Opal and Amber Towers Chihuly glass Kew Temperate House

Chihuly Blown Glass Exhibit

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Dale Chihuly is an American artist known for his blown glass sculptures. In 2019 Chihuly Exhibits his work at Kew Gardens. Using principles of asymmetry rather than identical predictable shapes of glass. The making of Chihuly Blown glass has developed in technique and complexity since the early 1970s.



Chihuly Blown Glass bringing life to Glass art at Kew Gardens

One of Chihuly’s well known techniques is to let gravity take its course in the making process or through the manipulation of centrifugal forces, glass artworks also can incorporate textiles or paper art into a glass shape. The Chihuly exhibit at Kew Gardens allows people to experience light, colour, and a form factor that leaves people feeling inspired and uplifted. Add your comments below if you are or where lucky enough to see the glass exhibit at Kew Gardens.

The Dale and Leslie Foundation, formed in 2009 provides grants for artists and programs so that the public can access art. It has involved the Artist in projects that deal with veteran soldiers. Hot Shop Heroes was one such an example, set up on the success of instigating free entry for armed forces soldiers to an exhibition of blown glass that leads to positive feedback and interest.

This resulted in a project that enables armed services personnel who have faced adversity to experience a creative space that utilises team working. Whilst picking up techniques to build something out of glass. Youth projects and programs for communities who have been left out or not catered for have also gained from the Foundation.

Chihuly the collector

Chihuly collects things and has an interest in the story behind other people’s collections. Some collections vary from vintage radios, cameras, Native American baskets, Trade Blankets which are colourful native American works of art. Lots of interesting things. Old-fashioned nostalgic Christmas tree ornaments, which is what some glass sculpture pieces laid out ready to be assembled at Kew reminded us of.

Overview of Reflections on Nature Kew

The exhibition provides an overview of the blown glass projects and sub-genres Chihuly has created over his 5-decade career. Here is a quick short list of what to look out for at the exhibition, which is explained later on. Many of us struggle to read small information tags in exhibitions. Newcomers to the artist gain from being able to see a timeline of pieces. Some whether or not familiar might not realise that well-known pieces are at the show. We heard an American tourist pleased to learn the Rotolos were at Kew; it adds to the mystique and justifies the excitement around the hype when you get to catch up and experience the legacy.

Chihuly Glass Exhibits outside in the Gardens of Kew

  1. Sapphire Star
  2. The inside exhibition
  3. Lime Crystal Tower
  4. Niijima Floats
  5. Temperate House
  6. Cattails and Copper Birch Reeds
  7. Neodymium Reeds and Turquoise Marlins
  8. Scarlet and Yellow Icicle Tower
  9. Red Reeds
  10. Ethereal White Persian Pond
  11. Paintbrushes
  12. Summer Sun

Images of Chihuly Blown Glass exhibit outside in the Gardens of Kew Gardens

tell me more about Chihuly Blown Glass

Inside Chihuly Exhibit Kew Gardens, The Shirley Sherwood Gallery of Botanical Art

  1. Chihuly Exhibit features work that has developed over five decades, that has explored new techniques, pushing the boundaries of contemporary art. We list here Chihuly exhibits his work in named series and represent the names of the Blown Glass items on display at Kew Gardens during Chihuly exhibition.
  2. Baskets
  3. Seaforms
  4. Cylinders
  5. Soft cylinders
  6. Jerusalem cylinders
  7. Macchia
  8. Ikebana
  9. Venetians
  10. Persians
  11. Rotolo
  12. Drawings

Images of Chihuly Blown Glass exhibit inside the gallery and buildings of Kew Gardens



What other Blown Glass Artists inspired Chihuly?

Stanislav Libenský and Jaroslava Brychtová are artists that manipulated blown glass and inspired Chihuly upon his visit to the 1967 Exposition in Montreal.

Chihuly Blown Glass Production started in 1971

Pilchuck glass school creating an outdoor installation with colleague Carpenter. Both Chihuly and Carpenter had an interest in native cultural heritage, of indigenous people. Their communal items, the spirituality, the craftsmanship the textures’ colours. They collected items.

