Article Type Making Art Together Making Art Together Categories Collage Nature Sculpture

Art Aquarium

Meg Nicoll

This fall, we turned the Art Studio into a watery seascape and invited guests to help us create an ocean on the Art Studio windows. Inspired by the exhibition Under the Sea with Eric Carle, we used found materials to create moving sculptures and made a large-scale collaborative installation together with guests.

To get our ocean started, we added wave patterns to the window with translucent blue paper. We used art paste to create a liquid glue and brushed it directly onto the paper and windows. The art paste and blue papers lasted for the 5 weeks the project, though the papers did fade in the sunlight significantly. At the end of the project, it was easy to remove both with soapy water and a sponge.

Once the backdrop was ready, we invited guests to create a mobile inspired by the ocean that they could take home or add to the windows.

To construct the sculptures, we provided painted paper found materials such as cups, doilies, and coffee filters. We also offered packing materials saved from art material deliveries, and, of course, a variety of collage papers. Each guest was offered a piece of cardstock to start their mobile. Some chose to use this cardstock as a rectangular background to collage materials onto, others cut shapes out of it to make silhouettes, and some guests rolled or folded the cardstock to create a three-dimensional structure for their mobile.

We decided to limit the color palette for this project to shades of blue, green, brown, and black. Limiting the color palette in a sculpture project can allow for more focus on the shape and texture of materials. Some materials we provided were bumpy, others soft. Some materials let the light from the window shine through, others were opaque. In addition, the colors provided a visual connection between the hundreds of different mobiles added to the ocean installation.

By the final week of the project, the installation stretched across the Art Studio windows, and guests and team members alike enjoyed looking closely at all of the unique sculptures. Let’s dive in, take a trip under the waves, and meet a few inhabitants of our art aquarium.

Over the 5 weeks of the project, jellyfish bloomed and schools of fish swam across the Art Studio windows. We saw whales, sharks, sea turtles and more! Each sculpture demonstrated how the materials could be used in many different ways. Because most of our found materials are paper-based, we can re-use or recycle the majority of the materials once the installation is taken down. When it is time to say goodbye to the ocean on our windows, we can look forward to revisiting the materials in a new project exploring found-materials sculptures.


Meg smiling in the Art Studio.

Meg Nicoll

Art Educator at The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art from 2016 to 2023, Meg enjoys working with artists, educators, and people of all ages to create opportunities for art-making.