Sunday, August 7, 2011


This photograph of my student Chihuly sculpture has been up on my flickr site for about 3 years. It is one of my most top viewed images! So in the spirit of generating more traffic for my new blog - not to be confused with my old blog - or my other blog....I have decided to post directions on how to make it here!

I started by collecting as many recycled water bottles as I could with my students. The original plan was to have a warm colored sculpture AND a cool colored sculpture. In the end we only made one because it required so many bottles we ran out! Students used various colors of watered down acrylic paint and swirled it around the inside of the water bottles. When the bottles were dry I used a box cutter to cut small slits in the bottom of each one. Students then used this hole to begin cutting their bottles in a spiral from the bottom to the mouth piece. Students wired their bottles at the top with some floral wire and then made another one (and another, and another).

The armature was a cone a created out of chicken wire. Just imagine a giant ice cream cone and that is what it looked like. I used a little wire to hold it together and a stronger piece of wire across the top so it would hang. Students then took individual bottles and attached them to the armature through the chicken wire holes. That was it - so simple!


  1. Hi, I came across this post via Pinterest. I've been looking at a lot of Chihuly ideas, since I recently saw a great exhibit,and have been experimenting in my classroom to see what works. Anyhow, I have a question:
    I tried some thinned down acrylic and inside the bottles, and then left hem to dry, and all the color basic slid down the sides to the bottom (or out the top if the bottle was upside down). Yet it doesn't seem that this was a problem for you. What brand of acrylics did you use, and did you just add water or some sort of gloss or what? Several other people who have posted similar Chihuly projects painted the outside of the bottles. It seemed to me the inside would give a glassier effect, if I could just get the paint to stay.

  2. Hi Phyl! I am completely addicted to Pinterest. I used "real" acrylic paint - the kind that comes in the tubes because that was what we had at the time. I would think the craft acrylic would be too thin to stick even without watering it down. You could also try brushing it on the outside but I agree it would not be as shinny. In the end the outside of the bottle shows as much as the inside though because the spirals hang! Good luck and I would love to see what you end up with.

  3. Thanks. I guess I'll try painting the outsides since all I have is school grade acrylic in bottles. The insides looked so PRETTY when I painted them, but when I returned a day later and all the color had sunk to the bottom, ICK. Anyhow I definitely am addicted to Pinterest too!

  4. Hi there, I am looking to do this project at our school. I just have a question, about how many bottles were used to create the piece in the picture? We have over 900 students and I am trying to decide if this should be produced by class or a grade. I just put together a family tree with over 900 circles done in the style of Kandinsky. Now on to the next torture. Thanks, Charla

    1. I did it with a whole grade level - 5th. Every student did two bottles so that would be about 300 bottles. I think you can basically make it any size you want. The armature was a four foot tall cone. Good luck and I would love to see pictures when you are finished!

  5. I found if you make a mixture of Elmer’s Glue, a little water & acrylic paint you can coat the inside of bottles. Or simply paint the outside & let dry.
    Next cut your spirals. I use fishing line to attach 5 bottles at a time. When I have 3 sets I attach them to what ever you want.


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