Monday, 21 October 2019

Chihuly Glass at Kew Gardens

Chandelier at the Victoria and Albert
My first introduction to the sublime work of Dale Chihuly was at the marvelous Sculptureum gardens and galleries at Matakana, north of Auckland, New Zealand. I was captivated by his riotous, flamboyant works both for their beauty and for the wonder of their production. I had never heard of him before that visit but was keen to see and learn more about his work.

Seattle based Chihuly, has had a 50 year long career in art which has included work in mediums such as sculpture, neon, plastics and drawings but it is for his blown glass work that he is most famous.   His works have been shown and acclaimed all over the world perhaps most notably in Jerusalem where he holds the world record for most visitors (1.3million) to a temporary exhibition. The Oklahoma City Museum of art hosts a permanent exhibition of his work although many galleries offer Chihuly pieces for sale. After suffering the loss of an eye and an arm injury Chihuly found he could no longer hold the weight of the glass blowing pipe so now his works are produced from his studio by a number of master glass craftsmen under his supervision. He designs the pieces and has been quoted as saying he enjoys this process immensely. Some of his largest works now sell for many millions of dollars and although these are monumental and quite breathtaking the studio also produces smaller pieces suitable for display in the home.

On my recent trip to London I was delighted to see a magnificent Chihuly chandelier at the Victoria
and Albert museum and when my son suggested a visit to Kew Gardens to see the Chihuly exhibition I jumped at the chance.

Kew Gardens is worth a visit any time but this exhibition showcasing the marriage between the glories of nature and Chihuly's nature inspired glass works was spectacular.  The size and intricacies of the sculptures made me wonder how on earth they are transported across the world. It must be a delicate and nerve wracking operation. The exhibition at Kew ran until late October so if you missed out here are photos of some of the pieces. I assure you these photos do not do the sculptures justice.

The huge tree above is made entirely of glass rods. 

I have written a previous blog about  Kew Gardens you can find it by entering the following into my search box: The Hive - Kew Gardens Stunning New Attraction 9/4/16 

Monday, 7 October 2019

The Shard, London

The Shard really does look like pieces of shattered glass piercing the sky but apparently Italian architect, Renzo Piano, was intending to reference the spires of old London  and the masts of sailing ships on the Thames when he designed it. According to reports, Thames English Heritage opposed the design stating that it would be "a shard of glass piercing the heart of historic London".  Little did they know that their colourful comment would give the building its popular name, and it couldn't be more apt.

At 306 metres (1016ft) high and with 87 stories it is the tallest building in London. Designed to move up to 20 inches in high winds, I was rather pleased it was a perfectly still day when I visited! Opened in 2012 it has become a major landmark and tourist attraction for London providing stunning views of the city in every direction.  Dare I say it, despite the protests of Thames English Heritage, it is a source of great pride to Londoners today. An interesting fact: 95% of the construction materials were recycled.

I was really looking forward to my visit to The Shard, having admired it from afar on a few visits to London. With my two young grandchildren in tow I met up with my daughter-in-law who had wisely bought tickets ahead enabling us a quick queue jump. The observation levels are on floors 68, 69 and 72 and are known as The View From The Shard. It takes two elevator rides to get to level 72 and what an amazing sight greets you there.  Laid out below is the whole of London with a view that extends for 40 miles in each direction.  Level 72 is also partially open to the sky with dramatic shard shapes of glass towering overhead.

Left: The open observation deck complete with shard shapes

One of the two popular bars at The View....champagne is the drink of choice.

 We  sat by the windows in the warm afternoon sun  taking in the view and sipping champagne. We were entranced, spending an hour and a quarter there.  Every now and then one of us would whoop with delight when we spotted yet another famous landmark. 'Spot the famous building' became an exciting game for the children. My daughter-in-law had been up the Shard before and told me how much she loves it, even opining that she could live there.  Apartments do make up some of the floors but I can only imagine what they would cost.

Below: Two views, one showing The Tower of London and Tower Bridge. (Note the shadow of The Shard at the lower edge) The other, taken on zoom, shows St Pauls Cathedral.

Because it was such a glorious day photos from other angles showed too much reflection.


Next we walked down two levels to continue with wine sipping and sight viewing.  Another hour flew by easily as the glorious sunny day turned to dusk. A quick toilet stop before leaving and, my goodness, talk about a room with a view.  A toilet stop is a must when you visit The View From The Shard.

Right: A loo with a view

Later we wandered along the South Bank through the beautifully redeveloped Southwark area and found the perfect family friendly restaurant right on The Thames where we enjoyed pizzas and pasta while looking at a stunning view of Tower Bridge, aglow in the late evening sun and later lit up for the night.

What a perfect end to a perfect day of sight seeing in London! Many thanks to my daughter-in-law.