05 July 2015

Love for an Artist

When I was in high school, a new bridge opened up in Tacoma, WA. It had been designed by an artist named Dale Chihuly, and included a popular installation by him called a "Persian Ceiling." Naturally, I fell in love with Dale Chihuly's work after that. His objects are colorful, bright, textured, transparent, translucent, and he works mostly in glass. Glass is a material I haven't much experience with, except for one 3-hour long lampwork glass bead class at Pratt Fine Arts in Seattle, WA.

Sunset Persian Flowers Tiara

In Seattle, there is an entire exhibition dedicated to Mr Chihuly's artwork, which makes sense because he does currently live in the city and was born and raised in the area. The pièce de résistance of the exhibition is a 100-foot long chandelier in the glasshouse. There are over 1,000 individual pieces of glass attached to a steel frame. The glass objects are very flower like, and are from the artist's Persian series, which he started back in 1986. The series is characterized by swirls of colored and clear glass, spider-web like texture, and colored glass around the entire edge of the piece called a lip wrap.


Not being a glass artist myself, and not having the resources to delve into creating a glass tiara that was inspired by this amazing chandelier, I set about trying to figure out what I could use instead to make those delicate Persian designs. First, I tried Shrinky Dinks, but the issue is that when heated in the oven, the flower shapes shrank too much, and actually ended up much too thick. They also didn't have the characteristic crimpy shapes that Chihuly's Persians have.

After a long pause, I then decided to try polymer clay. My sister had bought a large block of translucent white polymer clay. I made swirled canes with colored clay and translucent clay (similar to making a jelly roll), sliced off thin pieces, then carefully put these through a clay pasta roller. The pieces were ridiculously thin, which was perfect, and I carefully draped and shaped these over round balls of aluminum foil that were set out on a cookie sheet. I baked them in the oven for a good long time (that's the trick to baking polymer clay!), and out of the oven, I glazed them with polymer clay varnish.

Where does the tiara end and the chandelier begin? At Chihuly Garden and Glass, Seattle, WA.

I then had to hand paint the characteristic "lip wrap" on each one, so I chose yellow, red, and deep blue acrylic paints to do so. It was then simple to make a wire frame, glue each flower shape onto the frame, and voila!, it is absolutely perfect!

The tiara has about 25 of these delicate clay flower shapes!

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