Rock (make believe) – Paper – Scissors: The Art of Children's Pop-Up Book Engineer Bruce Foster
“My children have never torn up a pop-up book because we would look at them together and they understood that the pop-up book was a delicate craft, a special hand-made thing,” says Bruce Foster, paper- engineer. He’s sculpted the page spreads of more than 40 pop-up books, including a graphic novel. He’s also known for movie-related pop-up projects.
Bruce has done all the paper-sculpting for a new pop-up book celebrating the Harry Potter movies. Harry Potter – a Pop-Up Book is due out in November — three days before the release of the new movie. Illustrations for the book were painted by Andrew Williamson, who’s been the lead concept artist for all of the Harry Potter movies.
A pop-up book requires teamwork, Bruce explains, beginning with the paper engineer’s white paper mock-up or dummy for the page spreads. The illustrator must then illustrate the shapes — the puzzle pieces that will be used to assemble the 3-D page spreads.
The video below from an ongoing Smithsonian Institution exhibit on the art and science of pop-up books, Fold, Pull, Pop and Turn features Foster and pop-up artist Chuck Fischer working together on the book Angels.
Later in the day after our visit in his studio, Bruce joined me and my brothers and sister in law for a visit to the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, where we listened to a gallery talk by Jon Evans on “The Interactive Book.”
Evans is the director of the museum’s Hirsch Library, where one can make an appointment to see some of the world’s most intriguing interactive books by artists ranging from pop artist Jasper Johns to color and design gurus Josef Albers and Carlos Cruz Diez.
Evans demonstrated one of the 250 editions of the “string books” of book artists and book arts scholar Keith A. Smith. Smith referred to them as “no picture books.” There’s a video of another one of the string books below.
“It does away with ink and text and becomes a quiet, meditative book,” Evans says. Strings run through punched holes in various configurations throughout the pages. The book’s content? “The light and shadows of the strings and their interplay. The tone changes as you go through,” Evans explains.
Other interactive books included one with 19th-century typeface and Victorian-era silhouettes — black cutouts depicting scenes of Antebellum slavery life — by silhouette artist Kara Walker.
Another by artist John Baldessari consists of accordion-fold postcards with still images from movies and TV) that allows the reader to assemble any story sequence or ending he wishes.
Here’s “string book” #28 by Keith Smith:
Bruce believes that an elegant pop-up book The 12 Days of Christmas by Robert Sabuda “synthesized everything that was right about pop-up books and kicked off the new golden age of pop-up books.”
To download a free, fascinating PDF history of pop-up books (the craft dates back hundreds of years) go here.