The words of Art Critic Donald Kuspit”Will it freeze in ice or sizzle like neon?”

1971 installation “20,000 pounds of Neon and Ice U shaped neon blown lass tubes were frozen into moulds filled with water. The blocks of ice would illuminate and slowly melt over ten days. When you consider how some Young British Artists many years later, also got into the affinity with neon glass art; Chihuly perhaps a forerunner to dreaming big worthy of names in lights.

Art critic Donald Kuspit, coined Fire Ice and reference to the poem by Robert Frost “How will the world end? Will it freeze in ice or sizzle like neon?

Drawing with glass, Chihuly “pickup” drawing technique developed in 1974

Chihuly developed a breakthrough glass blowing technique in 1974 that involved collecting glass rod threads, laying them down into intricate designs and then rolling OnTop a bubble of molten glass over the design. The result can be by the sketch like designs on the glass.

Chihuly blown glass Cylinders series began in 1975

Definitely cylindrical shaped, ranging from clear glass to coloured class to plain or decorated.

Glass threads in different colours help to form lines that appear like sketch drawings onto the glass. The techniques inspired by Native American textiles like Navajo blankets.

1975 Navajo Blanket cylinder series starts a link is made with the curator of New York Metropolitan Museum of Art they give 3 cylinders to the contemporary department. Seaver Leslie and Chihuly conceive the idea to create cylinders for an Irish project. This exhibition never saw the light of day because of a sudden accident. Tenacity and the bond prevailed, some 40 yrs later in 2013 they realised it when the friends collaborated again to pick up that project again ” Ulysses Cylinders”.

Chihuly Glass art Cylinders on display at Kew

Pilchuck Cylinder Blown Glass 1984

Peach Cylinder with Indian Blanket Drawing Blown Glass 1995

White cylinder 2011

Clear Blanket cylinder 2015

Clear cylinder #11 2006

Clear Blanket cylinder 2016

a.Peach cylinder with Indian blanket drawing Blown glass 1995

b.Peach cylinder with Indian Blanket drawing blown glass 1995

c.Peach cylinder with Indian Blanket Drawing 1995

Baskets 1977

Big shell shaped and bowl-shaped “Baskets”

Motivated by Washington Historical Society in Tacoma giving an exhibition about Native Americans indigenous people and culture of Northwest Coast, in particular, Indian baskets. Finding it interesting how they stack inside each other and would take on different shapes and yet keep their familiar structure and statement designs.

Chihuly skyblue basket g;ass piece
Chihuly skyblue basket g;ass piece

Kew  Chihuly Basket Exhibits

Tabac Basket Set with Midnight Lip Wraps Blown Glass 2000

Seaforms  1980

These are delightful delicate seashore inspired pieces. So realistic they look nature identical, however, the artist does not have forensically studied sea urchins or shells to produce exact copies. The projects seem to set about letting nature take its course with natural folds and transformation from liquid to solid,  recognisable as the seashore treasures.

Captivated by a series of North American photographic prints by Edward S. Curtis “Modern Designs in Washoe Basketry” 1926. Large assortments of these prints featuring the people and their artefacts, are in the Chihuly studio and arranged with all the other treasures of cultural context.

Chihuly having often found solace with water, an aid to creativity. One of the childhood playgrounds was the shores of  Puget Sound, Northwest Coast where the Pacific Ocean mixes with the Salish Sea Washington state. Into adulthood having bank side work studios, as in Rhode Island and Seattle.

Bill Clinton presented the Queen of Netherlands with a  Chihuly gift marking the 50th jubilee of the Marshall Plan June 1997. This was one of the most historic ambitious recovery plans devised. Its aims were because of American Marshall realising that Europe needed help to rebuild itself after being savaged by World war II.

As with all Chihuly descriptions, this gifts description Bottle Green with Marigold Lip Wrap fit for a Queen. It is on loan to the Groninger Museum Holland, till the 5th of May 2019 by the Royal collections in the Hague.

