Art Lesson Plan: Plastic Tape Figure Casts

Plastic Tape Figure Casts

Submitted by: Kris Holsen, Studio Academy High School, Rochester, MN
UNIT: Figurative Sculpture
Lesson: Clear Plastic Tape figure casting (From Arts & Activities May 5, 2005.)
Grade Level: High School (Adaptable to middle school)

Lesson idea credited to Mark Jenkins - Click on the images for full size.


Lesson Summary:

Kris tried the plastic tape figure sculptures from Arts and Activities.

Kris found a tape source from a colleague whose husband works at a packaging plant and they replace the tape rolls when they get an inch or so of tape left so as not to stop the production line. That is a lot of tape left over (they were throwing them away - check local factories/ packaging plants in your area ). You can also buy the tape bulk..

The basic technique is to wrap the first layer sticky side out and the next 1 or 2 sticky side in. You can even do faces if you leave the nostrils free. Saran wrap is a good base for "corners."

Her kids put lights in them, filled them with things, dressed them, hung them - they are "wow!"

Note: a teacher at Shawnee High School, Lima, Ohio did a similar lesson with his students using more Saran wrap. than tape. The figures were surprisingly strong.


tape figure tape figure

tape figure      tape figure


Above Left: A torso supported by 4 hands with a 5th hand sulking in the corner - Above Right: A full body painted with day glow and under black light.

See finished figure | Here is another example of partial figure casts | Click on the images for full size


sample imageResources:

"Stuck on sculpture". by Robert Hunger May 2005 issue of Arts and Activities. Magazine

Mark Jenkins Sculptures D. C. - based street artist | Making tape casts of objects is a trick he figured out when he was a kid. Use caution having students browse Mark's site (I did find something inappropriate)

Tape Sculpture Tutorial by Mark Jenkins (See note below)


Suggestions from Cynthia McCarthy

All you really need to know is to start wrapping an object or body part with the sticky side up. Then continue wrapping with the sticky side down for about 4 or 5 layers. Depending on the object being wrapped, you will need to slit the tape in order to remove it and then tape up the slit and - Voila!

I found lots of examples by just Googling "Packing Tape sculpture"

I think there are a lot of creative possibilities with this relatively inexpensive medium. The whole body took only about 4 rolls of dollar store quality tape and was worked on by 3 students.


Suggestions from Catherine Sherwood

I would definitely stay away from X-actos for cut off. We used small Scissors., they need to be good at the tips though. My kids did some cutting, but were much more comfortable with me doing that step and that was fine with me.

I don't think pantyhose are necessary over the face, but could be a good way to keep hair from getting tangled in tape. The scarf I used {over the hair] was lightweight fabric and we tied it in a knot at the nape of the neck, which was kind of in the way at one point.


AP Studio Suggestion from Susan Evans


tape figure tape figure

In my AP class this summer, we did an opening project that I used in my class the 2nd week of school.

We divided the class into teams of 5 or 6, and they constructed life-size figures from clear packing tape.. Every member of the team was used both as wrapper (sculptor) and as the model. The students wrapped tape around different parts of their bodies to create the shape. Each part is cut off, the cut repaired and then assembled to create our plastic people. The trick on wrapping is to wrap the first layer sticky side up. The remaining layers go down; therefore no part of the figure is sticky. The figures can be filled with light weight materials such as Shipping Packing Peanuts, ping-pong balls or even ribbons or Feather Assortment.. I personally like them transparent. It might even be fun to powder the inside and put a light on them to use as a model for a drawing project. Note: Students could collage the inside before taping back together.

The purpose is to get the students to think outside the box regarding materials, to work as a team to problem solve, and to begin to think in regards to form and 3 dimensions rather than in just 2 dimensions.

See more examples on Michal Austin's Art Kids site (Archive)

See "The Thinker" by Kris Fontes' students, Union City High School, PA.

Submitted by: Laurie Reber

Packing Tape Sculpture


Because this is a group project, you are all responsible to each other. You must be reliable and conscientious in order to complete this project. There are several things you must do before the sculpture is begun.


Please list the members of your group and the job performed by each (Model, tape wrapper, assembler – the tape wrapper and assembler may help each other out as necessary):




Write the type of gesture you will be replicating in your sculpture and sketch the gesture showing the exact stance the model will be posed in:


Type of Gesture:_______________________________

Gesture Sketch:


Please list any props you may need to authenticate or give more detail to your sculpture (i.e. basketball, soccer ball, lights, colored Tissue paper., etc.).


Grading Rubric

This project is worth a total of 60 points.








All members of group were available throughout the lesson and worked together with little to no problems.

Most members of the group were available throughout the lesson and worked together with a few problems.

All members of the group were not always available making it difficult for the group to proceed and/or had issues making it difficult to complete the project.

All members of the group were not always available or did not work together well, making it difficult for the group to proceed and resulting in the project not able to be completed.


Sculpture is complete with any necessary props and is well-crafted with a smooth surface and no visible seams and looks like the model. The sculpture is freestanding and needs no support.

Sculpture is complete, but could have been crafted more neatly. Some seams are visible or the surface is slightly bumpy. Mostly resembles the model. Sculpture needs minimal support to be displayed.

Sculpture is complete or partially completed and is rather bumpy and not smooth on the surface.

Does not really resemble the model. Sculpture needs full support to be displayed.

Sculpture is incomplete and/or very messy.

Impossible to tell what the model’s pose was.

Sculpture will not stand/sit with or without support.


Gesture/sculpture is unique and well-thought out. Sculpture seems to have a life of its own.

Gesture/sculpture looks good, but could have had more detail/prop additions.

Gesture/sculpture is average with not much detail and/or no props. Does not come to life.

Gesture/sculpture is below average, with seemingly no thought given to its design. May not appear to even be a human model/or tell what gesture is being used.


Class Critique: We will have a full class critique and opinions of the class will be heard for each of the sculptures using the above criteria for craftsmanship and creativity. I will be observing during the process to determine the cooperation level of each of the group members and will be giving the full grade on this project.



A = 54 – 60
B = 48 – 53
C = 42 – 47
D = 36 – 41
F = 35 or below


NOTE: I am crediting this lesson idea to Mark Jenkins. His work predates any I have been able to find. He is thrilled that students are being inspired by his work.


From Mark Jenkins:

I get a lots emails from school teachers saying they use my site to inspire their students before starting these projects which is great b/c I think its good for them to draw from contemporary artists.

For me it started in grade school. I figured out a way to cast pencils in tape by wrapping the sticky side out. I was working my way on my hand when my teacher reprimanded me for wasting tape. So it is ironic for me that its becoming popular in schools now too.

My only reservation with all of this is that plastic Tape isn't the best thing for the environment since it isn't recyclable. I've heard that some German manufacturers are working on a biodegradable but I don't think they have it in the clear variety made yet.

I maintain a site too, that I've had up for a couple years. It details the process. I've been hoping to publish the tutorial as a book but so far just haven't had the time.


My biggest inspiration as a sculptor is probably Juan Munoz.


(Mark Jenkins email communication February 11, 2007)



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