This activity is inspired by a sculpture by artist Jane Ackroyd and workshops she led in primary schools in Harlow.
Her sculpture, Cat (1983),is made from an assemblage of scraps of metal including nails (for the claws) and a girder (for the tail). The artist welded these materials together to create the sculpture. See how cleverly the artist captures the character of a real-life feline, with one paw stretching out lazily...
Instead of scraps of metal, you will be using scraps from your recycling bin to make your junk pet.
This activity has been designed for KS 1 and KS 2 / CfE Levels 1 & 2 students but could be used with older students. It would also make a fun activity for families with young children to try at home.
You will need:
materials from your recycling bin such as cardboard boxes, egg cartons, paper, plastic bottles and tubs, yoghurt pots and bottle tops
sticky tape and glue for fastening materials together
paint and paint brushes and/or crayons for decorating your pet
pencil or charcoal and paper (for drawing your ideas)
optional: googly eyes, paper plates, string, wool, pipe cleaners
Sep 1. Look closer at Cat (1983)
Look at a picture of Jane Ackroyd's sculpture Cat. If you are in a classroom, look at it as a group. What are your thoughts about the sculpture?
Think of three words to describe it.
What do you think it is made from?
Do the shapes and textures remind you of anything?
What sort of character do you think this cat is? (Lazy, lively, funny, naughty?)
If this was your pet cat, what would you call it?
Step 2. Explore more artworks and animals and choose your pet
Look at more animals as inspiration and decide what sort of junk pet you would like to make. It doesn't have to be a usual sort of pet like a cat or a dog or a hamster – it can be anything!
Is there a pet you have always dreamed of?
Think about animals in your favourite books, comics or games. Or find animals in art to inspire you.
Browse the carousel of artworks below or search Art UK by typing an animal into the search box.
Serpent (Last Night I Had a Dream) 1968
Niki de Saint Phalle (1930–2002)
Janya the Little Elephant 2010
Annette Yarrow (b.1932)
Monument to a Mouse 2010
Kenny Hunter (b.1962)
Rabbits 19th C
Huddle of Sheep 1994–c.2009
Step 3. Draw your pet
Have a go at drawing your dream pet. Draw an animal from an artwork, photograph or picture. Or if you already have a dream pet at home you could draw that. You could also draw a pet from your imagination.
Think about the shape of its body and head.
Does it have a tail, or a shell, or fur or a mane… or lots of legs!
Does it have any patterns or colours on its body?
Use pencil, crayons or charcoal. What marks, lines and smudges can you make?
Drawing variations and development
Try reducing your animal to simple shapes. This will help when you make your 3D version.
Try drawing your animal sleeping, alert, stretched out, angry, contented, and playful. Does this give you more ideas for how your pet could look?
Tip: You could create a fantasy animal by putting two different animals together. What would a cat-ephant look like… or a cat-erpillar?!
Step 4. Make your pet
Look at your drawing and then look at the shapes of your recycled materials.
Are there any objects that would make a good body shape?
Are there any objects that could be a long nose?
What do your animal's legs look like? Have you got any long thin objects? (Or short fat objects!)
Use tape, string, glue or a stapler to attach your objects and materials together.
Making an animal from recycled materials
A mixed media animal made from recycled materials
Making a creature from junk
Step 5. Add finishing touches
Now that your animal is taking shape, think about its details, surface patterns and textures.
Could ripped-up or crumpled paper look like fur?
What objects could you use for eyes?
What could you use for whiskers?
What about scales or teeth?
Add your details with materials or paint.
Development idea: Animal adventures
Cat may look rather lazy but it has an exciting story to tell.
The sculpture was stolen from the library where it was kept and the thieves sprayed it with gold paint! Luckily, Cat was found, returned to its proper colour, and feels much more like its old self. It has a new home now in a gallery, so the story has a happy ending.
What sort of adventures might your pet get up to? Can you write a story all about them?