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Sculpt with paper

This activity introduces several techniques for folding and cutting paper to create 3D and 2D artworks. They are based on a workshop led by artist Anna Shirron, who creates large scale paper cut installations. Many artists have explored the potential of paper as not only a surface to draw on, but also a creative medium that can be manipulated to achieve a variety of effects.

Materials

Each student will need:

  • a variety of papers and light card. A mix of colours is ideal. Consider reusing paper that has been printed or drawn on – the layering of different patterns and textures of paper can create surprising effects
  • a ruler
  • a pair of scissors
  • a pencil or pen

Techniques

2D paper weaving

Students weaving paper

Students weaving paper

  • Fold a piece of paper or card in half.
  • With a ruler, mark out even spaces across the folded edge of the page and draw lines at each one. Leave a space of about 1.5 cm at the other edge.
  • While the paper is still folded, cut along each line up to the 1.5 cm space.
  • Unfold the paper: this is your paper loom.
  • Cut strips of paper the width of an A4 piece of paper. Don't worry about them being perfectly straight; experiment with curved or angular cuts.
  • Weave the strips through your paper loom to create your own colourful tartans and unusual collages. This is particularly effective if you're using paper with images or patterns printed on it.

Examples of paper weaving

Examples of paper weaving

3D paper cuts

A student with her paper-cut work

A student with her paper-cut work

Thicker paper or card is more effective for this activity, so the structures have more support.

  • Fold the paper or card in half.
  • Mark out lines as before, but this time mark out smaller gaps between your lines, only mark out the middle 50% of the page and only cut about halfway along from the folded edge.
  • Unfold the paper or card and individually push each strip out from the fold to help it pop out in the opposite direction.
  • Experiment with different line lengths to achieve different effects.
  • You can also fold the paper in half and mark and cut your lines on the diagonal, which will create a chevron pattern when you unfold and push the cut sections through.

More paper-cut work

More paper-cut work

Once you have practiced this technique, you can experiment with folding your cut sections, overlapping them, and/or rolling or refolding your cut and folded paper, as well as adding cut paper shapes or paper chains.

A 3D sculpture made from paper-cuts!

A 3D sculpture made from paper-cuts!


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