Helen Hiebert. Playing with Pop-ups: The Art of Dimensional, Moving Paper Designs. Beverly, MA: Quarry Books, 2014. ISBN 1592539084. 144 pages. $24.99.
Reviewed by Suzy Morgan
Teaching the art of the pop-up is difficult, just like any how-to book about bookbinding, because it challenges the author to describe 3-D concepts in a 2-D format. Many pop-up structures function with a front-end and a back-end structure, just like a website: the viewer almost always only sees the front-end result, and the back-end support is not very apparent except to the experienced reader. I’ve looked at many a damaged pop-up book and wondered, “How on EARTH did they make this?” while trying to fit two parts of a broken whole back together unsuccessfully. Helen Hiebert’s approach to this essential problem with teaching these complicated structures is a combination of providing templates to practice on, and a wealth of concisely illustrated instructions.
The book begins with a very brief history of pop-ups, a commentary on the state of pop-up arts today, an interesting glimpse into the production of a commercially published pop-up book, and overview of the basic pop-up terminology, tools, and tricks of the trade. I particularly enjoyed the description of the production line process of a commercially published pop-up, myself. Each different kind of fold and cut used in the following project instructions was clearly illustrated with a nice photograph and a well-written description. Hiebert also provides a list of recommended tools, as well as alternatives for some tools – like using a paperclip or the back of a knife instead of a bone folder to fold or score paper. This is a nice touch that makes the craft more accessible and promotes the kind of “creative reuse” so endemic to bookbinding.
However, in my opinion, the real genius of Hiebert’s book is the templates she provides for each project. These are pages in the book that are meant to be photocopied onto the paper of your choice, and then you just follow the dotted, dashed, and solid lines with bonefolder, knife, and glue, to create the pop-up. The first three projects are termed “Pop-up Warm-ups,” and are meant to familiarize the budding paper-engineer with the basic tenants of pop-up structure. The projects that follow increase in difficulty, but provide a nicely diverse range of different types of structures and themes. These include a pop-up city skyline, a Valentine’s card, paper earrings, a tunnel book, and a volvelle with six slots. Our conservation lab intern and I spent a happy afternoon completing one of the projects using the templates. It’s really a no-brainer way of teaching the structure, as it removes the risk of beginner mistakes such as mis-measuring; each part of the template is clearly labeled with different lines for cuts, mountain folds, or valley folds. The other wonderful thing about the templates is that many of them are blank or simple enough that you could easily customize them or slightly modify them to create an original work. In my opinion, the templates get the point across very effectively and leave very little confusion about how they should work.
The final section of the book is devoted to a beautifully photographed gallery of current-day pop-up book artists and their work. Seeing these artist’s amazing work serves as inspiration to think creatively about your own future projects, as well as a visual bibliography of pop-up books to seek out in your local library or bookstore. As a collector of pop-up books, it was reaffirming to see books from my own library represented and to feel that kindred spark of passion for the art. In other words, “We like the same pop-up books!” Hiebert’s book is a solid addition to the library of any beginner or intermediate paper engineer, and is a welcome complement to other pop-up book manuals, such as Carol Barton’s The Pocket Paper Engineer series or David Carter and James Diaz’s The Elements of Pop-Up.
is a 2009 graduate of the School of Information
at the University of Texas at Austin, where she received a
in advanced studies in conservation from the Kilgarlin Center
Preservation of the Historic Record. She has had internships at
University, Syracuse University, the Cincinnati Art Museum and
Museum of Art. After working as the web developer at the
Newberry Library and working in private practice as a book
preservation consultant, she is now Preservation Specialist for the Arizona State Library.She is also the creator of The
Multi-lingual Bookbinding/Conservation Dictionary Project: The goal
of this project is to combine, in one place, all the known bookbinding
and book conservation terminology, in as many languages as possible.