Famous glass artist Chihuly to exhibit in London's Kew Gardens

Return is first since 2005

By Lauren M. Johnson and Gianluca Mezzofiore, CNN
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American artist Dale Chihuly unveils his public sculpture the "Sun" in Berkeley Square on April 3, 2014, in London. Chihuly will set up residency in London's Royal Botanical Kew Gardens for the first time since 2005. Fans and first-time…

(CNN) - Renowned glass artist Dale Chihuly will set up residency in London's Royal Botanical Kew Gardens for the first time since 2005. Fans and first-time admirers can see his work from April 13 to Oct. 27.

The exhibit is titled "Chihuly: Reflections on Nature," and promises the "perfect marriage of art, science, and nature" according to Chihuly's website. The artist says the majority of the artwork has never been seen in the United Kingdom, including a specially designed sculpture for the Kew's iconic Temperate House -- the world's largest Victorian glasshouse.

"Bold and beautiful, surreal and seductive, these large-scale art works will stimulate the imaginations of all who view them. Prepare to see Kew -- and nature -- in a wholly different way," Sandra Botterell, director of Marketing and Commercial Enterprise at Kew, said in a statement to CNN.

Chihuly first shook up the art world in the 1970s. He is the son of a butcher/union organizer and an avid gardener, which influenced his later work. His mother pushed him to go to college.

Chihuly discovered glass blowing while taking a weaving class and interior design courses in college. One day while weaving glass panes through woven textiles, he picked up a pane of melted glass with a pipe and blew a little bubble, says Britt Cornett, Chihuly's director of exhibitions.

"From that moment, he was hooked," she says. "He set about finding out everything he could about glass blowing."

Since the early 1970s, the Tacoma, Washington-born artist has made the Pacific Northwest a center of glass art.

He made a big splash in 1996 with his "Chihuly Over Venice" project, in which many of his works were placed in and around the Italian city's canals. Now his work can be found in the permanent collections and temporary exhibitions of museums and gardens around the world.

His work is now instantly identifiable as a "Chihuly" anywhere, with his different-colored blown glass evoking fauna and flora from nature and the sea. His shows, mostly installed in gardens and other outdoor spaces -- inspired by his mother's gardening -- are wildly popular and attract visitors who don't normally visit such venues.

Now in his 70s and suffering from bipolar disorder, Chihuly can't do the physical labor that glass art often demands in its creation. That he hands over to the team he's collected around him since his early days. They know his process well and most have been working with the artist for decades.

According to Chihuly's website, highlights of the London exhibit include "Sapphire Star," along with selections from the artist's body of work including "Drawings," "Venetians," "Seaforms," "Baskets" and "Rotolo," among others.

CNN's Katia Hetter contributed to this report.

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