Grade Level

7-8, 9-10


3-4 classes of 45 minute length


Bar of soap, small kitchen knife, potato peeler (optional), newspaper


Lesson Objectives

For the student to…
become familiar with the life and work of Jean Arp.
to understand subtractive sculpture and work subtractively in creating an original sculpture
to understand and display biomorphic abstraction in an original sculpture.

Introductory Activity

Show slide show ( linked in resources) that includes background on Jean Arp. Also discuss the meaning of the word biomorphic. Derived from the Greek words bios (life) and morph (form), the term refers to abstract forms or images that evoke naturally occurring forms such as plants, organisms, and body parts.

Lesson Process

You will create your own small-sized abstract, biomorphic sculpture carved out of a bar of soap. There are two types of sculpture in the art world. additive; where the artist combines materials to make a three-dimensional work of art and subtractive; where the artist removes material. This project is subtractive in
nature and is truly challenging. It is the method Jean Arp used to carve from plaster.

1) You’re making an abstract biomorphic sculpture. Please don’t try to make a duck, butterfly, fish, plant, etc. A biomorphic sculpture may slightly resemble a real living organism but it not a realistic form of art.

2) Think curvy, and rounded always!!! Avoid curves or bumps that are similar in height or elevation otherwise your sculpture will look very stiff and mechanically made. Think of asymmetry!! Notice how all of Arp’s pieces look very free form and lack perfect symmetry.

3) Pass throughs or holes are cool but remember to do them slowly. Off center usually looks best as well as avoiding circular holes. Circular holes make your sculpture look machine made and unnatural.

4) Handle the sculpture gently!!! It can be delicate, especially the more you cut off!!

5) After your form is finished and you’re happy with it, shave the whole form to round and smooth as much as possible. Spend a good amount of time doing this. The smoother the surface the more professional it will look!! Watch the You Tube video in the Resources section of this lesson for more information on how to smooth it.


biomorphic, subtractive sculpture, additive sculpture


Abstract Soap Sculpture PDF
YouTube video from the author

Author & Website/Blog

Michael Sacco at Paul J. Gelinas Junior High

Supporting Images