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Crystal fantasy sculptures.

My Environmental Arts class discovered a great way to apply a common science experiment to sculpture. While working on a unit which explored nature's shapes and forms, we decided to create fantastical sculptures out of crystals.

We began with a 3" (8 cm) ball of white sculpture clay. The assignment was simple: The students were to build a fantasy environment upon which to grow their crystals. The students' works ranged from lunar landscapes to animal forms; from biomorphic to non-representational. After these environments were dried and bisque fired, they were placed on a plastic tray. A solution of water, ammonia, salt and blueing was poured over the sculptures. The remaining solution was allowed to cover the bottom of the tray. Next, we added a few drops of food coloring and the tray was set aside for drying. The next day the porous sculptures had soaked up the solution and the evaporation of the liquids had left a fine growth of crystals on the sculptures. The crystals continued to grow for the next four days.

To show the sculptures off, they were put on display. Crystals are extremely fragile and the sculptures were moved with great care. To make it easier for the students to take them home, we removed the crystals with a small brush and extra solution was sent home with each student where the crystal fantasy sculptures are growing again.


1 cup water 1 cup table salt 1 cup household ammonia 2 oz. liquid blueing food coloring

Combine first four ingredients. Stir until all the salt is dissolved. Pour the mixture over fired clay sculptures. Color with food coloring. Display the completed project in a glass display case as the temptation to touch the delicate crystals will be irresistible!

James Brakken teaches art at New Auburn High School, New Auburn, Wisconsin.
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Author:Brakken, James
Publication:School Arts
Date:Nov 1, 1991
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