Design­ing Toroidal Books with Ken Leslie – Day 1

Today was day 1 at PBI and I started the morning session in Ken Leslie‘s class, Design­ing Toroidal Books: Fol­low the Fold and Stray No More! Describing something as toroidal is essentially a fancy way of saying it’s donut-shaped. By the way, I traveled all the way to Michigan to attend a class with a Vermont artist – he’s that cool.

Ken brought several of his books to share and talked about his creative process. He said that one of the interesting things about this shape of book is that it allows for both continuity and opposites in the same structure.

Ken Leslie with one of his painted books

We quickly got to work on our first books. We started by brushing 42″ wide 140 lb. Strathmore watercolor paper with water to relax the curl (it came on a roll). This is some big-ass paper. He said that if you go any heavier with the paper then the folds will crack. His favorite paper to work with is 52″ rolls of Arches cold or hot press watercolor paper.

Large roll of watercolor paper

Because Ken wanted us to work with the round shape on the first day, but without the math, we traced around templates that marked off each section (kinda like pie wedges). We then scored lines from the center of the circle to each of the points that marked off the section edges. After that we trimmed our circles.

Large paper circle

Next we used a compass to create the inner circle, with the size being our choice. The inner circle was cut out.

Large paper circle with the middle cut out

Then you fold on the score lines in a sorta accordion-type fashion until it collapses into a nifty little book. Actually, it was on the large side.

Folded toroidal book

Folded toroidal book

We were instructed to work on our first page spread, which included the front and back covers. The concept was to do an image of ourselves at our most constant. Here’s what I came up with:

2 painted panels of toroidal book

It’s very minimal and kinda landscapey. The coolest part about this book is that it has enough page spreads to do one for every day we’re at PBI. Each day we’re supposed to do an image of however we are on that day. We’re not supposed to spend endless hours on each spread (thankfully), and in fact, Ken told us the following:

I give you complete freedom to do a terrible job.


We then switched gears and focused on the calculations for how to create a toroidal book with a chosen number of panels. He developed his formula after years of trial and error and I’m not entirely sure I wrote it down correctly. I’m going to have to verify that tomorrow.

I can say that the 2 cover sections have to be larger than the others and that you need to have an even number of sections.

We were told that we’ll be deciding what type of toroidal book we want to develop from scratch – it could be round, rectangular, or triangular. I believe that we’re starting work on these tomorrow.

And continuing with my love for quoting instructors, I give you another great one from Ken (referring to how difficult it can be to get the section sizes right):

My pencil is fat and life is cruel.

12 Responses to “Design­ing Toroidal Books with Ken Leslie – Day 1”

By Kristin - 12 May 2014 Reply

That last quote is especially fantastic. Have a blast, Elissa!

By Randi Parkhurst - 13 May 2014 Reply

Hi Elissa-
Good for you, making it to PBI. I am jealous! Enjoy!

By Carol - 13 May 2014 Reply

This sounds fabulous, Elissa! I’ve always admired his books, so great you get to make one.

By Karleigh Jae - 13 May 2014 Reply

Elissa, I am loving this! I love that I get to live through you to experience a little bit of PBI. I told myself years ago that I can’t attend until my little ones are all in school. Next year, Elissa! Next year. For now, I will faithfully be reading everyday. Thank you!

By Laura - 13 May 2014 Reply

I second KJ’s sentiments of happy to be able to enjoy the experience through you! Have a wonderful week and I look forward to more posts and photos!

By Janet Hickey - 13 May 2014 Reply

Elissa, Thank you for taking us along on this journey of yours. PBI is on my bucket list – until then, again, thank you.

By Jayne Buckley Sykes - 13 May 2014 Reply

Wow! This is fantastic. Keep us in the loop ~ it’s great to imagine your experience. Can’t wait for the next post…

By Elissa - 16 May 2014 Reply

Thanks everyone for your kind words! I’m having a great time here so far. 🙂


By Velma Bolyard - 16 May 2014 Reply

wow, this looks magnificent! i’m glad i caught up with you–missed pbi again.

By Elissa - 22 May 2014 Reply

Velma –

Luckily, there’s another one next year!


By Sil de Fetiches de cartón - 11 March 2016 Reply

Me encantaría aprender esta estructura!
abrazos desde México

[Translation: I’d love to learn this structure! Hugs from mexico]

By Elissa - 14 March 2016 Reply

Silvia –

It’s a pretty cool structure. I took a four-day class with Ken Leslie to learn the ropes. You can read about the class in the following posts:

  • Design­ing Toroidal Books with Ken Leslie – Day 1
  • Design­ing Toroidal Books with Ken Leslie – Day 2
  • Design­ing Toroidal Books with Ken Leslie – Day 3
  • Design­ing Toroidal Books with Ken Leslie – Day 4
  • I don’t think I could teach this structure, even if I wanted to – it’s confusing and there’s a lot of math involved!


    So what do you think? I'd love to know!

    Pin It on Pinterest

    Share This