Dale Chihuly – Glass Blower and Sculptor Extraordinaire

Dale Chihuly is an American visual artist, entrepreneur and designer and co-founder of Pilchuck – one of the best glass schools in the world. He is world renowned for creating amazing and unique glass works. His glass sculptures, often showcasing dynamic and complex projects in the public arena,have helped rekindle immense interest in glass art. These glass masterpieces have made him a living legend.

Losing his father and brother while still a child, Dale’s mother motivated his early life, and this would enable him develop glassblowing skills which later enchanted the world of arts.

In spite of personal misfortunes like losing vision in one eye and dislocating his shoulder, he has constantly striven to create unparalleled and inspiring designs. Dale’s structures feature complex designs, producing some scintillating glass marvels. His glass creations are mainly chandeliers and ceilings as well other objects.

Dale continually exposes himself to significant risk when dealing with glass but the results are exceptional and unique glass-works. His determination has made him an exceptional artist and paved the way for future glass artists. His everlasting creations in glass work have immortalized his existence in the art world.

Early life

Dale Patrick Chihuly was born on 20th September 1941 in Tacoma, Washington state. His parents were George Chihuly, a union organizer and meat packer and Viola Chihuly.

His brother died in a US navy flight training accident while his father died of heart attack a year later, aged 51.These twin tragedies left Dale sad and in great despair, but his mother encouraged and motivated him. After graduating from Woodrow Wilson High, in 1959 Dale joined College of Puget Sound. He would later transfer to University of Washington(which had just started the first glassblowing university degree course in the country) where he graduated with a degree in interior design in 1965.

While learning in weaving class, Dale was greatly intrigued by the prospect of adding bits of glass onto tapestry. His weaving instructor encouraged him to experiment with shaping molten glass. Two years later, under the guidance of Harvey Littleton, a leading educator and glass artist, Dale received his master of science in sculpture. A year later in 1968 he was awarded a Master of Fine Arts from RISD (Rhode Island School of Design) in Venice while on a Fulbright fellowship..

Career

In 1969, Dale was hired at RISD and tasked with establishing a glass department at the school. He was able to mold glass artistically and also perform numerous glassblowing experiments. He would also encourage his students to use molten glass to design new glass objects.

In 1971, Dale in collaboration with John and Ann Hauberg, established the Pilchuck Glass School located at Stanwood, Washington. He started to experiment using glass in unorthodox and different ways.

Five years later, he had a career-changing incident which blinded his left eye. Instead of dampening his creative drive, Dale’s deep conviction of creating artistic glass designs only intensified.

Dale would later, in 1979, suffer another physical blow just as his work was gaining wide recognition. A shoulder dislocation left him unable to hold and work with the glassblowing pipe, a technique he had spent most of his life perfecting.

As a result, he had to employ a skilled and experienced team of blowers. He was then able to concentrate solely on supervising the designing of new artistic glass objects.

Since that time Dale has been working on diverse forms of glass items including orbs, baskets, chandeliers and so on. His outstanding glassblowing craftsmanship has inspired a whole generation of artists to follow in the intricate art of glass making.

In 2006 Dale sued Bryan Rubino (his ex-employee) and Robert Kaindl (a businessman) for trademark and copyright infringement. The lawsuit would later be settled separately with the two parties.

Major projects

In 1995, Dale traveled, with a 30-man glassblowing crew-to some of the great cities in the world and designed assemblages of massive chandeliers to put in the canals in Venice. This glass masterpiece produced a stunning demonstration of light rays bouncing from the canal waters to the glass and then back again.

Another awe-inspiring project was the glass ceiling at Bellagio casino, Las Vegas. In 2000, Dale also did a spectacular exhibition at the Tower of David in Israel dubbed in the light of Jerusalem.

In 2011, he designed the “Chihuly Garden and Glass” in Seattle’s center park to exhibit his glass works. It was opened to the public the following year.