20190413-seaform aqua sky blue bronze brown
seaform aqua sky blue bronze brown


Displayed seaforms at Kew

  • Pink Seaform Set with white lip wraps blown glass 1988
  • Pink striped Sea form set with Black Lip Wraps 1981
  • Pink and white Sea forms  set 1980
  • Yellow cream Seaform with a white lip wrap 1981
  • Naples yellow Seaform with Sepia Lip Wrap 1980
  • Peach Seaform with a white lip wrap 1981
  • Goldenrod striped Seaform set with sapphire and onyx lip wraps 1989

Macchia 1981

Baskets with floppy rims and contrasting colour rims called lips. Also spots and lines and different colours on the inside to the outside. Fluted edge large cup cases inside colours contrasting to external colours and a vivid colour edge “Lip Wraps” The patterns on the outside can be marbled, spotted complex.

chihuly macchia
Chihuly Macchia

Italian connection and artistic influences of Macchia

Something floral about a group of them, it is not surprising to learn that Chihuly’s mother had abundant flower gardens, and they cherished sunsets. Italian culture is borrowed from the inspiration of Fulvio Bianconi.–Handkerchief vases “Fazzoletto “ towards the end of the 1940s. He was an apprentice at the grand Murano Glass factory in his teens, Paolo Venini a Murano master then spotted and called upon Bianconi to design for him. Macchia is the translation of Chihuly’s word “Spotted”. Spots in the patterns but perhaps there are many ways to conjure with the dual meanings of the word. Other observed influences, the vision Chihuly had to try to include many colours into the piece as possible, in layering techniques and embellishments.  The ideals and symbolism of the many colours found in stained glass windows that give off a spiritual luminosity

A selection of the Macchia at Kew

Lemon Yellow Macchia with Royal yellow Lip Wrap Blown Glass 1995

Mimosa yellow Black Macchia with Garnet lip Wrap 2007

Cadmium Green Deep Macchia with Yellow Orange Lip Wrap 1992

Soft cylinders 1984

These combine the relaxed floppy form of baskets with the embellishment of sketched drawings that float around the outside, that was seen on earlier cylinders. Chihuly studied Weaving early on in his training and had incorporated glass into a bit of a phenomenon with textiles. The interest in Native American textiles would come easy as he had also studied interior design, all these interests lend well to forming a different species of glass.

1989 – 2002

Eggplant Soft cylinder with Lush Green Lip Wrap

Blown glass 2002

Scarlet Soft cylinder with deep green lip wrap 1990

Topaz Deep soft cylinder with Mauve lip wrap 1989

Orange soft cylinder with Petal Pink lip wrap 1989

Autumn Gold Soft cylinder with lake blue lip wrap 1994

soft cylinder chihuly eggplant lime green
soft cylinder chihuly eggplant lime green

Persian 1986

It is refreshing to read that Chihuly is very open about how the names of Persians was not just due to one reason alone.  The chosen name for the series was due to a combination of things, the exotic sound, its associations to a mystical time and place and its connections to where East met West. One of the biggest empires in history, a polestar for science, medicine, the arts, religion, inventions mathematical equations.

Just imagine the historical culture journey of Imperial Persian Empire. It’s the ancient status of refined luxuries. Intricate patterns, geometry, calligraphy, complex lush carpets, glass, ivory, gold, silver precious metals, dates, pistachios and saffron. The Interchange of trade with a vintage oriental China spices fine porcelain silk. The colours the shapes. Mystical enchanted gardens. To capture this in glass Chihuly thought about how European explorers must have been mesmerised back in the day when they discovered Persia Marco Polo era. The Geometric black and white spiral curving patterns, the dark side and the light. Fine long-stemmed glass pieces with flutes, ridges striations optical challenges. Bottles of pipes and horns goblets that look like they belong to a magical pharmacy.

White Glass by Chihuly Kew Lily hse. Ethhereal White Persian Pond
White Glass by Chihuly Kew Lily hse. Ethhereal White Persian Pond

Personal connection immortal saints

One of the other interesting finds about how these Persian glass pieces came about is the personal connection to the artist.  A Father and a brother 2 people lost in time prematurely. Symbolic connections that look at existence and past archaeology of cultures and life cycle. Those geometric spirals moving in and out, side to side, a continuous flow.

