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About this activity

For this activity, you will make a sculpture using discarded materials.

Noticing and collecting debris and scrap and recycling them can be a great way to combat and comment on waste.

A wire hybrid creature by Fiona Campbell

A wire hybrid creature by Fiona Campbell

The inspiration for this activity is the sculpture Chameleon by artist Fiona CampbellChameleon began as a community project, in which participants helped to decorate a scrap steel structure with recycled bottle tops and buttons. The sculpture was sited at Stourhead, a National Trust property in Wiltshire.

Chameleon

Chameleon

2011, reclaimed steel, copper wire, bottle tops, buttons & beads by Fiona Campbell (b.1962)

This activity is suitable for Key Stage 2 & 3 (CfE level 2, 3 & 4; PS3) students who are confident using tools safely. Adult guidance and supervision is recommended for younger learners when selecting and using tools.

Found objects and materials

Many artists have used found objects in their work, including Pablo PicassoKurt SchwittersPeter Blake and Robert Rauschenberg.

Love

Love 2007

Peter Blake (b.1932)

Pallant House Gallery

When found objects are used or attached together to make an artwork, this is known as assemblage.

In the 1910s Picasso experimented with assemblage, creating three-dimensional artworks from wire, metal, scrap material and found objects. Later, in the 1950s and 1960s, Robert Rauschenberg used found objects to make what he described as anti-aesthetic sculptures. Many contemporary artists, including Fiona Campbell, continue to use found materials as a source of inspiration.

Find out more about found objects in art in this Art UK Curation:

Materials

  • Pencil and paper or sketchbook
  • Long-nosed pliers or cutters (optional, but these help with cutting and twisting wire)
  • Hammer and nail or drawing pin
  • Blu Tack (recycled if possible)
  • A small branch, stick or dried root
  • As much of the following unwanted, recycled materials as you can find:
    • Wire, thick and thin (such as copper and aluminium wire stripped from old cables)
    • Scrap components (small springs, colourful bottle tops, beads, buttons, washers, small keys, toys and other interesting objects with small holes)
    • Twine, string, or coloured wool

 

Method

Step 1. Collect your materials

Part of the fun of this activity is gathering objects to use in your artwork! Collect materials, especially recycled and found objects.

Material examples

Material examples

  • Find a small branch or root to use as the body of your creature.
  • You will also need wire to create your creature's head.
  • You could also look for buttons, bottle tops, beads, old keys, small toys ... objects with holes in them are great as you can easily attach them to your sculpture.
  • Find some old twine, string or wool.

Think of how you can transform these materials into a creature.

Step 2. Design your creature.

Decide what sort of head your creature will have. It might help to sketch some ideas and choose the one you like best. Have a look at animals and mythical creatures on Art UK for inspiration. Try typing an animal into the search box:

Make a template to scale of your design. Keep it simple and just draw the basic outlines. Make sure each line touches at least one other.

Template, creature head

Template, creature head

Step 3. Shape your wire

Add pea-sized pieces of Blu Tack around the main outline of your design. Then use thick wire to trace around the outline. Leave 1–2 cm of wire sticking up at each end so you can attach more wire if necessary. 

Tracing with wire

Tracing with wire

To join wires, cross the ends over, bring them underneath and over and wrap one around the other. Squeeze tightly with pliers if you have some. Wire can be easily manipulated with your fingers to reshape it.

An example of joined wires

An example of joined wires

Step 4. Create your 3D head structure

You will need to create a 'cage' effect so the wires become a woven, three-dimensional form. You can use thinner wire if it's easier.

Use pliers or fingers to help twist the wire around and squeeze the ends together tightly. Each time a wire reaches another, wrap it over and under at least once to secure it.

Woven three-dimensional form

Woven three-dimensional form

Think about how you will be attaching your wire head to your found branch/stick. You'll need to create an opening at one end that fits over your branch or stick. Make sure your different parts are the right size.

Woven three-dimensional form attached to a branch

Woven three-dimensional form attached to a branch

Step 5: Add details and decorate your head

Finished three-dimensional form

Finished three-dimensional form

  • Wrap twine or wool around the wire to make it more colourful. Get someone to hold your twine taut while you wrap (watch out for your eyes!).
  • For your creature's eyes, you could use large beads, buttons or bottle tops with buttons layered over them, so they look like real eyes with a pupil. Make 1 or 2 small holes in your bottle tops with your hammer and nail. Thread thin wire through the holes and attach them to the head of your creature.
  • Add antennae, tentacles, and a mouth or a tail using zig zags or spirals of wire. Use springs or make spirals by wrapping wire around a pencil (not too tightly) and pulling it off. Zig-zags can be made by bending the wire at a sharp angle – first one way then the other – up and down.
  • For more decoration, add more bottle tops, buttons and beads by threading thin wire or wool through the holes to attach them. You could also attach small keys, toys or anything else you have gathered.

Hybrid creature made from found objects

Hybrid creature made from found objects

Step 6: Fix your decorated head onto the branch body

Attach your decorated head to your branch or root body to create your hybrid creature. Use pliers to tighten the wire of the head opening to hold it in place.

A wire hybrid creature by Fiona Campbell

A wire hybrid creature by Fiona Campbell

Development idea: take your creature on an adventure!

Fiona Campbell's sculptureChameleonwas sited on a fallen tree overlooking the lake in the grounds of Stourhead. Think about locations where you could place your creature for maximum impact! 

Chameleon

Chameleon

2011, reclaimed steel, copper wire, bottle tops, buttons & beads by Fiona Campbell (b.1962)

Take it on an adventure. Photograph it in outdoor settings such as peeping out from under a plant or wandering up a path. You could create a story about your creature and use the photographs to tell the story and add text boxes and speech bubbles to make your story come alive!

More wire creatures

Explore more artwork creatures made from wire and recycled or found materials and find inspiration for your next wire sculpture project.


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