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The Eric Carle Museum
of Picture Book Art
  • 125 West Bay Road
  • Amherst, MA 01002


  • Thursday, Friday 10 am - 4 pm
  • Saturday 10 am - 5 pm
  • Sunday 12 pm - 5 pm

Closed Monday,Tuesday, Wednesday

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Making Art Together

Tear, Rip, Shred, Create!

This week, we invite our At Home Art Studio community to experience tearing, ripping, and shredding paper as a creative process. At the museum, we often observe how our youngest visitors are interested in thoroughly exploring materials and their properties. They notice how paper sounds when it is crumpled, how it floats when tossed in the air, and how it feels as it is pulled apart. All of these observations about paper help us discover what makes it an interesting material to use for art making. 

In this blog, we celebrate the sensory experience of working with paper. Below are the ways our team explored paper, through a series of creative actions: 

Five images showing different ways to play with paper. Image one of a stack of newspaper, tissue paper, and colored paper has the caption ?gathering papers of different textures, colors, and thickness.? Image two has a pile of colorfully torn paper with the caption ?tearing into different shapes and sizes.? Image three has small piles of paper sorted by color with the caption ?sorting in any way you want, it could be by shape, color, size, and more.? Image four has a turtle made out of paper sitting in the middle of a ring of paper stacks with the caption ?playing with shapes to see what they can become.? And image five has two collages of warm and cool colors that look like fireworks or flowers with the caption ?playing with shapes to see what they can become.?

We noticed that playing allowed us to experiment with new possibilities, sorting and tearing allowed us to closely observe our materials, and arranging and attaching gave us the chance to slow down and make choices about our art. Depending on how you are feeling or where you are in your artmaking process, you might find one of these actions more inspiring than another. Since each action is important in its own way, you do not have to explore all of them at once. They are potential starting places to begin your sensory experience with paper. Here are some stories our team shared about what they did with paper this week. 

 The image to the left has torn papers organized into red, purple, brown, blue, and green columns with space in between the pieces. Image to the right has a running deer-like creature with brown antlers, a green body, and hole punched eye.

Meg had fun ripping, tearing, and shredding paper until she had lots of pieces in different shapes and sizes. She decided to sort her papers into color groups, leaving space between each shape. She noticed that one of the triangular green papers had a hole in the corner. Meg thought that this paper could turn into the head and eye of a creature. She played with the various papers, turning them this way and that, combining and re-combining until she made a four-legged animal. She didn’t glue the papers down but decided to keep experimenting, and sorted her papers again. 

 The image to the left has torn papers loosely organized on top of a white background paper where the sky is made of blue papers, green and brown landscape, and blue water. The image to the right has the papers glued down to the background with bright white stars added to the deep blue sky.

Then she noticed how her sorted papers formed stripes. These stripes reminded her of layers in a landscape, with some things close, and other things far away. She decided to loosely arrange some of the papers before gluing them down to create her landscape. The dark blue paper reminded her of a night sky and the water of a lake or bay. She glued down tiny scraps of white paper for stars and added even more distant ones by dotting the paper with a white crayon. 

 The image to the left has different papers gathered together and the image to the right shows a detail of torn pieces of paper organized by color, with the pink paper curling.

Megan gathered tissue paper, wrapping paper, copy paper, paper bags, and construction paper from around her home. She found it interesting how the different types of paper tended to tear in a certain way. She was especially drawn to the way the pink copy paper curled as it was torn. 

 The image to the left shows a character made out of torn paper with pink curled paper for the hair, yellow paper rectangles for the arms, green paper for the eyes, and brown papers for the body and head. The image to the right shows strips of torn paper glued together at a central point so the paper curls upwards and out, reminiscent of flowers or fireworks.

Megan played around with the pink paper curls, and really liked how they stood out when the paper was placed on its edge. She didn’t glue any of the paper down, but used the curls to create fun hair for a character. As Megan played around with the paper more, she started grouping the pieces by cool and warm colors. She then started gluing the cool pieces and warm pieces down around a center point, and created these bursts. They remind her of fireworks, or flowers. 

 The image to the left is a stack of torn papers from magazines, watercolor paintings, and newspaper. The image to the right is an abstract landscape collage made from torn colors and letters glued onto a white background.

