This sculpture design is available
(below) as a set of free downloadable
You can print the patterns, cut out the parts, assemble them, and
add your own decorative touch!
12" x 12" x 8"
paper . . . or (?)
designed in 2020
Four approaches to decoration using collage, paint, and
About the Design:
As I designed “Crabby Mouse”, I was not
trying to represent anything in particular. I simply looked for
a visually intriguing combination of forms. Through the process,
I considered scale and tried to create pleasing lines. As with
all of my sculptures, I strove to make this one interesting from
all sides. As a design develops, a certain design logic begins
to evolve with it. The forms and lines of one part guide the
approach to other parts. A good sculpture balances consistency
When the design was complete, and I assembled
the first paper model, I turned it in my hands, studied the
form, and looked for hints of familiar imagery. I noticed that
it looks a bit like a mouse head from one angle, then I saw a
crab claw from another angle, thus the title “Crabby Mouse”.
The process for making this paper sculpture
is one that I have used for years to make maquettes. It is a
reasonably quick way to produce a 3D model of a sculpture before
fabricating a larger version. The models are fun to make and I
thought others might enjoy assembling and decorating some of my
designs . . . so here is my first offering.
Crab claw view
Mouse head view
Tools and supplies required:
Tape (preferably with a desktop
dispenser, so you can tear the tape with one hand)
You have several options for obtaining the
Download the files from my website and
print them with a home printer on 110 # (or heavier)
cardstock. Heavier cardstock is preferable, but
significantly more expensive. Lighter cardstock, or paper,
will not be stiff enough.
Download the files and print on standard
paper, then attach the paper to chipboard, posterboard, or
similar flexible material – You can use spray adhesive or
a glue stick to attach it. Cereal boxes are a good thickness
(actually, they are slightly thicker and better than
110# cardstock, but the process is a little more
complicated). A thicker material, like a cereal box, will
result in a sturdier sculpture than cardstock. (. . . and,
yay for recycling!)
Download the files then take them (on a USB drive) to a
printing service (FedEX Office, Staples, etc.) and have them
printed on cardstock.
I can mail you pre-printed the patterns for a fee, if
you have no other options.
For most people, the assembly process will take at least
an hour (not including decorating). I have conceived of this as
an adult project, but some kids will be able to manage it. In
either case, it requires patience and fine-motor skills.
“Crabby Mouse” is composed of three pyramidal sections
(A, B, and C). Each section consists of four primary surfaces,
plus the small connecting surfaces which will be hidden when the
sections are connected.
Once you have your printed patterns, begin by cutting
along the solid lines. Accurate cuts will make assembly easier.
When the surfaces are all cut, find the four smallest surfaces
and fold along the dashed lines. (Don’t fold the V-shaped
dashed lines; they are reference lines to help you to see how
the sections go together later in the process.)
The edges of each surface are labeled to facilitate
assembly. I sequenced the numbers for the easiest order of
assembly (hopefully). Begin by finding both edges labeled “A1”.
There is an alignment dot (semi-circle) in the center of each
side. Align the semi-circles and start taping there.
Small pieces of tape (~1/2” x 1/2”) will conform to
the curved edges. Longer pieces of tape will be more likely to
bunch up. Try not to crease the cardstock as you press the edges
together. Proceed toward the ends, carefully matching the edges
as you go. Throughout the process, inaccuracy will be compounded
in later stages. The process is a bit awkward, but after you
have taped a few edges, you will begin to figure out how to
handle the paper and the tape for a good result.
The small connecting surfaces are challenging parts to
tape in place. Depending on which way you folded the little
triangles, you may need to fold them in the opposite direction
to match the adjacent surfaces. In some areas, taping on the
inside of the sculpture may be easier than taping on the
Initially, do not attach the final surface of Section A or
C. This will allow you to get your hand inside when you glue the
sections together. You can complete Section B.
The most difficult part of the whole process is connecting
the three assembled sections. Once the three sections are
edge-taped and ready for assembly, the round smiley faces will
need to kiss each other and the square smiley faces will need to
kiss each other. Apply glue to the connecting surface, then
reach inside and press the joint together. A few pieces of tape
will be helpful in securing the joint while
the glue dries. Basic white glue will work (and it is safe).
The joints can also be taped, without glue, but applying tape to
inside corners is difficult.
After the glue has dried, attach the final surfaces.
On your first try, you will almost certainly have some
creases, mis-matched edges, bunched tape, etc. If you plan to
put a lot of effort into decorating, I suggest that you first
assemble an un-decorated sculpture to figure out the assembly
techniques that work best for you.
Once the sculpture is assembled, and you are ready to
decorate, keep in mind that cardstock will lose its strength if
it gets wet. If you plan to paint the sculpture, or use some
other wet process, you may be able to avoid excess moisture by
spraying first with a light coat of sealer or primer. Test a
small area to be sure the sealer does not cause the tape to
loosen. Another option is to apply packing tape, duct tape, or
another type of tape to the whole
sculpture (don’t try to wrap around the corners with wide
There are many options for decorating. Here are a few:
acrylic paints, brushed on
markers (easiest before assembling the surfaces)
specialty spray paints (imitation rock, etc.)
specialty cardstock (glitter, color, etc.)
An easy variation is to assemble the sculpture with the
numbers facing inward, for a mirror-image.
This design and these files are freely available for