At Large  February 24, 2023  Megan D Robinson

Master of Glass: The Art of Dale Chihuly

Courtesy Wikimedia

Glass art by Dale Chihuly at an extensive exhibition at Kew Gardens, London, in 2005

Master of Glass: The Art of Dale Chihuly, a documentary about the world-renowned glass artist, premiered on the Smithsonian streaming service on December 11th. A pioneer in his field, Chihuly revolutionized glass art over the last few decades. He challenged what people thought was possible, creating massive, intricate, mind-blowing public art installations with teams of other glass artists all over the world, as well as enchanting millions with gallery and museum exhibitions. Chihuly also co-founded the Pilchuck Glass School in 1971―now an international hub for glass art education.

The documentary artfully combines old family photos and videos from Chihuly’s past with newsreels, art studio photos, interviews with friends, family, and scholars, along with interviews with the man himself. The film is beautifully shot and gives a feel for the scale, grandeur, vitality, and joy of Chihuly’s work, as well as a sense of the man behind the art. He is known for his sincerity, passion, generosity, and emphasis on teamwork.


Master of Glass

“The film brings together a knowledgeable group of artists and critics―also longtime friends of Chihuly―who recollect how one man changed the way we perceive and appreciate glass sculpture,” says Bruce Helander, an art critic, arts writer, curator, and acclaimed collage and assemblage artist. Helander and Chihuly have been friends since their first year at the Rhode Island School of Design, so Helander has intimate knowledge of Chihuly’s artistic evolution. He said, “People should watch the intriguing documentary, Master of Glass: The Art of Dale Chihuly, to get an accurate and informative perspective on the groundbreaking imagination and ingenuity of the father of the modern glass movement.”

Helander enjoyed the documentary process; answering multiple, on-the-spot extemporary questions was an exciting challenge. He adds, “Chihuly’s worldwide reputation and extraordinary success is no accident. His remarkable accomplishments are because he is a driven, multi-talented artist who regularly starts his day while most of us are still in bed. Like Picasso, Chihuly received valuable inspiration and motivation from his mother and father, who gave him the gift of creative vision and organizing a team effort.”

Courtesy Wikimedia

Portrait of Dale Chihuly, 1992, at Pilchuck Glass School, near Stanwood, Washington. Chihuly Studio photography collection, Seattle, Washington.

Joey Kirkpatrick, an American glass artist, sculptor, wire artist, and educator, was one of the first female glassblowing instructors at Pilchuck. She says that although everyone’s early experiences in the studio glass world were “built on an existing hierarchy and a male-dominated scene, Dale welcomed us and many others outside of those traditions. His openness changed many institutions and created opportunities.”

She says, “[Chihuly] respected us as artists. While helping him make his work, we were always encouraged to contribute our creative ideas to the development of the pieces so, in the moment, it often felt collaborative.” Kirkpatrick explains Chihuly’s approach allowed team members “to grow as artists even when concentrated on work other than our own.” Chihuly created an exciting, exploratory work environment. “Discovery of ‘the new’ in glass was part of the allure, and Dale set up an environment to make that possible,” she says.

As well as being a passionate creative, Chihuly is a committed collector; a variety of interesting objects have sparked his notice or resonated with him emotionally, from Pez dispensers to vintage accordions. His father and older brother, who both died when he was a teen, were accordion players.

Kirkpatrick loves that the documentary gives viewers a more complex view of Chihuly “as a person, and his impact, not just on glass as art, but his life-changing impact on those around him. His work, his many collections, and his friendships are all part of the whole that make him so unique. We were honored to be part of the documentary, and happy to share some insights into Dale’s generous spirit.”

For more information, visit

About the Author

Megan D Robinson

Megan D Robinson writes for Art & Object and the Iowa Source.

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