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Tin Sculptures

SEASON 2 | PROJECT 4/16  |  05.07.21

MODULE:  Sculpture


DURATION:  1 - 1.5 Hours

MATERIALS:  Aluminum foil - 10 square feet


Gubby Beck-02.png

Gubby Beck

Video Editing by Jorge Davies, Graphics by Melissa Sabol

    OVERVIEW    |

    MATERIALS    |






Tin sculptures are miniature three-dimensional works of art that can be made with just a few sheets of aluminum tinfoil. You can roll, fold, pinch, twirl, wrap, and scrunch foil into forms that can be connected and combined to create unique metal masterpieces.




Inspires experimentation with a single material. Limitations often result in the greatest creativity.

Demonstrates how applying numerous techniques to the same material can create a variety of effects.

Teaches problem solving skills by asking students to execute their vision with limited resources.

Allows students to let go of fixed ideas of how things “should” be, and opens up the possibilities of creative thinking as the sculpture takes shape.

Requires patience and care in working with a fragile material.

Encourages students to be thoughtful about how they use their resources.



  • Aluminum foil - 10 square feet

Optional Materials

  • Ruler

  • Scissor



1.  Prepare Your Foil:

Tear or cut several sheets of tin foil into rectangles, squares and strips.

Start with 10 square sheets of foil (about 12” x 12” each).

Rectangle: fold one sheet of foil in half, crease, unfold, and tear or cut.

Square: fold one sheet of foil in half and in half again, unfold, and tear or cut into four squares.

Strip: take a rectangle or square and tear into 1” strips. 

Extra sheets can be used to make additional forms.

2.  Make the Pieces:

Here are several different techniques for preparing the individual parts of your sculpture.

Pipe: Take one long rectangle of foil, and roll lengthwise. Don’t press too hard to the point of flattening. Once you have a basic roll, you can pinch your roll until it is about the diameter of a straw, leaving the ends unpinched to attach to other pieces. Repeat this step with two more long rectangles and four small squares.

Flat Fold: Take a piece of your foil and lay it out flat, shiny side down. Fold your foil lengthwise, about the width of your pinky, press down in center and smooth out to the ends. Fold over and over again until you have a thin strip.

Accordion Fold: Take a Flat Fold piece, measure a thumb’s width from the end and fold. Flip the strip over and fold the same way again in the opposite direction. Repeat until you have folded up the entire strip of foil, then carefully unfold.

Spiral Fold: Take a Flat Fold strip of foil, and wrap it around your finger to create a spiral. Remove from your finger and pull apart.

Scrunch: Take a small square piece of foil and scrunch it up with your hand. Add extra pieces to your first scrunched up piece to make it bigger or to mold another shape. You can use this method to create a base by scrunching several pieces together to help your sculpture stand up.

3.  Put it Together:

Assemble your sculpture using the connecting techniques of wrapping, pinching and twisting!

Wrap: To connect the ends of a Flat Fold, Accordion or Spiral piece, find the ends of the strip, overlap ends, hold two sides together by pinching, and wrap a strip of foil around the area where they cross over. You also can attach different pieces together by wrapping thin strips around connecting pieces. Or wrap a flat piece of foil around a scrunched piece of foil to give a smoother look.

Pinch: Use two of your fingers to pinch the foil together. You can pinch your rolls, pinch a flat piece of foil into a shape or pinch a scrunched piece into a new form.

Twist: Take two pieces of foil, cross one over the other, and twist together to attach. You can also put unpinched ends together and twist to attach two ends.



Make a 3D Abstract Flower with 3 long pipes, 4 short pipes, and 2 scrunches for the base.







Make an abstract sculpture using at least 3 techniques.

Use your imagination. What else can you make with all the techniques you have learned?

Artists to Know



Alberto Giacometti

Alberto Giacometti was a Swiss sculptor, painter, draftsman and printmaker. He was born in Switzerland in 1901. His artistic style was influenced by cubism and surrealism and philosophical questions of the human condition. Giacometti's most well known sculptures are his bronze sculptures of tall thin human figures. His thin figures are interpreted as an expression of the insignificance and loneliness of mankind. They reflected the world events of World War II. Giacometti was one of the most important sculptors of the 20th century.

Alberto Giacometti, Three Men Walking II, 1949, Bronze


Toshihiko Mitsuya

Toshihiko Mitsuya lived and studied art in Otsu, Japan, before moving his studio to Berlin in 2009. Mitsuya dedicates the focus of his work to aluminium sculptures. This began at the age of five as handicraft work. He perfected it over 30 years to an impressive craft. He uses the cool, industrial material of aluminum foil to create mainly natural objects and organic forms.

Toshihiko Mitsuya, Anonymous Relatives-Standing With, 2016, Aluminum Foil


Ruth Asawa

Ruth Asawa was a Japanese-American sculptor. From 1946 to 1949, she studied at Black Mountain College in North Carolina. Asawa learned to use common materials and began experimenting with wire, using a variety of techniques. This interdisciplinary approach helped to shape her artistic practice. In the 1950s, while a student at Black Mountain College, Asawa made a series of crocheted wire sculptures in various abstract forms, starting with baskets, and then exploring biomorphic forms that hang from the ceiling. She learned the wire-crocheting technique while on a field trip to Mexico where villagers used a similar technique to make baskets from galvanized wire.

Ruth Asawa, Woven Wire Sculptors (



Sculpture:  the art of making two or three dimensional representative or abstract forms.

Assemblage:  is art that is made by assembling everyday objects to create something.

Form:  the overall form or shape an art piece takes

Figurative:  art that is derived from real objects sources and so is, by definition representational.

Abstract:  art that does not attempt to represent external reality

Scale:  refers to the physical size of an artwork. How small or big it is compared to us.

Texture:  is the surface quality in a work of art. Sometimes texture is used to make something look like something it is not. It can be used to create visual interest or a focal point.



If you’re interested in learning more:

The Art of Sculpture Welding: From Concept to Creation (Volume 1):  by Kristi Richardson McCoy.  

Artist Blacksmith Sculpture: The Art of Natural Metalwork by David Freedman.





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