4th grader’s preparation is beginning to pay off! We have been collecting hundreds of water bottles and prepping them for the infamous bottle sculpture that has been seen all over Pinterest, inspired by Dale Chihuly.
As stated in the linked post:
First task: collect bottles. I have been asking students to bring water bottles in since October. I would estimate to say we have about 500 bottles and we’ve just about cracked the surface for what I hope it will take to make 2 installations.
Second task: Prep the water bottles – as a collective assembly line, have students tear off labels, cut the bottoms off and secure the lids that we do have. This took a good 40 minute class period with both sections – but it was great. We got through about 300 of the bottles and I have 200 more on stand by.
Third task: Paint the water bottles. We are in the process of this now – first, we’re starting with warm colors not only to present a chance to learn about warm colors…or rather relearn again and again but to also approach the blending of colors in the most successful way. We will have a day with cool colors and we will use that as a chance to explore how come colors do not successfully mix not matter how close they are on the color wheel. We will finish the 500 bottles with a day using all colors so students can use what they learned to challenge themselves with what colors will mix outside of the obvious.
So this brings us back to the next tasks,
Fourth task: After letting alllllll of the bottles dry (and there were a lot), we had to spiral cut them. This is pretty straight forward but is harder than it looks for some. Have the students angle a good pair of scissors into the open bottom of the bottle and begin cutting at an angle. Stay at an angle until you hit the neck of the bottle and it looks like a spiral. Careful not to make the spiral too thin because it makes the splaying of the water bottle difficult.
Fifth Task: Splay the bottles? Say what? Well, plastic holds it form incredibly well so even after you cut them, they don’t really spread out well. While the class continues to spiral all the bottles, catch up on painting them (kind of stagger the work and everyone will always have something to do), etc – use a heat gun (depending on the grade, the teacher should be doing this) to splay them. It is a two person job because one person needs to hold the neck of the bottle while you pull the bottle spiral out and melt it. This is a quick process! I’ve found that aiming the heat gun into the curves of the spiral keep the best form but you can play around with it. If the heat gun has multiple settings, I would use the low settings so you don’t cinch anything too fast. The splaying helps the bottles hold their form! This obviously goes much slower than spiraling because it’s one on one, but have students rotate through this role so everyone gets a chance. (Clue: Hair dryers are not an effective replacement for heat guns – have students go home and ask parents if they have any available to borrow; be sure to communicate with the parents so that it is clear what the heat gun is being used for.)
Sixth Task: Bundle the bottles. Have students work in pairs to bundle 3-4 bottles of like colors and like sizes (or not like if you want to approach the color scheme differently) together. The team work aspect of this is great. I am having them use some strong twine to tie around one neck, tie around another and so fourth. Once you have enough hanging on the frame, the twine isn’t seen. These bundles are easy to hang on the frame of the piece.
Seventh Task: Hang bottles on the frame. This bit was given to me by a college from King Elementary, Alyssa Harder, and what a life-saver she was because the idea of cardboard tubes and chicken wire just didn’t seem like the best approach. She linked me to Home Depot and I purchased 2-3 foot flat steel rods with holes in them and wired them together to make a 5 1/2 long rod. I could’ve bought a 5-foot rod but they were out. (Link to rod, here.) I hung this from the ceiling and using “Galvanized Steel Wire, 22 Guage” students helped me wire the bundles and tie them into the punched holes of the steel rod.
From here, we just begin to add more and more bundles in the same manner, by color choice of the students. You can let bottles begin to hang out farther to make the sculpture even bigger. It hangs from the ceiling with the same wire but will be installed by the district with strong hooks for a permanent display (pictures to come).
Note: As stated in Phase 1, the paint I used was acrylic. This dries strong and doesn’t flake off when the bottles are splayed.
Here are the final sculptures – 2 large (6 foot) and 1 small (4 foot).