Lesson Ideas: Figurative Sculpture - Dollmaking - Wrapped Dolls

Figurative Sculpture - Dollmaking

Submitted by: Jeryl Hollingsworth La France Elementary School South Carolina

Foil People Sculpture - A Study of World Cultures

Dolls Around the World - Figurative Sculpture
This is the start of an ideas page to get students thinking about Global Issues and Multicultural Studies
Wire/Foil Fiber Wrapped dolls below
Plaster Gauze Figures


From Jeryl: One of my 4th grade students' favorites involves the people you make out of tinfoil. But then we go on and wrap the whole person with masking tape, paint with Acrylic Paint. and dress, add hair, props etc.. They are mounted on scrap mat board with more details. When our theme was sports, they added balls and nets, etc... or drew the playing field. Last year when our theme was Around the World - we had some hilarious Sumo wrestlers, hula dancers, African tribal warriors etc.


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Click to see larger image - beautiful details!




Actually this project comes from a unit on Jacob Lawrence (African American artist) that our 4th graders read about in Language Arts in their classroom. He used a lot of images of people in action in cities. My art unit ties in with portraying people. We do comparing /contrasting of several of Lawrence's' paintings with lots of people in action. I even have the kids march around the room to Sousa's march and have them freeze and look around at  how other people are standing as they are marching. We do a drawing/painting /cutting project based on Lawrence's painting  "Parade" That whole thing takes many class times. One other part of that lesson is teaching them how to do gesture drawings (quick sketches of people in action) I have one kid stand on a table and we all have 30 seconds to sketch him., Then another kid poses and we do him in 30 seconds.   Keep going as time allows changing marker colors each time. You end up with a page of people-its cool. Then after all this we start the foil people which is a natural extension of learning to portray the human figure. When they make the foil people we take some time to pose them and do gesture drawings of them. Then we go on and tape them, paint them, etc.


See Handout - You take a rectangle of foil.  Imagine it in thirds - make two cuts 1/3 of the way down . The cuts should be 1//3 of the way in and 2/3 of the way in.  From the bottom make one cut 1/3 of the way up -make the cut in the middle.  When you make the top cuts it will be the arms on either side and the head in the middle. The bottom cut will make the two legs. You gently gather the foil in the middle -its like holding the person by the waist. Gently crumple the foil to make the arms and head and legs. The trick is to get them to do it gently-if they scrunch it up the people will be tiny. I usually tear the foil about a foot long and their people end up being about 5-6 inches big. I keep some small pieces handy to do repair surgery - like attaching arms they have pinched to pieces. I sometimes just do the foil people and then they pose them to draw in their Sketchbooks. -- Like standing next to a glue bottle with their arm around it, or sitting on the edge of the table. The next step to wrap them in masking tape. (An alternative would be to wrap with small pieces of plaster gauze -- for plaster addition) See more examples below.

Alternative Lesson: Native American Dolls

Native American Dolls - Smithsonian Lesson Plan

The lesson is 28 pages and has many images - so it takes a very long time to download. Lesson presents "the perspectives and experiences of Native doll makers describing how their work is keeping old traditions and developing new ones. These Native voices encourage students to
examine dolls from the collections of the museum and to connect them to the diverse cultures, communities, and environments."

Students would them follow up with a dollmaking activity (corn husk, cloth, wire, paper mache - Sculpy - foil - whatever you have on hand).


Fashion Unit From Barbara Yalof (for fifth grade):

The dressed foil dolls are going down the runway. Barbara slit a snake like path in the foam core "floor" so the dolls can move along the runway attached by a stick.

Plaster Gauze Figures From Mary Jane Hadley

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Mary Jane began this unit with aluminum foil figures. Once the students had their pose, they covered with small pieces of plaster gauze. Figures were finished with tissue paper and gloss medium. It is best to use bleed resistant tissue paper. Props were made to add to the figures. Figures and props were glued to painted wood bases. For a more secure mount, a hole (approximately 1/8" - whatever size wire you are using) can be drilled into the leg and wood base (or arm as in the second example) and a wire inserted before gluing (pieces of coat hanger wire works for this step). Mary Jane used a nail (with head cut off) to support some of the figures. These could also be begun with a wire armature - then padded with foil.


Susan from Long Island has done a similar lesson - with added student photograph for face (self portraits). Susan begins her unit with pipe cleaner wire armatures - then pads with aluminum foil. Any easy to bend wire can be used for armatures. The face is kept flat to ease gluing of photograph. Susan also used tissue paper and gloss medium for the finish.


