Monday, September 6, 2010

Chihuly-Inspired Sculpture.

If you're not familiar with the work of glass artist Dale Chihuly, get familiar. He's totally incredible and very dynamic to watch. I found a DVD of him "In the Hotshop" on eBay for about $10 and I was enthralled watching his team (he's lost the use of an eye and his shoulder, so he can no longer blow glass himself) blow asymmetrical glass objects. Stunning.

I can't take credit for this idea. I found it here first. The photo shows a finished installation of many students' works.

But I had just been to the Chihuly Exhibit at the Frist Center and I thought it was too good NOT to integrate into my curriculum somehow. So lucky 2nd grade, who are studying North American Art this year, will get to try this project. The idea is to use cheapo plastic glasses, add decorative details, and melt them in a toaster oven set to broil. I thought, surely I'll set the house on fire. Surely it will smell revolting. SOMETHING WILL GO WRONG! But it didn't.

I found margarita glasses in packs of 20 for $8.99 at Party City (buy one get one free! Woo
t!) and brought home a couple packs to test this out. I didn't have my rainbow assortment of sharpies at home, so I just used black for the test run, but here's what came out of my toaster oven. I only set my oven mit on fire a little bit. :p
So I will definitely be dragging the toaster to school and trying this with the kiddos.


  1. I just found this post via a Pinterest "pin". I know it's a bit old, so I hope you read this comment! I'm planning on teaching Chihuly this year,and I LOVE the images you posted. But I need more instructions. The link on your page unfortunately doesn't work, so is it possible to give more details of the process?

    To contact me, you can visit MY blog at or email me (you can get my email address from my profile).

    Thanks, Phyl

  2. ^ I would also LOVE more detailed instructions on this project, as Chihuly is one of our Artists of the Month & am planning to do a group project for our art show. My email is Thanks!!

  3. There is also a children's video series "The Big A" which has a nice little demo on Dale Chihuly, in video #4. It is favorite of my students, the series is geared to primary but glass blowing is requested by 6th graders, one group convinced a sub to let them watch it while they worked. He is amazing.

  4. Phyl & Mr. Wess: It's really very simple. I used an old toaster oven set on "broil" and made sure to get an extension cord, and set up the oven outside for ventilation. The kids colored their cheapo plastic party glasses with Sharpies. I made this into a warm vs. cool color lesson, but you could adapt that part however you like. Chihuly uses a lot of stripes, so maybe pattern or movement? Either way, when the kids are ready they bring their party cup to me and I "fire" it in the warm toaster oven. They watch wide eyed and they get to "direct" me when to remove the sculpture. The results from the oven are these gorgeous organic forms that are completely unpredictable. It's so fun to watch the glasses melt! They actually move before your eyes! Then I removed the sculptures with an oven mit, and set them on the sidewalk to cool for a minute. After that the kids could either take them home, or contribute them to our collaborative sculpture. I used a hot glue gun to attach the melted cups together into a tall cone, with a light inside. In hindsight I think a sphere would have been more stable.

    Kelly: Where can I find videos of "The Big A"? I've heard about it before and it sounds wonderful.

  5. you could reuse plastic take out containers as well! go green!

  6. I also cut some of the cups to create a different melting e

  7. What do you put the cups on while they are melting? Parchment paper or something?

    1. I just let them sit on the tray that comes with the toaster oven, which I covered in aluminum foil.

  8. Try a heat gun. it's faster than a toaster. I just did chihuly art with 38 Junior Elementary kids using plastic solo cups, water bottles and plastic veggie boxes. We inked some and used sharpies on some and then cut them. I used the heat gun and I could "control" the melting a little, as they would in blowing glass.

  9. Very cool.Why do you need the sharpies if you use different colored plastic cups...I guess to replicate Chihulys stripes?? I can't wait to try this, thanks so much.