By Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan
NEW YORK, Nov 25 (Reuters) - Leslie Chihuly, the wife and business driver behind glass artist Dale Chihuly, believes these are fighting times, especially for artists.
"If we don't have our paintings and art and music and culture and civility, then what do we have?" said the president and chief executive of Chihuly, Inc, who chaired the board of the Seattle Symphony for nine years until 2018.
"What art does is create that thin veneer that separates us from our more base instincts. Without it, I don't like how life looks."
Chihuly, 59, had a chat with Reuters about her personal, professional and philanthropic choices.
Edited excerpts are below.
Q. What did your first job teach you?
A. My first job was probably when I around 14 or 15. I worked in a small boutique store on the Main Street in my hometown (Guymon, Oklahoma), and it was called The Vogue.
I wanted to save up for a Christmas present for my mother. I loved having a job, having my own little bit of money in my purse. I also learned how to perfectly wrap gifts. I'm really good at gift wrapping.
Q. What was your toughest job?
A. Doing multiple jobs at the same time. I was doing the job of being a mother. I was doing the job at Chihuly with a lot of complexity and a lot of projects and issues. I was also simultaneously board chair of the Seattle Symphony, which is a huge job. It's more than a full-time job at times.
Having all of those jobs at the same time and trying to balance the load, I found out that I can really push myself. I had to learn how to prioritize and also delegate.
Q. It's a particularly bleak time for creative professionals such as artists and musicians. Do you have any advice for creative types?
A. I know it's a difficult time, but it's also a very fertile time. Dig deep and keep making work. Keep writing, keep making music, keep doing what you do. It's so essential.
Q. What has been your biggest challenge this year?
A. We had to figure out how to blow glass safely. We closed our glass shops for quite a while. We have fewer people on our team now, but we're still spread out in three locations.
We can't travel and so many of our projects involve working all over the world and in different parts of the country. We had three different gallery shows - in London, Toronto and Seattle. Not being able to travel, we had to show those galleries how to install the shows without us.
Q. What's the best piece of job advice you've received?
A. Learn how to listen. If you can listen to others and you can listen to your employees and subject matter experts, you're going to make better decisions.
It's great to be proactive, to be leading and guiding, but you still have to have that back and forth.
Q. Do you have tips for someone just starting out right now?
A. In every dark time or challenging time there are still opportunities, and there are opportunities for creative approaches on how to do things. There are always goods and services that people need and there are always those needs to be filled.
There's always a path forward. You need to draw a support team around you and know that you can’t do it by yourself.
Q. What is your work-from-home set up?
A. I like to move around a lot, so I don't have one desk where I sit and work. I use the couch in our TV room for doing my Zooms because I like having a piece of art behind it. It's a Samuel Levi Jones, one of his paintings, and it's made of book covers.
Q. Where do you want to go when the world opens up again?
A. My three "I" countries: Ireland, Italy and Indonesia. I spent my junior year abroad in Ireland. Dale and I share a deep love of Ireland. It has to do with the arts, the music, literature and nature.
Italy is work and pleasure-related. We always have projects we want to do in Italy.
Indonesia would be more for fun because that's where I've been going in recent years for diving. (Editing by Lauren Young and Richard Chang)