Tuesday, June 20, 2017

What to See in Seattle: Chihuly Garden and Glass

Last week, while I was back in the US, my brother and I took the commuter train from our parents' house in Sumner up to Seattle so I could spend the day doing all kinds of touristy things (but mostly shopping and eating). One place I'd been dying to visit (after seeing photos on Instagram, naturally) was Chihuly Garden and Glass - Dale Chihuly's long-term exhibition located at the base of the Space Needle, which opened in 2012.

I'd grown up seeing the American glass sculptor's work around town (he even came to my elementary school for a demonstration and painted all our shoes!) but didn't take too much notice of it. I ran into his work again recently in London (his Rotunda Chandelier sits in the V&A) and it immediately reminded me of home.

This particular exhibition features eight galleries of his work, with the Glasshouse - a 40-foot tall glass and steel structure inspired by garden conservatories around the world, but especially Kew Gardens here in London - taking centerstage. In the garden, Chihuly's sculptures are interspersed within a magnificent display of trees, plants, and flowers.

Born in Tacoma, Washington, Chihuly is known for his beautiful, colorful and often larger-than-life hand-blown glass sculptures. I love his work because it is unmistakeable: the particular shapes, colors, and patterns he creates are undeniably his, and the incredible scale of some of his sculptures make me pause in wonder. 

The galleries also feature items from Chihuly's personal collection, like these stunning Pendleton trade blankets, textiles that were directly influenced by traditional Native American Navajo design:

I don't want to spoil it by sharing too many photos (as it would ruin the surprise and enjoyment of visiting Chihuly Garden and Glass in person), but there's a magnificent gallery featuring a glass ceiling display which makes you feel as though you're underwater, looking up. It's simply amazing:

Gallery staff even encourage you to lie on the floor if you wish (but beware of being trampled by over-enthusiastic tourists!) and I would have loved to do that for hours!

Chihuly Garden and Glass is so very special - one of the most magical exhibitions I've seen in a long while. I loved that the garden had spaces for seating (and a café), so we could sit and truly take it all in.

But most of all, I loved sharing the memory of my visit with my little brother (who treated me to tickets!), who's not so little anymore. It was fun discussing our favorite pieces and sharing our reactions to particularly stand-out installations.

He also has a great eye for Instagram, as evidenced by this shot:

Tip: if you're planning to visit Chihuly Garden and Glass, go early! Doors open at 8:30, and tickets are discounted by $10 if you visit before 10:00 a.m. We raced up to Seattle (much to my brother's chagrin, since he'd been looking forward to sleeping in that morning) first thing, but it was worth it to be able to enjoy the Glasshouse and the other galleries in peace. The gallery also hosts free, short (about 3-minutes in length) talks by gallery staff as well as glass-blowing demonstrations, so it's worth checking ahead of time if these are being offered on the day of your visit.

Have you ever been to Seattle? What did you think? I grew up just south of the city and have always loved it!

Chihuly Garden and Glass is located at 305 Harrison Street, Seattle, Washington, 98109. Tickets can be (easily!) purchased at the machines by the door, or in-person at the ticket counter in the exhibition.

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