Chihuly-Inspired Cups Project

Chihuly Cups Project • Artchoo.com

 

When I was studying ceramics in college, I would sometimes wander upstairs a level and visit the glass department. I had a couple of friends who majored in glass and I would watch, fascinated, while they pulled globs of hot glass, on long pipes, out of the furnace (the glory hole) and turned them around while blowing through the pipes, to let gravity and breath help form their vessels.

I didn’t realize until years later that Dale Chihuly had set up the glass program at RISD and taught there for over a decade. Even if you can’t place his name, I’m sure you’ve seen photos of some of his most famous pieces- colorful, undulating vessels that look like beautiful sea creatures.

Dale Chihuly glass vessel

 

Dale Chihuly glass art

 photos: Design Rulz

Most projects based on famous artists are great in that they give kids a little insight into an artist’s style. This project is not only fun to make, the results are uncanny in their ability to emulate blown glass vessels. Heat and gravity work on plastic cups much like they are used in glasswork.

Materials:

  • Clear plastic Solo cups, tall and/or short
  • Sharpies – fine point  (not the thin, ultra fine points!)

Directions:

Color stripes of varying thicknesses around the outsides of the cups. We had fun picking out our color combinations. For a couple of the tall cups, we ended up coloring the inside bottoms of the cups, because they are so visible after melting.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place cups, right side up, on foil-lined baking pan in the oven and watch them. They will slump in about 1-2 minutes and then they just stop on their own. Remove them from the oven and let them cool completely.

Chihuly Cups Art Project • Artchoo.com

We tried out the shorter cups as well, and they ended up melting down nearly-but-not-quite flat. Still really cool, but you can’t use them as mini bowls like you can the larger cups.

Chihuly Cups Art Project • Artchoo.com

It’s uncanny how much these things look like glass, and it’s really hard to stop making them- there’s something about the unpredictability of how they slump and the instant gratification when you watch them transform. We’ll definitely be making these again.

This post was inspired by a photo on Pinterest of melted Sharpied cups, but I cannot find the original source. Please let me know the source if you know it, so I can give them credit for this really cool idea. 

Edited: Got a pointer in the right direction: Here’s the board where I first saw this project: Gemma Flavin’s Chihuly Pinterest board.

Edited again! Here’s the email I got back from Solo re: the safety of melting cups:

Thank you for your interest in SOLO Cup Company products.  Our clear plastic cups are not  designed and intended for use at a 350 degree temperature .   Therefore, we have not tested the product at that temperature and would not have data available.

So… not much info. here, but as with any project, use your best judgment and skip it if you are worried about its safety!

 

For the Kids Fridays at SunScholars.com

Comments

  1. says

    Hi JeanetteLOVE these! I agree – I have seen (and taught) and bunch of Chihuly projects that didn’t related to his process. Definitely want to try. Thanks for posting!
    Rina recently posted…Art Show 2013My Profile

  2. says

    I did this once. I was trying to come up with interesting tree ornament ideas and if you let me go a bit too long they get really flat. What do you do with them?

  3. Elena says

    We used to do this a lot while camping. We would put Solo cups on long sticks and hold them over the fire til they melted to unique shapes, then press the shapes together while they were still hot and soft to make big sculptures of all different colors.

      • Angelia says

        Not sure about a glassblowing project. My 11 year old has done 2 glassblowing workshops. He had so much fun. Check to see if there are any workshops around you that will work with kids. I am sure you already have.

  4. Teagan says

    These are great! I would like to try them with my students but so far my practice attempts have not turned out. One kind of plastic cup barely melted at all and the other one melted into a completely flat disc. I can’t find clear Solo cups where I live – only colored ones. Could you tell me what kind of plastic (the # that is on the recycling sign on the bottom) and what size of cup you used? Thanks!

    • says

      You know, Pat, that’s an excellent question, and one I don’t have an answer to. I tried a few Google searches, but only came up with lots of those sites where people give their opinions- no facts. I have an email into the Solo company, but not sure if I’ll hear back or not. If I do, I’ll be sure to reply to you again and update my post. My personal opinion is that they are in the oven for such a short amount of time that I am not too worried about any ill effects of plastic fumes. I would imagine that if you did this on a consistent basis, you may have problems. I’m really not sure though, so I hope Solo gets back to me. Thanks for bringing this up!
      Jeanette Nyberg recently posted…Creative Kids: Staples Make Great ArtMy Profile

  5. Michele says

    I love this! As a designer I love setting unusual and dramatic tables for parties and dinners. I’m going to have my grandsons make several of these and put battery operated tea lights inside. Then use them as the centerpiece for our next family get-together. They will be so proud!

  6. Kathy says

    I used the 9 oz size the kids drew all over the sides on the bottom they put to Aunt May from John put the date on them on the inside edge, melted them upside down in the toaster oven they turned white and very flat used a hole punch after they cooled and used them for XMas gift tags or tree decorations .what you drew on the inside was on the backs

  7. Rose Tomlinson says

    these are really cool. I’m thinking I might string them and hand them outside. or may be string lights through them. May be even a wind chime.

  8. says

    What a great idea! They do look like Chihuly sculptures. I went to a Chihuly show here in Pittsburgh at Phipps Conservatory a few years ago and his work is absolutely amazing. He also made a huge hanging piece that now hangs in the 2 floor lobby suspended from the ceiling. Its gorgeous!! I will definitely be trying this to make some of my own creations. Thanks for sharing :)

  9. sara says

    Just happened to come across this when looking to make a chihuli inspired baby mobile.
    after you bake it, does the plastic get harder than it was in its original form? or is it still flexible plastic? really hoping that it hardens up.
    i have thought about using shrinky dink paper and pulling it out when it curls, because that becomes hard as rock plastic, but i like the more 3D look of these more.

    thanks!!!

  10. Christina says

    Has anyone tried drilling holes in the bottom and slipping them over the small bulbs of a strand of Christmas lights? I think I will try this for our outdoor lighting (instead of Chinese lanterns)!

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