Virtual Resources – Object 2

This John Mills sculpture is from 1964. It is a dancing figure in cast aluminium and is accompanied by a wash study for the sculpture. John Mills is a famous sculptor who lives locally.

Sophie’s thoughts

I love how elegant this piece is and when I look at it, I begin to imagine the person dancing in real life. It’s also one of those objects which I really want to touch, to see how cold the metal feels and how heavy it is! It inspired me to make my own figurative sculpture but using a different type of aluminium…

Thoughts from the learning team

When I first saw this piece, I thought it was a bit dull and didn’t like the form. But once I had met the artist’s wife who was a dancer and spoken to John Mills about his wanting to show movement in solid form, this became such a lovely piece for me. If you see the solid form as blurred air it becomes alive and wonderful.


Create a foil sculpture of a person that you admire. They could be a family member, a friend, a footballer, a historical figure, an artist etc. It does not have to be an accurate representation but try to think about that person while you are making it. You might enjoy considering these questions;

  • What inspires you about this person?
  • What qualities or personality traits do they have that you admire?
  • Is there anything about this person which you would like to embody in yourself? e.g. determination, creativity, bravery…

Frida Kahlo, Self-Portrait Dedicated to Leon Trotsky, 1937; Oil on Masonite, 30 x 24 in.; National Museum of Women in the Arts, Gift of the Honorable Clare Boothe Luce; © 2012 Banco de México Diego Rivera Frida Kahlo Museums Trust, Mexico, D.F. / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York; Image by Google

I decided to make a sculpture inspired by Frida Kahlo as she is one of my favourite artists and a historical figure who I find very inspirational. Below is a step by step guide to how I made it. Whilst I was making I thought about the questions above, which helped me get even more lost in the process and switch off from the real world for a bit.

Materials – an image of your chosen person, aluminium foil, a piece of cardboard, masking or Sellotape, soft aluminium wire (optional), any other craft materials (optional, for adding details at the end).

First, I took a long length of soft aluminium wire and bent it into a rough figure shape. A good way to do this is to fold it in half and start by twisting a circle for the head. Then with two even lengths either side, you can bend shapes for the arms, body and legs, twisting again at the waist. I bent two feet so that I could tape it to a cardboard base, which makes it easier to work with. You can get this wire from any good craft supplier, usually in the gardening section. If you don’t have access to wire, you can tightly twist and tape lengths of foil to get a similar effect.

I then started to pad out the figure by scrunching and wrapping bits of foil, in between, over and around the wire frame. This made it appear more 3D rather than being a flat figure.

Once I was happy with the rough shape, I could start adding more details. Frida Kahlo is often seen in images wearing traditional Mexican clothing, including a large long skirt and a shawl. I stuck some short lengths of aluminium wire from the waist to the cardboard base to help with the structure of the skirt, and then wrapped foil around it.

It was then just about some extra bits of detail. I kept the face quite simple but built a small nose shape by scrunching some foil and pushed in around it to make indentations for the eyes. I then folded another piece and wrapped it around her shoulders for the shawl and made a halo shape to represent the hair.

Frida Kahlo is known for wearing colourful flowers in her hair, so to finish my sculpture off I used a few scraps of tissue paper and twisted them into flower shapes, before tucking them into her hair. I also stuck tissue paper to the base, which I think really makes the figure ‘pop’ out. You could add any details you want to your inspirational figures – experiment making clothes or accessories with bits of card, wool, fabric, etc.

I really enjoyed making this sculpture and got totally lost in the process. I hope you do too….