Inspiration: the Tjanpi Desert Weavers

Grade 4/5:  Wrapped Animal Sculptures

Australian Woven Sculptures

It only took one look from me at these wonderful sculptures from this group of women from central Australia, the Tjanpi Desert Weavers,  and I knew we had a must-do project:  woot!

When I showed the pictures of the women and their sculptures to the kids, they got rather excited to make their own.  Another woot!

Just as the desert weavers draw inspiration from animals local to their area, I set similar limits for the class:  choose an animal or bird that is indigenous to our area, the Niagara peninsula.  (the funniest moment at that point was when one student enquired if she could do a unicorn.  Um – no.)  So we prepared a list in class, made choices, and then they got down to researching their animal’s images using netbooks.

I directed them to prepare 3 sketches with accompanying notes, if needed.  A side view, front, and from above:  paying attention to details, the proportions of the body to head, stance, etc.

Class 2 + 3 + 4 +

Yes, it took a while to build and wrap their animals, but there was a great energy in the Art Room during those classes.  Balling up newspaper, some masking tape and wire to hold, the occasional cardboard extension for beaks and feet: I encouraged them to observe the notations in their sketches, and to make the sculptures structurally sound.  (That is, able to stand at least.)

We have a great big box of yarn in the Art Room, just bursting open with potential colours and textures AND a large bag of fabric scraps scrounged from our town’s famous theatres, the Shaw Festival.  How lovely to dip into those – I ripped some of the fabric into strips to make it easy for them to begin wrapping.  From the beginning of this unit, I had made it clear that this portion did NOT mean they were to replicate the actual colours that animal would display.  Instead, this was an opportunity for them to get funky with colour and texture, and mix the wrapping between fabrics and yarn.  Having little bits sticking out from knots was A-okay!

For some, this was a stretch.  I had to nudge those students to go beyond the browns & neutrals, and to see the beauty in mixing fabric with yarn.  For others, they threw themselves headfirst into the variety of the melee (can I say ‘woot’ again without being redundant?).  Even the feet and beaks/noses needed wrapping – there should be no newspaper showing.  Here was an opportunity to learn how to tie knots …

When the animals were complete, the kids sanded and painted their pedestal boards (scrounged from my studio – yes!), and I nailed them on with poultry staples.  The final touch was to select beads for the eyes, (learning a bit of sewing along the way) and attach them to the appropriate spots.  For some, this was helpful to determine which end was – ahem – which.  Certainly, it added to the fun of the things.  These are happy sculptures and even inspired the older students in Art Club to make their own.  I’ll show those results in another post.


Parliament Oak School / Winter 2013



This entry was posted in Art Education, Grade 4/5 Art Projects and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *