Project 3: Building three dimensional structures

Initial Ideas

Some of my sketches from playing around with matchboxes and gluing some together to form starting blocks:

Sketchbook036 Sketchbook045 Sketchbook044 Sketchbook043Sketchbook042 Sketchbook041 Sketchbook040 Sketchbook039Sketchbook038 Sketchbook037

Some starting ideas, and some arrangements which didn’t work…

First sculpture

The first idea from these sketches that struck me and stuck, was that of domino effect boxes tumbling towards a tower.


Now unconstrained by material constraints, the plan developed into a bronze hand flicking over the boxes, with the boxes constructed out of stainless steel, possibly on a wooden base?


This seemed like the obvious progression from the domino boxes, so I am not sure if it is Lorenzo Quinn inspired or just coincidence! Either way, I am quite keen to have a go at this sculpture.

There is unconstrained and then overly ambitious?! Hey, it just happens that I am booked on a bronze casting course at Yorkshire Sculpture Park and I have now got my welding kit setup and ready to go (well, after I build the welding bench it is!) – so anything is now possible! I now have my bronze project worked out, so will see how that goes and develop it from there.



After a fantastic 5 day bronze casting course, I have a bronze hand. In my original idea I envisaged a bronze (metal) coloured hand with stainless steel boxes. Having now cast the hand, I patinated it a brown/black colour, so shiny metal boxes now do not seem appropriate. Various types of metal are now on order, so I will experiment with different options and see what works best, but I am now thinking more along the lines of rusty metal boxes.

I also needed a base for the sculpture. I had a piece of pine left over from building the workshop dividing walls and decided to put that to use. On it’s own it was too light a colour so I distressed it (hit it with a hammer, punch and nail) and varnished it with a walnut varnish.

Back to the boxes…

Experiments with copper (silver soldered – more successful and TIG welded with bronze – less successful)

IMG_5525 IMG_5526

Experiments with TIG welded 3mm steel:


The steel ones were more like what I was after, and obviously allowed for the rusting effect I had in mind, so I carried on with these.

Having made enough of these, I then laid these out in the arrangement I had in mind:


This was now too cluttered, so I decided to ditch the tower:


I welded the boxes together and added rods to the base of the standing box to attach it to the base. I then decided to partially rust it which I then sealed with varnish:


Finally it was finished:

‘The flick’
Bronze, steel, wood
38 x 8 x 14cm

Hand1 Hand2 Hand3 Hand4

Second sculpture

Playing with matchboxes, the idea of a ‘bonfire’ of boxes with another single box with a match striking it as if to light the pyre came to mind. Mulling over this for a while it then seemed that the addition of a hand to this sculpture would also work well.


I started out imagining a wire frame hand and tried to make this. Using thick steel wire and a very thin brass(?) wire, I tried to sculpt a hand, but it was harder than I imagined!


I think a wire thickness somewhere between these two would work better as the thick one was a bit too tough, but the thin one far too thin to sculpt with. I need to stop buying more stuff for a while though, so rather than continue with this idea, needed to think of alternatives.

I was set on abandoning what I had done and starting again, however, mulling it over for a while, the idea of putting a cotton glove over the armature and dipping/filling with plaster came to mind (I have been playing with plaster moulds recently for bronze casting).


After some fettling up, it was then time to make a decision on colour. I decided that white was too stark for the hand (and the wire rust was staining it anyway), so decided to colour it with graphite. I shaved down a 9B pencil to dust and smeared it over the hand, then sealed it with the spray you use on graphite/charcoal drawings.

The ‘bonfire’ was to be a pile of boxes, so I painted them all white before sticking them together into a pile on a separate base.

P1020217 P1020218

The next decision was on a base to fit both elements and what colour to paint it. A few experiments in Photoshop and some mulling over in my sketchbook:

red basegrey base dark grey base brown base blue base black base

Dark grey was the conclusion and it turned out to be a good decision.

‘Pyromaniac no.1’
Plaster, wood, matchboxes, graphite, acrylic paint

IMG_5513 IMG_5515

Third sculpture

The third idea I went with was a tower. There are many ways in which this sculpture could be developed, but for this one I decided to stick with the 15cm base and matchboxes, especially given that the next assignment requires scaling up the models and that could be tricky with the other two pieces!

Some of the rejects:

IMG_5523 IMG_5524

I already have some idea of how these could be scaled up with a difference, using wire boxes and mobile elements in the style of Alexander Calder, so picked the final design with these future requirements in mind.

Sketchbook051 Sketchbook052

I used acrylic inks to try out a number of colour options:

Sketchbook055 Sketchbook056 Sketchbook057 Sketchbook058

Of these, the latter option worked best for me, but the blocks of colour were too plain and static for my liking. So I decided to paint them using a syringe filled with acrylic paint, letting the colour drip down the boxes and onto other boxes/the base.


The final piece:

Matchbox Tower
Matchboxes, wood, acrylic paint

IMG_5517 IMG_5518 IMG_5519 IMG_5520

Appraisal of outcomes

Demonstration of technical and visual skills

Technical skills:

  • I welded the toppling boxes together on too high an amperage and melted the edges – this is hidden to some extent with the rusting.

  • there is the problem with the rust showing through on the plaster hand – I probably should have sealed the wire before adding the plaster.

  • The matchboxes in the ‘bonfire’ and in the tower sculpture were not painted enough to stop the matchbox design showing through in places.

Visual awareness:

  • I think the white boxes are too stark in the ‘bonfire’.


  • I think the materials used were good choices for all of these sculptures.


  • I am pleased with the composition of these sculptures.

Quality of Outcome

I am particularly please with my first sculpture, so may have to wait longer to start seeing the flaws in this one.

The second sculpture works well in the hand and matchbox section, but the ‘bonfire’ section is not as good and would probably be improved by the addition of graphite to these boxes as well?

The third sculpture is less interesting and developed than the other sculptures, but was created with the assignment piece in mind, which I hope will work well using this design.

Demonstration of Creativity

I think I have done much more to develop my ideas and experiment with materials/etc., than in the previous stage, and have continued to adapt the work as I have worked through producing it.


Some of my research work is showing through in these sculptures with my recent exposure to Lorenzo Quinn’s work probably having an influence on the bronze hand, and from there to the hand in the second sculpture.

Alexander Calder influenced the design of the third sculpture, but only in the way I have been thinking about how to develop the design moving into assignment 2.

The area I am still falling down on and know I need to improve on is my sketchbook work. I have signed up to be involved with the OCA sketchbook circle which might help with this and plan to develop these further.

This entry was posted in Stage 2 S. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your e-mail address will not be published. Required fields are marked *