The Dale Chihuly Trail

Chihuly's Ikebana and Float Boats

Chihuly’s Ikebana and Float Boats

Dale Chihuly is stalking us. Or at least that’s the way it seems.

Having never heard of the revolutionary American glass sculptor before setting out on our trip more than three years ago, we can’t seem to turn around these days without seeing his work. It’s literally everywhere, from hotels and hospitals to churches and department stores in just about every state in the union. We can’t even leave the country without being shadowed by a Chihuly sculpture.

Chihuly and Us at Chatsworth House

Us at Chatsworth House. Chihuly at Chatsworth House. Coincidence? I don’t think so.

So when we rolled into Tacoma, Washington (the city of his birth), and later Seattle (his current residence), we weren’t at all surprised to find his heavy influence.

Tacoma’s wonderful Museum of Glass owes its very existence to the father of large-scale glass sculpture, at least indirectly. It was a conversation with Chihuly that reportedly inspired former University of Puget Sound President Phil Phibbs to conceive of a museum celebrating the Pacific Northwest’s contribution to the studio glass movement. That idea is now the 75,000-square-foot Museum of Glass, and also the start of our Chihuly trail.

Tacoma Museum of Glass

Fittingly everything about the museum is dominated by its working glass hot shop. Even the contemporary looking stainless-steel cone façade is just a giant chimney that vents heat from two large furnaces keeping molten glass at a toasty 2,400° Fahrenheit 24 hours a day. Inside, live glass blowing by both a dedicated museum team and visiting artists steals the show in front of a 200 seat amphitheater.

Museum of Glass Hot Shop

OK. I watched him do it, and I still don’t understand how you blow a glass horsey.

After taking in live glass blowing and admiring scores of finished glass works, including some by our title artist, make your way west on foot toward the Chihuly Bridge of Glass, a 500-foot-long pedestrian bridge connecting the museum to downtown Tacoma. Three distinct installations adorn the bridge.

“Closest to the Museum is the Venetian Wall, an eighty-foot installation displaying 109 sculptures from three of Chihuly’s series: Venetians, Ikebana, and Putti.

Chihuly Bridge Venetian Wall

Chihuly’s Venetian Wall reflecting Tacoma’s Union Station

Marking the center of the bridge are the Crystal Towers, which rise forty feet above the bridge deck. Illuminated from below, the forms glow at night and naturally by day.

Chihuly Bridge Crystal Towers

Furthest from the Museum is the Seaform Pavilion, a ceiling made of 2,364 objects from Chihuly’s Seaform and Persian series. Placed on top of a fifty-by-twenty-foot plate-glass ceiling, the forms are suspended in midair and make dramatic use of natural light.” 1

Chihuly Bridge Seaform Pavilion

Continue on another 200 feet or so to historic Tacoma Union Station for its signature Beaux-arts architecture, imposing rotunda, and – of course – its hefty collection of Chihuly art, including a 2,700-piece cobalt blue chandelier.

Head back towards the Bridge of Glass and into the nearby University of Washington Library where you’ll find another Chihuly chandelier, this time Chinook Red, gracing an otherwise ordinary conference room.

Chihuly Chinook Red Chandelier University of Washington Library

Not bad for a college library

But a school-conference-room Chihuly isn’t the most surprising find of the area. That distinction belongs to The Swiss Pub.

According to legend, Chihuly frequented the college bar while consulting on the construction of the glass museum in the early ’90s. He liked the locale so much he persuaded the owner to display eight of his Venetian pieces above the bar, where they still sit, making this the only bar in the world to feature Chihuly art.

The Swiss Pub Chihuly Collection

Are those Chihuly’s above the bar or just the world’s coolest yard glasses?

Don’t dive too deeply into the pub’s 30 tap beers, though, because our next stop involves a trip back to the car and a 40 minute drive to our grand finale. Opened in 2012, Seattle’s Chihuly Garden and Glass is the largest museum dedicated to the great artist’s work.

The Exhibition Hall’s eight galleries contain many displays that fans will find familiar, such as the Ikebana and Float Boats seen above or Mille Fiori (Italian for a thousand flowers) seen here:

Chihuly Mille Fiori

But also unusual pieces, like a glass octopus sculpture, and the drawings that inspired them.

Chihuly Octopus

An amazing 4,500-square-foot glasshouse transitions visitors between the darkened indoor exhibits and Chihuly’s outdoor garden.

Chihuly Glasshouse

Where towers of glass rival, and honor, Seattle’s most iconic structure.

Chihuly and Seattle Space Needle

Or perhaps they’re stalking the Space Needle, too. These things really are everywhere.

So tell us, where has Chihuly stalked you?

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26 Comments on “The Dale Chihuly Trail”

  1. morristownmemos by Ronnie Hammer August 5, 2013 at 10:11 am #

    We saw an exhibit of his work at the Botanical Gardens, NY. His sculptures are colorful, imaginative and beautiful. Thanks for this post.


