We spent a few days in Seattle last month and one of the highlights was visiting the Chihuly Garden and Glass Museum at Seattle Center. Dale Chihuly is something of a phenomenon in the glass world. His blown glass –everything from single bowls to massive sculptures and chandeliers in complex shapes and dazzling color combinations – is shown around the globe. Some of it remains in private collections, but much of it is displayed in places like the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, England, and in the lobby of the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada. If you ever watched the 1990’s sitcom ‘Frasier’ psychiatrist Frasier Crane had a Chihuly piece on display beside his fireplace too.
Chihuly has faced many challenges in his life (the death of his father and brother while he was in his teens; a head on collision as an adult that left him blind in one eye) and, like most artists, he’s not without his critics (who debate whether his work is art or craft; who criticize his move to hire others to blow the glass after a body surfing accident left him unable to do the heavy work). But Chihuly presses on, coping with his limitations, and ignoring the naysayers and critics. His job, as he sees it, is to show up and simply do the work.
The museum visit was inspirational. It reminded me that whether you’re creating a beautiful glass sculpture, a full-length novel, or a four course dinner, the real reward is in the doing.
Some pictures from our museum visit and some quotes from Dale Chihuly:
I never actually consider what I am, nor do I reflect much on what I’ve done, nor do I think too much about what I will do.
My well of inspiration never runs dry. Just working with the materials seems to bring forth the ideas.
I can’t worry about how the world will be received. People will respond in many different ways. If you could record the reactions, there would be tremendous variation.
I can’t understand it when people say they don’t like a particular color. How can you not like a color?
I want my work to appear like it came from nature.
Spontaneity is the one element I most strive for in my work.
I think all artists have to overcome criticism. Most artists who are successful, somebody’s there waiting to give you a hard time. I tend not to read a lot of the reviews.
Yeah, you have doubts. But you don’t want those doubts when you’re making the work. If you have doubts about work while you’re making it, it’s hard to make it. So you have to have some kind of vision about what you’re trying to do, and then while you’re doing that, you have to be very confident.
It doesn’t make any difference to me if the work is called art or craft or design. To me, the best of everything is an art form. A movie can be wonderful art or it can be poorly made and purely commercial. If it moves people in some way, that’s what’s important.
Just take things as they come. We’ll see how this works out. It’s like a lot of good things. If you follow your heart, sometimes you get lucky.