle, Maine, 1970

Taught at Haystack Mountain School of Crafts

Dale is dedicated to sharing his craft with other artists. In addition to teaching at RISD, Dale spent four summers leading glassblowing workshops at Haystack Mountain School of Crafts, an internationally acclaimed school in Maine that draws students from around the world.

“I gave them a lot of freedom to do whatever they wanted to, as long as they worked hard. I didn’t care if they wanted to be artists, designers, or craftsmen. It didn’t make any difference to me, as long as it was the most important thing in their lives.”

–Chihuly

James Carpenter, Pilchuck Glass School, Stanwood, Washington, c. 1974

Co-founded Pilchuck Glass School

Energized by his experiences at Haystack, Dale co-founded Pilchuck Glass School with arts patrons Anne and John Hauberg in 1971 in Stanwood, Washington. It was a bootstrap effort, starting out with makeshift equipment and primitive living conditions. Embracing the spirit of experimentation and exploration, Dale and his fellow artists set up the school and invited cutting edge artists to teach and share ideas. Pilchuck has become one of the most renowned glass studios and schools in the world.

Ricky Bernstein and Chihuly, Pilchuck Glass School, Stanwood, Washington, 1974

CULTIVATING COMMUNITY

Chihuly the Team Leader

Dale Chihuly has a knack for bringing people together to accomplish great things. He has championed the power of collaboration from the get-go. Recognizing the talent of others, partnering with fellow artists, encouraging teamwork, and welcoming others’ viewpoints—he has accomplished what no person could alone.

Dale witnessed a team approach to glassblowing at the Venini Glass factory in Murano, Italy. Though they used teams to create production work, Dale saw the potential for teamwork to revolutionize the way artists approach glass making.

Richard Royal, Charles Parriott, David Levy, Chihuly, and Brian Brenno, The Boathouse hotshop, Seattle, 1993

Flora C. Mace, Seaver Leslie, Chihuly, and Joey Kirkpatrick, The Boathouse hotshop, Seattle, 2013

Team Chihuly

Teamwork is a cornerstone of Dale’s career. He works closely with many kinds of people to create artwork—from glassblowers and painting assistants, to carpenters and metal fabricators. Together, they are affectionately referred to as “Team Chihuly.”

Chihuly, Lino Tagliapietra, and hotshop team, The Boathouse hotshop, Seattle, 1991

“Having the support and skills of a large team can be tremendously gratifying. I feel fortunate to work with a very skilled and talented team of glassblowers, especially now that I do such large architectural projects and installations. Glassblowing is a very spontaneous, fast medium, and one has to respond very quickly. My team allows me to do that.”

–Chihuly

Lino Tagliapietra, Italo Scanga, Chihuly, Annabel Buckley, Pino Signoretto, Richard Royal, Martin Blank, and Joseph Rossano, Pilchuck Glass School, Stanwood, Washington, 1989

A synchronized effort

Glasswork requires constant attention. In the hotshop, Dale orchestrates a team of master glassblowers and assistants (as many as seventeen at a time, working in unison on a specific piece). This intense and intricate style of teamwork has enabled Chihuly to create sculptural glass on a grand scale.

Joey Kirkpatrick, Heather Gray, Flora C. Mace, and William Morris with hotshop team, Museum of Glass, Tacoma, Washington, 2006

Dale Chihuly with Persian Ceiling, Chihuly Garden and Glass, Seattle, 2012

Igniting a movement in Seattle

Dale’s energy and enthusiasm is contagious. By his bringing so many artists together, the Seattle area has become home to a flourishing, world-renowned glass arts community. In fact, one third of the world’s most recognized artists working in glass reside in Washington State. Pacific Northwest artists have played a major role in the studio glass movement and the region is considered a top hub for glass art. This momentum continues to grow through the work of Pilchuck Glass School, Tacoma’s Museum of Glass, and Chihuly Garden and Glass.

“I LOVE TO FIND THE BEAUTY IN EVERYDAY OBJECTS."

Chihuly the Collector

Dale Chihuly sees art all around him and is inspired by things with a distinctive beauty, particularly items used in everyday life. Over the years, he has become an avid collector of old cameras and radios, Native American baskets and trade blankets, accordions, vintage Christmas tree ornaments, antique shaving brushes, bottle openers, pocket knives… the list goes on and on.

Dale is forever interested in things that interest other people. He sometimes even acquires other people’s collections, fascinated to see what pieces someone else has collected with enthusiasm over the course of a lifetime. 

Dale Chihuly with trade blankets and Northwest Coast Native American baskets, The Boathouse, Seattle, 1992 

Trade blankets, Tacoma Studio 1, 1989

Trade Blankets

Since the late 1960s, Dale has collected trade blankets, whose designs were directly influenced by the great Navajo Indian blankets. His personal collection contains more than 700 different designs.

“What’s truly fascinating to me and other collectors is how incredibly beautiful, aesthetically successful, and varied the designs and colors of these blankets are.” –Chihuly

“When I start to collect something, I often don’t start with a single object. Sometimes I start with ten or twenty or a hundred. It is like creating my own little museum.”

–Chihuly
 

Accordions, The Boathouse, Seattle

Accordions

Vintage accordions hold a special place in Dale’s heart. They remind him of family and fill his imagination with music. Every one of his accordions is brimming with style and flair, including design details like mother of pearl and rhinestones.

“I never played the accordion, but both my big brother and my father did. If I had to pick only one instrument to hear, it would be the accordion.” –Chihuly

String holders

String holders

A common household item in the early 1900s, string holders dispense string to be used for tasks such as tying packages. They’re oddly charming and humorous. When displayed as a group, each character’s cheerful personality is amplified.

“Before World War II, everyone wrapped packages with string—nothing was wasted. You needed a way to dispense the string, so you would hang these on the walls of your kitchen.” –Chihuly

String holders and dance-hall star lights, The Boathouse, Seattle

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