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How to make a sculpture in ten easy steps.

I leapt at the invitation to lead a sculpture workshop with high school students attending a summer Math Camp at Michigan. One of my enthusiasms is SciArt (a unification of art and science) and art with a mathematical connection. Artists, scientists and mathematicians are fundamentally curious people, who are building metaphors to describe the natural world and our responses to it.

Here are the instructions, if you’d like to make a sculpture too:

Wire sculpture wrapped in yarn with LED lights by Sophie Grillet
“Heisenberg: The Teenage Years”

Non-springy wire that stays in place. Cut a piece about seven foot long.

Electricians tape in your preferred color. Or silver Duck tape.

Wire cutters

A paperclip

String of battery-operated mini LED lights

  1. Gently begin curving the wire. Keep it smooth - kinks are difficult to smooth out!

  2. You are aiming to make a shape that will fit approximately within a 9” (23cm) sided box.

  3. Make curves of different sizes, none parallel with each other.

  4. You can lead the wire through one or two loops. Are you making a loose knot?

  5. Gradually adjust the curves, making sure they don’t touch - otherwise you’ll be making multiple tangential loops, instead of a unique, complicated line through space.

  6. Keep adjusting throughout, until the ends point together in a straight line - or smooth curve.

  7. Try your sculpture out different ways up. can you make it balance three, or at least two different ways up?

  8. When it’s not too big, and will balance different ways up, with the ends meeting exactly, you are ready to join the ends.

  9. Place three short, straight sections of paperclip parallel on a piece of tape. Wrap it tightly around the join to make a splint.

  10. Check they work, then wrap a string of LED lights in a spiral around the wire. Tape it at intervals with colored tape.


That’s it! Now you can name your sculpture!

This one (wrapped in yarn instead of taped at intervals) is named “Heisenberg: The Teenage Years”. A brilliant physicist, but that’s a small light in the darkness: I admit to some uncertainty as to whether he really deserves a sculpture in my mathematicians series. You can see one made by one of my students here.


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