Cardboard Tube Relief Sculptures

Trash becomes art! My 7th grade students made these beautiful low relief sculptures with paper towel and toilet paper cardboard tubes! After measuring and cutting the tubes into 1/2″ rings, students shaped the pieces by folding, cutting, curling and bending. They created arrangements on 8” squares of cardboard and fixed them in place with white glue. Final embellishments were done with spray paint and Metallic pen. This lesson was based on THIS VIDEO TUTORIAL by fellow middle school art teacher, Bethany Thiele. (Find her awesome Youtube channel here!) Social Media has been a great way for me to connect with art teachers around the world, and it is fun to share and borrow ideas!

Here is AN INSTRUCTION PACKET I made which explains the steps we did to create this project.

Here is a downloadable version of the packet:

Here is A SLIDESHOW with some fun ideas for shaping your cardboard tubes.

(The images in the above slideshow are screenshots from THIS VIDEO found on the youtube channel, “Colorful Craft Corner”)

PROJECT UPDATE! I first did this lesson during the 2020-2021 school year when we were operating under a hybrid schedule with limited in-person learning. The examples above (and the packet linked) show the process and student examples created during that time. The spray painting, (two colors from opposite directions,) was done on the bare cardboard, which somewhat absorbed into the porous surface and created muted base colors.

This year, I “upped” my expectations for the students, not only challenging them to use more cardboard pieces with more complex shapes and alterations, but I required them to paint their finished sculptures with a single color of acrylic paint BEFORE we spray painted. This time, we only used a single color of spray paint over the solid base color, and the colors remained brighter due to the non-porous surface of the acrylic paint base. I also invested in Uni Posca brand paint pens, which come in a wide variety of colors and are totally amazing! This year’s results are more vibrant, colorful, and intricate. Minimal or more? You decide what works best for you!

I just love the look of these pieces together, and our hall display looks amazing!

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