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"Crabby Mouse"

This sculpture design is available (below) as a set of free downloadable patterns.
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 markers

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 with surprise.

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:

  • Printed patterns

  • Scissors

  • Tape (preferably with a desktop dispenser, so you can tear the tape with one hand)

  • Glue (optional)

You have several options for obtaining the patterns:

  1. 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.

  2. 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!)

  3. Download the files then take them (on a USB drive) to a printing service (FedEX Office, Staples, etc.) and have them printed on cardstock.
  4. 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 outside.

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 tape).

There are many options for decorating. Here are a few:

  • spray paint
  • acrylic paints, brushed on
  • collage
  • markers (easiest before assembling the surfaces)
  • specialty spray paints (imitation rock, etc.)
  • flocking
  • splatter-painting
  • sponge-painting
  • 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 NON-COMMERCIAL use.


"Crabby Mouse" pattern 01

"Crabby Mouse" pattern 02

"Crabby Mouse" pattern 03

"Crabby Mouse" pattern 04

"Crabby Mouse" pattern 05

"Crabby Mouse" pattern 06

"Crabby Mouse" pattern 07

"Crabby Mouse" pattern 08

"Crabby Mouse" pattern 09

"Crabby Mouse" pattern 10

"Crabby Mouse" pattern 11

"Crabby Mouse" pattern 12

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