Artist of Inspiration: Dale Chihuly

Some, but perhaps not all know how I was first introduced to crystalline glazing.  I am a huge fan of blown glass and glass as an artistic medium.  When I was quite young I came across this glass bulb ornament hanging in the window of this shop in Annapolis and have never been able to get the image out of my head!  I can’t!  I was so intrigued by the colors and shapes and the ways the light shone through that little bulb.  It was then that my love for glass sparked.  A few years later I discovered world renown artist Dale Chihuly.  He is a famous and visionary artist who has transformed the medium of glass!  He is probably my favorite artist.

Dale Chihuly

I wanted so badly to become a glassblower because of him.  I knew I wanted to definitely study art one day, but hadn’t quite figured out what direction I wanted to take.  I started to paint and draw more seriously as an artist and decided to go that route in college, but I always had my eye on glass and would read up on any articles or stories pertaining to glass and in particular Dale Chihuly.  I was so fascinated by the beauty of his work.  I had never seen anything like it.  I loved that his work was so naturalistic and just seemed to “fit” in nature.  A painting hung in a tree looks out-of-place, but Chihuly’s glass…now that works!

As I continued on as an art student at Houghton, I needed to decided on a concentration.  I chose ceramics after a love/hate relationship and began to work with a greater drive and passion.  It was in my junior year that I remembered seeing something to do with “crystalline” pottery.  That stuck out in my mind because when I first came across the glaze technique I actually thought it was glass.  Naturally I was intrigued, so I looked more closely at this technique only to find it was, in fact, ceramics!  My junior year at Houghton, I decided to make crystalline glazing my independent study.

crystalline glaze

One of my favorite things about Chihuly is how he shows his work.  He has had exhibition after exhibition featuring his work outside, or in the botanical gardens, in a desert, hanging from trees – they are there right alongside and in nature.  He wants his work to appear like it came from nature so if found it would look like it just belonged there.  I loved that idea and thought process and wanted to translate that idea into my own work.

It was Chihuly that inspired me to love the naturalistic in ceramics and in particular crystalline glazing.  It does, so closely, relate to creation and there is something very natural in working with clay.  I can do a hundred firings and never get the same crystal formation twice:  much like in nature, you will never find an exact duplicate.

Ceramics has truly become “my” medium, but I will always love and admire glass.  Chihuly’s work has been such an inspiration to me and has challenged me to push past typical forms and see where I can go.  Why do cups and bowls when you could create something truly unique like Chihuly has done?

Here are just a few samples of his stunning works and some of my favorite quotes by him.  Definitely check out his website if you are not familiar with his work – you need to be.  Dale Chihuly.

Glassblowing is a spontaneous medium that suits me.  It requires split-second decisions and a great team.  It’s very athletic.  The more you blow, the better you get.  I’ve been at it for thirty-six years and am as infatuated as when I blew my first bubble in 1965 in my basement in South Seattle.” -Dale Chihuly

It’s possible to spend several hours blowing a piece of glass, but traditionally five for ten or fifteen minutes would be the more likely time it took to make something.  We push this up to, let’s say, maybe an hour of working on a piece.  But basically an hour’s not very long, and boom!  It’s over, done.  That’s the way I like to work.  Fast, quick, and I like to do a lot in a day.” – Dale Chihuly

What makes the Chandeliers work for me is the massing of color.  If you take hundreds or thousands of blown pieces of one color, put them together, and then shoot light through them, now that’s going to be something to look at!  When you hang it in space, it becomes mysterious, defying gravity, becoming something you have never seen before.” – Dale Chihuly

Sometimes you see a great piece evolving, but you may lose it because glass is such a fragile material…That’s part of its magical beauty.” – Dale Chihuly

I can’t understand it when people say they don’t like a particular color…How on earth can you not like a color?” – Dale Chihuly

I love to juxtapose the man-made and the natural to make people wonder and ask, “Are they man-made or did they come from nature?”  That’s a very important part of my work.” – Dale Chihuly

The role models for young people today are athletes, movie stars, rock-and-role singers, and that’s kind of a sad state of affairs.  I like the idea that I can get young people interested in something they can do themselves.” – Dale Chihuly

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