There are those who collect Chihuly's work.
There is his distinct approach to art installations, where form, color and light reverberate through elaborate collections of blown-glass pieces.
And then there are the personal collections that Chihuly has creatively installed in his "Boathouse" on Seattle's Lake Union. Together, these collections tell the story of a lifetime of interests and highlight the work of collaborators, colleagues and friends. They also uniquely define the waterfront property that is part studio and hot shop, part personal retreat.
"Every Sunday we went to this place called the Norton Flea Market," Chihuly reminisces. The marketplace in Norton, Mass., is no longer open, but in its day was famous throughout New England. "You started seeing things that you liked, then you'd go back the next Sunday, and pretty soon you had a little collection."
"Later I started narrowing things down," he notes. "And I've given away a lot of the collections I had back then. Now I'm more particular."
And, as for many who collect, the attraction to a particular group of items can be visual or visceral. Which may explain his collection of more than 300 accordions, most of which are in the studio he keeps in his home town of Tacoma, where his mother still lives. "I like the looks of them a lot," he says. "Both my brother and father played the accordion."
Chihuly began bringing his personal treasures to the waterfront in 1990, when he bought the former Pocock racing-shell factory and named it "The Boathouse." The large dining area, which doubles as a work space, is built on the former dock of the historic building. Dominating the paint-spattered room is an 88-foot-long table carved from a Douglas fir found downed on Vancouver Island in British Columbia. The table can seat up to 84 people, and Chihuly often allows nonprofits to use the space for fund-raisers.
Water has always played an inspirational part in his work, such as in his "Seaforms" series or the "Boats" installations, which began in Nuutajärvi, Finland, during the "Chihuly Over Venice" project in 1995. "The molten glass can't help but remind you of the water," he says.
An avid swimmer, he can be surrounded by both water and glass in "The Pool Room," which contains a 54-foot swimming pool that features an installation of his "Seaforms" under safety glass at the bottom of the pool.
"The baskets I started in 1977," he says, "and it was one of the most important series that I've ever done. That was when I first started working with the glass and letting the glass be natural and formed by the fire and gravity and centrifugal force."
"Then, I just started putting one inside the other," he adds, describing his early venture in displaying multiple pieces that would eventually emerge as an individual characteristic of his work.
Throughout The Boathouse, his signature pieces mingle with the various collectibles. Drawing on his background in interior design and architecture, which he studied at the University of Washington, he is constantly moving things about and re-energizing the space. Installations like the swimming pool and the glass-filled ceiling of "The Pergola Hallway" are also regularly recomposed.
Quite literally, he says, "I'm able to try out an idea and live with it."
To Explore the Art of Displaying
It seems everyone has a passion for collecting something. Even Freud started collecting artifacts as a tool to help him with his self-analysis. Which may be the very essence of why anyone chooses to collect: It's a form of self-expression.
Now that summer is approaching, and the garage sales and flea markets are in full swing, it's prime time for adding to your caches. Here are a few books to give you some ideas for displaying your treasures:
"The Artful Home: Furniture, Sculpture & Objects" by Louis Sagar (Guild.com, $29.95). The latest from the interior expert Sagar, an influential lifestyle retailer who for years showed many how to display treasured finds in his New York store, Zona Home. The book highlights work of artists featured on www.guild.com, and gives general tips on how to display objects. Also by Sagar, and considered a revolutionary home-design manual, is "Zona Home: Essential Designs for Living" by Louis Sagar, Lisa Light and Marti Sagar (HarperCollins). Although out of print, copies are easy to come by via a variety of online booksellers.
"A Passion for Collecting: Decorating with Your Favorite Objects" by Caroline Clifton-Mogg, photography by Simon Upton (Bulfinch, $40). Full of beautiful photographs and ideas, the author creates categories of collecting personas such as The Antiquarian, The Inheritor or The Miniaturist and covers a diverse sampling of collectibles.
"House Beautiful Collections on Display: Decorating with Your Favorite Objects" by Elaine Louie and the editors of House Beautiful magazine (Hearst Books, $29.95). Written by New York Times journalist Louie, the book gives snapshots of a variety of collecting ideas. Lots of great information.
More about the artist
To find out more about Dale Chihuly and his work, visit his Web site at www.chihuly.com..
Robin Fogel Avni is a free-lance writer specializing in lifestyle issues and trends affected by technology. Her e-mail is robinavni@ msn.com. Benjamin Benschneider is a Pacific Northwest magazine staff photographer.