Lesson #1: Creating a paper sculpture inspired by natural forms

Part of the unit: Creating a Standing Mobile |


How has the natural world influenced artists?
Students will be able to:
Identify common characteristics in the sculptures of Arp, Brancusi, Chihuly, and Calder
Use art vocabulary to describe what they see
Create a standing biomorphic sculpture using strips of heavy paper
Students will understand that:
The sculptures of Arp, Brancusi, Chihuly, and Calder are inspired by nature and echo the biomorphic forms found in the natural world.
Sculpture-in-the-round is meant to be seen from all sides.
Flat pieces of paper can be cut, scored, and twisted to create a three-dimensional standing sculpture.

2 sheets of white 9x12 construction (or card stock) paper for each student, scissors, staplers


Reproductions or digital images of sculptures by Jean Arp (Untitled Forest; The Star), Brancusi (Mademoiselle Pogany), Dale Chihuly, and Alexander Calder (Big Bird; Morning Star; The Big Ear; Much Pierced; Flamingo)


Display or project images of sculptures by Arp, Brancusi, Chihuly, and Calder.  Elicit and record student responses on the chalkboard.  Be sure to write and define new art terms.

  • Were these artworks made by the same artist?  Explain.
  • In what century do you think they were made?  What are the clues?
  • How are these artworks different? 
  • How are they similar?

Write the titles of the sculptures on the board.

  • What do these titles have in common?
  • The forms and shapes used by these sculptors are called biomorphic or organic.  What do these terms mean?
  • Why do you think these artists chose to abstract these images?

We will begin our unit by creating a sculpture inspired by forms found in nature.  Your sculpture will be made by cutting long rectangular strips from two sheets of 9x12 white construction paper or card stock and combining at least 6 of the strips. Your sculpture should:

  • stand
  • be interesting to look at from all sides
  • contain negative spaces
  • relate to the natural world



The teacher will use two paper strips of different lengths and sizes to demonstrate a variety of ways to create a three-dimensional form.  Techniques could include cutting slots to fit one strip into another, creating circles by stapling the ends, curling and twisting.

Distribute 2 sheets of 9x12 white construction paper (or card stock) paper to each student and place scissors and staplers on each table.  Remind students that they need to use at least six strips of paper to create a sculpture that stands. 

Direct the students to place their work on one large table and to gather for a discussion. 

Invite students to select one sculpture:

  • Tell us why the sculpture appeals to you. 
  • What techniques were employed in the construction of the piece? 
  • What title would you give this piece? 


Bring in a photograph of an object from nature such as a shell, animal, plant, or sea-life.