Library art club imitates renowned glass master

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By Pat Brown
Contributing Writer

A dozen children recently learned about world-famous glass artist Dale Chihuly at the Montgomery-Floyd Regional Library in Christiansburg. They then set about the rather imposing ask of imitating his style.

Their group project is now on display in the library’s children’s section. Chihuly, a native of Tacoma, Wash., has for decades been recognized worldwide as an innovative glass blower, artist and teacher.

At their class, the students imitated Chihuly’s macchia style, which means they were encouraged to used spots of color in their creations.

Librarian Marissa de Souza came up with the idea. Along with Jess Tabor, the two of them lead Art days at the Christiansburg library branch. Most of their participants are home schoolers, and often their projects are “make and take.”

The students left their macchia creations behind for a collaborative display.

De Souza first presented a bit of history about the artist and his unusual style and craft. Chihuly’s power point presentation included examples of his famous colorful fluted bowls and shots of him at work in his Seattle hot shop, the glassblower’s studio. The children learned that macchia is Italian for “spots.”

Each child started with a coffee filter and markers. When the circular “palette” was finished, the children wrapped their colorfully decorated circles around a foam cup and secured them with a rubber band, turning the flattened filter into a three-dimensional imitation of a Chihuly bowl.

Then it was time to mold the shape—with spray starch. The wet starch influenced the color to “bleed” a little, just like the hot furnaces of a Chihuly studio melt color into glass and allow the artist to shape his famous bowls.

Ezekiel Hietanen, age 8, admitted he liked the spray starch step the best. Brother Asher, 6, said he liked the project “because it’s colorful.”

Still on display from last month were paper and cardboard quilt squares Art Club participants created under Tabor’s direction. He is the assistant supervisor at the Christiansburg branch.

De Souza plans to guide students through a still-life drawing next month. “It is a simple idea, but it can be challenging,” she said. She expects the effort to “enhance observational and drawing skills.”

Students who attended the session with Chihuly were from all around the New River

Valley including Pearisburg, Blacksburg, Christiansburg and Floyd. Eden Waring, 7, of Floyd, and Kaitlyn Koser, 9, of Christiansburg, were smiling and chatting as they tackled their macchia creations.