F5: Dale Chihuly Shares His Favorite Architect + Beloved Collections

01.05.24 | By
F5: Dale Chihuly Shares His Favorite Architect + Beloved Collections

A master of glass, Dale Chihuly was first introduced to the material while studying interior design. “I started incorporating glass shards into woven tapestries while studying interior design at The University of Washington in the early 1960s. I loved its translucent qualities,” Dale said. “Purely by chance, I decided to melt stained glass in my basement studio and with a metal pipe, I blew my first glass bubble. That was the moment I was hooked. I spent the next decade studying and experimenting with the material and teaching glassblowing.”

After graduating, Dale enrolled in the first glass program in the country, at the University of Wisconsin. He continued his studies at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), where he later established the glass program and taught for more than a decade.

black and white image of a light-skinned man with an eye patch looking at the camera

Dale Chihuly © Chihuly Studio. All rights reserved.

In 1968, after receiving a Fulbright Fellowship, Dale went to work at the Venini glass factory in Venice. There, he observed the team approach to blowing glass, which is critical to the way he works in the studio today. In 1971, Dale co-founded Pilchuck Glass School in Washington State. With the international glass center, he’s led the avant-garde in the development of glass as a fine art.

“In 1976, Henry Geldzahler, curator of contemporary art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, acquired three of my Cylinders for the museum’s collection, and that gave me the confidence to give up teaching and to focus full-time on my art,” he shared.

Dale’s work is included in more than 200 museum collections worldwide and has been shown in solo exhibitions at museums the world over. He’s been the recipient of many awards, including two fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and 13 honorary doctorates. The glass artist has created more than a dozen well-known series of works, as well as celebrated for large architectural installations.

If he weren’t a renowned artist, Dale does have a few other careers in mind. “Had I not discovered glass, I think that I would have remained a weaver. I also love cinema, and when I’m not working, I spend a lot of time watching films – both classics and current material. I’ve often thought that I might have liked to be a director. I imagine it’s like the way I work with my team to create a composition.”

Today, we’re happy to have Dale Chihuly join us for Friday Five!

modern building with vertical red rods sticking up from the water and grass surrounding it

Dale Chihuly, Red Reeds and Niijima Floats, 2021, Taliesin West, Scottsdale, Arizona © 2021 Chihuly Studio. All rights reserved. \\\ Photo: Nathaniel Wilson

1. Frank Lloyd Wright Architecture

Frank Lloyd Wright’s work was ubiquitous when I was growing up and it left a lasting impression on me, especially as I started studying architecture and interior design in the late 1960s. I was honored to present my work at Taliesin West, Frank Lloyd Wright’s winter laboratory in Arizona, in 2021-2022 and be in dialogue with such an iconic example of modern architecture.

a modern building on a body of water with a backdrop of trees

The Boathouse, Seattle, 2016 © Chihuly Studio. All rights reserved. \\\ Photo: Nathaniel Wilson

2. Seattle’s Lake Union

My hotshop and studio, The Boathouse, is located on Lake Union, a working lake that has been inhabited for thousands of years, experiencing significant historical changes, innovations, and reinventions. I enjoy watching the working vessels go by on their way from Puget Sound to Lake Washington; it reminds me of the time I spent working on a fishing boat in Alaska to put myself through school. Having grown up in the Pacific Northwest, water is very meaningful to me and to my process – I think a lot when I’m on or in water, and it inspires me.

shelves fill with vintage accordions

Dale Chihuly’s accordion collection, The Game Room, The Boathouse, Seattle, 2011 © Chihuly Studio. All rights reserved. \\\ Photo: David Emery

3. Music

I love rock-n-roll, especially music from The Beatles, Bob Dylan, and other artists from the 50s and 60s. I love to play the music loud in the hotshop, and sometimes I’ll play the same song over and over and get lost in the rhythm; it allows me to really focus on what I’m doing. Music creates a great energy in the hotshop and allows us all to lose ourselves in the work. My “Hotshop Playlist” is on Spotify.

moody library

Art book collection, The Library, The Boathouse, Seattle, 2022 © Chihuly Studio. All rights reserved. \\\ Photo: Nathaniel Wilson

4. Collecting

I’ve been collecting things since I was a child picking up fishing floats from the shores of Puget Sound. I love to surround myself with things that I find aesthetically interesting or that have sentimental meaning. For instance, I have collections of stamps (which I’ve been collecting since childhood), cast iron door stoppers, children’s books from the 50s, carnival masks from Germany, and Native American trade blankets with intricate, colorful designs. I find inspiration and beauty in these objects.

One of my favorite collections is of vintage accordions, some of which are on display in The Bar at Chihuly Garden and Glass in Seattle. The accordion was a favorite instrument of my father and older brother, and they’re incredibly detailed and beautifully designed. They are among my most prized pieces.

shelves of colorful coffee table books covers forward

Dale Chihuly’s studio, Seattle, 2017 © Chihuly Studio. All rights reserved. \\\ Photo: Scott Mitchell Leen

5. Art Books + Film

I love art books and use them to adorn the walls of my Library and my Studio office – always with the cover facing front. The books in my office are all dedicated to the work of Vincent van Gogh, which I love. I was inspired to produce my own books and launched my own publishing department in 1997. Our first book, Chihuly, was released that year, co-published by Harry N. Abrams, Inc. Similarly, I love immersing myself in films and can watch them repeatedly. I love Scorsese and Tarantino films, and post-war American cinema such as A Streetcar Named Desire, Rear Window, To Kill a Mockingbird, Cool Hand Luke, The Graduate, and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.



Work by Dale Chihuly:

pond full of white flower-like glass sculptures

Ethereal White Persian Pond, 18.156.in1, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, London, England. © Chihuly Studio. All Rights Reserved.

electric blue glass sculptures in the dessert

Dale Chihuly, Blue Birch Reeds and Scorpion Tails, 2021, 9 x 16 x 14½’, Desert Botanical Garden, Phoenix © 2021 Chihuly Studio. All rights reserved. \\\ Photo: Nathaniel Willson

detail of yellow and red glass sculpture

Electric Yellow and Deep Coral Tower, 17.437.t1, Biltmore, Asheville, NC. © Chihuly Studio. All Rights Reserved.

a boat in a lake filled with various sizes and colors of glass globes

Dale Chihuly , Float Boat, 2014, and Niijima Floats, 2023, Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, installed 2023 © 2023 Chihuly Studio. All rights reserved. \\\ Photo: Nathaniel Willson

white tower of glass and vertical purple glass in a sculpted garden

Palazzo Ducale Tower, 96.2116.t1 Biltmore, Asheville, NC © Chihuly Studio. All rights reserved.

Kelly Beall is Director of Branded Content at Design Milk. The Pittsburgh-based writer and designer has had a deep love of art and design for as long as she can remember, from Fashion Plates to MoMA and far beyond. When not searching out the visual arts, she's likely sharing her favorite finds with others. Kelly can also be found tracking down new music, teaching herself to play the ukulele, or on the couch with her three pets – Bebe, Rainey, and Remy. Find her @designcrush on social.