Make Paper Sculptures

This project was inspired by A Life Made by Hand: The Story of Ruth Asawa, written and illustrated by Andrea D'Aquino. A Life Made by Hand is a book following the life of Bay Area Artist and Arts Ed Activist, Ruth Asawa. With beautiful, handmade imagery, we can immerse ourselves in Asawa’s mind and the processes that lead to her award-winning sculptures.

We are adding this book to our Chill Zone Library at reDiscover Center! Find this book during your next visit and be inspired. You can also watch this read-aloud by Tara McCarthy.

STEP 1 - Gather Your Materials


  • Tape, Liquid Glue, Glue Stick or all (or none and just use hot glue)
  • Scissors

*Optional: Hot Glue

Making Materials

  • Magazines to cut and explore
  • Construction or any kind of paper

STEP 2 - Explore How Paper Feels and Bends

In this activity guide, you have the freedom and creativity to investigate paper closely as a material. The book A Life Made by Hand uses gentle imagery to show Ruth Asawa's life and work, using a combination of collages and drawings. 

Take some magazines and rip out some pages. Cut them into strips, roll them up--try different methods of bending and ripping them. Put them in layers before cutting. What does this do to the strength/hardness of the paper?

STEP 3 - Combine Paper into Sculptures

Use tape or glue to put parts and pieces of paper together into sculptures. Consider how certain techniques, like rolling paper into tubes or folding them into itself, can make the structures stronger.

Letting paper connect but flow loosely creates interesting, rounder forms. Experiment with letting them flow in and out based on where and how they are taped to the structural bases of your paper sculpture.

STEP 4 - Add and Expand as Needed

Paper is not initially the most sturdy material, but with a little bit of tinkering and layering, it can be really fun and reliable. If you want a certain part to be more structural or have the ability to hold up, experiment with layering it with more sheets or strands of paper. When you have one form, consider adding more parts to the sculpture and combining forms. Let it hang, let it stand--you decide! See what works for the forms you create.

Click through the slider below!

*Pro-Tip: The cool thing about sculptures is that when you put them in different lighting, they could cast interesting shadows. Play around with putting your sculptures in different sources and angles of light.


Using hot glue is optional. There are many other adhesives young makers can use that won't require power. For any tips on how to use specific tools safely, visit our Youtube library for Tiny Techniques.


Visit the Techniques tab in reDiscover Center's Pedagogy Resources to access our Tiny Techniques videos and get tips for working safely and efficiently with tools.

Once you have finished your paper sculptures, share it with friends and family. If you want to share a picture on social media, make sure to tag @reDiscoverCtr. We'd love to see your explorations!!

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