The Rare Book department at the University of Utah’s library has been completely renovated as part of the library’s recent remodel and it’s a big improvement. It’s a nice place to take a class. I recently attended a two-day workshop called The Language of Pop-Ups taught by Shawn Sheehy.
Pop-up books have always amazed me. When I look at pop-ups I just want to figure out how they work. Usually I fail so I just write it off to the magic of the pop-up artist.
Because pop-ups feel more like art than science—it’s easy to assume that they are created through shear inspiration rather than through learnable techniques. But Shawn took a great approach for the class. We created a series of folios, each teaching a different principle of pop-up technique. And like most things, you soon discover that pop-up books rely on a series of foundational, learnable skills that can be used to build bigger, more complex structures. Before long we were throwing around terms like natural sticking point and v-fold muscle like we’d been engineering paper for years.
In the end we completed an astonishing 21 folios including a dramatic sculptural lion and a deer based on a design by Robert Sabuda. (It’s unbelievable what that guy can do with two pieces of paper.) We ended the class by binding all of our folios into a clever book that serves as a reminder of all we learned. The class was a lot of fun, but what would you expect when you spend two days contemplating pop-ups. It was extra fun because Brian, Amy, and Felix took the class too so we could compare notes and make jokes from the back of the class.
As a bonus, I used this opportunity to post my first video to the Web. It’s not all that exciting but I figured a video would show off my pop-up technique better than still photography. (I love my new Flip HD video camera.) So here are a just few of the cool new tricks we learned from Shawn.