art · Crafting · preschool

Preschool Art Class: Printmaking Basics and a Dash of Dale Chihuly

Dale Chihuly for Kids

Since the preschool stained glass project was a huge success, I delved a bit deeper into the world of glass art by introducing my tiny students to Dale Chihuly. We mimicked his popular “Maccia” series, using white coffee filters, washable markers and heavy spray starch. We simply used markers to make designs on the coffee filters, covering most empty space. Students were encouraged to use light colors first, and then apply smaller areas of dark colors. We then used rubber bands to secure the filters on the bottoms of plastic cups, took the cups outside and sprayed the colored filters with heavy starch (the starch hardens the filters and makes the colors run). The kids loved watching their colors harmonize and spread and bleed. Once the little faux glass sculpture-ettes were nice and hard and dry, we placed them on a poster board for display.

The rest of our lesson was devoted to exploring printmaking. Everyone grasped the basics of printmaking once we related it to playing with ink and rubber stamps —and that, when you ink a stamp, you can make several impressions of the stamp’s design, unlike a painting, which is one-of-a-kind. The kids created prints from both styrofoam and aluminum foil. To be honest, yesterday morning was sort of a sh*t show, and included me fleeing the house with neither my head or my art supplies for class. A frantic trip to Target ensued, and I improvised, grabbing whatever materials may work in an easy printmaking lesson. fullsizeoutput_1e59

First, the kids used popsicle sticks to make designs on a styrofoam plate, careful to make their lines deep enough to resist the paint, but not so deep that they break through the foam. They then selected one or two colors of paint, which I applied (squirted) on a PAPER plate. They rubbed the two paper plates together in order to transfer the paint on the paper plate to the foam design (this original design is called a MATRIX, to use printmaking terms).

All the kids LOVED rubbing the plates together and pulling them apart — the designs on each plate were beautiful in their own right.
They then made a print on card stock from their foam plate by pressing the plate to the paper, making sure to transfer all areas of the design by rubbing their hands across the back of the foam plate.

One of my students took the project one step further, using a cotton swab to make another design in the paint on the paper plate, later transferring it to another piece of cardstock. All the kids followed, and it was a perfect example of printmaking’s capacity for reproduction.

We finished off our session with an aluminum foil monoprint project, explained in more detail here. I distributed paint (in blobs) to sheets of paper and then instructed the kiddos to cover that paper with their aluminum foil sheets (sized just slightly larger than the paper). The kids pressed the foil to the paper, rubbing their hands along the entire sheet so as to spread the paint underneath. They created a design on the aluminum foil by “drawing” on it with a cotton swab, and then made another design on the back of the paper itself after flipping it upside down (foil touching the table, paint-less paper on top).

They found that their designs were partially transferred to the painted paper once they removed the foil.


Part of the fun of printmaking is that the results are often out of your control — even with a planned design, you never know how much is going to transfer and what it will ultimately look like. This is a wonderful lesson in art’s many inevitable “happy accidents” and compliments the moral of or “ISH” lesson very well — don’t worry about perfection, let go of that impossibility and conceive of things more “ishly.” 

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