Examining the Weightless Artistry of Ruth Asawa
Meets the learning standards for grades 4-5 (can be adapted)  
Media Type:  Fiber Art
Subject Integration: Fine Arts, English Language Arts, Social Studies

Click here for formal lesson plan and Teks Information

Materials: writing materials, school glue, yarn/twine/embroidery thread, balloons (various shapes and sizes) 

Special Equipment: scissors, hot glue gun (optional) 


This lesson provides 10 new vocabulary words: 

  • Contour
  • Weight
  • Mass
  • Volume
  • Organic
  • Lobe
  • Timeless
  • Endurance
  • Internment
  • Residency


Have you ever heard of the sculptor Ruth Asawa? Take a few minutes to independently search online for pictures of her suspended wire sculptures. 

Activity 1: 

Check out this article about Volume and Mass, and read from the top of the article down to the section labeled “Implied Mass.”

Discuss Ruth Asawa’s sculptures and the concepts of Volume, Mass, and Visual Weight.  

Activity 2: 

Watch the video, The Poetry of Ruth Asawa’s Sculptures

Use your social studies knowledge to examine the relationship between Ruth Asawa’s time in an internment camp, and the materials and shapes that compose her sculptures. Consider line, shadow, space, confinement, movement, stillness, residency, and repetition. What might the lobes represent? What might be the significance of open shapes? Discuss! 

Author a short essay incorporating all 10 vocabulary terms from the lesson, as they relate to Ruth Asawa’s artwork. Use metaphor, analogy, simile, and poetic language in your essay. 

Activity 3:

Special Instructions/Tips:  

  • You can work with a team or independently.  
  • Keep in mind the organic contours and lobes of Ruth Asawa’s sculptures and choose balloons of a variety of sizes and shapes.  
  • This project is MESSY: thoroughly cover all work surfaces to protect from glue drips.  
  • Balloons will need to be suspended to dry but can be suspended at the beginning of the project for easier application. 

School glue

Yarn/twine/embroidery thread

Balloons (various shapes and sizes)


Hot glue gun (optional)

Pre-cut your string/twine/yarn into pieces approximately 12 inches in length 

Dip the String into the school glue and then pull the string through your fingers to remove the excess glue. 

wrap wrap wrap

Wrap the string around the balloons in multiple layers in directions. 

Suspend the balloons and allow them to completely dry. 

After the string is completely dry, brush with another layer of glue and allow it to dry again. 

After the string is dry, pop the balloon! 

Now it is time for assemblage. You may choose to trim or modify some of the pieces to create more complex shapes. (Refer again to the sculptures of Ruth Asawa and some of the timeless shapes she used.) 

Components can be joined with hot glue, or it can be tied together with string or wire!

Share… Reflect! How do you feel about the way your sculpture is Taking up Space? 

Review of Vocabulary for this Lesson:  

Contour– an outline, especially one representing or bounding the form of something 

Weight (visual)- Visual weight is the term given to compositional elements within an image and how much visual impact they have. Some things will feel heavier or more present within the image in comparison to other elements. 

Mass– a body of coherent matter, usually of indefinite shape and often of considerable size 

Volume- the amount of space that a substance or object occupies, or that is enclosed within a container, especially when great. 

Organic– relating to or derived from living matter 

Lobe– a curved or rounded projection or division 

Timeless– not affected by the passage of time or changes in fashion. 

Endurance– the fact or power of enduring an unpleasant or difficult process or situation without giving way. 

Internment– the state of being confined as a prisoner, especially for political or military reasons. 

Residency– the fact of living in a place.