Inspired Innovation

Lesson Plan


Let’s get creative and innovative as we discover a modern take on Pueblo style American Indian pottery through Tony Jojola’s Untitled (Kilt Series 06). After investigating Jojola’s jar, students will create their own window art inspired by Jojola’s unique blend of old and new.

Intended Age Group

Elementary (grades K-5)

Length of Lesson

One 50 minute lesson

Standards Area

Visual Arts


Students will be able to:

  • define the meaning of the term innovate/innovation;
  • identify how Tony Jojola’s piece is innovative;
  • create glass-like window art that blends old and new influences; and
  • identify influences that shape an artist’s work.


Warm-up: Display the image of Untitled (Kilt Series 06) and invite students to look carefully and share what they observe. Ask: What do you notice? What colors do you see? What material do you think the artist used to make this? What words would you use to describe this piece? What do you think is most interesting about this piece?

  1. Share with students that this piece was created by an artist named Tony Jojola who grew up in the Isleta Pueblo in New Mexico and watched his father and grandfather work as silversmiths and his grandmother work as a potter. While the piece is in the shape of a traditional Isleta jar, it is not made of clay; rather it’s made of glass accented with red speckled beads and silver dust. This unique blend of traditional elements with a new twist is what makes Tony Jojola an innovative artist. Explain that innovation happens when one blends a new idea with an already existing idea. An innovation creates something new that didn’t exist before. Ask: When you think about this piece of artwork, what is old about it? What is new about it? How did the artist combine old and new to make something innovative?
  2. Invite students to try their own innovative twist on pottery by creating a window hanging inspired by Tony Jojola’s glass jar. Provide students with bright tissue paper shapes, magazines to cut up, and scissors. Ask them to create a blend of colors, shapes and images that reminds them of people in their family and of themselves. Have students assemble their design on the table in front of them and then notify you when they’re ready to preserve their design with the contact paper.
  3. When students feel their design is finished, place the sticky side of the clear contact paper on the student’s design to affix the scraps of tissue paper and magazine clippings to the contact paper. Next, use a second piece of clear contact paper to seal the other side of the student’s artwork. Have students use scissors to trim the contact paper into a jar or pot shape and use a hole punch to create a hole for hanging in the top.
  4. Wrap up the project by asking students to look at the artwork they’ve just created. Ask: How did you combine old and new in your project to create something unique? How did you show the influence of your family in your artwork? Which parts do you feel are uniquely you?


  • Large piece of chart paper and markers or (interactive) whiteboard on which to record students’ ideas as a class
  • Clear contact paper
  • Tissue paper squares/shapes
  • Old magazines, newspapers
  • Scissors
  • About the Art section on Untitled (Kilt Series 06) (included with the lesson plan) or student access to this part of Creativity Resource online
  • One color copy of the artwork for every four students, or the ability to project the image onto a wall or screen


CO Standards

  • Visual Arts
    • Invent and Discover to Create
    • Observe and Learn to Comprehend
    • Relate and Connect to Transfer
    • Envision and Critique to Reflect
  • Language Arts
    • Oral Expression and Listening

21st Century Skills

  • Critical Thinking & Reasoning
  • Information Literacy
  • Invention
  • Self-Direction

About the Art

Untitled (Kilt Series 06)

Untitled (Kilt Series 06)


Tony Jojola

Who Made It?

Tony Jojola (Ho-ho-la) is one of the most innovative glass artists in the United States. He was born in Isleta Pueblo in New Mexico in 1958 and grew up surrounded by artists. His grandfather and father were silversmiths and his grandmother was a potter. Jojola first learned glassblowing techniques at the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, and then studied with internationally renowned glass artist Dale Chihuly at Pilchuck Glass School. After achieving career success, Jojola founded the Taos Glass Arts and Education program, which teaches young people how to express themselves in glass.

As more Pueblo artists learn to work in glass, the question of what is “traditional” comes up. Jojola looks at it this way: “Lots of people think silver is a traditional Native American medium, but it wasn’t in the beginning.”

What Inspired It?

Jojola’s family and cultural background have significantly influenced his work. He learned pottery making from his grandmother and continues to shape traditional forms, using glass instead of clay. “I feel that glass relates to clay very strongly,” he says. “To me, glass is like clay you can’t touch.” Jojola also honors his family by using his grandfather’s silver jewelry stamps on some of his glass vessels.

Jojola's time at the Pilchuck Glass School and exposure to artists like Vincent van Gogh also play a pivotal role in the work he creates. “I continue to rely on my culture for inspiration, but I want to be known as a contemporary artist, an innovator,” Jojola says.



The shape of Untitled (Kilt Series 06) is reminiscent of the form of traditional Isleta Pueblo jars, such as the one shown in this image here.


Jojola is known for his use of bright, distinctive colors, like this lime green with accents of red and black. “I love color, I love Van Gogh, but those paintings are not what inspired me. The colors I love are the ones we have in the world of New Mexico,” he says.

Red and Black Lines
Red and Black Lines

Working from drawings, Jojola applies colored threads of glass with a hot torch while an assistant holds the piece steady. Jojola employs several skilled assistants because the glassblowing process requires him to move quickly and leaves little room for error.

Sparkly Surface
Sparkly Surface

Jojola rolls or dips the glass in silver dust to create a sparkly surface.

The Red Beads
The Red Beads

Jojola used Hubbell beads, originally sold at the Hubbell Trading Post in the late 1880s and 1890s, to embellish this vessel. The owner and founder of the trading post most likely bought the beads from Czech beadmakers and resold them to American Indian artists. We can assume that Jojola bought or collected these beads to use in his art.

Funding for lesson plans provided by a grant from the Morgridge Family Foundation. Additional funding provided by the William Randolph Hearst Endowment for Education Programs, and Xcel Energy Foundation. We thank our colleagues at the University of Denver Morgridge College of Education.