“Chihulys” on the Beach


Long Beach, Pacific Rim National Park, British Columbia

Long Beach, Pacific Rim National Park, British Columbia

One of the artists I admire the most is Dale Chihuly. He is famous for his monumental glass sculptures that have been seen all over the world, from Tacoma to London and from Las Vegas to Jerusalem.

Dale Chihuly, Rotunda Chandelier, V&A Museum, London

Dale Chihuly, Rotunda Chandelier, V&A Museum, London

We are lucky enough here, in Vancouver, to have one of his installations, “Persian Wall”: a large bunch of oversized flowers in rich, saturated colours, enclosed in a glass wall outside of a residential building.


D.Chihuly, Westbank Persian Glass Wall, Vancouver, BC

Dale Chihuly, Westbank Persian Glass Wall, Vancouver

Chihuly’s work, whether large-scale or more intimate, such as his bowls and vessels, always makes me truly happy. The forms he creates, largely inspired by nature, feel both familiar and otherworldly. They are comforting, moving, uplifting, and awe-inspiring, all at the same time.

A few weeks ago, just before the start of the school year, I went to Long Beach, in Pacific Rim National Park, on the West coast of Vancouver Island. Wild, isolated, and breathtakingly beautiful (yes, literally, as it is often quite windy), it is my favorite getaway. And as the longest beach on the West Coast of Canada, it always offers plenty of “treasures” for the dedicated beachcomber that I am.

By-the-Wind-Sailors, Long Beach (August 2014)

By-the-Wind-Sailors, Long Beach (August 2014)

This visit, I saw the strangest and most fascinating of creatures. Was it even a “creature”? I wasn’t sure until my trusty Audubon Society nature guide book*, told me it was indeed one – a sort of jellyfish – poetically named “By-the-Wind-Sailor” (Velella velella).

Out-of-the-Wind-Sailor (Vellella velella)

By-the-Wind-Sailor (Vellella Velella)

And as I kept walking, I saw a lot more of them, an entire “flotilla” in fact – their single translucent sail catching glints of sunlight as they floated gently on the surf. Their bodies were electric blue, as if emitting their own light, and also ultramarine, navy and even midnight blue. Some had sailed too close to the beach and, having been left behind by the tide, had run aground. Like tiny ghost ships, they were slowly fading away, the rich hues changing to soft pastels, and eventually to diaphanous whites.

IMG_2831 (2) (1024x767)






IMG_2856 (1024x768)

I could not help but think of Chihuly’s magnificent Seaform series. I am sure that these By-the-Wind-Sailors played a part in his inspiration but how he transformed the glass into elegant flowing forms is extraordinary. His masterful technique allowed him to push the material to its limits, and to stretch it to create ever so thin undulating forms that still hint at the wave movement, as if they just came from the sea.

Who knew I would find “Chihulys” on the beach?


Dale Chihuly, Azure Seaform Pair

Dale Chihuly, Azure Seaform Pair, 2011






Dale Chihuly, White Pearl Seaform Pair, 2012

Dale Chihuly, White Pearl Seaform Pair, 2012

For more information about Dale Chihuly and his work, please visit his website.

National Audubon Society’s website

* National Audubon Society Nature Guides, Pacific Coast, Knopf, 1985.

pacific coast guide

















10 thoughts on ““Chihulys” on the Beach

  1. BlueHeron

    So pleased to see that you love two of my favourites as well. I grew up on the west coast so know the “by the wind sailors” as well as other great jellyfish that would be left abandoned by the tide. You describe their colour and transparency so well! And the analogy with Dale Chihuly’s work. He is such a master of pushing glass into such amazing forms. It will be exciting to see what you do with these forms and your beautiful execution of containers and three dimensional forms. The beach is a wonderful place to walk, meditate(the wind will blow the cobwebs of the brain away) and collect all kinds of flotsam and jetsam, especially since the Japanese tsunami. I am still working at the bench and creating with copper and silver. Appreciate your blog so very much – keeps me inspired! I can smell the salt air and hear the screech of the gulls:-)

  2. metalandmettle Post author

    Donna, thank you for your kind comments. I am so glad that, as someone who knows and loves Long Beach, you could “recognise” it in this post. It is such an extraordinary place. I wasn’t sure I could describe it well enough and do it justice.
    I was expecting to find debris from the tsunami, and maybe add to my “collections”, but the beach was pristine – thanks to the efforts of the many volunteers, no doubt. As to what I would create, I am not sure yet. Yes, containers are always favorites, as you know. I have just taken a 3D modelling course; we’ll see where that takes me… And you, have you been inspired by these tiny creatures?
    I am so happy to hear you’ve been busy making things, and I’d love to see your creations.
    Thank you for keeping in touch, Donna.

  3. artdoesmatter

    What a lovely post, Dominique! Just in the past year, I saw a whole new bunch of Chihuly’s work that was commissioned for a new wing at the Delaware Art Museum. I’ve always enjoyed his brightly colorful and twisting/pointy orange-red chandeliers that hang from the entrance ways at the Borgata Hotel in New Jersey. I was never aware of those gorgeous ‘seaform’ series of vessels, but after you showed us the two side-by-side w/ the live jellyfish forms – How can one not be awed by its beauty?! Your trip to Long Beach looks so beautiful and such lovely photos you’ve shared. I really so hope to visit B.C. one day and seeing the coastline/beaches will be at the top of my list!

    1. metalandmettle Post author

      On your recommendation, I “went” to the Delaware Art Museum and saw Chihuly’s installation. His beautiful “Persians”, incorporated in the window, just come alive with the light shining through. Very elegant! I also “visited” the Borgata Hotel. It’s difficult to gauge from the website, but how just large are these chandeliers? Amazing!
      Thank you so much for dropping by, Patricia. Your enthusiasm always spurs me on and inspires me to expand my horizons.

  4. evadesignseditor

    Such beautiful creatures, have never heard of these before (I just go to the beach on the east coast.) The shades of blue are gorgeous.

    1. metalandmettle Post author

      Yes, they are quite extraordinary. I think they can be found in both the Pacific and the Atlantic oceans. They usually float and rarely come close to shore (and to a certain death). This year, many got stranded on the West Coast, as far north as British Columbia, because it had been more stormy than usual. And I agree, what a gorgeous colour (I know you’ve created beautiful blue patinas; I hope this inspires you to do more!).
      Thank you for dropping by!

  5. drawandshoot

    How extraordinary to come across so many of those ‘by the wind sailors’! They are exquisite, as is the work of Chihuly! There’s no place like an ocean beach.
    A gorgeous post, Dominique.


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