Article Type Making Art Together Making Art Together Categories Drawing Nature Sculpture

Celebrate Spring: Wearable Butterfly Wings

Rebekah Buettner, The Art Studio’s Spring Intern, a senior at UMass Amherst, designed last month’s Special Sunday Art Activity. Here is her report of the day.

Knowing I would share the date of my Special Sunday project with Very Hungry Caterpillar day, I wanted to design a project that would capture the spirit of the celebration.  Hoping to complement the found materials project, I drew inspiration in the final pages of the caterpillar’s journey. After days of eating and weeks in a cocoon, we see him transform into a beautiful butterfly. Our beloved green friend grows wings and brings new color to the world. This is what I wanted our guests could experience too.

Intern Rebekah smiles and stands in front of a table of art materials in the Art Studio.

In the planning stage, I tested different weights of paper and methods for making the wings wearable. To keep the wings from flopping over or folding up, I decided on a heavy weight construction paper in a variety of natural and dark hues. Not only did the bright shades of the color sticks used to add design pop on these colors, much of what he had in supply had an iridescent shimmer that added a special tone to the wings. To accommodate different ages and cutting abilities, I created cardboard templates to trace the shape of the wings in two different styles and sizes.

With the thickness of the paper, punching holes and securing the wings with yarn was manageable without fear of tearing. Through trial and error, I discovered a good standard length for each section of yarn was two arm lengths, specific to the creator. For easy accessibility and waste reduction, I used recycled yogurt containers to create a no-tangle dispenser for the yarn. To my great pleasure, they worked without a hitch all day!

Yogurt containers with holes cut in the top used as yarn holders where artists can pull threads out of the hole in the lid, and cut their own pieces.
The final piece of planning was creating a list of directions that simplified the process for our guests and optimized their time in the studio. I tried to focus on the specific action required for each step rather than a chronological organization that would match the available materials. Color coding was also incorporated to establish a reference for young readers and adult helpers.
A sign on a table that walks through steps to create wings, including folding papers and drawing patterns on them.
The day in the studio flew by like a swarm of butterflies; guests were in and out all day long. I was so pleased with the response from all ages to the project. Adults and children alike created this fun, wearable art. The highlight of the day was watching the kids take off as if they could fly as soon as I tied their wings on and told them they had been transformed into a butterfly.
Three children wearing their own handmade paper wings, each in a different color and with different designs on them.
Another trend through the day that pleased me was many of the guests’ decision to design symmetrical wings, despite no direction to do so. I had initially thought to incorporate pattern and symmetry into the project, but opted to allow each guest to become the butterfly they wished to be. For some of our littlest guests, this was a great opportunity to just explore the drawing tools and colors.
A young guest draws a symmetrical pattern of rectangles onto their wings using crayons.
The only challenge I really encountered was establishing clear directions for stringing the yarn and tying on the wings. I ended up helping most of the guests with this step or explaining it to their accompanying adult. However, I did enjoy the individual interactions I had with the kids as I tied their wings on. Overall, my Special Sunday felt like a great success, and I had such fun designing and facilitating the project!
A studio team member helps a young guest attach their paper wings together.
Explore Further
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Explore paper sculpting to create our own wearable art.
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Read about our collaboration with Holyoke Community College on VHC Day.
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Weave, braid, fold, and attach! Create your own wearable art with paper. 
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Check out the recycled material caterpillars being made in the studio!