How to make art sculptures from trash

Written by sylvia branch
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How to make art sculptures from trash
Old cans can be bent and cut into a variety of shapes for an art sculpture. (for recycling image by Alexander Afonin from

The phrase, "one man's trash is another man's treasure," is appropriate when talking about art. Recycled art sculptures can be made out of common objects that are typically thrown away. Collect a variety of items from around the house and garage to choose from when building sculptures. Regardless of your budget, there are supplies you can use to build small and large sculptures. For a group activity for Earth Day celebrations in April, build a sculpture with a group.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Paper
  • Coat hangers
  • Wood
  • Metal
  • Duct tape
  • Masking tape
  • Glue
  • Newspaper
  • Trash, such as pop cans, old tools, paper waste

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  1. 1

    Sketch out a design for your sculpture. Be sure to make a base that will give the finished sculpture stability, or balance the art with horizontal pieces. If you do determine to make a sculpture with a thinner base, it can be secured to a large, heavy piece of wood or metal for support.

  2. 2

    Build the skeleton structure of your design. Use coat hangers, metal rods, wooden sticks or rolled-up pieces of cardboard secured with tape. Wrap duct tape or masking tape over the entire skeleton. Aluminium foil or cling film can be used on a smaller design. This holds the skeleton firmly in place and gives a uniform form on which to attach objects.

  3. 3

    Tape waded-up pieces of newspaper or scrap material to flesh out the design. This step is especially helpful if you are building an animal art sculpture that needs a belly, or other rounded areas.

  4. 4

    Mix two parts glue with one part water. Dip strips of scrap paper into the glue mixture and place on the sculpture. Add three or four layers of this papier mache to create a hard and solid sculpture.

  5. 5

    Glue pieces of trash on the outside of the hard papier mache base. Use one kind of trash, such as bottle caps, or collect numerous different items to affix to the outside. Large pieces of trash, like tools, can be used on the outside for wings, or spikes depending on the animal or object you are building. Step back as you attach items to get a good look at where you need to add more items, or add a certain colour to balance out the sculpture.

Tips and warnings

  • Make a list of all the different pieces of trash that went into your sculpture to display with the sculpture.

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