Skip to main content
Get new course notifications
Clara Lieu, RISD Adjunct Professor

Clara Lieu
Art Prof & Partner

Annelise Yee

Annelise Yee
Jeweler & Designer


Create an abstract, organic form by carving balsa wood without any planning.


Art Prof Caution

Utility Knives are extremely sharp and it’s really easy to cut yourself by accident!  Always wear a kevlar glove on your hand which is not holding the knife to prevent injuries. Liver of Sulphur smells like rotten eggs, make sure to use it in a well ventilated area; opening all the windows works.

Art Supplies: Sandpaper, heavy grit
Art Supplies: Sandpaper, medium grit
Art Supplies: Sandpaper, fine grit
Art Supplies: Drywall Sanding Screen
Art Supplies: Pliers


Marie Latham

Marie Latham
2018 Intern

This project really made me think on the fly! It was fun to jump right into a very kinesthetic process, where I really had to feel the wood to understand how to shape it. It was also super messy, which helped me loosen up a bit and forget I was working with a medium that I couldn’t really add anything back to.

I think one of the best & worst parts about the challenge with this process was how easy it was to carve away the wood—it doesn’t leave any time to reconsider certain moves, and once something is cut away, you need to react accordingly with the other planes on the sculpture. It was difficult for me to work with the material, which was sometimes brittle—mine even snapped in half—but I found all of the different types of sandpaper to be useful in their own ways and interesting to play around with.

I would definitely try this project again, and maybe on a slightly larger scale!

Cindy Qiao

Cindy Qiao
2018 Intern

This project was an interesting challenging and definitely made me venture into very different territory that I hadn’t explored that much before. Usually, I stick with very 2D visual work, like painting and drawing, but I’ve never worked with a knife to carve away at a material.

This was such an interesting project as a whole because there wasn’t much planning involved in the beginning at all. It was really just about the balsa wood and sort of just following the texture of it. What I found really challenging was that the wood itself was very inconsistent in its softness and hardness. In some places it would be super easy to carve and in other places it would be almost impossible.

I think this project really helped me learn to take advantage of that push and pull relationship with the medium to create something super cool.

Christina Wu

Christina Wu
2018 Intern

I’ve worked with wood before, but this was my first time using balsa wood and I was really surprised with how soft it was to carve, as well as the fact that I didn’t need any fancy sharp wood-cutting tools but can rely on just a heavy utility knife.

This project was definitely a risk for me since I always like to plan things out in a sketchbook before I start, so it felt really weird to just start carving with no idea what I was trying to accomplish. I found one side of the wood to be harder to carve due to its graininess, while the other side was extremely soft, so my sculpture actually turned out rather flat and not as aesthetically-pleasing on one side.

I was also uncertain with how chippy and uneven the wood was after carving, especially since I was aiming for more spherical and curvy shapes, but after using the various grits of sandpaper, the sculpture suddenly became really smooth. The final result looked nothing like what I imagined from the beginning, but it was fun to go out of my comfort zone and work on something 3D for a change.


We’ll select individual artist & art teacher class submissions to be featured on this page.

To submit, upload your artwork or your students’ artwork below.  Questions? Contact us.

Art Teachers: Submit

Art Students: Submit

Donate to keep Art Prof free for all!