'Junk' into sculpture

Thursday, May 30, 2002

It has often been quoted that "One man's junk is another man's treasure." But as I've proven time and time again, junk can be the perfect raw material to inspire young minds and produce the most interesting artwork and in this case sculptures.

In my many years of working with children of all ages, I find children are more creative and less inhibited when working with junk or found materials than they are with brand spanking new sets of paints or art kits.

They seem to feel more free to let their imaginations flow and experiment with the materials instead of thinking they will get in trouble if they mess up the nice new art supplies. So give them junk and let the fun and learning begin. The following ideas should get you started.

Sculpture hints for children before you begin:

* There are no limits to the size and shape junk sculptures can be. Unless it can't fit through the door!

* Have them start with a simple sculpture first using easily-accessible materials such as cardboard boxes, egg cartons, plastic bottles, Styrofoam or small wooden scraps.

* Help children choose or guide them to the best materials for their age and size.

* Instead of children's sculptures always being displayed on a pedestal, table or shelf they can also become mobiles by suspending them from the ceiling or a light fixture with fishing line or string.

* Remember that a sculpture doesn't have to be or look like anything. It can be an exploration of shapes and forms, textures, or colors in three dimensions.

* For younger children use materials that can be assembled using glue, tape, or string. Older children can also use wire, hammer and nails, or metal fasteners. Egg carton sculptures

Egg cartons are perfect for beginning sculptures. They go together easily with white glue or paper fasteners and can be as big or small as you want them to be. If children want their sculpture to stand up, suggest attaching the egg cartons to a cardboard box for support.

Encourage children to combine a variety of shapes and forms, suing scissors to cut or trim the egg cartons into an interesting structure. Because egg cartons are a lightweight material the sculpture can become a mobile by attaching string or fishing line.

Color can be added to the finished sculpture with one or two coats of tempera paint or if you are really brave and an adult is available for supervision let children use spray paint.

Plastic bottle sculptures

Very interesting abstract sculptures can be made by using one or more plastic bottles, such as milk containers, bleach bottles, catsup and mustard bottles, etc. Be sure to thoroughly clean and rinse bottles before allowing children to handle them.

Have children sketch a design on the bottle and cut it out with scissors. The inside and outside of the sculpture can be painted the same color or different colors to add interest.

Paint can be sprayed or brushed on using latex or enamel. The sculpture can be left as is, fastened to a base made of cardboard or wood, or hung by thread or wire for display.

Now get to work and think of other junk you have around the house that children could use to create sculptures.

What about thread spools, cardboard tubes from paper towels, or Styrofoam trays. The list is endless; keep exploring, collecting, and let children's imaginations run wild.