On a recent trip to Seattle, we figured we’d make a quick stop at the brand-new Chihuly Gardens and Glass. As fans of Chihuly’s fanciful glass sculptures, we knew we’d enjoy ourselves. But we didn’t realize we’d want to linger for hours, ogling the hundreds of mind-bending shapes, hues, and textures on display throughout the 1.5-acre garden plot, larger-than-life greenhouse, and exhibition hall.
Chihuly, a Tacoma, Washington, native, studied interior design at the University of Washington before switching over to glass work at the University of Wisconsin and the Rhode Island School of Design. He then worked in a Venice glass factory, and later founded an arts institute, the Pilchuck Glass School, in Washington State. With more than 200 museum exhibitions, numerous awards, and a variety of international commissions under his belt, Chihuly is widely credited with leading the charge to develop glass as a fine art.
Take one look, and you’ll understand why. The Chihuly Gardens and Glass, which opened in May 2012 in the Seattle Center, under the watchful eye of the venerable Space Needle, is the visual equivalent of a holiday feast in a different country. There’s something exciting or unexpected in every room, from Glass Forest, made by simultaneously blowing and pouring molten glass from a stepladder onto the ground below, to the riot of color and sealife-like shapes in Persian Ceiling and the trippy, room-spanning Mille Fiori garden of glass. Several rooms also have placards and videos where you can view the artist at work and get a firsthand look at his innovative process.
We couldn’t resist a stop in the bookstore, which not only offers a treasure trove of books and photo journals of Chihuly’s work, but also features dozens of unique gifts, jewelry, and collectibles by emerging Northwestern artisans. Next time you’re in Seattle, make a beeline for the museum and garden, and an unforgettable experience.