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Protest Prosthetics


California College of the Arts



Course Level

This project was designed for 3D design course.


Conversation points for instructors

You can focus on a number of different learning outcomes with this project: 

CRAFT: Cheap and easily sourced materials like cardboard can be elevated through a careful attention to measurements, cutting, attachments and other details.

SUSTAINABILITY: Repurposing cardboard from packaging and shipping can keep the costs very low. Using only gummed tape and white glue keeps all the materials completely recyclable. Avoid plastic based tapes, hot glue, paint and other materials that your local recycling company might not accept. Mechanical attachments like slot and tab are great ways to incorporate CRAFT and SUSTAINABILITY.

QUANTITATIVE REASONING: Learning how properly plan and using careful measurements and calculations of scale are important skills for an artist or designer to develop. Also, building things to accurate scale are a great way to test you CRAFTing skills.

PROFESSIONAL PRACTICE: Being able to document your design process and share it for an audience helps you and other understand your ideas. Learning how to take excellent photographs of your cardboard wearable in a clean, well lit setting, and being able to document your wearable “on location” are valuable skills that all artists and designers need to practice.

SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY: Doing research to deepen your understanding of the issues you care about help you engage your audiences in a more meaningful way. Research can help understand other people’s perspectives and in turn help you clarify your own, well informed position.


The original inspiration for this project came from fusing the work of Ann Weber and Johanna Moscoso's Emotional Prosthesis with a project I had co-developed with Megan Werner. 



Project Prompt / Challenge

You will make an extension of their body out of cardboard as a way to address a social justice idea you care about. The worn prosthetic should help perform a kind of protest.



The idea of protest can take many shapes and happen in many different places- in public, in private, online, alone or in a crowd. Try to avoid using words, symbols, paint or maker or cliché representational imagery to describe your idea. Instead, make your ideas physical and tangible by exploring the material possibilities of cardboard in order to discover creative ways to sculpt and shape your ideas instead of writing them.


In order to determine the final form of your prosthetic, you should pay close attention to function (how it works), your body (how it fits), feedback you get from your professor and classmates (how do they understand what you are making) and the context or place you choose to “protest” or share the importance of your chosen social justice issue.


Final presentation of the prosthetic will be worn and documented and potentially marched in. The best ideas find a way to go out into the world and express themselves.

To begin, brainstorm with multiple sketches, material experiments and research of the social justice issue you are addressing. Using your sketches, discuss your ideation further with your classmates. Make adjustments from their shared perspectives on your topic and your planned approach to it.


​The best wearables try to avoid looking boxy and instead focus on three dimensional form and volume. If you focus on another visual property- form, shape, negative space, volume, movement, texture, or balance- your design will be more dynamic. You should document your development process, which will include brainstorming sketches, modeling, scale calculations, structural planning and careful fabrication. Use printed photographs of yourself from different angles as a guide to design your structures from.  Be sure you are addressing your form from multiple view points. Use these designs to calculate proper proportion and scale enlargements.


Explore and discover new ways to fabricate through physical tests with materials and test out things like moveable joints, flexibility, fit and strength.  You will need to pay attention to the inherent qualities of the cardboard as well as focusing on careful craft, fit, & structure.  Your explorations and careful fabrication planning will result in a wearable that can hold up to movement. As you work, continue to make adjustments to your wearable though self assessment and through feedback from your peers.

When finished you, will take high quality photographs to document the wearable both on the body and in a context or location that helps articulate the issues being addresses.


Cardboard: You can buy large sheets of cardboard from your local art supply store, or you can source your own by collecting cardboard from shipping boxes and product packaging. You can often find cardboard on the street. Consider how the the inherent color of the cardboard can be used in your design.

Adhesives like gummed tape & white glue: Gummed tape, or craft paper tape, has no plastic, and can be

recycled. Plus, it is the same color as the cardboard so it is easily incorporated into your design. Cardboard with white glue can be accepted by most cardboard recycling companies. Avoid toxic materials like spray adhesive or plastic based tapes that cannot be recycled.

Box Knife or Utility Knife

Xacto Knife or Hobby Knife

Cutting Mat

Metal Ruler and Tape Measure


4 weeks


Student Examples:

Online / Video Resources:



  • Jade Pullen has a lot of great videos about the tools and techniques of shaping cardboard.

  • This list of cardboard fundamentals by adafruit covers many parts of the construction process.

    *note that not all of the construction and building examples on these webpages are environmentally sustainable.

  • This video by Elise Schmidt has a few construction techniques and tips, but starting at 8:18 you can see how gummed paper tape works. Gummed paper tape is more ecologically friendly and is recyclable in most places that accept cardboard.


  1. Photographing your 3D Art with an iPhone/Smartphone by aftrART

  2. Photography Basics with Ayumi Horie

  3. Works can tell stories through video documentation. Whitney Brown helps students think through their options with five lessons on videography basics.

These slide deck .pdfs are shared for faculty to use as they see fit for their courses:

Protest Prosthetics:

Project Introduction

The Aesthetics of Protest


Look up:

  • Protests at the Whitney Museum against Warren Kenders

  • Bernie Boston, Flower Power

  • Bread & Puppet Theater

  • The Mirror Barricade (Die Spiegel Barrikade)

  • Eclectic Electric Collective

What is "Social


Look up:

  • Ai Weiwei

  • Empty Bowls

  • Pedro Reyes

Brainstorming &

Iterative Sketches



Using Photos, 

Drawing, Collage

& Calculating Scale


Scale &


Additional Tips: 

  • Make sure to put the “social” in social justice: Having students discuss their ideas of social justice early on, in a safe and judgment free environment helps deepen their thinking. Encourage them to read or listen perspectives from reputable sources. An easy way to do that is to search their chosen topic + New York Times, TED,  or This American Life. For example, searching “gun safety This American Life” yields this array of perspectives.

  • Think with your hands: Students will often try to verify their ideas by finding them on the web before they begin. Help them feel confident in letting their hands figure it out, and encourage everyone to dive into making as a form of research and discovery.

  • Stand up: If your students are working from home, simply telling them to stand up while working will produce improved results.

  • Don’t extend deadline, but allow for revisions: Giving students extra time to construct their wearable rarely produces better work. Instead work toward deadlines earlier and normalize the revision/repair/remake/rebuilding process.

  • Plan for two rounds of photos: The first set of photos will be OK. The second round of photos will be much better. You’ll probably need to explicitly say that they photos should be taken during the daytime when there is plenty of available light. And, after reviewing the first round of photos will help students more clearly see the things they might not have noticed the first time; for example wearing a blank t-shirt instead of one with a corporate brand will help avoid confusing meanings, and unnoticed details in the background can be corrected. The other students giving feedback works best.


Please feel free to tag Erik @erikscollon on Instagram if you share your student approaches to this or any adaptation of this project. He'd love to see your student's approaches.

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