Additive and Subtractive Sculpture


To learn about four distinctly varied historical art trends and combine inspiration from highly diverse sources

Opening Discussion 

  • Explain the Crocker: what it is, what’s inside, where the art comes from. Would it be better for a Museum to have a variety of objects or just one kind? Briefly explain the different collection areas.  Use the map to highlight the different areas the art comes from. 
  • Show Indonesia and Papua New Guinea on the map. Explain the geographic makeup: very tropical, humid weather with exotic and colorful jungle life. Some people live in small villages following traditions hundreds of years old, with little to no contact with the outside world.
  • Show War Shield. Shields can be defensive tools, but the kind of pattern they chose to carve can also mark which village or family you came from. What is it made out of? How was it made? It is an example of subtractive sculpture. 
  • Show Larvae Container. Take guesses as to what the larvae container was used for, then reveal that it was used to store the larvae of the Capricorn beetle, a real delicacy!
  • Highlight the types of patterns used, and ask students what kinds of shapes they see: spirals, dots, zig-zags, stripes, etc. Note that there are only a few shapes used per artifact, repeated again and again into a pattern. Are the patterns symmetrical (reflected over an invisible line)? 
  • Show Nkisi nkondi. What is it? A carved figure given out to people who need help. The spiritual powers of the figure are only activated when a piece of metal is driven into the wood. They are from Africa. Ask if they can point out Africa on the map. 
  • Show Outrigger. Whoa! What happened? Where do they think this was made? Point out America on the map. Is it old or new? What is it made out of? Does it have anything in common with the African/Oceanic pieces? What’s different? Working this way is called additive. 
  • Show Body Centered Cubic. What is this made out of? Is it additive or subtractive? Do you think it has a purpose? What about Outrigger? What could that mean? Both are abstract expressionist. The lines, colors and shapes are meant to give meaning. It’s like they’re telling a story, but telling it in a different language. You don’t know the meaning of all the words, but you can guess what the person is trying to say based on what you can recognize. Do you think we all see the same thing? 
  • Show Buns Robot. What do you think the artist was saying here? What is this made of? Additive or subtractive? 


  • Everything we looked at today has something in common. Can anyone guess? It’s all sculpture. We’re going to sculpt something today. First, we’re going to work subtractive. Everyone is going to get a piece of clay and we’re going to make shields in the style of the Asmat/African art. What are some things we talked about when we looked at this? Pattern, shape, line. Show the materials. Demonstrate the use of clay. When their shield is done, it will go on the cardboard. We can glue to down this week.
  • Give students scratch paper and ask them to begin sketching patterns or motifs. Pass out materials as they work. 
  • As they work, get out the additive supplies. 
  • When there is about 40 minutes left, ask them to put the carving supplies in the center of the table. Leave their shields in front of them. 
  • Point out the contemporary sculpture. Can anyone guess what we’re going to do now? We’re going to work additive. Point out the additive additions to the images. Call them up by table groups to pick out materials to add. 

During the Work Period

  • Help one-on-one, giving explanations and demos as necessary.
  • Give the teacher the teacher resource packet and explain what is inside. 
  • Count and log number of students and number of adults served. 
  • If you notice the supply boxes are in need of anything, make a note of it and tell the Community Engagement Coordinator after service. 

Clean Up

  • Everything but their work of art needs to go back to the supply table. 
  • When their table is clear ask them to check the floor. When the floor is clean ask them to sit at their desk with their art in front of them so they can move on to the next activity.


All, some, or none of these can be done, depending on the class and the remaining time. 

  • Tell them that they’re going to move around the room and look at each other’s work. The sculptures will stay on the table and they will be moving. Ask them to stand and push their chairs in and stand behind their desk. They will be quiet, and concentrate just on looking. They can walk around the room and return to their seat when they feel like they’ve seen everything.
  • If they want to share: What determined their choice of composition? Did they enjoy this type of art? Was it easier or more difficult than what they were expecting? 


  • Thank them for their work. Tell them to take their artwork home and share them with their friends and family. They can use their artwork in the same way you used the images in the beginning to teach people about multi-media artworks. 
  • Explain family passes, if they’re getting them. Encourage them to visit the Crocker to see the artworks they saw today.


  • Air Dry Clay
  • Clay wire cutter
  • Clay tools-assortment, subtractive
  • Cardboard/chip board base
  • Colored craft wire
  • Feathers
  • Beads
  • Raffia, string
  • Wet wipes
  • Dry erase markers
  • Scratch paper
  • Pencils
  • Glue gun and glue
  • World Map
  • Magnets for labeling map

Grade Level

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