Our simple Memphis style-inspired DIY paper sculptures are a fun way to introduce kids to pattern, color, form and design! Cut, add, stack, paste, rearrange and more!
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All, Make

Make: Memphis Style Paper Sculptures for Kids

If you’ve been following us on social media for the past few days, you know we’ve been celebrating ’80s week along with a few friends! As part of our art & design day, we revisited the classic ’80s design style of Memphis-Milano (one of my favorites!).

If you were a big media consumer in the late ’80s or early ’90s, you might recognize the style from movies & TV shows like Saved By the Bell, Beetlejuice, and Pee Wee’s Playhouse. If you were old enough to have lived through the fad like I did, you probably had a school notebook, walkman, or bedspread that used its patterns (I had ALL three!). Companies like MTV, Esprit, and Swatch used many of the same graphic elements.

Our simple Memphis style-inspired DIY paper shapes are a fun way to introduce kids to sculpture, pattern, color and shapes! Cut, add, stack, paste, rearrange and more!
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Inspired by the furniture that made this style famous, we came up with this simple sculpture-building project for kids that packs a big learning punch. In addition to motor-skill practice (easy cutting,taping, rolling and folding) kids get to experiment with combining colors, patterns and shapes in a variety of ways. It’s also a fantastic lesson in scale, balance and spatial-relation.

Our simple Memphis style-inspired DIY paper shapes are a fun way to introduce kids to sculpture, pattern, color and shapes! Cut, add, stack, paste, rearrange and more!
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The most wonderful thing about this project is that they can create almost anything they can imagine out of it! Flowers, trees, houses, animals – these shapes can be combined, embellished, drawn on, or imagined into whatever they want them to be!

For more 2-D abstract art lessons, try our painted cardboard and paper rainbow road project, or make art in MOTION with our kinetic paper shape art!

To make your own Memphis-style paper sculptures you’ll need:

BASIC SUPPLIES:

  • A few sheets of colored card stock (something heavier than regular copy paper works better for this!) in 2-4 different colors.
  • A few sheets of white cardstock to print our patterns on to – unless you want to make your own with a marker or brush!
  • Scissors
  • Clear tape (regular old Scotch tape worked great)

Memphis Style Paper Sculpture Instructions:

  1. Print our Memphis-Milano pattern pages or create your own

    You can download and print out our Memphis-Milano style pattern pages, or use a wide marker/large paintbrush to create your own line, grid, dots, or squiggle patterns! Once you’ve printed them out – guide your kiddos through the rest of these instructions!

    Cut colored card stock and our DIYMemphis patterned paper (or your own homemade kind) into simple shapes like squares, circles and rectangles.
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    Pick out a few other pieces of plain colored paper. We used bold, bright colors, but put together a few that you really like!

  2. Trim paper to different sizes and simple shapes

    Cut your papers up into different sizes of squares, rectangles, and circles – we made some arcs too just for fun! 🙂

  3. Fold your paper pieces into simple 3-D shapes

    It’s time to make your shapes 3-D! You might want to experiment with rolling and folding a couple of sheets using scrap paper first. To make a cylinder, all you have to do is roll one of your pieces of paper into a paper tube shape.

    Fold your shapes into simple forms and secure with pieces of clear tape or craft glue.
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    Once you have rolled your paper into the size cylinder you’d like, use a small piece of clear tape along the edge at each end to secure the sides. Once you’ve made a cylinder shape, try making a cone.

  4. Experiment with creating different folded forms

    Experiment with folding your paper into halves, thirds, and quarters, unfolding, then taping at the edges to create prisms (3-D triangle or rectangle shapes) or cubes (3-D square shapes).

    Fold your shapes into simple forms and secure with pieces of clear tape or craft glue.
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    The ends of your shapes will be open, and that’s exactly what we want – this will allow you to stack or slide other shapes in easily!

  5. Create a variety of shapes and sizes

    Continue making different sizes, heights, and widths of shapes with the rest of your paper. The more variety you have, the more interesting your set of shapes will be!

    Create a varied assortment of paper forms to use for your 3D Memphis paper sculptures.
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  6. Stack and arrange your shapes into sculptures!

    Stand back and take a look at all of your cool shapes!!!! You can stack them up in different ways, arrange them by shape or color, move them around or make them into something awesome – use your imagination to think of different things your shapes could be!

    Arrange your colorful or patterned forms to create fun 3D compositions or sculptures.
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You’ve finished making some amazing 3-D shapes – if you want to keep going, try adding the circles you cut out – or other shapes! You can stack some of your shapes on top of each other in different ways. Try cutting a small line in one of your circles and slide it over the edge of a cylinder. You can create fun sculptures and towers by doing this!

Our simple Memphis style-inspired DIY paper sculptures are a fun way to introduce kids to pattern, color, form and design! Cut, add, stack, paste, rearrange and more!
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More ways to use these paper forms for learning and play

  • Make paper forms of different sizes that you can stack by size for simple math exercises.
  • Make it a game by seeing how many shapes you can stack or add to a sculpture before it topples.
  • Have pairs or teams work on building together for a collaborative project
Our simple Memphis style-inspired DIY paper sculptures are a fun way to introduce kids to pattern, color, form and design! Cut, add, stack, paste, rearrange and more! | via barley & birch
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For more paper projects that explore pattern and shape, try our kinetic paper shape art, scrap stamp shape collages, or a simple color and pattern exploration exercise.

Our simple Memphis style-inspired DIY paper shapes are a fun way to introduce kids to sculpture, pattern, color and shapes! Cut, add, stack, paste, rearrange and more!
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