Yet a Renaissance Painting by Vittore Carpaccio created in 1502-1507  of “Saint George and the Dragon” depict a hero that takes on a dragon to save the princess. But then you see these skulls lying around on the floor other victims somewhat on the dark side,  snakes and lizards, contrasting with a lit up haven of tranquillity in the background. Art like this belongs to the Vanitas genre of art started by the Dutch 17th C, it explores mortality and contrasts it to other symbols of wealth, pleasures vanity. Skulls, candles, goblets, items associated with sciences, knowledge resurrection even.

The Dragons wings by the head form a web-like fan. This shape appears in the Persian theme glass, in particular, the piece entitled “Opaline spined Seaform with cadmium yellow Persians 1986”. Not only was Chihuly’s father called George so was his Brother.   How creative and profound to immortalise these connections when designing a series.

In Summary, Chihuly Persians have had their share of thought and alchemy in their creation.

Reflections on Nature Chihuly Persians on Display inside at Kew

Chestnut and Cream Persian Set Blown Glass 1988

Cinnamon and Cream Persian with Chocolate lip Wrap 1988

Oxblood and White Persian Set with Black Lip Wraps 1988

Oxblood and Chartreuse Persian Set with Orange Lip Wraps Blown glass 1998


Iconic artist Dale Chihuly reflections on nature glass pipe plants being prepared
Iconic artist Dale Chihuly reflections on nature glass pipe plants being prepared

Venetians  1988-2006

Vase-shaped structures American Italian influences.

Chihuly wall of venetians glass art piece
Chihuly wall of venetians glass art piece

Venice the city of water, history light architecture and romance.

To add to the scene, picture 1968 Chihuly studying in the Venini Glass Factory in Venice. To those who do not know, they opened the Venini glass factory in1921 and Venini became a 20th C design icons associated with Murano glass.  It is no surprise to learn that Chihuly believes that learning experience gained, changed his knowledge about glass blowing “forever” and reason to justify a deep connection with the location. They used the Venini glass complex in the James Bond film 1979 Moonraker with Roger Moore.

20 years later Chihuly was back in Venice

A 1988 invitation to view glass art deco 1920s-1930’s style, featuring the works of artists such as Alfredo Barbini, Vittorio Zecchin, Dino Martens, Napoleone Martinuzzi. These items were so rare, little in the form of glossy books or museum collections.  Snapped up by a select minority should they scarcely go up for sale. Collecting these items, therefore, an impossibility for most people, another reason this motivated the collector in Chihuly to create his own pieces.  Chihuly invited an Italian Glass artist to work with his team, to change things up,  no other than the fabulous Lino Tagliapietra.

So the Italian Art Deco glass looked very different to British, French American styles. The colours were less subtle. Taking influences from paintings again this time Renaissance Veronese, Titian and using the colours found in these classics to build Venetian Baroque style Vases.  Vamping up the vases to give them a Chihuly twist customised embellished.  Adorned ancient style with Flora, multiple looking handles, Flora, serpents, flames, twisting surrounding or extruding from the vase. As in the spirit of garden follies looking as if to hint antiquity and conventionality but prevailing as an object of beauty.

Kew Venetian exhibits

  • Gilded Venetian with Dark Green Coil Blown glass  2001
  • Cadmium Yellow Venetian Blown glass 1991
  • Scarlet Venetian with One Coil Blown glass 1991
  • Silver Blue Venetian Blown Glass 1990
  • Terre Verte Venetian #203 Blown glass 1988
  • Silver opaline and black Venetian 1988
  • Gilded Venetian with cobalt blue coils 1992
  • Chrome Orange Venetian with Coils 1990
  • Venetian Drawing on mixed media on paper 1990

Reflections on Nature at Kew – Chihuly Venetians on display inside

Gilded Venetian with Dark Green Coil Blown glass  2001

Cadmium Yellow Venetian Blown glass 1991

Scarlet Venetian with One Coil Blown glass 1991

Silver Blue Venetian Blown Glass 1990

Terre Verte Venetian #203 Blown glass 1988

Silver opaline and black Venetian 1988

Gilded Venetian with cobalt blue coils 1992

Chrome Orange Venetian with Coils 1990

Venetian Drawing on mixed media on paper 1990

1991 Niijima Float Bay of Tokyo Island called Niijima Japan

Childhood toys like marbles, and beach combing for bits of glass, and washed up fragments of Japanese little fishing “floats” were the memories laced into this series. Glass fishing floats were spheres in a variety of colours in a string knotted net sack. Fishermen used them to keep nets and lines afloat and because they were easy to spot. The earliest ones seem to be from Norway in the 1840s. Other countries caught onto the idea.

