USA: Seattle #5 Chihuly Glass Exhibition Pt a

After a morning up in the Space Needle, we only had to walk a few yards to our next destination… for right next door to the Space Needle is a permanent exhibition of the beautiful glass creations that have been designed, blown and crafted by perhaps one of the most famous ‘sons of Seattle’, Dale Chihuly, and his skilled team.


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This exhibition was the top of my ‘to do ‘list in Seattle. I’d seen some of Chihuly’s work in Australia, several years ago, at Canberra’s Floriade spring flower festival. The masses of tulips were beautiful, as were the rest of the spring blooms, but Chihuly’s glass was the stand out feature. And his exhibition at the art gallery was also a hit with everyone. Now, here in Seattle, I had the chance to see a wide variety of his work and learn much more about what has influenced and inspired his creative spirit. Photos can never give the full experience of seeing this glass work up close and personal, but I’ll try to pass on some of the magic. If you can, I’d recommend that you look at these images on a lap top or larger screen to get the full effect of the glow of the glass.


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The entry foyer is simply stunning; tall, elegant tubes of glass on a black mirror floor.

You half expect them to start to move and begin to waltz.


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A close up of some of the pieces glowing against the black base.


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In the first main room of the exhibition are some stunning freeform vases and bowls that incorporate a basket weave style of decoration.


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A close up of the blue vase.

Chihuly had studied weaving in his interior design course at college and had tried out ways of incorporating bits of glass into his tapestries. His weaving instructor saw his ideas and encouraged him to further experiment with melting and shaping glass.


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A close up of the orange basket weave vase… one of the many complex pieces inspired by the weaving of the native peoples, especially the Navaho and Pendelton blankets.

I’ll add a link below for a you tube presentation by Chihuly to show how these is made.


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Chihuly began to acquire Indian woven blankets many years ago. His love for the strong colour combinations used in these blankets influenced his own sense of colour. Chihuly began his Blanket Cylinders series in 1975, and later moved on to blowing the more free form bowls and vases seen in this room.


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Native weavers and basket makers are honoured on one wall.


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Some of Chihuly’s glass pieces are displayed together with native basket weaving.


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A close up of one of the vases.


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Chihuly’s constant experimenting with his team finally gave him the skills to fuse coloured glass shards and thread into his free form vessels. They are stunning!


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Often a group of delicate bowls is set up together.

It’s now time to move on to the next room… displaying the very different ‘Seaforms’ series, begun in the early 80’s. I’ll give a link below for a video that demonstrates the inspiration for, and craft of, making these pieces.


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The room devoted to Chihuly’s “Seaform Series” is dominated by a very large glass ‘tower’ that develops from deep blues to paler blues, soft greens and touches of sunlit yellows, browns and sandy golds. Embedded in this ‘wave’ structure are various golden creatures of the sea, blown in rippled glass, which swim effortlessly through the waters. 

Chihuly lives by the water in Seattle and his love for the sea shines through these pieces. In 1979, unfortunately, it was his love for the sea that changed his career for the second time… the first was a car accident that took the sight of one eye. This time, a body surfing accident ended Chihuly’s ability to hold the long glass blowing pipe. Years earlier, while visiting the glassblowers of Murano in Italy, he’d seen the benefits of team work in glass blowing. Now, team work became a vital part of his own art practice. He employed a team of skilled glass blowers to form the individual pieces for him whilst he concentrated on designing complex creations like this sculptural ‘Seaform’ piece. 


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I spent a lot of time really looking at each of these exquisite forms.


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Also in the “Seaform”room are some very unusual individual sea creature sculptures. I was fascinated by how each piece was formed and the variety of glass skills involved.


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The time spent looking carefully at each of these sculptures was very rewarding.

We’ll move onto the next room in this amazing exhibition next time.

In the meantime here are a couple of ‘you tube’ links for those who are interested.

They explain, so much better than I ever could, just how these glass forms are made.

The woven cylinders and bowls series:

The ‘Seaform’ series

Jennie and David

All photographs copyright © JT  and DY  of  jtdytravels

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