Colorful coffee filter sculpture

Transform a flat coffee filter into a sculptural work of art inspired by artist Sam Gilliam. All you need is a coffee filter, some markers, and a spray bottle or cup of water.

[time] 30–40 minutes
[skill level] beginner
[topic] 2D to 3D transformation

Portrait of artist Sam Gilliam

Sam Gilliam portrait by Fredrik Nilsen Studio

Artist Sam Gilliam (b. 1933) is a painter and member of the Washington Color School. During the 1960s and ’70s, many people thought African Americans should make art about civil rights. Sam Gilliam defied this by making colorful experimental works inspired by the world around him.
Sam Gilliam, Ruby Light (1972)
One of the things that inspired Sam Gilliam was laundry hanging from clotheslines. He liked the way it looked and began to drape the canvas of his paintings. With your child, look up images of city clotheslines or hang something from a clothesline inside your own home. How does it look?

MAKE IT

Sam Gilliam used unstretched canvas to create his draped paintings. For this project, you will use a coffee filter as your canvas.

coffee filter, markers, spritz bottle, tape and a piece of paper

  1. Gather materials. You’ll need a coffee filter (paper towels and paper napkins are a good substitute), markers, spritz bottle, tape and a piece of paper.
  2. Color the coffee filter.
  3. Add water. Place the colored coffee filter on a protected surface, and then spritz it lightly with water. What happens?
  4. Create your sculpture. Use tape or glue to attach the dry coffee filter to paper (or any other surface). Explore draping the filter in different ways to transform it into  your very own sculptural

colored coffee filter being sprayed down with water