Chihuly Elementary Art Lessons Nashville
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Big Idea: Structure

Topic: Transformation

Grade level: 2

Written by Daryl Wilkinson, Tina Atkinson, Ted Edinger and Janet Malone


This Chihuly inspired unitis driven by the students’ need for understanding in how art can be transformed from a two dimensional shape to a three dimensional form using structural lines.  At the same time, students will be exposed to a contemporary artist in a variety of settings, both in the classroom, as well as museum/botanical garden.   Students also need to be aware of the fact that artists gather inspiration from the natural world and structures around them.


Key Concepts: (just a few)

·         Structure can be both organic and geometric.

·         Structure can be a framework.

·         Structure can be transformed.

·         Structure can be both 2 and 3 dimensional.

·         The elements of art and principles of design can form a structure.

Essential Questions:

·         How can a structure be transformed (from 2d-3d)?        

·         What is structure?

·         How can artists use natural structures to create or influence their art?

Art Concepts: (just a few)

·         Artists use a variety of lines to create forms.

·         Artists can work together into teams and collaborate to create unity.

·         Artists use art vocabulary to describe their work and the work of others.

·         Artists use mixed media to create art.

·         Artists use recycled and found objects to create art.


Standard 1.0 Media, Techniques, and Processes

1.1   Uses tools and media consistently in a safe and responsible manner.

1.1.1          Demonstrates consistently a developmentally appropriate use of tools and media.  (e.g.: scissors, glue, pencils, markers, crayons, paint brushes, paint, and paper.)

1.1.2          Uses tools in a safe and responsible manner.

1.2   Demonstrate an understanding of a variety of techniques.

1.2.1          Paints, glues, cuts, sculpts, draws, collages, and prints at a developmentally appropriate level.

1.2.2          Uses appropriate vocabulary to describe a technique.

1.3   Explore a variety of processes

1.3.1          Demonstrates developmentally appropriate knowledge of art processes (e.g.: painting,   printing, mixed media.)

1.4   Recognize and demonstrate levels of craftsmanship.

1.4.1           Produces artwork with developmentally appropriate levels of craftsmanship.

1.4.2          Identifies levels of craftsmanship in artwork.

Standard 2.0 Structures* and Functions*

2.1 Identify, understand and apply the elements of art*.

           2.1.1 Demonstrate developmentally appropriate knowledge of the elements of art.

           2.1.2 Uses appropriate vocabulary to identify the elements of art.

2.2 Identify, understand and apply the principles of art*.

           2.2.1 Demonstrate developmentally appropriate knowledge of the principles of design.

           2.2.2 Uses appropriate vocabulary to identify the principles of design.

2.3 Understand and apply purpose* in art.

          2.3.1 Demonstrate developmentally appropriate knowledge of the purposes of art.

2.4 Understand and apply context* in art.

          2.4.1 Demonstrate developmentally appropriate knowledge of contexts in art.

Standard 3.0 Evaluation

3.1 Select subject matter, symbols and ideas for the student’s own art.

          3.1 Choose developmentally appropriate subject matter, symbols and ideas with teacher


3.2 Analyze subject matter, symbols and ideas in the student’s own art.

3.2 Create and analyze artwork using developmentally appropriate subject matter, symbols and ideas.

3.3 Analyze subject matter, symbols and ideas in others’ art.

3.3 Analyze subject matter, symbols and ideas in others’ artwork in a developmentally appropriate way.

Standard 4.0 Historical and Cultural Relationships

4.1 Understand that art comes from different cultures, times and places.

          4.1 Demonstrate developmentally appropriate knowledge of art from different cultures,

          times and places.

4.2 Understand that culture, history and art influence one another.

          4.2 Demonstrate developmentally appropriate knowledge of how culture and history

           influence art.

Standard 5.0 Reflecting and Assessing

5.1 Analyze the characteristics and merits of the student’s own work.

          5.1 Explain the characteristics and merits of the student’s own work to the teacher and/or


5.2 Analyze the characteristics and merits of other’s work.

          5.2 Interpret the characteristics and merits of others’ work in a teacher-guided group.

5.3 Understand that viewers have various responses to art.

          5.3 Compare and contrast various responses to art with teacher guidance.

Standard 6.0 Interdisciplinary Connections

6.1 Understand connections between visual arts and other disciplines.

          6.1.7 Identify connections between visual arts and social studies.

          6.1.8 Identify connections between visual arts and science.

Art Supplies Needed:

Lesson One:

Large paper (such as Blick All Media paper), chalk pastels, sponges, feathers, raffia, variety of paint, toothbrushes, large combs, bubble wrap, plastic wrap, and other texturing materials.

