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Wire / Nylon Stocking Sculpture

Lesson: Stocking Sculptures or 3D on a budget
Submitted by: Becky Thornton, middle school teacher of Bob Courtway Middle School and
Carl Stuart Middle School in Conway, Arkansas.
Sculpture Gallery Below from Florida High, Tallahassee
Grade Level: 6th - 8th grade



  • Knee high stockings (one per student)

  • Scrap wood (for a base about 3"x3")

  • Hangers or wire

  • Elmer's Glue.

  • Water

  • Paint (spray paint is great! If you can, get it "Stone" spray paint).




Image courtesy of Mike Sacco
Paul J Galinas Jr. High School

Drill or have drilled two holes in each base. Have students bend off the top part of the hanger. Students then twist the hanger to make an interesting shape. Put hanger in base. If there is a lot of resistance... it is a good idea to change the shape. After hanger is in base... look at hanger design from all sides. Make sure that hanger does NOT stick out bottom, or it will have to be cut off.


Draw line design. Take the knee high and making sure that the seam is on a hanger line ( a design line that is already present) stretch the stocking over the hanger. Pull it tightly over the base. Be very careful not to run the stocking. It is helpful to demonstrate how to handle a stocking. It is also important to warn students that their fingernails can run the stocking, as well as jewelry.


After the stocking is in place, notice design changes, how the stocking extends over the base. It may be necessary to modify the design at this point. Make a 50/50 mixture of Elmer's Glue. and water ( I made this up in baby food jars) Paint the sculpture with glue. It will be necessary to paint the sculpture at least 3 times.


I prefer to paint it 5 times. I find that it is best to paint it with glue at the start of the period and work on another project until it is ready to be spray painted. For more mature students, it would be good to draw the sculpture in different medium each day. Optional: Gesso. sculpture and leave white - or paint as desired. (Tip from AnnaLouise Haynes Myers: Instead of using multiple layers of Elmer's glue, we used one thick and gooey layer of Wheat Paste.. It works great and saves the time of waiting and re-coating.)


These make beautiful sculptures. Before painting with spray paint, cut off extra stocking part from bottom of base. Make sure that students coat base with glue! The glue will make the hose stiff and the paint adhere. These can be painted with tempera. However, they look superb in stone, gold, black, silver and bronze. They look heavy and expensive!


Alternate Finish: Apply a thick coat of latex house paint to seal.... Then turn the students loose with Glitter Glue. (paint) - sold in tube and pint bottles. Sculpture is stunning painted black - then accented with the glitter glue. This idea was shown at NAEA 2006 convention by Handy Art.


Submitted by: MaryAnn Kohl
Revised from: Stocking Sculpture by Becky Thornton

Create a wire sculpture worthy of any gallery showing.


.From Becky Thornton:

Last year my students took the stocking sculpture another step forward. After some study about Dale Chihuly, they made stocking sculptures without a base and then we spray painted them (while they were hanging on a clothesline) and added various colors of blue and violet spray paint, as well as pearl spray paint, some green and fine Glitter.. Our goal was to make them look glassy! This is a picture of the sculpture and a picture of Michael and Matthew standing with the sculpture at the Arkansas Art Center in Little Rock, Arkansas. Michael and Matthew are students at Carl Stuart Middle School in Conway, Arkansas. They were part of the seventh grade class that made the sculpture. The sculpture was part of the Young Arkansas Artists Exhibition.


1 scrap wood block, cut approx. 4"x4" [10cmX10cm]
1 coat hanger or medium wire (white wire hangers work well)
Wire Cutters. (adult supervision required)
Wood Drill. (adult supervision required)
1 new pair ladies' knee-high stockings
White Glue., thinned half-and-half with water, in cup
Foam Brush.
Assorted Spray Paint. (adult only)


  • Drill 2 holes in the top of the wood scrap square the same width as the coat hanger wire. Drill the holes about 2"-3" [6cm-8cm] apart and almost all the way through the wood.

  • An adult can cut the "loop" part of the hanger off with wire cutters. Set the "hook" aside, as it will not be needed. Bend the wire into an interesting form. Push the 2 ends of the formed wire into the holes in the wood, one end in each hole.

  • Carefully pull a knee high stocking over the wire form. The stocking can be carefully pulled over the wood base as well.

  • First coat of glue: Coat the sculpture with the thinned glue using a foam brush. Dry for 48 hours. The sculpture will need an additional 4 coats of glue (5 total coats), with one day drying time between each coat. A week of coating and drying will be needed. After the last coat is applied, let the sculpture dry until it is hard and not tacky to the touch.

  • The work area should be well-protected for the spray painting step, or choose to work outdoors. Spray paint the sculpture in a well-ventilated area with room to let the sculpture dry. (Choose any paint from neon to Metallic Spray Paint.. A combination of paint colors is effective too.) If spray paint is not suitable, paint with Acrylic Paint.. Optional: The form can be covered with colorful art Tissue paper. torn and glued over the form with more thinned white glue and Brushes..

Painting Ideas:


Plaster addition - cover with one layer of Plaster Gauze. - then paint as desired.

Alternate Lesson: Picasso Faces - by Bunki Kramer

Shape wire into abstract portrait/profile. Insert into 3" to 4" wood block. Stretch stocking over. Staple excess stocking onto bottom of wood. Paint sculpture with Gesso.. Paint Picasso style portrait using Acrylic Paint..


See the "Great Wave" Union City Middle School - Kris Fontes

What other master works of art would work? I can see someone turning them into "The Scream". - Van Gogh's Road with Cypresses or Dali's clock.. (Lots of surreal possibilities) Interpreting a 2-D composition in 3-D is a good lesson. Share your new ideas for this lesson and I will add them to the plan.

I'm still waiting for someone to try hands... I know you would have to cut and sew the stocking to the wire - probably would have to do Plaster Gauze., too (or Paper Mache.). I bet someone could even turn them into fish.


From Susan on Long Island - a la Mondrian:

Paint the whole sculpture white using Tempera Paint. or Acrylic Paint., (even Gesso. will work).  Discuss Piet Mondrian's use of primary colors and how he achieves balance through the use of those colors. Then, ask the students to achieve this balance by translating it to their sculptures with sections of red, blue, and yellow.  First, they need to divide the area of their sculptures with painted black lines, then fill in areas with color to achieve this balance, leaving areas of white as well.  As part of their plan, I encouraged my 5th graders to continually turn their sculptures when they were deciding on a design and to write a "b", "r", and "y" in pencil to designate that area of color.


Try taking this is new directions. See the work of Lee Bontecou September Smithsonian issue (article begins on page 98). See her images on Marginalia and MoMA.


Sculpture Gallery
from students of Barbara Davis, Florida High, Tallahassee


Click images for larger views

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