Monday, August 10, 2009

Fall Again

One of MJ's lesser knowns.

In today's post, I will explore a craft that is new to me: Pop-up books. Or, to coin a new, elitist term, kirigami novels. I wanted to play around with this sort of thing about a year ago, but those plans fell through, heh-heh-heh. Further reading includes more pop-up fun (instructions, the finished product, and further reading suggestions), as well as a classic art school story.

Read more!

During my senior year in college, myself and two other students were given our own private art studios on the second floor of a rickety, condemned building, the only entryway to which was via a splintery exterior wooden staircase erected by a sculpture professor in the art department. I appreciated and took great advantage of this studio space, particularly during winter term, despite the thick mattresses of snow constantly melting and refreezing in a daily cycle on the 15-foot stairway's bare, unenameled wooden planks and rusty nails.

One day, when one of the students was descending the moldy and decrepit old staircase, one of the highest steps yielded, and, as a result, she fell 15 feet on the ground, landing on her back. She's fine.

Anyway, the point of this story is that no one was allowed to go back into the house after that, and a library book I checked out about how to make pop-ups was still up there. So I never got the chance to learn how to make them!

The book I checked out last year was Paul Jackson's The Pop-Up Book, which is especially nice in that it teaches concepts rather than, as other books do, simply giving instructions or patterns for how to make a specific object. This instruction manual is available at several public libraries in Syracuse, and, according to the SU library catalog, also resides in our fine arts limited access collection. But on Sunday, when the public libraries were closed, I went to the college library and asked the art reference desk assistants to help me locate a copy. It's missing. So I had to postpone my pop-up plans for my next venture to the Central public library. They had a copy, and I also picked up another fine book while I was there: Laura Badalucco's Kirigami.

Depending on the library you go to, such pop-up manuals can be found in children's nonfiction, young adult nonfiction, or adult nonfiction. Parents, be sure to supervise your child's X-acto knife usage.

In my first attempts at pop-ups, as with many things, I tried what my high school math team instructor called the "Luke Chang Method": plugging in different educated guesses until arriving at the solution. But this ended up in a lot of wasted paper and sad, crumpled designs. It's best to just read through the instructions and measure everything exactly.

After browsing through the guides, I decided to make something simple: A dog's head, complete with wagging tongue, popping out at the reader. For this project, the essential materials are a moleskine sketchbook (any stiff paper will do fine), a pencil with eraser, a ruler, and an X-acto knife or other blade. The dog's head makes use of the "wing" technique explained in Jackson's book. For this to work, two equilateral rectangles must be drawn at equidistant points on either side of the fold in the middle. You'll see later why I should have made that bar in the middle a little wider.

Next, I am using my knife and a ruler to cut out the windows...I'm only cutting on the outermost three sides...the two sides facing the middle will be folded upwards, in a valley fold, not cut out. Careful observers will see that I'm using the cover of my moleskine notebook as a cutting surface. Be careful if you attempt the same. Ideally, you should have a better surface to cut on.

Here I am using my ruler to make a sharp and precise fold. If you fold using your fingers, your design won't be as neat, and the dirt from your fingers, which usually accumulates when you sketch something in pencil, will rub all over the paper fold, which looks gross.

And here's where the creative part comes in: here I penciled a dog's head to be cut out. I will use my knife again to cut along the pencil lines so that this design is cut out symmetrically on either side of the fold.

And now, some inking in action. Perhaps it would have been a good idea to do this before cutting out the face, but it was no great inconvenience for me.

Here's one for the blooper reel: Remind me to buy the watercolor moleskine books rather than the sketchbooks next time I plan to flood a page with ink. These books are no good for that, and just turn into mush. Plan B is to use whatever other coloring materials I have around the apartment, which turned out to be makeup and some dirty old crayons I had in the dregs of my old pencil case, which also held black charcoal sticks.

This is lipstick.

Lest you look at the book and determine that my little dog head is a total derivative of an example already pictured in it, you'll see that I added a little tongue inside! I made the tongue by folding a separate piece of paper in half, and cutting out a tongue shape the way you would cut out a Valentine heart. Then, I folded up two tabs, one on either side of the tongue's middle fold, and glued the tabs on either side of the fold inside the dog head. This way, the tongue will collapse when the head is collapsed, and will pop out when the page is opened. I thought I had taken a picture as a visual aid for this, but I guess I forgot to save it. I hope the instructions are clear. After gluing in the tongue, I glued the two ends of the dog head together, as shown.

And my Russian dictionary is doing double duty here as a weight which will stay on the dog head until the glue dries.

The last step was pasting the construction inside my moleskine book. Ta-da! If I made the middle strip wider at first, as I mentioned earlier, the dogs head wouldn't be so narrow when viewed from the front. Something to remember for next time.

So there's my first attempt at pop-ups...for extra credit, figure out how I made those letters in the picture at the top of the page.

For further reading, look at Jim Woodring's stuff. My desire to learn these techniques was inspired by this cartoonist, who made pop-ups in his own little moleskine. Woodring, in my opinion, doesn't get enough mention, though he is one of my favorite alternative cartoonists: one of the most technically skilled, as well as one of the most imaginative. His images are seductively ferocious and disturbing, a great inspiration.


  1. Nice job, Chrissy! On a side note, I do hope you don't get fined for that library book left in the artist's loft.
    When you mentioned your math teacher, by the way, I thought to pass on that Mr. Frank Reed, the Calculus teacher from PTHS (who I thought was rather good!) passed away recently from some sort of cancer. Valerie Butler emailed my mom. I don't know if you had him or not, but figured I'd let you know, in any event.
    Hope all's well with you!

  2. Sorry to hear about that, Becca. Mr. Reed, who I had for Calculus my junior year, was a real nice guy and a good teacher. He made calc so easy! And I didn't get fined for any of the library books, since I explained what happened to the art library staff, who I was tight with.