Artist Jennifer Maestre's unique creations involve hundreds of brilliantly colored pencils intricately arranged to form creatures, marine life and fascinating shapes.

Pencil bodies, cross sections and sharpened tips are arranged together to make unusual spiky-tipped sculptures. Why just draw with pencils if you can use them as the subject of your art?

Although lovely, the sculptures' pointy edges have a bit of a treacherous feel.

"I was originally inspired by sea urchins," says the Massachusetts-based artist. "I was interested in the beautiful, yet dangerous texture."

Originally, Maestre began using nails to attempt to replicate the sea urchin texture, but she couldn't get all the turns and twists she wanted. So as her art began to change, so did her medium.

"When I started to make larger sculptures, I realized that I couldn’t get much versatility with my methods, so after some experimenting, I came to pencils."

pencil sculpture called 'Blue Star'
'Blue Star' is a marine-inspired sculpture. (Photo: Jennifer Maestre)

When she began working with pencils, Maestre developed a technique that basically turns the pencils into beads.

She cuts the pencils into one-inch sections, drills a hole into each part, sharpens them, and then sews them together, most often using a beading technique called a peyote stitch.

pencil jellyfish sculpture
This purple jellyfish seems to be undulating. (Photo: Jennifer Maestre)

Each sculpture involves hundreds of pencils, says Maestre. The last large project she did used 450 colored pencils.

pencil sculpture called 'Timai'
This cute pencil creature is named 'Timai.' (Photo: Jennifer Maestre)

To get her pencils ready to become art, Maestre uses little handheld sharpeners with replaceable blades. She figures she can get about 800 good sharpens from each blade and thousands of used blades stashed away.

"I save them, too, in case I’m inspired to use them for another sculpture," she says. "The pencil sharpeners get worn down, too. I probably have about 30 of them."

2-D pencil art
Broken pencils end up as 2-D art. (Photo: Jennifer Maestre)

Maestre saves all the pencil pieces that break or that are leftover and she uses them to make 2-D works. She makes those, like the one above, by setting the pencil stubs in epoxy and assembling them into slabs.

pencil shaving sculpture called 'Swirl'
'Swirl' is a sculpture made from leftover pencil shavings. (Photo: Jennifer Maestre)

She has also been saving the pencil shavings and turning them into sculptures, like the one above.

trio of pencil sculptures by Jennifer Maestre
Maestre mixes the sharpened tips and the pencil bodies to create her sculptures. (Photo: Jennifer Maestre)

Maestre says she's inspired by animals, plants, mythology, other art and all sorts of things ... including her own mistakes.

"Sometimes one sculpture will inspire the next, or maybe I'll make a mistake, and that will send me off in a new direction."

pencil sculpture called 'Pinamin'
Maestre's 'Pinamin' is an animal on a pedestal. (Photo: Jennifer Maestre)

Mary Jo DiLonardo writes about everything from health to parenting — and anything that helps explain why her dog does what he does.