Born in Tacoma, Washington in 1941, his school background is diverse and impressive: he enrolled at the College of the Puget Sound in 1959, later transferring to the University of Washington at Seattle where he graduated in 1965 with a degree in interior design. His life changing moment came in 1964, however, when he was introduced to the art of glass. Being introduced to blowing glass, he continued with his education, receiving a Master of Science in sculpture from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He studied glass in Venice on a Fulbright Fellowship and then went on to earn a Master of Fine Arts at the Rhode Island School of Design. Obviously not one to slow down, he helped establish a glass program at RISD and went on to start his own school, the Pilchuck Glass School.
As a teacher and an early artist, Chihuly first began to grab attention with his glass work on a number of temporary glass art pieces, as well as for his reputation for collaboration with artists of other media. He encouraged his students to approach glass from unorthodox perspectives, and this often produced important revelations in the glass world. Chihuly was very interested in glass as a form of sculpture and he focused often on that most ancient of accessories, the vessel. Through sculpture and his vessels he explores color, shape, pattern and form. Often described as not having the most complex of blowing techniques, Chihuly allowed glass to find its own shape and he used minimal tools.
He’s created numerous series throughout the year, among them “Baskets”, featuring translucent orbs in bowl-shapes, “Persians”, with lots of wavy colored lines throughout the glass, and our personal favorite, “Sea Forms”, gorgeous, jellyfish-like shapes. Chihuly is also known for his inspiring large-scale installations, like large glass “floats” in water, glass forests and flowers, and even homage to Italian glass with “Chihuly Over Venice.”
To honestly sum up all of Chihuly’s work in one article would be futile—the man’s work has been prolific, and he continues to teach and create even until today. Though car and surfing accidents have left him unable to do the work himself, Chihuly currently guides and directs a team of fellow artisans and is still leaving his imprint on the world of glass.