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Sculpting with a needle.

Sculpting with a needle

SOFT SCULPTURE HAS ENORMOUS appeal to viewers and is especially enticing to students. Because it is a manipulative and very pliable medium, there is always the element of surprise, charming spontaneity and adventure that encourages the student's creativity.

In order to make this project more alluring, we showed students slides and prints of N.C. Wyeth's pirates and magicians and challenged them to create either a fictitious or well-known wizard, magician or pirate. The soft sculpture characters were to be placed in three-dimensional environments that were representative of the figures chosen.

Creating these imaginary wizards, magicians and pirates required students to incorporate fabric construction, embroidery and basic sewing techniques. The form, style and technique of the soft sculpture grew from the basic nature of the materials used. Nylon stockings could be sculpted, folded, draped, gathered, stretched, cut or painted. It was these discarded nylons that helped form the expressive faces, bodies, hands and feet of our characters.

The first step in this process was to cut a section of the stockings or panty hose, tie a knot at one end, turn the nylon inside out to hide the knot and then gently fill the tube structure with polyester fiberfill. Using very fine straight pins, students began to sculpt some of the features. Next, students inserted a fairly fine, singly-threaded needle and quilting thread into the back of the head and pulled it through to the front of the face.

To make the nose shape protrude, students secured the thread end with a hidden knot, then inserted the needle on one side of the nose, sewing back and forth and lightly pulling the thread to "lump up" the stuffing. They continued stitching under and across the nose until the nose shapes were completely modeled.

They created nostrils, eye sockets, scars and dimples by inserting the needle in the back of the head, knotting the thread and pushing the needle through the fabric, using a running stitch to secure the features in place. Some students chose to complete the facial features by adding rouge for color, and buttons, embroidery or fabric for eyes and lips. Hair covered the modeling stitches on the back of the head. The body for the sculpture was an extension of the basic tube form, with arms and legs added after they were molded, sewn and covered with fabric.

For the final step, students developed three-dimensional environments that helped define their soft sculpture characters. Using cardboard boxes, scraps of material, old jewelry, paint and papier-mache, they created caves, castles, islands and ships for their wizards, magicians and pirates. They covered paper towel tubes with fabric and tissue paper to create trees; they constructed and painted boats and treasure chests for their imaginary pirates; they made magic carpets, wands and sorcerer's apprentices for their wizards.

The finished creations were displayed on a flat surface, each creation reflecting the individuality of the students.

PHOTO : Soft sculpture pirate aboard his ship.

PHOTO : Soft sculpture holding a looking glass.
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:soft sculpture
Author:Battista, Mark
Publication:School Arts
Date:Jan 1, 1989
Previous Article:Monumental sculpture ... on a small scale.
Next Article:Environmental installation.

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