© 2021 Chihuly Studio. All Rights Reserved.

What’s your favourite time of day?

I have always felt that dusk is magical. My mother Viola and I used to watch the spectacular beauty of sunsets at home in the Pacific Northwest. Light is central to my work, and there is nothing like watching the changing light transform the world around you. 

Describe your personal design style.

When composing a room or space, I like to use materials in unexpected ways, inserting whimsy alongside elegance and beauty. I studied interior architecture in college, and I have been compelled to channel my creativity through the transformation of spaces ever since. It is evident in my work, in the architectural installations that I have placed in beloved locations around the world beginning with Chihuly Over Venice.

The Boathouse, which is home to my studio and hotshop, is probably the best example of my aesthetic. It is an eclectic combination of styles, finishes, materials, and artwork. I like to use found wood instead of wall board, and I love tin and copper. I used copper sheets for the walls and ceiling of Italo’s Room. I design with my personal collections in mind….vintage children’s books in the powder rooms, a big collection of art books which I show with the front covers facing out, antique radios, cameras, accordions, string holders, door stops all placed in clever and unusual places throughout the building.  

What’s your biggest strength?

I have always been willing to take risks in my work. Challenging myself and my team to discover and master new techniques to manipulate transparent materials in the pursuit of my creative ideas is energizing. It’s okay if we fail because we are always learning something that leads to new ideas and new work. Rotolo is a good example of this process. We spent a lot of time pushing ourselves to solve this amazing challenge – how to create these heavy, dense coils of glass without them shattering during the annealing process. It was a lot of trial and error, but we accomplished what I set out to do, and that was extremely rewarding.

What’s the biggest learning experience you’ve had?

Chihuly Over Venice in 1996 was hands down the biggest learning experience of my career. It was the first project of that scale I had ever attempted. The 15 installations that we placed in and around the canals and piazzas of Venice, Italy were created with teams in 4 countries over two years. Teamwork, communication, and problem-solving were crucial in navigating the multiple glassblowing locations, exhibition sites, engineering challenges, and city regulations. Like any labor of love, I look back on the entire learning experience with immense pride and fondness.

What’s the best compliment you’ve ever received?

Receiving the Fulbright and National Endowment for the Arts grants gave me confidence in my potential as an artist and the financial support necessary to really focus on my art practice. Funding for artists is extremely important; it takes money to purchase materials and keep a roof over your head while pursuing your passion. Those grants meant everything to me. My wife Leslie and I have done our best to support other artists and arts programs through a foundation we established over 10 years ago.

When are you the most inspired?

Inspiration can happen anytime and in any place. I can get inspired by a Van Gogh painting, an historic train bridge, a great section of a Hemingway novel, a sunset, the sound of birds singing at dawn. When I feel energetic, ideas flow, and I can put inspiration to work.

What song can you listen to on repeat?

When I’m working in the hotshop, I like to turn the music up. Pumping music keeps me and my team motivated and energized. I listen to all types of music, from the 1950s to the 1990s, including rock, pop, blues, jazz, and more. No playlist of mine is complete without the Beatles. 

What’s the most adventurous thing you’ve done in your life?

This is a tough call. In a way, my entire life, career, and education has been an adventure. From working on an Alaskan commercial fishing boat to raise money for school, to working on a kibbutz in Israel. Some of the best moments in my life as an artist have come from travel, meeting interesting people and experiencing the world directly and spontaneously. 

What did you want to do with your life at age 12?

At that point in my life, I had no grand desires. My dad was a butcher and union organizer, and I thought about being a bus driver. I ran away from home to work in a pea canning factory around that time. It is only in hindsight that I can see the early stages of my interest in beauty and creativity. My mother’s garden had a big impact on me.

What’s the best thing that happened so far this year?

Reassembling our team after a period of pandemic separation is definitely the highlight, especially as we’ve been working on the exhibition opening in Singapore. I am thrilled to be able to place my work in the amazing spaces at Gardens by the Bay, and I’m excited to share my art with new audiences.

For more information, visit www.chihuly.com.