Magical Beauty at Chihuly Garden and Glass

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Magical Beauty at Chihuly Garden and Glass

The glass-blown works of art by Dale Chihuly at Seattle’s Chihuly Garden and Glass Museum

I am a big fan of Dale Chihuly’s glass art. My visit to the Chihuly Garden and Glass museum in Seattle, Washington was a delight.

Inspired by the sea: glass art at Chihuly Garden and Glass

Dale Chihuly was born in Tacoma, Washington in 1941. He became interested in glass while studying interior design at the University of Washington. After graduation he enrolled in the first glass program in the United States at the University of Wisconsin. He continued studies at Rhode Island School of Design and established their glass program.

Chihuly Glass Forest
Glass Forest made at Rhode Island School of Design is an early example of media exploration and team work. James Carpenter approached Chihuly in 1971 with an idea to blow glass in botanical forms. The sculpture was created by blowing and pouring molten glass from the top of a stepladder to the floor. It is lit by neon and argon.

In 1968, with a Fulbright Scholarship, Chihuly was the first American invited to work at Veneni glass factory in Venice. The team work he saw there greatly influenced his own approach. In 1971, he co-founded the Pilchuk Glass School in Stanwood, Washington. Today, his works are found in over 200 collections across the world. He has received numerous awards.

Dale Chihuly Persian Ceiling at Garden and Glass
Part of Persian Ceiling. It lies on flat glass and is lit from above.

Not only does Garden and Glass contain a great selection of Chihuly’s work, it has a great deal of information about the evolution of his art and his techniques.

Chihuly Macchia Forest
Macchia Forest

The Macchia Forest series grew out of the desire to use all 300 colours available in the hotshop. Chihuly noticed that glass panes looked more clear and vibrant against a cloudy sky. In the Macchia series, he separated interior and exterior colours with a white layer.

Chihuly drawings at Garden and Glass

After losing sight in one eye and dislocating a shoulder, Chihuly relinquished his gaffer role and began drawing to communicate his vision to the team.

Boat at Chihuly Garden and Glass

One of Chihuly's Chandelier series
One of the Chandelier series

Chihuly presented his first Chandelier piece at a 1992 exhibition at the Seattle Art Museum. He continued work on the Chandelier series for many years. One of the most notable exhibitions was the 1995-1996 Chihuly Over Venice show, where thirteen chandeliers were hung in outdoor spaces across the city of Venice.

Preparing for the Chihuly Over Venice show was the topic of one the short films I watched in the theatre at Garden and Glass. I gasped and held my breath as I watched Chihuly and his team toss large beautiful balls of blown glass over a bridge railing into the water below, where they would float to their installation destination. I admit I often bypass film showings in museums. I am so glad I didn’t bypass this one and highly recommend visitors take the time to watch the short films. (There were five of about four minutes each.) The films show the making of some amazing exhibits and feature Chihuly talking about the exhibits, his art and his approach.

Chihuly Glass House
Glass House

The centrepiece of Chihuly Garden and Glass is the Glass House. It is 40 feet tall and occupies 4,500 square feet. The sculpture on the ceiling is 100 feet long, one of Chihuly’s longest suspended structures.

Glasshouses come in many beautiful sizes and shapes and are some of the most incredible buildings in the world. When you walk through them, you feel peaceful and inspired. ∼Dale Chihuly

Chihuky Mille Fiori
Mille Fiori, which is Italian for “a thousand flowers”

Chihuly said memories of his mother serve as inspiration for his “gardens of glass”. In one of the short films I watched he talked about his love of nature. He said that nature was the most perfect setting for his art. Outside the Glass House, the rooftop garden proves that statement.

Rooftop garden at Chihuly Garden and Glass

Rooftop garden at Chihuly Garden and Glass

Rooftop garden at Chihuly Garden and Glass

 Chihuly Garden and Glass is located next to the Space Needle at Seattle Center. It is open daily. The Glass House is occasionally closed for private events. Special event closure information can be found on the Garden and Glass Visit Us page. For opportunities to see Chihuly’s work in other locations, check this list of permanent and temporary exhibitions.

The magic is in the light. ∼Dale Chihuly

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  1. Always a delight to see Dale Chihuly’s work. Thank you for sharing your Seattle experience. I love the photo with the Space Needle in the background—-very well done!

    1. Thanks Linda. I too love the photo with the Space Needle in the background. I discovered that this is a common shot for people visiting the museum.

