Article Type Making Art Together Making Art Together Categories Sculpture Theory and Resources

Build, Shape, Create

Diana MacKenzie

Over the years we’ve worked with found materials in the Studio many times and witnessed sculptures go from piles of stuff to thoughtful, creative arrangements. Below are five different building techniques to consider the next time you and your child are playing with blocks or you’re students are making sculptures using found materials. 

These techniques are adapted from Block Building For Children by Lester Walker and paired with examples created by Studio staff. In chapter two of his book, Walker sites an essay, “The Art of Block Building” by the founder and director of the City and Country School in New York City, Harriet M. Johnson. Ms. Johnson’s research found similarities in the way young children worked with blocks during independent play.

Rows - a repetition of materials in a line

Towers - a repetition of one thing on top of another, building up from the bottom

Patterns - designs arranged by repeating a material or style.

Columns and Beams - beams can support heavy loads like a wall, roof or road. Columns are the vertical posts that usually support beams.

Spaces - materials arranged to create an enclosure

What type of structures do your children/students tend to build? Have you noticed a change in your child’s independent block play as they grow older?


Diana, smiling wearing an orange scarf and brown shirt.

Diana MacKenzie

Public Art Program Educator from 2007-2016, Diana has a BFA in Printmaking from Syracuse University and creates mixed-media works inspired by her travels, combining her interests in printmaking and sculpture. She received her M.A.T. from Mount Holyoke College in June 2017, and continues teaching visual arts to children and adults.