If you read Kitchen Table Classroom often you know I adore turning trash into treasure. I love the idea of showing kids that anything can be art and I love not spending money to make stuff. Free art experiences are hard to beat. Using empty toilet paper and paper towel cardboard tubes to create a recycled sculpture is a fun and easy way to learn about building up.
Start saving those rolls, ’cause you’re gonna need a bunch! The good news is they are free, everyone has them, and they’re super easy to cut and manipulate.
Non objective art…
This lesson is the perfect place to introduce the idea of non objective art. Non objective art is any art which isn’t made to reference something. It is non-representational and uses geomoterical imagery. Geometrical images? Sounds like the perfect place to build with tubes!
Non objective art is such a playful thing to introduce to kids. Making for the sake of making, enjoying the process without worrying about if it looks like what it’s “supposed” to look like can be so freeing!
Recycled sculpture what…..
Our sculptures are totally non objective. Building up using cardboard tubes becomes both about making it pleasing to the eye and a balancing act. This project would be easy to relate to architecture or even an engineering or STEAM unit. Us, we just built.
Construction was done by slitting the cardboard tubes and sliding them together. To connect two tubes you will need to cut only one tube. Cut two slits in it however far you want it to slide on the other tube. We found it worked best for slits not to be straight across from each other but closer to the three o’clock and six o’clock marks.
Constructing in this way allowed for fairly quick building, with no waiting on glue to dry.
The challenge is making a sculpture that will stand up. Encourage kids to start with a few tubes fastened by the slit method and see where it takes them. This lack of a finished product to work towards will make some kids crazy and that’s okay.
Build, add to it, take pieces off that throw the balance off. Even though the process is super simple it will take kids a while to work through the balancing act.
In the interest of full disclosure we did use a teeny bit of glue from the hot glue gun. When we were done building we used hot glue to attach the finished sculpture to a cardboard base. I mentioned to my kids as we were building that we could use hot glue to firm up any joints that were still wobbly when we were finished. The sculptures really didn’t need it. One of my lovelies adores hot glue and glued hers up anyways. But not needing glue is a huge advantage.
We also used scraps cut off of rolls to add extra interest. Cut a single slit, and tuck whatever interesting shape you cut into it. The awesome thing about working with this weight of cardboard is it will stay!
I could think of many fun ways to finish these sculptures off. We chose to paint ours with spray paint. Seriously, spray paint is such instant gratification. If it’s nice out and we can do it outside my kids love being in charge of a can of spray paint. (Check out these paper mache animals we also spray painted.)
And more color…
I will never be accused of beng a minimalist. After looking at our monochromatic sculptures for a few days We decided they needed more; more color, more pattern, more lines. We used craft acrylic because it’s cheap and comes in so many awesome colors. (This set will last you through many, many projects!) It is not completely washable though. So if you’re worried about that a quality tempera paint would work just fine!
This is a great project to allow your kids to get a little crazy; splash, spatter, stamp, pattern however they like. They’re not exactly painting on the Sistine Chapel, right? They’re toilet paper rolls!