How to Make Cardboard Sculptures

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Cardboard is not traditionally thought of as an art material, but it is surprisingly useful stuff. It costs little or nothing and is easy to work with and plentiful. Best of all, it requires no special tools or knowledge to work with. Keep it unadorned and barren for a junk art look, or decorate it with other materials for a more polished aesthetic.

Things You'll Need

  • Base
  • Cardboard
  • Wire
  • Glue
  • Tape
  • Paint
  • Brushes
  • Magazines
  • Newspapers
  • Bowl
  • Water
  • Scissors
  • Knife
  • Various other supplies

Get a base. Being light and fragile, cardboard sculptures can easily tip over. Anchoring your sculpture to a solid, flat piece of wood, stone or some other material will prevent it from falling over and potentially getting damaged.

Gather as much cardboard packing material as possible. Go to liquor stores, grocery stores and other commercial establishments and ask for boxes. Nearly all these stores just throw out their boxes anyway, so they will be happy to give them to you instead.

Decide on what other materials to use. One of the great things about cardboard is its flexibility. You can paint cardboard with nearly any kind of paint. You can also apply papier-mache to cardboards using newspapers or old magazine clippings. You can attach the cardboard pieces together with a variety of different glues, tapes or wire. Cardboard by itself is barren and ugly, but you can dress it up with pretty much anything you want to use.

Build the basic structure of the sculpture. You can either use boxes as parts or cut them up into the shape you desire. For example, if you were making a sculpture of a man, you could build the legs and arms out of oblong boxes such as flower delivery boxes and the torso out of a wider box such as one that carried an appliance. Alternately, you could unfold the cardboard boxes and cut them into the shapes of arms, legs, body and head.

Build in details. A good way to do this is with papier-mache. Mix one part white glue and two to three parts water in a bowl. Dip strips of newspaper in the water, wring them out and paste them on the sculpture. Build up whatever shapes you want out of many small strips of papier-mache.

Decorate your sculpture. You could paint it or weave in wires. Alternately, you could apply pictures from magazines with papier-mache or combine all three.

Attach your sculpture to the base. You can glue or tape it on as you choose. Depending on the size of the sculpture, you may have to attach a thick wire between the sculpture and the base for support.

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