Last Saturday a friend and I went to see an exhibit of Dale Chihuly glasswork. It was small, at least for a Chihuly exhibit, from a private collection. Still, with five of his famous chandeliers and dozens of pieces from the Venetian series, I can only imagine how much that collection is worth!
I have a particular love for Chihuly’s work, and was delighted to find the small theater showing a documentary that chronicled a week-long “blow” that brought together the primary players in each of the visionary’s different series. For an hour and a half, we watched as they created examples of what Chihuly refers to as Cylinders, Baskets, Seaforms, Macchia, Venetians, Putti, Persians, Niijima Floats, Ikebana, Fiori and Pilchuck Stumps.
As soon as the movie started I realized the blow had taken place in the hot shop of the Tacoma Glass Museum. Four years ago I sat in one of those red theater seats and watched another glassblower create amazing pieces.
And years earlier, one of the half-dozen times I’ve attended the summer open house at the Pilchuck Glass School outside of Stanwood, Washington, I was lucky enough to witness Chihuly actually working with glass. He was one of the founders of the school in 1971, but since he lost vision in one eye in 1976 he rarely works directly with glass. He’s the designer, the (big!) idea guy, and the work is carried out by other amazingly talented glassworkers.
Reading this I realize it sounds like I have a latent desire to learn glasswork. I don’t, but I do find the medium utterly fascinating. The molten liquid seems to be almost alive. It behaves organically in the hands of skilled artisans. When cooled it’s solid and fragile all at once. And Chihuly’s vision, implemented via precise teamwork, just blows me away.
So, no, I don’t want to blow glass. I am, however, incredibly inspired by it – by the beauty of the work itself and by the passion that is so evident in the faces and movements of the people I’ve seen working with glass. They are completely present to the process, to each movement, and to each other. Seeing passion like that in any creative endeavor fills my writing well and even primes the pump. It reminds me that art is intensely valuable in its own right.
I hate that I forget that sometimes. Do you? Or are you lucky enough to carry that awareness with you at all times? What acts or products of creativity particularly inspire you?
I’m not sure when I’ll be able to respond to comments, as today I’m flying south to be further inspired by snorkeling in blue-green water and whacking at a golf ball on a course that wends through an Audubon wildlife sanctuary.
Putter in one hand, camera in the other…