One would be hard-pressed to think of any other artist working with glass whose work reflects as many varied and compelling styles as Dan Dailey’s. From vessel forms to his Individuals to lamps, sconces and chandeliers, these beautiful, sometimes humorous pieces dazzle through a combination of colored glass and intricate metal work. No matter the format, Dailey’s work expresses humanity, historical reference, and reverence for the natural world.
Dailey credits his successful career to his education in the arts. Born in Philadelphia in 1947, he attended Philadelphia College of Art, where he encountered glass through ceramic teacher, Roland Jahn, and discovered a mentor in William P. Daley, who taught basic design and color to his freshman class. Dailey, who completed graduate studies at Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) as Dale Chihuly’s first graduate student, says: “Under Chihuly’s influence, I focused totally on glass. That was a breakthrough for me. It was a lucky time for me to be there.’’
Following graduate school, with the support of a Fulbright fellowship, Dailey moved to Italy and worked in Murano’s famed Venini Factory during 1972 and 1973 as an independent artist/designer. He later worked with other established glass companies such as Critsallerie Daum in Nancy, France, and Steuben Glass Works, in Corning, New York.
In 1973, Dailey returned to the US and established the glass program at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design in Boston, which he headed until 1985. Now Professor Emeritus, he transitioned into a new relationship with MassArt, creating a lecture series titled Materialism, in collaboration with Joe Rapone, a professor of design at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia. Dailey continues his role as independent designer at both Venini and Daum, and serves on the National Advisory Board for The University of the Arts.
Among his many awards, Dailey received a Fulbright Hayes Fellowship, Venice, Italy, 1972-1973 and a Fellowship at the MIT Center for Advanced Visual Studies, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1975-1983. He was elected a Fellow of the American Craft Council in 1998, honored in 2000 with the Libensky Award, and in 2001 with the Masters of the Medium Award by the James Renwick Alliance. Shown in over 300 exhibitions, including a retrospective at the Renwick Gallery, his work is included in more than 50 museum and public collections internationally, and currently represented by Schantz Galleries, Stockbridge, Massachusetts; Hawk Galleries, Columbus, Ohio; Habatat Galleries, Royal Oak, Michigan; and Sandra Ainsley Gallery, Toronto, Canada.
Dailey’s process for transforming glass into compelling and unexpected forms is almost as interesting on paper as it is in three dimensions. Drawings and watercolors are used to refine ideas, but also to direct his team, which can include glassblowers in Seattle; acid polishing in West Virginia; waterjet cutters in local machine shops; and cutting, grinding, metal working, and assembling assistants at his New Hampshire studio. Working from his titles forward, the artist keeps a list of thoughts and key phrases, illustrating words with the objects he makes.
He states: “I emphasized drawing as a teacher for many years, because it would help me to help somebody realize their own ideas. It doesn’t have to be a beautiful drawing. It just needs to include information. However, in my own work, I make accurate drawings that really represent the piece.”
Focusing part of his time on producing sculptural lighting and large installations for residences and public buildings, Dailey says being diversified has kept him continuously busy, though he notes, not everyone makes a connection between all of his work. “Someone interviewed me at an exhibition in Chicago and did not realize that I made all of the work on exhibit. She thought it was three different artists. It was the first time I considered that perhaps my work wasn’t clearly all mine, even though to me it all looked like it belonged. If you look through my sketchbooks and see the black-and-white ink on paper drawings, you can see that as different as the finished work can be, it is all connected by my stylistic approach.”
Emerging from the Studio Glass movement initiated by Harvey Littleton, Dailey’s work goes beyond its historical glass roots to combine with metal in a variety of formats, all of which communicate a subjective, narrative message. A vast array of forms has always been required to express the multitudes of ideas generated by Dailey’s mind, and style is the common thread that binds them.