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Dale Chihuly and the Art of Blown Glass

, Dale Chihuly and the Art of Blown Glass

blown glass, Dale Chihuly, glassblowing, young artists, glassblowers, art

Dale Chihuly and the Art of Blown Glass

 

blown glass, Dale Chihuly, glassblowing, young artists, glassblowers, art

blown glass, Dale Chihuly, glassblowing, young artists, glassblowers, art

 

Glassblowing is a complex art form with a history of use in a wide variety of industries. Historically, most glassblowers were tradesmen producing functional, practical pieces for sale as utensils and containers, especially in the eras predating widespread industrial manufacturing capacity. Glassblowing as an art had largely gone the way of the dodo in modern times, yet a select few artists have revived the tradition, Dale Chihuly chief among them. A native of Tacoma, Washington, Chihuly began sculpting glass in the 1960s, eventually receiving degrees from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the Rhode Island School of Design. He traveled widely in order to pursue artistic influences from outside sources, given that glassblowing was all but extinct in many parts of the US.

 

blown glass, Dale Chihuly, glassblowing, young artists, glassblowers, art

blown glass, Dale Chihuly, glassblowing, young artists, glassblowers, art

 

Dale Chihuly also founded a glassblowing school, the Pilchuk Glass School, in Washington in 1971. For the next five years, he served as the primary instructor for students seeking to learn the art of blown glass. As a discipline, glassblowing itself relies on the understanding and application of inflation, which involves introducing a small amount of air to molten glass and controlling the resulting expansion. The atomic structure of glass is such that it resembles a liquid when hot, with strong bonds joined together in a random network. These properties allow the glassblower to shape the glass at will when it is hot enough. A temperature of around 2400 degrees Fahrenheit is first used to transform raw materials (generally silica) into glass and then the material is allowed to cool to around 2000 degrees Fahrenheit, where most of the shaping of the glass takes place.

 

blown glass, Dale Chihuly, glassblowing, young artists, glassblowers, art

blown glass, Dale Chihuly, glassblowing, young artists, glassblowers, art

 

In modern glassblowing, a series of three furnaces are used to achieve the final effect. The first is simply a crucible (a container capable of withstanding extremely high temperatures) of molten glass, while the second furnace functions to reheat glass in between steps of the shaping process, and the third is called the annealer (or the lehr) and functions as a means to cool the glass slowly over a longer period of time (a few hours to a few days, depending on the desired effect). Glassblowers typically shape the molten glass using a long glassblowing pipe, which functions both as a means to shape the design as well as to introduce air into the process to produce additional desirable design characteristics.

Given the specialized equipment and industrial environment necessary to produce blown glass, it is understandably an uncommon art. Dale Chihuly and other glassblowers hope to pass the craft on to young artists, as Chihuly himself did both at his own school and by necessity after an accident in 1979 left him unable to properly manipulate the glassblowing instruments. He hired young artists and began to pass his knowledge of the craft on, directing their projects to create some of the most well-known blown glass art in the world. 

 

Keywords: blown glass, Dale Chihuly, glassblowing, young artists, glassblowers, art