Achievements and Awards

Dale was awarded the Fritz Redlich Alumni prize at the 2011 Institute of international Education Gala. He also has 12 honorary doctorates and 2 National Endowments of the Art fellowships.

This article was made possible with the generous help of Water Restoration Ogden Utah.

Glass Blowing Safety

Introduction

Glass blowers transform glass into useful scientific glassware and art pieces using a very high-temperature furnace. For this reason, glass blowers expose themselves to burns or even server cuts that may result in severe injuries. Glass Blowing Safety can however be enhanced by not only keeping the work area clean but also keeping the workplace free of excess materials. If several people are working in the same workshop, each and every member can reduce accidents a great deal by staying centered at their glassblowing bench and constantly keep in mind all activities in their immediate area. Inspection of the work area should also be done frequently, especially the gas supply system, to ensure that they are in safe working conditions.

Hazards associated with Glass Blowing and ways of reducing

Respiratory hazards

This hazard emanate from the materials used to fabricate the glass. This could be the inhaled irritating particulates or fumes. When dirty glass is heated, harmful fumes are generated. When such fumes are accidently inhaled, they present respiratory track problems. An asbestos tape is equally harmful when inhaled, just like some chemical used to give glass its beautiful color. A glass blower’s canopy hood may trap heat and some gasses, but it does not eliminate all harmful fumes.

The best way a glass blower can minimize such risks is to use a ventilation system designed in such a way that it blows air through glass blowing area and straight out of the room. Additionally, a glass blower should ventilate the work place sufficiently with at least a window at each end in addition to fitting exhaust fans to suck out air loaded with harmful fumes. Wearing a respirator further increase Glass Blowing Safety as it offers protection against toxic particulates that are stirred up every time the working area is being cleaned.

Heat

Hard glass, also known as borosilicate glass, is designed to withstand intense heat, and it is for this reason that they are used for cooking. Its melting point is approximately 1000 degree Celsius, and hence for such temperatures to be attained under normal circumstances, heavy duty equipment is necessary. Even with the best equipment possible, operating at such very high temperatures is a hazard that can occasion horrific burns and serious injuries, unless proper safety procedures are adhered to at all times. The glass blower should exercise extreme caution and use the right protective gear at all times to protect themselves against equipment surface temperatures, which will obviously be several hundred degrees.

Cuts

Glass cuts represent a serious occupational risk for glass blowers. Before heating so that they can be shaped, lass exhibit sharp edges which if not handled with care can easily cut a body part. A glass blower should, therefore, protect himself or herself at all times by wearing strong leather gloves, or better still, long embroidered welder’s gloves. The gloves should also be replaced from time to time as they gradually harden when exposed to heat. Gloves made with dense materials such as Kevlar greatly reduce the risk of a glass cut penetrating through right to the hands. Gloves having rubber dots are even more effective since they enable the glass blower to clasp glass more securely.

Dirt and tiny broken pieces

Glass blowing area should be cleaned and tidied as often as possible. Brocken glass and dirt, often in the form of left over pieces must not be disposed of carelessly in the normal trash since sharp tiny glass pieces have the potential of causing serious injury to the waste handler. There are policies on dealing with such “sharp”, and all glass blowers must adhere to these policies-special sharps containers should only be used. The policies further cautions against disposing off regular trash into sharp containers.

Ergonomic Hazards

Glass blowing needs high degree of precision, implying that a glass blower is likely to experience physical stress when working in an uncomfortable position for a long period of time. An incorrectly positioned chair or work table can cause repetitive injuries, while standing for extended periods of time can occasion circulatory problems. Adjusting the height of the working table or chair can reduce these problems. A glass blower is also advised to replace poor lighting as this may cause eye strain thereby distorting the glass color.

In conclusion, a glass blower can benefit immensely by having a glass insurance program, which was specifically built from start to finish with glass blower in mind, in place. By observing the above safety measures, however, Glass Blowing Safety can be increased a great deal.

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