BASKETS: With this series Chihuly liberated the glassblowing process from the restrictions of symmetry, allowing glass to respond naturally to gravity. He began to capture in glass the wavering woven forms of traditional Northwest Coast Indian baskets, after having seen the collection at the Washington Historical Society in 1977. Inspired by the stacked and collapsing baskets, Chihuly began to group his Baskets together into sets. Originally the Baskets were earth-toned and red; he later experimented with more exuberant color compositions. A contrasting color is used to delineate the sinuous line of the opening of the vessel -a lip wrap-a technique that would be used in nearly all his subsequent series.
“I had seen some beautiful Indian baskets at the Washington State Historical Society, and I was struck by the grace of their slumped, sagging forms. I wanted to capture this in glass. The breakthrough for me was recognizing that heat and gravity were the tools to be used to make these forms.” – Chihuly
SOFT CYLINDERS: Chihuly began the Soft Cylinders series in 1986, combining the glass “pick-up drawing” technique from the earlier Cylinders with the softer, sagging forms of the Baskets and Seaforms, and the bright contrasting colours of the Macchia.
“The essence of the Soft Cylinders is really at the point of the “pick-up”. First, a very detailed glass drawing—we call it a shard—is prepared before the blowing starts. Then the glass shard is carefully placed on a hot plate, with hundreds of glass threads all around the drawing. About halfway into the blowing process, right after the last gather of glass has been dipped from the furnace, the gaffer comes down on it with the glass and it fuses to the surface. This is the most exciting moment of making the Soft Cylinder. The shard may crack at this point and the glass threads go flying everywhere.” – Chihuly