"Soapstone" Relief Sculpture

Grades 5-6

ART 207-04, Group 2

Ian Fullmer, Jennifer Johnson, Ashleigh Cook, Katie Wilson





1)      Students will learn what relief sculpture is.

2)      Students will gain a better understanding of the history of relief sculptures.

3)      Students will practice the relief carving technique.


Student Materials


1)      Soap

2)      Carving Utensils

3)      Newspaper


Teacher Materials


1)      Pictures of historical relief sculptures

2)      Examples of the project

3)      Soap

4)      Carving Utensils

5)      Newspaper




1)      Relief Sculpture

2)      High Relief

3)      Low Relief

4)      Sunken Relief

5)      Sculpture in the Round

6)      Greek Art

7)      Roman Art





    1)  Explain history of relief sculpture using overheads.
    2)  Explain what makes this technique unique.
    3)  Show previous artwork.
    4)  Give a brief demonstration.
    5)  Pass out materials.


    1)  Choose the animal or object that you wish to carve.
    2)  Lightly carve the outline on the flat side of the soap.
    3)  Carve out the animal or object using the appropriate utensils.

    1)  Have student who wish to hold up their artwork.
    2)  Lead a discussion about what was learned.



1)  Gardner's Art Through the Ages: The Western Perspective, Volume II, 11th Edition
2)  Gardner's Art Through the Middle Ages, Volume I, 11th Edition
3)  Herberholz and Herberholz's Artworks for Elementary Teachers: Developing Artistic and   Perceptual Awareness, 9th Edition

Group Feedback


1)             It would be fun to save the shavings for a bath. If you make a mistake you can just shave it away.

2)             It's good how the soap is soft.  This would make cheap Christmas presents.  It's fun how there are different ways to carve the soap.  It's good how the soap is hard.

3)             The project was fun and easy.  The project was fun and all the examples were nice.

4)             The history research was informative.

5)             Good project for kids who aren't good at drawing.

6)             The historical background was good.  The visual aids were nice.

7)             It was a cool project.  It might be bad if someone was allergic to soap.


Relief Sculpture


            gStatues that exist independent of any architectural frame or setting and that viewers can walk around are freestanding sculptures, or sculptures gin the round,h whether the piece was carved or cast.  In relief sculptures, the objects project from the background but remain part of it.  In high relief sculpture, the images project boldly.  In some cases, the relief is so high that not only do the forms cast shadows on the background, but some parts are actually in the round.  In low relief, the projection is slight.  In a variation of both techniques, sunken relief, the sculptor cuts the design into the surface so that the images highest projecting parts are no higher than the surface itself.  Relief sculpture, like sculpture in the round, can be produced either by carving or casting.h  -Gardners Art Through the Middle Ages. Vol. 1, 11th Edition.


            Reliefs have been a tool to express the ideas and the feelings of cultures, individuals, religion and many aspects of all forms of culture in the world.  Since ancient times when cave men carved the beasts which they hunted, (or hunted them), through the Egyptian hieroglyphics, through the mighty friezes of the Pantheon, the Coliseums, and many other Greek and Roman art and architecture; relief has been a most valuable tool of expression, communication, and documentation of cultures and the views of the people in them.  In todayfs modern era we see artists using the capabilities of the relief to express their views of our culture in many of the same was in which people had done in the past.