Sculpture Hats: Art with a Twist! (February 2013)

DSCF3339Fasching (Carnival) is celebrated throughout Austria during the period between Epiphany and the beginning of Lent on Ash Wednesday. The last week of Fasching is the climax of the celebrations – a time for revelry and silliness, music and dancing, masked balls and costume parties. In Viennese kindergartens there is always a Faschingsfest (Carnival Party) when the children come in fancy dress, play party games and eat Krapfen, an Austrian-style doughnut filled with apricot jam.

To mark this special time of year my Art Clubbers, aged between three and six, enjoyed an art project full of the fun of Fasching, creating crazy, colourful carnival sculptures with a twist!

The challenge was to transform flat strips of coloured paper into three-dimensional sculptural forms by folding, curling and twisting, and then building upwards and outwards. As a base for the sculptures, I gave each child a paper plate which I had threaded with a length of wool (more on this later), turned upside down and covered with a disc of black card to disguise the wool and provide contrast to the brightly coloured paper.

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Before letting them loose with paper and glue, I showed the children a few paper-folding and curling techniques. They folded the paper backwards and forwards to produce zigzags, and learned how to make star shapes by looping a zigzag strip and fixing the ends together.


The older children (aged 4-6) loved making paper springs from two paper strips in contrasting colours. The strips are glued or stapled together at one end, making a right angle, and then crease-folded over each other, in turn, until the paper runs out. The last flap can then be fixed to prevent the braid-like paper spring from unravelling.

The children also made loops, arches and twists by fixing one end to the base, and manipulating the strip in different ways before gluing the other end down. I encouraged them to allow some of the sculptural elements to cascade over the sides of their paper plate base.

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This project really challenges the dexterity and spatial awareness skills of young children. Even fixing the paper is tricky, as it requires a sparing application of glue, so as not to weight down or buckle the paper forms, and the patience to hold the surfaces together for a few moments until the glue holds firm. Most three year olds have not yet gained the coordination skills required to perform some of the more complex folding techniques – zigzags and paper springs – and I was on hand with a stapler to help my youngest students to fix their paper loops so they could focus on gluing them onto their sculptures. However, the children in my older group (aged 4-6) were able to construct their artworks with little or no input from me, and came up with some really elaborate compositions!

Then the surprise… when the sculptures were complete, I revealed the purpose of the strings fixed to the underside of the base – to turn them into hats!

Wearable art perfect for a carnival party!


Art History Link

While planning this project it occurred to me that the folded, three-dimensional forms created by folding paper are reminiscent of the sheet metal sculptures of British artist, David Annesley (b. 1936). He was one of a group of artists referred to as the ‘New Generation’, who revolutionised abstract sculpture in the sixties and seventies.

Swing Low 1964 by David Annesley born 1936
David Annesley, Swing Low, 1964
NAC New Generation exh
David Annesley sculptures

Annesley experimented with cut and welded steel to create geometrical sculptures painted in bright, acrylic colours which give a sense of energy, movement, and weightlessness that belies the sculptures’ heavy, industrial materials.

This project would be a great starting point for learning about the principles and elements of abstract sculpture.

David Annesley, Orinoco, 1965

Please see my earlier post, Futurist Sculpture from Folded Paper (September 2010) for a similar project with Futurism links.


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