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Figurative Sculpture lesson for sixth grade


From: Judith Decker (jdecker4art_at_TeacherArtExchange)
Date: Fri Apr 23 2004 - 20:54:40 PDT

Dear Art Educators,

Here is a Great was to use up all of those scrap
ribbons, yarns and fabrics that get donated. Wrapped
wire Figures! These could be dressed to represent
cultures or simply left as moveable figures.
Dollmaker, Merrelee, does these with sixth graders.
She starts with figure contour drawings - then some
gesture drawings from life . The dolls are wire
armatures padded with batting - then wrapped.

From Merrelee:

We do contour and then gesture drawing for several
weeks. We spend one of those weeks concentrating on
what gesture drawing is. The other times we
talk about contour and proportion of the human body.
Sometimes we lay down on mural paper and see how many
"heads" are in each body part. Okay, so it starts with
figure drawing.

Then, I take gesture drawing into three dimensions. I
give the kids sculpting armature wire and then tell
them they must create a figure (not in a pose, because
once we get it proportional, we can choose the pose)
using the wire as line.....makes sublime sense to me,
doesn't it to you?

I try to squeeze a lesson based on BEN SHAHN,
brushstroke drawing and exaggeration in here somewhere
as well....just a need to balance the "being
in proportion" with the possibilities that
exaggeration offers.

AND, I show them skills like cutting and joining wire
by twisting. SO. they come up with these pretty
darned decent wire sculptures done in the gesture
form. They also have to be a little conscious of
structure and wrapping things around each other so
they are structurally sturdy.

I usually display these by hanging them around (hang
wire sculpture)

you could add smaller wire, beads, textures, fibers,
milagros, charms.......whatever.

WHAT I LIKE TO DO: put them away until closer to art
show time and have the kids wrap them with polar
fleece, batting, or wool blanket ends (there is a
good source in Oregon, I think, I have to look this
up. They can tie the fabric together as they wrap or
glue (tacky or crafters' pick) or sew.
These can then have sew heads added, hands, be dressed
if desired......

The point is that figure sculpture and dollmaking are
one in the same in so many ways.... There is a wrap
doll link on the Fabricmangler website that
shows a simpler doll made with pipecleaners and
handmade terra cotta bead heads. Student examples to

Once I play with these - I will put the lesson online.

See the Merrelee's dolls and other "Fabric Maglers":
Wire dolls:

Try this with wire for something "new" . My 8th grade
figure sculptures started with a wire armature - then
padded with newspaper and foil. They were
wrapped with plaster gauze. Jeryl's figures are
Aluminum foil wrapped with masking tape.

Judy Decker - Ohio
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