Glass Artist Chihuly

Dale Chihuly with chandelier

Dale Chihuly studies an unnamed chandelier.

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Dale Chihuly upended our thinking about art glass, floating huge globes on ponds and creating towering installations with hundreds of vibrant elements. In his Seattle studio, Chihuly, 66, works in collaboration with 10 glassblowers, turning out 60 major pieces a year. Now his grandest show ever is on view at San Francisco's de Young Museum through September 28. (415) 750-3600, famsf.org.

Q What was your first glass piece?

A In 1965 I melted some glass in a little oven and blew a bubble. From that point on I wanted to be a glassblower.

Q How did you change glass art?

A From the beginning my work was sculptural. But you can only make glass four or five feet in diameter and then it's too difficult and dangerous. I figured out how I could put a lot of parts together.

Q Your largest piece?

A At the Children's Museum of Indianapolis I did a sculpture that was about 45 feet high and had 3,200 parts.

Q Why do you love glass?

A Light coming through it gives you colors you can't get in any other way. There's also something about its fragility. Plastic isn't nearly as interesting.

Q You never work alone?

A Blowing glass on your own is much more difficult. If you're an architect or a movie director you also need a team.

Q Is your art overexposed?

A I don't know. My favorite artists are Picasso, who created more than anyone, and Warhol, who was pretty prolific.

Q Is there a rift between art and craft?

A You know, some art can be really bad, and some crafts can be extraordinary. I think the best of everything is art, no matter what it is.

Photography courtesy Chihuly Studio/Teresa Nouri Rishel

This article was first published in September 2008. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.

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