Japanese ones from the early 20th C onwards are more abundant because of the amount of fishing carried out by that nation. Japanese call them Ukidama or buoy balls.

1989 Chihuly and a team of his visited a glass blowing school on this Japanese Island. As a result, the vision of Niijima Floats came about, the imagery of what many of these colourful nostalgic objects would all look like merged in a bubble which is also how Glass shapes begin. The colourful Niijima Floats They group the colourful Niijima Floats and spaced apart, symbolic of what all these childhood treasures would have looked like multiplied. scattered over the shores or waters.

At Kew, they are in the Japanese garden resting on the raked gravel serenity and somewhat an Easter delight.

Niijima Floats Chihuly glass art structures Kew
Niijima Floats Chihuly glass art structures Kew

Ikebana 1991- 1999

Kew Ikebana pieces
Tiger Striped Ikebana with cobalt stem and russet leaf Blown glass 1992
Amber ikebana with Gold stem Blown glass 1992
Oxblood spotted silver ikebana with scarlet leaf 1999
Gilded Blue ikebana with cobalt and violet stems 1999
Golden Ikebana with Topaz Frog Foot stem 1991

ikebana tiger striped flower chihuly
ikebana tiger striped flower chihuly

1992 Chandelier

1996 Venice first major outdoor installations  Icicle Creek Chandelier

These large structures hanging down from the ceiling include different colours, shapes, and sizes. Drawing what was absorbed from interior design studies earlier in Chihuly’s career.  Grand homes of a vintage era with bespoke statement chandeliers appeared in a variety of styles and materials. No matter what country or decade one is in, all centrpiece chandeliers have one thing in common, wow factor, glamour and that ability to pull that focal point to the centre of a room or space that reflects light.

This series gained momentum as experiments with other towers and suspensions developed. Chihuly over Venice in 1996 was a memorable part of this portfolio, 14 structures in key iconic locations. They placed the Grand beauty under a real 18th c chandelier. The idea for the armature support came from a wine rack in Chihuly’s kitchen.

The design is mocked up at base camp and any finishing touches arranged. It is then disassembled and shipped they will exhibit to whatever part of the world. At the actual location, the team and the artist will look at the item again to see how it looks in the surroundings and has made last-minute changes or adjustments. Using computers and technology can help to predict how structures will appear but it is the close attention to detail and the environment and human eye that makes the final seal of approval.

An example Venetian series abstract pattern and shapes
An example Venetian series abstract pattern and shapes

1997 Poly vitro trials

Kew Chihuly Poly vitro
Lime Crystal Tower

Using Polyvitro in some chandelier work produces lighter weight structures.


Jerusalem Cylinders 1999

Inspired by the walls of the citadel in Jerusalem, crystal looking rock pieces of glass connected to smooth cylinders.   In 2000 there was a Chihuly “In the Light of Jerusalem exhibition”, a sensational showpiece featuring a wall of Ice blocks,  illuminated with coloured neon light. Neon lighting needs glass!

2001 V&A London Chandeliers

2005 Kew gardens Exhibit

2006 Black cylinders

Considered a colour of mourning to many, commemorating a time when Chihuly’s mother passed away.

2008 Silvered series

Rotolo 2015-2018

Heavy intricate complicated to execute and even the artist admits challenging. Texts say these can weigh 43kg.

Base of the Rotolo Blown Glass sculpture with Chihuly signature
The base of the Rotolo Blown Glass sculpture with Chihuly signature
Rotolo Clear Chihuly
Rotolo Clear Chihuly


Chihuly Blown Glass Art

Some related videos on You Tube for the iconic artist Dale Chihuly reflections on nature.


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