Paper Maquettes

Project from AFL Intern Devi Eddins, 2007

Example and photos by Betsey McLawhorn

A maquette is a small model usually crated from sturdy, easily worked with materials such as art boards (mat, illustration, foam, cardboard).  Professional sculptors often crate maquettes or models to experiment with ideas or to present their ideas for a large work or to a client.  The finished, large-scale sculpture will be created in more durable materials such as sheet metal, wood, plastic, or fiberglass.  Often craftsman create the finished sculpture from the artist’s drawings and maquette. 

In this project students will create maquettes of abstract sculptures utilizing the elements of art – line, shape, value, color, space and texture – and the principles of design – balance, emphasis, contrast, rhythm and movement, pattern and unity.  The sculpture must be fully in the round (works equally well from all four sides) and have structural stability (must stand on it’s own permanently, not for a few seconds). 

In slots, one plane is slit form the top oand the second slit from the bottom so the two can interlock nad stand up.  In slit and tab construction, tabs may be added to shapes or structural members may be put through slits cut into other shapes.  When the tab is folded back, the structure should be stable.  No glue or fasteners are used in this project. 

Draw shapes that would be interesting to your sculpture.  Make sure to consider all sides of the final piece.  Assemble the pieces using the slot method to create and abstract sculpture or the students dream house, very own theme park, movie theatre, etc.  Let their imaginations run wild and encourage them to create a place they would want to visit, or a sculpture they would like to see in a place they have always wanted to visit.


  • Colored card stock
  • Scissors
  • Paper cutter
  • Drawing materials:  gel fx markers, crayons and colored pencils; metallic pens and colored pencils, regular markers and colored pencils
  • Crazy/Fun Scissors


  1. Cut a long strip of paper for creating a circular stand or base for your maquette.  This needs to be 1 to 3 inches thick. 
  2. Fasten the ends of the strip together to form the circle using the slot method – cut a slit from the top of one end and the bottom of the other and interlock them.  For the circle, it works best if the slits are fairly long and reach toward the opposite side without cutting all the way through the paper. 
  3. Note:  The maquette can be made and assembled without the use of the circular ring for more three dimensional sculptures.  In the example, two 3 inch strips are interlocked together to make a sharp oval, then other slits were added to the sides and more paper was added into the middle to push it outward.
  4. Using the colored cardstock, create different shapes.  They can be abstract, or you can develop a theme for the maquette (such as the building in the example).
  5. Embellish the shapes using crazy/fun scissors, markers, colored pencils, pens, etc.  You can also layer and mount shapes on other colors of paper.
  6. When the shapes are complete, cut a slit at the bottom of each one (It helps to test them out when first beginning, cutting the slits before decorating to make sure it fits.  Once done a few times, it is easier to guesstimate). 
  7. Cut corresponding slits at the top of the base, interlock the slits.  Build up from here.  Don’t let the base be the only starting point for adding more pieces! 
Front view of “Modern Art Museum”
Side view of “Modern Art Museum”




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