Colorful glass has always fascinated me – drawn in by the shapes, the bright colors and the way that the light changes the piece. I have yet to take a glassblowing class maybe in fear of being clumsy around hot glass, pokers, etc. (I wonder what the insurance liability waiver looks like for that class?) After my visit to the Chihuly Gardens and Glass, I may just conquer the fear and sign up for a class nearby. If anything, it might produce a very abstract piece of glass.
I wasn’t quite keen to visit a glass gallery and gardens if I’m honest. Despite the concierge recommendation and being ranked #1 on TripAdvisor i thought what’s so special about this glass exhibit when I’ve been to Venice and seen the artisans at Murano? But I figured I’d give it a shot to kill an hour before i go to lunch. Located next to the Space Needle, the Chihuly Gardens and Glass is easy to locate and without a line on a summer Wednesday, a quick entry.
The Chihuly Glass Museum
Who was this Chihuly guy? Why hadn’t I heard of him? How did he get this showcase in Seattle? Just a few questions to answer on my visit. With my ticket in hand, I proceeded down the hall to the start the tour. I was told that photos are encouraged and flash is allowed, ok, that was a good thing and this was a bit promising.
Then I turned the corner to start my visit and was struck by the colors and lights and quickly adjusted the camera’s settings to capture the glass using no flash in low light.
From then on, i was captivated with each new room and my quick tour would be derailed as i moved in awe of the glass displays, the sculptures, his private collections and the installations.
The Sealife room contained seashells, sea creatures and water in glass. There were also sketches along the wall of what the imagined sculpture should be next to the finished actual piece.
The Colors of Chihuly
A burst of color shining out of the next room called to me to look up. The Persian ceiling was clear glass and filled with colorful glass objects each arranged and emitting colors everywhere.
I really didn’t think it could get better than this, I had taken so many photos of glass in various artistic forms and of course, I was wrong. Really wrong as I entered the inside garden display called Mille Fiori, Italian for 1,000 flowers. The size of a small hotel ballroom, the display in the middle just overtakes you as you don’t know which side to start, where to look and what’s hidden inside. Your imagination is on overload trying to see the grass, the water, the flowers, the snakes, the frogs and other garden surprises. I spent the bulk of my time here first walking around to really view it, then with my camera in an attempt to capture the experience, finally using video to take away and view later.
Thinking that the Mille Fiori was the pinnacle of the visit, I turned another corner only to have another “Wow” moment. The boat room was stunning. Looking at the colors, the reflections, the placement of the glass and the lighting made this room one of my favorites.
The chandelier room was yet another room to marvel at the sheer size of the displays as well as the intricate shapes, twists and what must be weight of the pieces. After my time in this room and the ceiling room, I realized that I’ve seen this type of glass displays before at the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas and the Borgata Casino in Atlantic City. So i was familiar with the artist’s work but just not his name.
The last room before the gardens would be the conservatory (glass house) which displayed a ceiling piece the length of the room and while looking up you could see the Space Needle.
Walking out to the gardens on the cloudy day, the glass colors amid the green landscapes provided an instant mood pick me up. Luckily, a bit of blue sky was starting to make it’s way toward the end of my visit.
Included in your admission ticket are digital photos taken by a staff photographer inside as well as outside. You take your photo card to one of many kiosks to view and if you like the image, you can email to yourself – a nice keepsake from your visit.
One of the last stops (before the gift shop exit) was the theater which was showing various short films of the artist, his life in Washington State, his work, process and installations. Chihuly was injured to the point that he stopped creating the glass sculptures on his own and instead now leads his teams to create his visions – the conductor of the orchestra working all of the pieces together in harmony.
The Chihuly Gift Shop
Even the gift shop was impressive with Chihuly art as well as local artists of Washington and Oregon. If you want to support local artists, this is a good place to find unique gifts or take photos (like I did) and visit their websites directly.
The Chihuly limited art prints of $1,700 were out of my budget as well as the individual glass pieces which started at $4,000.
Chihuly Garden & Glass – Final Thoughts
Needless to say, my visit to the Chihuly Garden & Glass was not quick, definitely more than an hour and I missed my lunchtime (the restaurant was full). It was a great surprise to visit the garden and glass and I’m happy I did – I would recommend it to anyone who likes art as well as any photographer. Next visit, I want to go at night to see the gardens lit up under the Seattle Space Needle and a clear starry sky.
My tickets cost $19 + tax. There is a free audio tour (I didn’t do that, thinking I was doing a quick drive by art tour, boy was I wrong) as well as complimentary photos of you/your family with the displays. The onsite restaurant can be booked in advance using OpenTable, if you want coffee or a snack, there is a garden kiosk.