Lesson Two:

Dura-lar, Vitrea 160 paint, scissors, sharpies, markers, coffee filters/diffusion paper, aluminum foil, string, starch, paper clips, electric skillet to heat water

Lesson Three:

                Clay, wire (Twisteez or pipe cleaners), sketch paper, pencil, beads, glaze or acrylic paint

Lesson Four:

Plastic bottles (variety of sizes), straws, plastic cups, armature (could be wood stick with dowels or a hanging armature), scissors, tissue paper, starch, acrylic paint


Art Vocabulary:

Structure, 2-D, 3-D, Glass Blowing, Molds,  Craft, Fine Art, Organic, Inorganic, Geometric, Line, Elements of Art, Principals of Design, Structural Line, Contour Line, Mixed Media, Concept Drawing, Transformation, Abstraction,  Installation, View Finders, Form.

Chihuly Vocabulary:

Baskets, Cylinders, Ikebana, Macchia, Persians, Putti, Sea forms, Soft Cylinders, Venetians, Drawings, Aquarium, Boats, Ceilings, Chandeliers, Fiori, Ice & Neon, Lap Pool, Niijima Floats, Reeds & Spears, Towers, Walls, Water, Windows.

 Core Knowledge of Chihuly/ Knowledge Building

·         Chihuly video

·         Born September 20, 1941 in Tacoma, Washington.

·         First melted glass and blew a bubble using glass melted in his ceramics kiln and a metal pipe.

·         First American glassblower to work in the Venini factory on the island of Murano. 

·         Has founded many glass studios.

·         Lost the sight in his left eye due to a car accident in 1976.  At this time, he had to give up full control of his glass making due to loss of depth perception.

·         In 1979, suffered a dislocated shoulder due to a body surfing accident, and lost the ability to gaffer his work.

·         Creates many different forms including baskets, cylinders, venetians, sea forms, macchia, ikebana, persians, towers, chandeliers, fiori, reeds and others.

Lesson One:  “Drawing”

Knowledge building activity: (Handout attached to end of unit plan.)

  • Show several images of Chihuly’s work including Seaforms, Persians, Fiori, and Niijima floats.
  • Discuss the images and in your idea book, answer the questions and choose an inspiration piece. This may be a photograph or an image from memory. Draw the object in your idea book; make several versions if you like. Discuss structural lines vs. contour lines and the difference in the two types of lines. (Structural lines support and contour lines outline) With a highlighter trace the three most important or structural lines. (The three lines should not touch because you can add the details in-between with color later.)These are the lines that you must include in your painting to make the image strong and identifiable.
  • Show the 4 minute video about Chihuly’s paintings from his website.

“Chihuly Drawings”

  • Background: Using sponge rollers, large brushes, and acrylic paint, cover the entire surface as quickly as possible. Don’t spend too much time in the background; you can set a time limit of 5-7 minutes to keep students motivated and to keep the process moving.
  • Draw in the structural lines identified in your idea book using soft chalk pastels. This can be done on wet or dry paint. Once the structural lines are in place, add details using chalk or paint in a variety of applications such as; squeeze bottles, spray bottles, splattering with paint brushes or brushed onto the surface. You may also add additional texture using feathers, combs, bubble wrap, toy cars, plastic wrap, toothbrushes, sponges, and other found objects. Be sure not to “lose” your structural lines in the process.
  • Sign your work with paint. Find a place where your name “fits” and put it there, even if it is not very readable.
  • Complete the reflection sheet and glue it to the back of your painting once it is dry.

Lesson Two:  2 dimensional to 3

·         Review Chihuly’s sea forms, macchia, and persians.

·         Practice sketch organic shapes.

Dura-lar version:

·         Pass out Dura-lar plastic, two per student.

·         Have students cut organic shapes, one large, two small and write names with sharpie.

·         Using paper clips, students bend and fold Dura-lar into interesting shapes. 

·         Teacher dips Dura-lar into hot water.

·         Students dry and decide on color.

·         Students paint on transparent paint.

·         When dry, nestle shapes together.

Coffee Filter/Diffusion paper version:

·         Pass out paper circles, have students write names with sharpie and scallop edges using scissors.

·         Students draw on circles with markers, thinking about colors blending.

·         Spray circles with liquid starch.

·         Place aluminum foil balls in the middle of wet circles, pulling up edges and tying with string to hold shape while drying.

·         When dry, remove string and aluminum foil, nestle shapes together.

Assessment will be teacher created reflection sheet (see handouts at end)

Lesson Three: Clay Ikebana

·         Introduce/review Chihuly’s Ikebana.

·         Sketch different Ikebana shapes.

·         Pass out clay, and demonstrate correct method to coil pot making.