  2. Actually, I was unaware that he had a museum in Seattle. I only knew of the one in Tacoma across from the University of Washington Tacoma campus.

  3. Now this is a “WOW” museum, Donna! So much color and light and beauty both inside and outside the building – truly amazing and you must have been delighted with your tour. We’re long overdue for a trip back to Seattle and a visit to the Chihuly Garden and Glass museum would top my list of “must sees.” Thanks for introducing me to the works of Dale Chihuly! Anita

  4. What a wonderful place! I spent the summer in Seattle in 2015 and it’s such a shame I missed the Chihuly Garden and Glass Museum. I would have loved to have visited. Oh well, just an excuse for me to go back, and go back soon!

    1. Bex, it is a pretty good excuse to return to Seattle. (as if you needed an excuse to visit Seattle!)

    1. Karen, Chihuly’s work is stunning in gardens. There was an exhibition a couple of years ago at the Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden and I visited several times while wintering in Arizona. He has done exhibitions at other gardens too.

  5. I share your love of Chihuly and was fortunate to visit the installation in Miami FL. I almost couldn’t bring myself to leave! And I agree that the short films are worth the minimal time it takes to view them.

    1. Jacquie, it’s good that Chihuly does temporary exhibitions in various places. It gives us a better chance of seeing his work. Agreed it can be hard to leave.

  6. Donna, I wish I had known you were in Seattle; I’d have come and met you as I live close by! Maybe because I live here and Chihuly is such a ‘household name’ (no disrespect intended) that we’ve yet to visit his Seattle museum. I’ve seen his work at the Tacoma Glass Museum – which is another fabulous place to visit if you get the chance and there you can watch artisans at work in the ‘hot shop’. Glad you enjoyed your visit. And I could tell you had some of our famous ‘filtered sun’ by the looks of the background in your first photo!

    1. It’s always nice to meet my online friends in person, but I often forget to check who lives where when I travel. Perhaps we’ll meet up another time. I also visited the Tacoma Glass Museum on this trip – the day before we came to Seattle. Their “hot shop” was interesting. And yes – we had “filtered sun” that day!

  7. When were you in Seattle? I have been here since June 14! I keep on seeing Chihuly art everywhere I go. Most memorable is the one at the ceiling of Bellagio in Vegas. And, of course, the ones that make the Desert Botanical Garden bloom in Phoenix, I have not gone to this one in the Seattle Center and I should!

    1. Carol, it was late April when we were in Seattle – I think you were in Calgary at that time. You should try to get to Chihuly Garden and Glass while you’re in Seattle. The art just makes me smile.

  8. Great job Donna! I too have written about the Garden Glass – recently I even took a yoga class in the Glass House. Wonderful post!

    1. Suzanne, what a beautiful spot to take a yoga class. There must have been a lot of positive energy!

  9. I am planning a big helping of Chihuly the next time I’m in Seattle. I’ve only seen one of of his works IRL in the National Liberty Museum in Philadelphia. I’m so impressed by artists who work in glass.

    1. Suzanne, I love anytime I can set a taste of Chihuly somewhere, but it is special to be able to get a big helping!

  10. I love glass art and am familiar with Chihuly, but rue the day because I never made it the museum when I was in Seattle. When I make it back one of these days, I know will will definitely pay a visit. Glass art always draws my eyes when I go to arts festivals.

    1. Jeri, glass art draws me too. I don’t know if I can define why. Perhaps the combination of light and colour and beauty in something seemingly fragile.

    1. Irene, I think Chihuly’s work really stands out (even though it often blends in) in a garden setting. Definitely impressive.

  11. I, too, really enjoy Dale Chihuly’s work. I once had the pleasure of visiting his studio in Tacoma, and in fact still have a “seconds” paperweight from there sitting on my desk, but now you have me looking forward to a visit to Seattle’s Chihuly Garden and Glass Museum, which I didn’t know about before.

  12. Thanks for sharing this as it brought back memories of my first trip to Seattle with my girls the summer of 2014. It was definitely the highlight of the trip. Also something to note is that when you pay for admission it is good for the entire day so definitely see it during the day back come back at night as they project light into the sculptures which allows them to radiate their colors and offer a brand new experience from only seeing them hours earlier.

    1. James, it’s nice this brought back memories of a trip with the girls. We didn’t get a chance to come back at night, but I’d love to that that sometime. A few years ago there was a Chihuly exhibit at the Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden and I did get a chance to see it in the day and at night. It was wonderful – two different experiences.