Dale Chihuly (b. 1941) American Glass Designer

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Chihuly Glass example featured image
Chihuly Glass example featured image

Dale Chihuly (b.1941) is an American Glass Designer born in Tacoma, Washington. He is one of the most respected glass artists in the United States. His enormous oeuvre, which includes early glass environments and later huge architectural pieces, and his most notable series of blown containers — Cylinders, Baskets, Sea Forms, and Macchia — is considered one of the finest works of glass art of the twentieth century. 

Background & Education

Chihuly was born in Tacoma, Washington, and studied interior design architecture at the University of Washington in Seattle, focusing on weaving and glass. He briefly worked as a designer for a Seattle architect after graduation in 1965. Still, in 1966 he was awarded a scholarship to the University of Wisconsin in Madison. He studied glass with glass artist Harvey Littleton in Wisconsin, quickly becoming one of the latter’s most accomplished students. He earned a Master of Science in 1967 and then went on to work as a teaching assistant at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), where he earned a Master of Fine Arts in 1968.

Chihuly received a Tiffany Foundation Grant and a Fulbright Fellowship to study in Italy in the same year and was the first American glassblower to work at the Venini glass factory in Murano. He taught at Haystack in Maine for four summers beginning in 1968 and travelled widely worldwide. Chihuly was appointed Chairman of the Glass Department at RISD in 1969, a position he held until 1980. (he then became Artist-in-Residence there).

Opened Pilchuck Glass School

Chihuly realised his dream of opening a glass school in his native Pacific Northwest in 1971, when he established the Pilchuck Glass School on a 40-acre tree farm (the land belonged to John and Anne Gould Hauberg, collectors and benefactors of contemporary glass and other art). Pilchuck is now a well-known summer school that has drawn brilliant international artists to its exceptional courses and facilities for more than two decades.

Inspired by Nature

Dale Chihuly has used nature as a primary source of inspiration throughout his career, from his early 1970s Glass Forests to his sensual Sea Forms, which began in 1980. Navajo Cylinders, thick-walled, iconic, and monumental pieces inspired by the colours and patterns of Indian blankets, were among his early blown vessels. Their designs were achieved by rolling hot glass cylinders on coloured glass rods (Kate Elliott and Flora Mace provided the glass “drawings” that created the patterns on the vessels). His creations, such as the Pilchuck Baskets, which were influenced by Northwest Coast Native American baskets, have mainly consisted of many components since the late 1970s. Sea Forms is a glass family that takes its inspiration from the sea and aquatic life. The Macchia (Italian for “spotted”) groups, which began in 1981, place a premium on colour over form. Their colours are frequently blindingly brilliant. Chihuly reverted to his old methods of “drawing” on single shapes in 1986, but this time the recipients were soft, thin cylinders; he also began constructing experimental hybrid works (Untitled New Forms), and he is now working on new possibilities.

Sources

Byars, M., & Riley, T. (2004). The design encyclopedia. Laurence King Publishing.

Dormer, P. (1991). The illustrated dictionary of twentieth-century designers: the key personalities in design and the applied arts. Mallard Press.

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