    • Brian August 7, 2013 at 10:34 am #

      We love the NY Bot Gardens. We didn’t see Chihuly there but were treated to a Monet exhibit where they recreated scenes from Giverny and the like.


  2. John August 5, 2013 at 10:12 am #

    Awesome art indeed!


  3. digger666 August 5, 2013 at 10:26 am #

    Reblogged this on digger666.


  4. Marcia Clarke August 5, 2013 at 10:27 am #

    He also has a beautiful sculpture at the entrance to the Orlando Museum of Art. I love his use of vibrant colors!


  5. Sunnyplace August 5, 2013 at 11:49 am #

    I first saw his work on the ceiling of Bellagio in Las Vegas, then a casino was built in my hometown and his work is there too. (Mohegan Sun in CT)


    • Brian August 7, 2013 at 10:32 am #

      Yup, the Bellagio has a great ceiling near hotel check-in (if I remember correctly) and at least one nice “standing chandelier” on the gaming floor.


  6. CulturalRites August 5, 2013 at 11:52 am #

    First encountered Chihuly’s work when I did business regularly in Seattle some 15 years ago. In July this year saw his fine large work that is the focal point of the San Antonio central library.


    • Brian August 7, 2013 at 10:30 am #

      How long has the library in San Antonio had a display? I think we missed that on our way through. Grrr.


      • CulturalRites August 7, 2013 at 10:38 am #

        Since 2004. It’s a very remarkable piece, and Chihuly comes by every spring to supervise the cleaning of it.


        • Brian August 7, 2013 at 10:44 am #

          I guess it’s back to San Antonio for us (it’s worthy of a repeat visit anyway).


    • amoralegria August 10, 2013 at 1:38 pm #

      Wish I’d known – we would have stopped there when we were in S.A. earlier this summer.


  7. meandtheboss2013 August 5, 2013 at 1:19 pm #

    The first time was many years ago in Atlantic City, NJ, also he visited our old hometown of Reading, PA with a showing at the Reading Museum, since then we have seen his works here and there and most recently he invaded our new turf with a museum/shop in St. Petersburg, Florida..Always impressive…


    • Brian August 7, 2013 at 10:29 am #

      The St. Petersburg museum is I think the 2nd largest collection of his work we’ve seen behind the new one in Seattle. Very nice museum.


  8. Erin August 6, 2013 at 9:21 am #

    We’ve so far missed the special exhibits, but Chihuly stalked us at the Atlantis Resort in the Bahamas, and also on the Disney Wonder 😉


  9. Sara August 6, 2013 at 10:20 am #

    I first stumbled upon Chihuly in Nashville at the Botanical Gardens. His works were incorporated right into the gardens and pools. There is something about seeing his work outdoors.


    • Brian August 7, 2013 at 10:20 am #

      The outdoor work is pretty neat. Some of the museums have videos showing his team making the glass, but also installing them in various locations. It’s a little disconcerting to see them heaving these giant balls of glass into rivers and lakes. It’s obviously beautiful art but also pretty tough stuff too.


  10. fairybearconfessions August 6, 2013 at 2:57 pm #

    My sister is a docent at the Chihuly Glass Museum in St. Pete, Florida! She took our family on a tour when we went to visit – I’ll have to go see the one in Tacoma!


    • Brian August 7, 2013 at 10:17 am #

      The St. Petersburg, FL, museum is a great one. And although we had seen plenty of Chihuly before, that was the first time we had really become acquainted with his work.


  11. Allison August 6, 2013 at 5:07 pm #

    The art museum in Oklahoma City, OK has much Chihuly. We were told OK city is his mother in law’s home, thus inspiring that exhibit. It is amazing how much glass his shop puts out. The first photo in the post is very striking.


    • Brian August 7, 2013 at 10:16 am #

      We missed Oklahoma City and mean to get there. Now we have another reason. Thanks.


  12. August 7, 2013 at 9:53 am #

    Hi Brian, Chihuly stalked us years back when we moved from Dallas TX to London. His fantastic exhibit in the Dallas Museum of Art was our first sighting, then we encountered his fabulous chandelier (similar to the one in the University of Washington Library) hanging in the V & A Museum. Since then he seems to be everywhere! Great post! All the best, Terri


    • Brian August 7, 2013 at 10:13 am #

      Hi Terri. It’s funny. Once you become familiar with his style you do start to notice his work everywhere. We just saw another sculpture in the woods of a resort in the mountains of Washington State.


  13. amoralegria August 10, 2013 at 1:39 pm #

    I first saw a Chihuly exhibit at Garfield Park in Chicago; later I saw another one at a botanic garden, can’t remember which one. His work is amazing! Thanks for this beautiful post about his work! Guess we’ll have to get back out to Washington state to see these…


  14. In love with life August 15, 2013 at 7:35 am #




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