Dale Chihuly

Fiori Di Como

How is this project unique?

First of all the scale, and secondly, the number of talented people who make up the team: glassblowers, architects, engineers, shippers, installers, and fabricators - over 100 in all. It took about 10,000 pounds of steel for the armature and some 40,000 pounds of hand-blown glass - over 2,000 pieces positioned fifteen to twenty-five feet overhead. It also demanded an entirely new type of hardware to attach the glass to the structure.

Fiori di Como is your largest single work - 2,100 square feet, some 2,000 pieces of glass. The deadline (opening night of Bellagio) was one challenge, but what was the greatest creative challenge for you?

Everything about Fiori di Como was new - the scale, the armature, and the glass. First I had to develop the way the ceiling would look - the depth, new glass forms, the technique for holding the glass, all the safety issues involving suspending a 40,000-pound artwork overhead. We started by constructing four prototypes in my studio for Elaine and Steve Wynn to see. After Steve made three trips to Seattle, we finally decided on the right look for the project - one that had ten feet of depth and required a very complicated steel armature that comes down like branches of a tree. Color was the most difficult challenge, and the structure was the most difficult technical challenge.

Why Fiori di Como?

I'm amazed at what people find in my work, and I don't like to limit what you see with a title. For me titles are very difficult, and I don't usually even think in terms of a theme when I'm creating a sculpture. Once it's finished I'll come up with a title, but one person might see flowers, another something from the sea or something from a dream. Bellagio was inspired by the hotel on Lake Como, and I wanted to use the lake in the title - it's so romantic. I used the word fiori (flowers), but everybody sees something different.

Can a work be too colorful? How do you set the palette?

I don't know if something can be too colorful. Color is one of the great properties of glass and is more intense in glass than any other material. Imagine entering Chartres Cathedral and looking up at the Rose Window: you can see a one-inch square of ruby red glass from 300 feet away. In Fiori di Como, I wanted to use a lot of color but ended up utilizing only about 40 of the 350 colors in my palette. I made the color appear random, yet organized as you might find in nature.

Chihuly, 1998

Published in Chihuly Bellagio Portland Press, 1999, and 2nd ed. 2007.