The simple act of spinning an object has almost magic transformational powers, conferring balance, motion, and art making abilities to almost anything you have lying around. Check out some of our favorite ways to explore spinning, twirling, rotational motion, and even sound and music with these quick and fun ideas!
What can you find in nature that spins? How many ways can you spin your body around?
From low to high tech, adding a little bit of technology spins up interesting ways of looking at the world.
Tops are one of the oldest toys known to humankind. They are easy to make with common household materials like yogurt cups, bottle caps, pencils, cardboard cutouts and more! Making a top sparks a learner’s curiosity and opens up many tinkering opportunities.
Gather recycled materials around your house & try turning them into spinning toys.
The basic elements of a top are: body, axle, and weight. Depending on what you choose for those elements, the shape and size of the top will vary greatly. We think this selection serves as a good starting point to quickly build a simple top and then experiment further.
It is often helpful to keep your first project simple. Making a straightforward top will allow you to experience what it needs to stay balanced, and give you the opportunity to practice spinning it a few times.
Here are some starting materials and elements to make your first top and exeriment with variables and styles. Think outside the box and consider how many different types of top you might be able to make!
Ready to take a deep dive into the world of top making? Check out our Spinning Tops Project page for lots more tips, tricks, techniques, and inspiration!
Spinning can be a way to turn static images into apparent motion! There are several variations on this theme that you could explore, from using salad spinners or CDs to create fast motion, to relying on your hands. You can also experiment with the frame rate of video cameras to create interesting motion effects.
Zoetropes rely on slits in a vertical cylinder to work, while phenakistoscopes usually have a short sequence of frames arranged radially on a round disc; a strobing light then creates the illusion. There are several apps for both iOS and Android that allow you to turn your phone into a stroboscope and turn a CD spinning on a marble into an animation device! A thaumatrope is even simpler: just a piece of paper or cardboard with a picture on each side, which gets twirled rapidly to blend the two images together! Pro tip: a drill makes for an excellent way to spin a thaumatrope and experiment with how speed affects the illusion of motion.
@c_shells_crafts’s tweet | @steph_muscat’s tweet | @b_yarza’s tweet
Spin art takes advantage of rotational motion to create beautiful arrangements of colors, lines, and shapes. It’s very easy to do and can be really messy, or quite tidy depending on the materials used. The basic idea is quite simple: find a way to spin a surface — canvas, paper, cardboard, or foamcore will all do — and then add pigment: you can drip paint or watercolors on it, or use markers, pencils, or even chalk to contain or eliminate the mess. If you’re brave or don’t mind some spillage, you can also turn the equation around: find a way to spin a marker or brush dipped in some paint, and catch the colors on a surface!
Artist Spotlight: Damien Hirst
English artist Damien Hirst has turned his explorations of spin art into a deep dive of what the medium and process can produce. He describes his paintings as “childish in the positive sense of the word,” and we definitely agree that a sense of childlike wonder, willingness to explore the materiality and the process of this way of making art, is something to pursue and learn from.
@CeMoCreates’s tweet | @oliviaperdew’s tweet | @RyokoMatsumoto’s tweet
Spinning in Nature
Can you think of things in nature that spin, and use them for inspiration to explore spinning by building and experimenting with various materials?
We are inspired by this exploration of helicopter seeds and what properties makes them spin or fly straight down leading into an exploration of whether it is possible to reproduce that same behavior with craft materials. Can you think of ways to make things that spin when dropped from a height?
Spinning with Technology
Spin a Light Painting
Light Painting is the process of taking a long exposure photograph in a dark room and capturing the trails of moving lights to create striking images. Add LEDs to a top or other spinning object, bring it to a dark room, and take a long-exposure photograph while it’s turning. You’ll be amazed by the results!
Scratch is a wonderful visual programming environment that lends itself to tinkering experimentations of all sorts. We discovered it is also a great tool to explore how rotational speed affects the apparent motion in phenakistoscopes, or to create beautiful spinning patterns by tweaking variables. Here are a couple of great projects to play with, and when you’re ready to start tweaking the code or building your own, just hit the “See inside” button and you’re off!
@aguayo’s tweet | @keithbraafladt’s tweet, project 1, project 2 | @MrReuland's tweet