A Life Made by Hand: The Story of Ruth Asawa Lesson Activity


What can you create with a straight line? If you need some inspiration, take a look at Ruth Asawa’s wondrous sculptures. She constructed them by weaving wire with her hands, creating movement with continuous loops. Light plays a special role with the wire mesh; casting a magnificent shadow beyond the sculptures.

How did Asawa learn to create such fantastic hanging forms? In the book A Life Made By Hand: The Story of Ruth Asawa, author Andrea D’Aquino illustrates the history of the artist. We discover Asawa’s affinity for art started at a young age. She noticed organic forms and shapes and made art with paint, paper and wire.

In college, Asawa learned how to create art with available materials. Wire intrigued her. She was curious about what she could make from something that started as a line. After learning how to weave with wire from an artisan in Mexico, Asawa transferred her new skills to craft her famous sculptures.

Readers will appreciate the combination of charcoal, colored pencils, and paper shapes that illustrate Asawa’s life. The accessible text complements the art with angled lines and curved shapes. The back matter includes directions to make a paper dragonfly along with more information about Asawa.

Illustration of a double-page spread from A Life Made by Hand: The Story of Ruth Asawa by Andrea D'Aquino. The illustration is of Ruth Asawa weaving a sculpture out of wire.

A Life Made by Hand Lesson Activity

AASL Standards Framework for Learners: Explore/Create V.B.2 Learners construct new knowledge by persisting through self-directed pursuits by tinkering and making.

After reading A Life Made by Hand: The Story of Ruth Asawa by Andrea D’Aquino, discuss how Asawa made art with whatever materials she had. Sometimes, she used paper. Ask learners to take stock of the paper and other materials they have at home. What can they create?

Invite learners to do an image search of “paper crafts.” They will be amazed at what they’ll find! Direct them to create something based on what they see. Develop a plan to work around possible problems. Encourage learners to persist through mistakes and make adjustments. Invite them to share works-in-progress if they would like feedback from their peers.

Follow author/illustrator Andrea D’Aquino on Instagram where you’ll find her reading her book, A Life Made by Hand.

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