Born in 1941 in Tacoma, Washington, Dale Chihuly was introduced to glass while studying interior design at the University of Washington. Receiving his B.A. in 1965 he went to work as a designer for John Graham Architects in Seattle. The same year he was introduced to textile designer Jack Lenor Larsen, who became a mentor and friend. Jack encouraged him to pursue glass blowing, which turned out to be good advice. Experimenting on his own in his basement studio, Chihuly blows his first glass bubble by melting stained glass and using a metal pipe. He enrolled in the first glass blowing program in the country at the University of Wisconsin. He continued his studies at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), where he later established the glass program and taught for over a decade.
In 1968, Chihuly was awarded a Fulbright Fellowship to work at the Venini factory in Venice, Italy. While in Venice, Chihuly observed the team approach to blowing glass, which is critical to the way he works today. In 1971 Chihuly co-founded Pilchuck Glass School in Washington State. With this international glass center, Chihuly has led the avant-garde in the development of glass as a fine art.
His work is included in over two hundred museum collections worldwide. He has been the recipient of many awards, including seven honorary doctorates and two fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts. In 1976, an automobile accident in England leaves him, after weeks in the hospital and 256 stitches in his face, without sight in his left eye and with permanent damage to his right ankle and foot.
Chihuly has created many well-known series of works, among them the Baskets, Persians, and Seaforms, but he is also celebrated for large architectural installations. In 1995 he embarked on the international project, “Chihuly over Venice”, which involved working in glass factories in Finland, Ireland and Mexico, with the resultant sculptures installed over the canals of Venice.
In 1999, Chihuly mounted his most ambitious installation to date, “Chihuly in the Light of Jerusalem”. More than one million visitors attended the Tower of David Museum to view his installations. In 2001 the Victoria and Albert Museum, in London, curated the exhibition Chihuly at the V&A. He exhibited at the Salt Lake Art Center during the 2002 Olympic Winter Games and Paralympic Games in Salt Lake City, Utah. His first major glasshouse exhibition, “Chihuly in the Park: A Garden of Glass” was on display at the Garfield Park Conservatory, Chicago. The Chihuly Bridge of Glass in Tacoma, Washington, was dedicated in 2002.