For this months art lesson with third grade, I chose to make wire circus performers inspired by Alexander Calder’s circus. When the children were in 1st grade we made Giacometti inspired wire sculptures. The thicker wire in these sculptures was difficult to bend so I chose thinner wire this time.
The lesson began with the book Sandy’s Circus by Tanya Lee Stone. This picture book tells the story of Calder’s youth, how he came to enjoy wire sculpture, become an artist and create his moving circus.
The Whitney Museum of American Art have actual video footage of Alexander Calder working his circus. I showed the children this video from 1927, but there are many others.
For our project we made trapeze artists. I thought they would look great on a display especially if we could string them across the classroom.
- masking tape
- material scraps
- wooden ice cream spoons.
How to make a wire person
- Bend the piece of wire in half and twist the top to create a loop for the head.
2. Fold from half way along the remaining wire towards the centre to make arms.
3. Twist the arms, leaving a loop at the end for hands. Twist part of the remaining wire together to form a body.
4. Open the bottom of the wire out to make legs (cut if too long). Add loops for feet.
5. Cover the surface with masking tape. Add extra layers for padding out specific areas.
Once the class had made their basic shapes for their trapeze artists, they were given a variety of materials to create, costumes, hair, faces and props. To join the material to their sculpture, some made holes and threaded pieces through, some used tape or glue and some used the wire to wrap around the material, joining it to their circus performer.
Making the Trapeze
Join two pieces of wire to a wooden ice cream spoon and attach to a straw. The children posed their trapeze artists in different positions and we took pictures to remind ourselves of the poses, when we put them on display.
I love the way they turned out and how each child put their individual character into their sculpture. I’d love to have the time to do a full-scale project and create a whole circus. We could investigate different ways of building and making the models move, perhaps with individual groups working on different aspects of movement. Perhaps some of the kids will be inspired to do this at home?
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If you love this lesson, pin to Pinterest for future reference. Other art lessons can be found on my Art Lessons Board