Make your own: paper peepshow

Produced as part of Alice: Curiouser and Curiouser

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Paper peepshows are like pocket-sized stage sets unfolding before your eyes. Made from layered paper panels, complete with action-packed scenes, they expand to create an illusion of depth and reveal a miniature world. Try making your own with these free templates and guide designed by artist Clare Bryan.

© 2018 Thames and Hudson Ltd, London

This project was designed by Clare Bryan and features in the V&A book Paper Crafts: A Maker's Guide (2018).

The peepshow construction is simpler than it looks, but you will need a craft knife or scalpel for precise paper-cutting.

Download the instructions and print out the templates at home:

Make sure your printer settings are set to 100%. You can print the templates directly on to your mid-weight paper if your printer allows. Why not try sourcing your own imagery to create a unique personalised scene?

© 2018 Thames and Hudson Ltd, London

Clare Bryan's work involves the manipulation and cutting of paper, making scalpel drawings in what first appear to be blank book structures. She combines teaching at various London colleges with small-press work and often collaborates with other artists, on artists' books and boxes.

Paper peepshows at the V&A

Most commonly sold as souvenirs, paper peepshows appeared in the 1820s, at first in Germany and Austria. They often celebrated particular events, famous places or feats of engineering.

Teleorama No. 1, paper peepshow, published by Heinrich Friedrich Müller, about 1825, Austria. Museum no. Gestetner 1. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

This early example was published in 1825. As the viewer peeps through the branches of a tree, a country scene unfolds, dotted with shepherds and their sheep. The eye is led towards the back panel, revealing a large country house, with ladies rowing across a nearby stream.

Teleorama No. 1, paper peepshow, published by Heinrich Friedrich Müller, about 1825, Austria. Museum no. Gestetner 1. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Need more inspiration? The V&A holds the Gestetner collection of over 400 paper peepshows and other optical toys, dating from the 19th century to the present day. You can make an appointment to view these in the National Art Library.

Find out more about our paper peepshow collection.

Discover more paper craft projects inspired by our collections in the V&A book Paper Crafts: A Maker's Guide (2018).

Background image: Teleorama No. 1, paper peepshow, published by Heinrich Friedrich Müller, about 1825, Austria. Museum no. Gestetner 1. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London