wildSpiralS: A Creative Activity for Young People

Discover a new species of sculpture! With this video tutorial, young people (KS3+) can get creative and learn about an essential ecological form: the spiral. This resource was created by Lucy Sabin as part of the 2021 programme at Aspex Gallery. Look out for their exhibition In Search of Chemozoa by boredomresearch (24 Feb – 25 April 2021).

What are wildSpiralS?

wildSpiralS are flexible paper sculptures inspired by spiralling, twisting, unfurling things. Spiralling movements are present in plant growth, weather patterns, whirlpools, shells, galaxies, tentacles and tendrils. In many human cultures, spirals symbolise the seasons and creation itself. You might have seen the golden spiral in sunflower heads or heard about the double helix structure of DNA molecules. Globally, atmospheric and oceanic circulation could be seen as one big swirling dance which regulates climate. Thinking spirally is an artistic and scientific approach to understanding lifeforms and flowing matter across multiple scales and dimensions.

How did you come up with the idea?

In my artistic practice and research, I tend to focus on air and the atmosphere. So, when Aspex invited me to create a learning resource, I asked myself, How could people make their own artworks with air? Initially, I experimented with blowing through a drinking straw to spread paint across a page. The effect is like tendrils, branches or spindly fingers. You’re left with an expression that’s unique to each breath. Unfortunately, it becomes quite tiring to continuously exhale with force! So I substituted my lungs for a hairdryer. The machine allowed me to work on a larger scale. 

Next, I thought about how to make the two-dimensional piece of paper more interesting. I asked myself, What shape would air take if it left a solid trace or skin that extended into space? That’s when the spiral came into play. When we draw wind or breath, things which are usually invisible or constantly moving, we might use curling lines to represent the fluctuations in air. Spirals can have multiple meanings, though. I hope people enjoy making up their own story and scenography for wildSpiralS, based on their own imagination and interests. Spirals, loops, whorls and waves can be found everywhere, even in your fingerprint! It’s hard to find a straight line in nature. 

What could wildSpiralS help us to learn about?

wildSpiralS brings together lessons from lots of different subjects such as art (eco-art, kinetic sculpture, composition), biology (whorls, growth patterns), physics (weather patterns, convection, circulation) and maths (geometry).

Let’s get started…

wildSpiralS video tutorial was produced for Aspex, Portsmouth’s leading and free contemporary art gallery.