Mackenzie began by selecting papers from her scrap pile. As she sorted through them, she thought that the watercolor scraps would be perfect to create a mountain, and wondered if the long pieces of magazine could be used to create trees. Using a glue stick, she attached a forest on the left side of her background paper, a mountain on the right, and the red and pink paper became a field. Mackenzie loved how abstract her collage landscape came out. 

 The image to the left is a stack of torn paper with yellow pieces, tissue paper with colorful letters on it, a shopping list, and magazine images. The image to the right shows the papers organized by shape, with circles in the upper left corner, triangles in the lower left, rectangles in the upper right, tiny scraps in the lower right, and un-categorized shapes in between.

Hannah found some construction and tissue paper, magazines, and old homework that she did some rubbings on. She was interested in the noise different papers made when they were torn. Then she asked herself some experimental questions: Can I pull the paper apart? Can I tear it with my toes? What happens if I tear it reaaaalllllyyy slooowwwwly? How many different ways can I tear the paper? She then sorted the papers by shape: thin pieces, rectangle pieces, rounded pieces, etc. 

 The image to the right has a scrap of paper with the title ?Shopping List? and below are two collages, one of a cut lemon and one of a bunch of grapes. The image to the right has a monster made of torn papers with yellow and blue eyes, green rectangle face, long yellow nose, a large textured blue paper smile, and two ears made from the same textured paper.

At first, she wasn’t sure what to make with her paper, but she decided that she was thinking about it too much! She found one piece that said “Shopping List,” so she decided to recreate it. Then she found a piece that looked like a nose, so she made a monster face. Hannah had a lot of fun layering the paper and seeing how she could change shapes with layers. 

Three images that show the progression of a collage. The image to the far left shows the start of a rainbow collage where there are small pieces of red paper glued to the far left of a piece of notebook paper. The image in the middle shows that more torn paper pieces have been added, with yellow, orange, and green added towards the right side of the page. The image on the far right shows the finished collage where the whole background is covered in torn papers with the color spectrum running from left to right.

Sara found a variety of papers around her home including newspaper, tissue paper, brown paper bags, and notebook paper. As she sorted, Sara realized that she had papers with a wide range of colors and was motivated to find the most vibrant and textured ones across the color spectrum. After sorting them, she glued them down onto the notebook paper to create a layered rainbow that reminded her of a favorite installation in the Art Studio that explored hues. 

Extension Activities:  

If you enjoyed playing with paper, you might enjoy exploring the collage process more. Click here for our past collage projects in the Art Studio. 

If you are looking for inspiration on how to make the tearing paper experience more immersive for little ones, check out this previous blog post where we attached tissue paper to the underside of a table to create a paper environment for toddlers to tear. This blog post also shares how toddlers helped deconstruct an installation and created a space for play with the paper.

For more inspirational resources, check out the book Collage Workshop for Kids, published by The Quarto Group, and written by Shannon Merenstein, owner, creative director, and lead educator at Hatch Art Studio. (We contributed studio project reflections and images inspired by Shannon’s rich collage explorations found within each chapter.) 


by Sara Ottomano

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This entry was posted on Friday, April 17th, 2020 at 10:50 am and is filed under At Home Art Studio, By Meg Nicoll, By Sara Ottomano, Found Materials, Toddlers, Paper, Preschool. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

The space and programming of The Carle Art Studio is supported by a generous annual sponsorship from Penguin Books For Young Readers.

We enjoy exploring materials and ideas in the Art Studio, and we're excited to share our process with you! Please consider the following factors when adapting these posts for your learning environment:

We facilitate a variety of programs within the Art Studio for a wide range of age groups. Please carefully consider the age appropriateness of each individual activity in your own learning environment.

Our projects are always done with adult supervision and proper safety precautions. Be sure all of your projects are overseen by adults who likewise follow proper safety precautions. The adults overseeing your project must also be responsible for handling or assisting with any potentially harmful equipment or materials.

The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art is not responsible for any damages, injuries or liabilities that result from any activities contained within this website, and we expressly disclaim any responsibility or liability therefor. From time to time, we reference materials that we have found to be particularly important in our projects. We do not receive any monetary compensation for recommending materials.


Marie Rocheleau-Demers
Friday, May 5, 2020 - 11:16 am
I'm a preschool teacher and did a zoom lesson on this subject with our Occupational Therapist. Tearing paper is a great fine motor activity for young (& older!) children. I also encouraged them to make a collage using their torn papers, but I DIDN'T think to suggest they sort the paper! Great idea and I'll be sharing this with them. Thank you!!

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