Meet the Designer: Dale Chihuly

The artistic trailblazer has recently turned his attention to rugs.
The Rug Company X Chihuly Dale Chihuly Studio

Photograph courtesy of ©Chihuly Studio. All rights reserved.

Departing from glassblowing tradition, Dale Chihuly pioneered the technique of using gravity and centrifugal force to let molten glass find its shape in its own organic way. The result is vivid multicolored, mesmerizing creations.

“I want people to be overwhelmed with light and color in some way that they’ve never experienced,” he says. Never afraid to experiment, developing innovative techniques to express his bold artistic vision, he recently turned his attention to rugs. Five designs commissioned by The Rug Company—Pheasant, Rosette, Cylinder, Poplar and Harvest—translate Chihuly’s visions into two-dimensions.

Born in Washington state nearly eight decades ago, his ongoing impact there includes co-founding the Pilchuck Glass School and creation of the Chihuly Garden and Glass exhibit in Seattle. He resides there with his wife Leslie, the President and CEO of Chihuly Studio, and their son Jackson.

Dale Chihuly Glass Streamers

Colorful blown glass streamers decorate Chihuly’s “Fiori” floating installation at Nashville’s Cheekwood Estate and Gardens.

How did your artwork translate to designing rugs?

The challenge was for the weavers! I provided designs inspired by my work in glass, and the Rug Company translated the designs beautifully, conveying the color, shapes, and movement of my work through an opaque material.

You studied interior architecture in college. What role should a rug play in room design?

A beautiful rug can transform a room. It can be an accent, a featured piece or a strong foundation for great furniture and art. My approach to design is all about the curation of work in the space. My taste is eclectic, and I like to be surrounded with pieces I love…a Picasso ceramic, a collection of Pendleton trade blankets, a wonderful chandelier hanging from above, an antique Venetian mirror, some great chairs by designers and architects I admire, a colorful kilim.

What is an object you would never part with?

That’s a tough question! Today I would say my collection of books on Van Gogh, one of my favorite artists.

Which rug collection piece do you favor?

I love them all for different reasons. I am drawn to the movement in Pheasant.

Dale Chihuly Cylinder Rug

Chihuly’s Cylinder rug from The Rug Company collection installed for display in London’s Royal Botanic Gardens. Photograph courtesy of The Rug Company, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

Why are so many of your works named for nature?

Because of my organic approach to glass, the forms sometimes resemble things found in
nature. My team and I have always had fun finding descriptive names for the objects in natural terms…herons, frogs, foot, seaform. While we live in the natural world and can’t help being inspired by its beauty, I never try to mimic nature.

After a bodysurfing injury and losing an eye in an auto accident you’ve developed team work. How does that affect your artistic dynamic?

I wouldn’t be able to accomplish sculptures made of thousands of blown parts alone,
and I’m lucky to have assembled and mentored one of the best teams in the world. I can convey very complex and challenging ideas and with time spent experimenting and exploring what the material can do, we get some pretty amazing results.

What is your aim in using color?

I am energized and inspired by colors and will use as many shades as I can get my hands on. I love to see how light transmits through different colors of glass and how this relationship can transform a space. It’s magical.

What’s your own favorite color?

I fall in love with different color combinations daily and may never identify a favorite. If I had to choose just one color, chartreuse would be a strong candidate.

What colors do you associate with New England?

The fiery reds and oranges of the trees in fall.

The print version of this article appears with the headline: Dale Chihuly
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