Thursday, February 18, 2010

Project TWENTY-EIGHT: Chihuly by Acetate

One day, I was perusing the internet for lesson plan ideas and came upon a bunch at Dick Blick. I pulled one off titled, "Classroom Chihuly," that piqued my interest. And so... I gave it a try.

The premise of this lesson plan and the expected outcome looks pretty cool, different, and interesting; something I would have definitely liked to have try with my students. However, I
might admit that my attempt was a bit of a mess. The lesson plan calls for Dura-Lar, which is an acetate "alternative," according to the packet- though I'm not sure what makes it an alternative and not just acetate (which I think it is). I could only find .005 (medium weight) thickness at my Dick Blick here in the city, and the lesson has a minimum thickness of .007 up to .015, which may
be a partial blip for my attempt. I cut out organic shapes, as it says, and I tried using paperclips to hold the shape together into a crinkly pattern. The paperclips just sprung off of the dura-lar. I found that I needed to use tongs to hold the plastic in the semi-boiling water (which softens the plastic and makes it pliable) with portions paperclipped. Even though this plastic retains its shape shortly after you remove it from the hot water, if you want to then shape other areas, you have to be careful that the parts you just shaped do not warm up, or they will relax back to their flattened state.
I started out cutting up cloud like shapes like the lesson illustrates, then moved into two shapes with "arms" to curl up reminding me of the Chihuly I saw in Washington DC. This was semi-successful. Together, these pieces remind me of flowers and flower petals, or plant like shapes.

Next, I used the Pebeo Procelain paint that the lesson recommends. I used two colors, one metallic, a thinner, and a glossy medium to paint my pieces. I tried to keep it organic... and found that it looked better if I "outlined" the edges of the pieces with a heavier amount of paint. The paint takes 24 hours to dry, so here are photos right after I painted them. Kinda' looks like a mess, doesn't it?? Needless to say, I'm not thrilled about this outcome and would definitely have to try it again before making a lesson out of it. What do you think?

Note: For those of you unfamiliar with Dale Chihuly's work, he is a very famous glass sculptor. You can see some of his work at his site:


  1. Oh thank you so much for that, i was just about to try this lesson plan with my students, i really have very little money for materials but the blick site made it look so impressive, i think you did great with what you had but you are right, its not really the effect they showed, i defiantly wont be trying it now!

  2. Glad I could help! Maybe there are some tips that I'm just not aware of yet that help make it... better? Let me know if you find any!

  3. I've seen this done with Shrinky Dinks and colored sharpies and then heating it with a heat gun. I haven't tried it, but it is something I want to experiment with for the classroom!

  4. Hi Amanda-
    I actually just saw someone post something similar, as well! I should have tried to paint it prior to cutting and melting, maybe. Definitely worth trying again!