Here are some resources to get your started:

Africa Direct: Beautiful dolls from Africa. Bead Zulu and Ndebele dolls and more.

Kanika African Sculpture [Archive] - See African inspired dolls/figurative sculptures by Kanika Marshall. Ceramic figures with authentic African style costume.

Dan Fletcher - Oriental Dolls - made with Japanese handmade papers (Washi) and Paper Clay..

Fusako Yatsuka - Traditional Japanese Washi dolls - See Room 2 for higher resolution images.

World Photographs: Travel Photos of Galen R. Frysinger See the people and places Galen has visited. Admire the beauty in all of these world cultures.

World Cultures [Archive] - Summaries of cultures around the world. Written by students. Resources are given. E-Museum Minnesota State University (Archive - This museum is now closed)

Dolls of India -International Collection Lots of good information about India and Indian culture, too.

Native American and Ethnic Dolls - wood, corn hush - cloth - from Hands Around the World (commercial site)

Links to Dolls Collected from Around the World (Note: this is a Tripod site and may be blocked by school serves. Browse at your leisure. Compiled by Elizabeth Carter Christian.

Ethnic Dolls from Around the World (Tripod site and may be blocked on school servers)

Ethnic Dolls- from About.com (some links are broken - browse at your leisure).

Doll Photographs - (Archive) but no cultural information given - William Coupon's Collection.

Art and Life of Africa - Mossi Dolls pdfNdebele Beaded dolls

Brief Outline of Dolls from Yokohama Doll Museum of World Dolls. See some dolls from the Collection at the Japan Toy Museum (scroll down)

Brief History - What is a Doll and how long have dolls been around.

Doll as Art and Brief History of Dolls and Dollmaking from M.C. Dupont


Book: Cornhusk, Silk, and Wishbones : A Book of Dolls From Around the World. by Michelle Markell (Author)
A Book of Dolls from Around the World by Michelle Markel. Illustrated with photos, the A-Z entries run from Akuaba dolls (carried by Ashanti women who need help conceiving) to a Zulu doll (handed by a girl to the boy she hopes to marry).

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In previous years, Jeryl has done Christmas theme - elves and angels and such - Student also enjoyed sports figures. Show above are a couple of foil people hanging out in the art room. Students posed them and made drawings. This year (2004), Jeryl's fourth graders made circus performers. See acrobat and ring girl.


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See a Middle School Lesson: Create a Culture - by Michal Austin [Archive]


doll sculpture Submitted by: Cindi Hiers
Foil Gesture Sculpture - Wire Armature
Grade level:
Middle school-through high school


Create Gesture sculpture using wire - cover with aluminum foil, Create environment, Must have a story. The lesson starts with gesture drawings from life models (usually from PE). Twist wire reflecting inner energy and make the gesture drawing a formed image. Wrapped in foil and painted with white latex. The students were then to create an environment (which made them think about which gesture drawing they would choose to recreate) and a story about their piece.


Submitted by: Merrilee Gladkosky, Connecticut Doll-maker
Fiber Arts - Figurative Sculpture
Fiber Wrapped Dolls - Gesture Drawing
Grade Level:
Upper elementary through high school


Adapt Pun Hui Falkenhainer's wrapped process for paper (Archive) as a guide to the fiber wrapped dolls. (permission has been granted)


Objectives: Students will

  • Explore in theme in multiple media (drawings to sculpture)

  • Gain appreciation for fiber arts and dollmaking

  • Study figure proportion

  • Create figurative sculpture with mood/feeling though colors and pose


Drawing Paper. - Drawing Pencils. - Crow Quill Pens. and India ink. (your choice for drawing) Twisteez Wire. - Aluminum Foil - pliers - hot glue -
Tacky glue - Masking Tape.
Yarn Assortment. - ribbons - beads - Feather Assortment. - scrap fabric - lace - embroidery floss

See Carol Duval Show List* (Archive)


Procedures from Merrilee:

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)

NEXT STEP: 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 (Note: This site isn't online and the archive is incomplete. I notice that several doll artists on that site now have their own websites. You can find websites online for Barbara Graff, Bill Gordon, Merrilee Gladkosky, and Mary Hurlburt - Ken Rohrer) that shows a simpler doll made with pipe-cleaners and handmade terra cotta bead heads. Student examples to come...

Wrapped Dolls from Carol Duvall Show - by Susanna Oroyan*

*NOTE: Teachers, use the Carol Duval Show (HGTV) idea at your own risk. Terms of use on their site does not permit in class use - only for in home use. Carol Duval Show has not authorized this link. I believe that linking it here is my Fair Use, but will be removed at their request.



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