de Youngsters Studio: Imaginative Hats Inspired by Nick Cave’s Soundsuits

By Jen Kindell, Teaching Artist

May 15, 2020

In this lesson plan, children get to experience the transformative power of art. By creating a hat that explores ways of making and combining found materials, young artists will transform their appearance and explore how their feelings may change as a result. 

Our permanent collection at the de Young includes contemporary American artworks that reflect both the personal visions of the artists and the collective concerns of their communities. This project was inspired by Untitled (Soundsuit) by Nick Cave from 2008. Cave is an American sculptor, performance artist, and dancer. His Soundsuits combine art, fashion, and performance into incredibly detailed and intricate wearable sculptures. Both playful and serious, they hide the identity of the wearer, allowing for a freeing experience that erases gender, race, and class. The first Soundsuit was made in response to racism and discrimination that the artist experienced as an African American man. Cave states that the suits are like a secondary skin or a suit of armor, and wearing one can feel protective and liberating. He has made more than 500 Soundsuits, and some are 10 feet tall! We encourage you to look up the energetic and joyful performances of dancers wearing Soundsuits online.


  • Newspaper
  • Colored construction paper
  • Scrap paper from old magazines or wrapping paper. Use what you have!
  • Glue or tape
  • Scissors
  • Found materials like buttons, ribbon, tin foil

Questions to consider 

  • What materials can you find and use to decorate a unique hat?
  • What types of textures and color will you use on your hat? Will it have patterns?
  • Will your chosen materials make a sound? How would you like to feel when you are wearing it?


  1. Start with a sheet of newspaper. Fold the rectangle sheet of newspaper in half vertically. 
  2. Fold it again horizontally and crease the fold, before unfolding. With the folded edge at the top, take both the top right corner and the top left corner and fold them to the center crease. The resulting shape should be a triangle with a bottom flap. 
  3. Fold the bottom flap up one side to make the brim of the hat. Flip over and repeat on the other side. Experiment to get the right size and trim as needed. Your hat is ready to be decorated.

Adorn and embellish

  1. Using found materials, adorn and embellish your newspaper hat to make it special. Ideas include using buttons, tin foil, special papers like wrapping paper, old magazines, colored gift tissue paper, or construction paper. Cut your materials into interesting shapes and glue or tape them down. Use your imagination! Embellish your hat to be something you’d love to wear.
  2. Make a chin strap by adding some ribbon or yarn inside the hat on each side with tape to keep it in place.


After creating your hat, consider the following questions:

  • How does wearing your hat make you feel? 
  • Would you like to add movements or sounds to go with wearing your hat? 
  • If you were going to make a full costume, what would it look like, and what materials would you need? 

We hope that wearing your hat makes you feel like an artist, because you are trying out something new!


Perhaps you will make hats for all your family members or a special friend. We would love to see what you make, too, so please tag us on any social platform using the hashtag #deyoungsters.

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