Styrofoam Cup Sculptures: Step by Step Demo

See step by step how to construct sculptures using styrofoam cups and hot glue. Fundamentals like shape, overlap, negative space, and creating dynamic movement are explained, in addition to cutting techniques and ways to assemble the sculptures.

Demo by Art Prof Clara Lieu with Teaching Artist Mia Rozear.

42 min. video

Video Walkthrough

  • A lot of sculpture supplies and tools can be expensive, styrofoam cups are very accessible and easy to find.
  • Sometimes if a sculpture material is expensive, we are less likely to be bolder and to experiment with the supply.
  • A pair of scissors is a good place to start, as they are easy and fast to cut with.
  • A utility knife is trickier to use, but you can do more complex and refined cuts than you can do with a pair of scissors.
  • Shape is incredibly important in this project, it is often times not thought about deliberately because it’s so basic.
  • Consider whether the shapes you are cutting are fluid and organic, or if they are geometric and straight.
  • Think about each shape as having a personality, is a shape soft and doughy looking? Is it pointed and aggressive?
  • Aim for a range of different sizes of shapes, so you can balance large, medium, and small shapes.
  • Look at what is inherent to the styrofoam cup; there is a curvature to the cup that you can work to your advantage.
  • You can try making these sculptures spontaneously with no plan in mind, or you can plan it out in advance.
  • Consider whether you want the sculpture to be a recognizable form, or if you want the sculpture to be abstract.
  • Negative space is very important in 3D design, consider how you can navigate through the space the form creates.
  • A great way to get ideas is to construct a sculpture using the leftover scraps.
  • You can create anything from very clean cuts to simply tearing the styrofoam cup with your bare hands.
  • Ask yourself whether your sculpture is chaotic and scattered as a form, or if it is neatly organized.
  • Overlapping shapes within your schedule is an effective way to show interaction with the shapes.
Styrofoam Cup Sculptures

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.

Hot glue guns can get really hot! Be very careful not to drip any hot glue on yourself while working. Always prop the hot glue gun up so the tip is not touching any surface. 

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