The activity is inspired by sculptor Tony Cragg's artwork New Stones – Newton's Tones. Tony Cragg often uses found objects to make his sculptures.

To make New Stones – Newton's Tones he used things he found that had been discarded by people near where he lived. Most of the objects he gathered were plastic. He decided to arrange them by colour in an approximate sequence of Isaac Newton's visible colour spectrum: dark red, red, orange, yellow, green, blue, dark blue and violet.

New Stones – Newton's Tones

New Stones – Newton's Tones 1978

Tony Cragg (b.1949)

Arts Council Collection, Southbank Centre


For this activity, students will need:

  • a flat surface to work on
  • a collection of ordinary objects that are all the same colour (you could gather a few collections of objects that are all the same colour, i.e. a red group, a yellow group, a blue group, for different groups of students to work with)
  • a piece of paper and a pencil

Make a temporary sculpture

Arrange students into small groups and provide each group with a collection of objects that are the same colour.


Step 1: experiment with arranging objects

Challenge students to organise or arrange their objects in different ways.

For example:

  • from the tallest to the shortest
  • the heaviest to the lightest
  • the smoothest to the most textured
  • the most useful to the least useful
  • the funniest to the most boring
  • the most expensive to the cheapest
  • how useful the object would be if they were stranded on a desert island!

They could arrange the objects in a straight line, in a curved line, in a square, a rectangle or a circle. Or they could pile them up or put them in a messy huddle!

Encourage students to try out different arrangements for each instruction.

Step 2: decide what your artwork will look like

Ask students to choose their favourite arrangement as their temporary sculpture. This could be because it is eye-catching, unusual, interesting or thought-provoking. 

  • Perhaps the objects look as if they are standing in a long queue.
  • Or objects piled up high on top of each other might look interesting and precarious.
  • If some are grouped together, while others stand apart... what is the effect?

Ask students to show their artwork to the rest of the class and say what they like about it.

Photograph their favourite arrangements as a record of the temporary sculptures.


Invent and write a story

Ask each student to choose one object from their group of objects, and to think about how their object relates to the other objects in the group.

All the objects are the same colour, but in what other ways is their object similar – or different – to the other objects? 

Still Life with Patchwork Pieces, Whistle and Peas

Still Life with Patchwork Pieces, Whistle and Peas 2006

Jane Poulton (b.1957)

York Teaching Hospital, NHS Hospital Trust

Step 1: explore objects and their properties

Task students with making a list of the qualities that make their object similar, unique or different (they may need help with this).

Encourage them to be as specific as they can with their descriptions and to explore the object using different senses – how does it smell, feel, look and taste (if it is a food object)? What sound does it make?

They might even need to make up a new word to describe the qualities of their object!


Lemon 1992

Moira Macgregor (1931–2016)

University of Dundee Fine Art Collections

For example, the list for a lemon could include:

  • yellow
  • oval
  • dimply skin
  • rolly
  • tough
  • firm
  • sour
  • juicy
  • zesty
  • sparkly
  • dull noise

Ask students to think about their list and the words they have chosen. Are they surprised by any of their observations?

Step 2: create a character for your object

Now ask students to imagine if their object was a person or character in a story.

  • How do they think the character would behave?
  • Would they be mischievous, kind, selfish, powerful, quiet, funny, friendly or angry?


Step 3: plan and write your story

Instruct students to put their object back among the other objects and to think about its position in the arrangement.

  • What does its position suggest?
  • How does it look in comparison to the other objects?
  • What sort of situation could your object be part of?
  • Is there a story about your object that could be told?

For example, their object might be part of a crowd in the playground or watching a football match:

My lemon looks like it's in the first row, watching and observing.

Ask students to write a short story about their object as if it were a person, describing its habits, character and the way it looks at the world. Encourage them to use as many words from your list as they can.

For example:

Lemon was tough and zesty. He would push through a crowd in the playground and claim the best viewing spot to watch a game. His sparkly eyes and yellow dimply face looked sour. He pretended he didn't really care who won. He just came to watch.
But this time it looked like a fight. Big Yellow Pepper was picking on a new guy, Tiny Clip who was trembling with fear. Lemon rolled forward. 'Stop it,' he said in his firm voice, his lips dry, 'or there will be tears.'

Or students could write a short poem or haiku about their character. (See our haiku activity for haiku instructions.)

For example:

Tough, yellow lemon
A zesty superhero
Stands out from the crowd

Story development ideas


Whaam! 1963

Roy Lichtenstein (1923–1997)


  • Students could develop their story into a comic strip with pictures, short narratives and speech bubbles.
  • Or they could make the stories into short stop-animations. Look at our stop-animation activity for ideas and technique tips and instructions.

Do you know someone who would love this resource?
Tell them about it...

More Art UK resources

See all