Water bottles turned into beautiful chandeliers handmade by Flint toddlers

October 28, 2019

FLINT, Mich. – When thinking about Flint what comes to mind? Diana Hensley decided to make you think positive and she worked with Flint toddlers to help create beautiful water bottle chandeliers. We talked with Hensley to uncover the inspiration behind the pieces of art and how she got started. 

Tell us a little about yourself: 

I have worked in the field with infants and toddlers for 30 years with my focus on children ages birth to three years. I obtained my master's degree in Early Childhood Education from the University of Michigan-Flint. Most of my career I have been spent in Flint working with our youngest kids.

I am a former board member of Greater Flint AEYC for 11 years, providing Educational Credential Evaluators (ECE) to workshops and conferences to teachers in Genesee County. I have presented seminars sessions at conferences for several years on infant and toddler care and teamwork around the state of Michigan.

How did you get started working with kids?  

I started babysitting when I was 12-years-old. When I started school at Mott Community College in 1990, I entered the field of early childhood education. I followed my passion for caring for young children.

How did you come up with the idea of making the water bottle chandeliers?  

As a teacher-caregiver at the child development center on campus at UM-Flint, I was asked to create a piece of artwork that could hang in the window at the Flint Farmers Market. I began researching ideas of art that could be made out of water bottles. The Flint water crisis had just been declared, and cases of water were being delivered. There was an overabundance of materials. I knew other people made art out of water bottles. So this is what I researched. Then I came across blown glass artist Dale Chihuly, and I saw his chandeliers. I knew then that my Flint toddlers were capable and competent to create something similar.

What is your favorite part about making these water bottle chandeliers with the kids? 

My favorite part is watching the children take an interest in the art process. They use eye-hand coordination to squeeze the paint into the water bottles, and they enjoy shaking the bottles, which distributes the color on the inside of the bottle. Lastly, seeing their sustained interest when they see the finished product, and they are captivated by the sound that the chandeliers make when.

Anything else you'd like to sure? 

The story of Flint toddlers turning tragedy into beauty is inspiring to everyone.  In my experience, children often get a spark in their eyes when they see something beautiful or fascinating. A spark sometimes not seen as much in adults. I see that same excitement in the eyes of adults when they see the chandeliers and then again when they hear the story. This spark came at a very dark time for the residents of the city of Flint. Every chandelier that was created had meaning. Every drop of paint was used, and nothing went to waste. Reuse, recycle and repurpose are essential components to teach any human at any age. We can't take anything for granted — not even access to freshwater.



Flint children turn water bottles into a special gift for Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha