Sunday, 17 May 2020

Lockdown Bookish Sculpture Part II - Tracy Darnton

Welcome to part II of my bookish sculpture course. Part I was about making a simple animal by folding. Check it out here if you missed it. Rest assured, I'm not cutting up lovely new books, I'm repurposing withdrawn from stock or charity shop rejects.

Scabbers the Rat, for one, is very grateful to have lived out his days on display in a junior school library, been part of an exhibition at our local library and now being semi-retired on my son's bookshelf until last month's blog, rather than the alternative of *gulp* the pulping machine....!!!!

Scabbers' grateful face

As promised, we're progressing to trees and using sharp scissors or a craft knife.*

Scabbers the Rat and Tracy Darnton are not in anyway responsible for any injuries caused by the use of sharp scissors or a craft knife. 

This is one I bought at the RUH, Bath craft stall.

First though let’s stick with therapeutic folding.


Make a standing cone-shaped tree using a similar folding method. Remove the book cover as this time you want your sculpture to stand up vertically once you’ve joined the sides together.

To get the sharp slanted edge of a cone shape, fold the top right corner to the spine making a triangle. Smooth the crease.

Now fold the page to halve it and bring the crease you just made to the centre spine of the book, making a sharper triangle (the edge of the tree).

There should be a small triangle hanging over the bottom edge of the book. Crease a line along it, across the edge. Tuck the triangle back up inside the folded page. This forms the trunk or stand.

When you’ve done the whole book, fold it round, loosening the spine, to form a cone. Glue in place.

Add decoration - use green or silver paints or pens, ribbons used as garlands or add tiny beads as baubles. To make it a Christmas decoration, add a silver star for the top and use festive printed ribbons to decorate. 

Tip: Use a peg or bulldog clip to hold together the folded pages you’ve done as you carry on working through the book. 

So now you've mastered animals and trees. The folding methods work well where you need straight lines and triangular shapes. But for sculptures with curves you’ll need to cut pages and this can be too tough with scissors. Use a craft knife and cutting mat instead. 


Take an old book and remove the cover. You just want the inside pages. 

Make a template to lay onto the spine. Start with a simple shape like an apple (or pear). Because you’re going to open out the shape like a fan, you just need half of the shape (shaped like an ear) to cut out on the template. The final 3D piece of fruit will be held together by the existing book spine. 

Draw round your half apple template on to the book then cut out with a craft knife, unfold and glue if necessary to hold your 3D fruit in shape. 

Use the offcuts or coloured paper to make a stalk and leaves. Glue in place.  

You can ‘dust’ the edges with green acrylic paint or use a pen to finish.

Once you get the hang of the method, you can make plenty of shapes. 
  • For a pumpkin – dust edges with orange and add a black stalk and black card triangles for the pumpkin eyes and nose. Finally, add a black smile or frown. 
  •  For an angel cut a basic circle (head) on top of a triangle, add paper wings and tinsel halo. Edge with silver paint or pens. 
  • Make hanging bells for the Christmas tree.
Or if it all goes awry, just go for abstract sculptural shapes and pretend that's what you wanted. 

You have now completed the Tracy Darnton course in Bookish sculpture. Well done! I’d love to see any of your creations.

I'm going to end with a pic of a book angel that I didn't make - I bought them at the Bookbarn near Bristol and gave them as Christmas gifts to my lovely writing group. So looking forward to the resumption of tea and book chat and hugs and book folding and the occasional bit of writing. 

Tracy Darnton is the author of The Truth About Lies. Her next novel, The Rules, is out in July. The Rules is about a girl who’s spent her whole life preparing for disaster like catastrophic climate change or pandemic. Tracy is still not enjoying this unexpected immersive research period. 


Anonymous said...

I would love to be able to make something as wonderful as either of these. Fortunately, I know my own limitations and so no books will be damaged for no good purpose in this house! I have, by the way, read ‘The Rules’ and very eerie reading it made at this point in time. And yes, I am a Darnton too.

Ann Darnton said...

That former comment should have come in as from Ann Darnton at; I’m clearly no good at the blogspot method of commenting.