·         Students create coil Ikebana pots.

While pots are drying and being fired:

·         Students sketch out organic “flora” designs, keeping in mind capabilities of wire.

·         Using a variety of wire, including Twisteez and pile cleaners, students create wire sculptures that will be put into the finished Ikebana pot.

·         Beads can be added for color and sparkle.

After pots are fired:

·         Glaze or paint pots using suitable colors.

·         Insert wire sculpture and display.


Lesson Four:  Recycled Art Tower

Installation: Teaching Unity through teamwork (After the “Drawing” lesson)

Dale Chihuly and his team choose locations in which to create their installations.

A.       Introduction to Installation

·         As part of this art production, students will scout locations for a class installation on the school grounds (indoors or outdoors) with the teacher, using viewfinders. Once the students find a suitable location (someplace with a natural area of negative space that a sculptural piece would “fit” into) the teacher will photograph the location. Once each group (six groups of four) has discovered a location and had the teacher photograph it to their specifications, the class would return to the art room to print out the photo-locations. The class would vote and decide which location would be best for the installation. (One camera option)                             




·         The teacher chooses the location and photographs the space from different viewpoints so that the students have a reference point.     This would be done before class if you were to do one tower with a whole grade level instead of one installation per classroom (4-6 per grade level as seen above).                                                                                                                                               

·         Once the location is determined there are several approaches to create the towers. The first step is to determine the structural shape.  Let the students/class choose an I shape, a Y shape or an X shape around which you can arrange the individual components.

A.      Individual component construction  

·         Using recycled plastic bottles, students can create a variety of forms. Leave the spout of the bottle untouched to use as a way to attach the forms to a larger structure. Students can add tin foil or plastic wrap to elongate the bottle shape and add additional shape armatures. Coat the form with the medium of your choice, depending on indoor or outdoor installation (decoupage, tissue paper/starch, paint, colored plastic wrap, other recycled materials and so on).

·         A variation of this construction would add materials such as, but not limited to plastic cups of all shapes, drinking straws, plastic bottles with the bottoms cut off, plastic wrap, cardboard tubes, foam balls, packing materials, bubble wrap, etc. Students could cut the materials with scissors shaping the plastic into flower or plant-like shapes by layering different material.


B.      Installation of finished components


  • Components can be assembled in a variety of ways. Some ideas would be using an armature of wood or cardboard rolls from large roll paper. Objects could be attached to the tower using sculpture wire, dowels, coat hangers, duck tape or hot glue (or any other way you can imagine). Components can also be suspended from the ceiling using monofilament and/or dowel rods, yarn, twine or any imaginable material to safely secure the pieces.

C.      Reflection

  • As an assessment reflection, students should have the opportunity to verbalize their personal experience throughout the installation process. One option would be to do “Artist interviews” using the Flip Video camera. Have each student generate a question that they would ask the Chihuly team about their art or how they do what they do. Put the questions into a hat and allow each student to choose one question. In front of the installation, if possible video the student answering the question and then combine the segments to create a reflective video for the students to discuss and share with the school community.
  • You could do this activity in written form if a video camera is not available (however, you can check out a camera from the Martin Professional Development Center by sending a quick email!).



Handout for Lesson One:

How do artists use natural structures to create or influence their artwork?


1.) What kind of material do you think the artist used? _____


2.) What do these objects look like to you? ______________


3.) My inspiration object is _________________________.


Create 2 or 3 small sketches of you object below.





Reflection Sheet

1.) How do artists use natural structures to create or influence their artwork? ______________________________________________________________



2.) What color did you make your structural lines? ________



3.) How many structural lines did you use? ______________



Chihuly 2D-3D  Self-Assessment Worksheet

Name: _______________________Teacher: _______________________


Check the box that correctly answers the statements below.





Sort of



I have incorporated organic lines and shapes into my artwork.





I have used color appropriately.





I have used all supplies correctly.





I have shown good craftsmanship.










What ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________


How ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Please glue this sheet to the back of your finished art work and turn it in to the teacher.


Chihuly Ikebana Self-Assessment Worksheet

Name: _______________________Teacher: _______________________


Check the box that correctly answers the statements below.





Sort of



I have created my coil form using correct clay techniques.





I have shown good craftsmanship.





I have shown a variety of techniques in the wire sculptures.





I have used a variety of organic shapes and lines in my design.










What ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________


How ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Please glue this sheet to the back of your finished art work and turn it in to the teacher.




Possible Self-Assessment Worksheet

Name: _______________________Teacher: _______________________


Check the box that correctly answers the statements below.





Sort of




























What ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________


How ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Please glue this sheet to the back of your finished art work and turn it in to the teacher.