Cutting-Edge Art — On Glass Art & Dale Chihuly

By Bronwen Roberts

Art glass usually refers to the modern art glass movement in which individual artists work alone or with colleagues, creating works from molten glass in relatively small furnaces of a few hundred pounds of glass.

Dale Chihuly

It began in the early 1960s and showed an incremental growth through the end of the century. The glass objects created are not primarily utilitarian. From a creative perspective, they have to make an artistic statement. Their market value depends on the work and the artist involved, and prices range from a few hundred to tens of thousands of dollars. The best known of the modern glass artists is Dale Chihuly. In 1971, he began the Pilchuck School of Glass near Stanwood, Washington, which is a source of a great deal of the current American Studio Glass movement.

In an art glass studio, “production work” (goblets, vases, pitchers, art marbles etc.) show more hand worked variation than was allowed in a pure factory work environment, and each piece shows some of the lead glass worker’s creativity. In addition to smaller production pieces, the studio glass workers also try to turn out larger individual pieces, which might be the equivalent of a work of genius in the journeyman system of guild and factory work.

Glass Blowing might be an ancient art but there has been a resurgence in the relatively recent “studio glass movement” which began in 1962. Harvey Littleton, a ceramics professor, and Dominick Labino, a chemist and engineer, held two workshops at the Toledo Museum of Art, during which they began experimenting with melting glass in a small furnace and creating blown glass art. Littleton and Labino were the first to make molten glass available to artists working in private studios. This approach to glass blowing blossomed into a worldwide movement, producing such flamboyant and prolific artists as Dale Chihuly and Dante Marioni. Lino Tagliapietraa was the first Murano-trained artist to leave and spread his knowledge in the United States.

Philip Johnson’s Glass House may be one of the least functional homes on the planet but on an architectural scale, it is one of the most beautiful. All the exterior walls are glass, with the surrounding vegetation as audience. Johnson did not see the house so much as a stage… but as a statement. The inspiration and basic concept for Johnson’s glass house came from Mies van der Rohe, who was designing the glass-and-steel Farnsworth House during this period. Also surrounded by a green landscape, the house stands utterly transparent with its glass-enclosed living space and porch. On a conceptual level, the house is the perfect expression of International Style. Both houses are simple in structure but it is the use of glass as the main material, which makes these houses highly significant in the world of architecture.

Fritography is the art of using crushed glass pieces (“frits”) and coloured glass powders to create fused glass artwork. Artists assemble the frits into patterns that can be highly detailed, and even photo-realistic, and then fuse the works in a kiln. Seattle artist, Michael Dupille, pioneered the process. This glass artist works in Seattle, Washington. While he has worked in numerous media, he is widely regarded as a pioneer in the technique of fritography, or kiln-fused glasswork. His public work is on display throughout the United States, including a major installation in New York City’s Wall Street Park.

Through the centuries, glass has changed its function and form. A company that has consistently stayed on the cutting edge of glassmaking is Pilkington glass. Their pioneer product, Pilkington Activ™ is the world’s first self-cleaning glass. This is a dream come true; no more long hours spent cleaning windows – natural light and rainwater keep windows clearer and squeaky-clean.


  1. Nice post. Thanks for the information on Fritography. It’s an interesting technique of creating beautiful fused glass works. Art glass has evolved into a modern art.

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