Make meaningful portraits by arranging everyday and symbolic objects into faces! By incorporating objects as metaphors (like a bar of soap for your most bubbly friend), you can capture and communicate meaningful characteristics in a playful and visual way.
Dreamed up by artist Hanoch Piven, this project supports looking at everyday objects in new ways, expressive visual storytelling, and iterating on ideas. Share what you create and try out with us by using the hashtags #TinkeringAtHome #FacesInThings.
Turn trash into treasure! Look around your space and collect objects of all different shapes, sizes, and colors. Gather things you might normally consider junk, like broken toys and old tools. Or go outside and collect leaves and other natural materials.
Here are some ideas to keep in mind while you collect your material set:
☐ Multiples: gather handfuls of buttons, coins, clothespins, and other items you have in larger quantities.
☐ Meaningful Objects: maybe you'll use a light bulb for a self portrait because you're always full of ideas, or a balloon for your most light-hearted friend!
☐ Paper: colorful paper can serve as a backdrop to define the shape of a face.
How many faces can you find in the pile of materials on the right? We spy at least 3...
Once you've gathered a stash of objects to explore and make with, start moving things around. For inspiration, take a look at how artist Hanoch Piven gets started with making faces out of jar lids, balloons, LEGO gears, rubber bands, and other loose parts and then check out tips for making your own faces.
Use familiar materials in unfamiliar ways! Notice if particular features help to convey expressions. Tip: Try adding expressive eyebrows or creating a pupil for an eye.
It can be tempting to use matching objects for features like eyes and eyebrows. Try creating asymmetrical arrangements to make unexpected and dramatic facial expressions.
This activity supports iterating quickly to test out tentative ideas. Arrange and rearrange your face. Take photos as you go to document different faces and expressions.
Use Meaningful Objects
We believe in learners following their own ideas to create personally meaningful projects. We like to ground this activity in choosing meaningful objects that communicate something about the maker or about the person being portrayed. Check out examples below and think about what different objects might metaphorically and visually express.
"This is my face. It’s of my daddy...He has a mustache that’s as prickly as needles and sewing pins! For the mouth I used half of a clam shell because his voice is as soft and as warm and comforting as a clam shell."
— Olive, 2nd grade
Take it Further with Animation
Make your faces wink, blink, smile, frown, yawn, and more by using stop motion animation to bring your faces to life! Keep your camera in exactly the same spot and take photos as you change your face's expressions in subtle or surprising ways.
Learn more about how you can start stories with stop motion in only two images on our Two Frame Animation activity page. Take your explorations a step further by hearing from Ryoko about how to get started with the Stop Motion Studio App to string together images into videos and gifs.
Featured Artist: Hanoch Piven
Hanoch Piven is an artist and maker who creates whimsical, inspiring, and meaningful faces out of everyday objects. This activity is inspired by online sessions he led with the Tinkering Studio team and a group of 2nd graders in Oakland to create faces and then bring them to life with animation.
We love to pair Piven's books with this activity because of the way he introduces the idea of using meaningful everyday objects to create portraits. Our favorites include Let's Make Faces and My Best Friend is as Sharp as a Pencil.
For more playful examples of using everyday objects in surprising and insightful ways, check out Hanoch Piven's tinkering page, take a look at his Domestika Online Course, and visit his website. For a peak at more of his faces and learn about his approach to creativity, watch his video on trial and error.