Pop-Up Structures – A Workshop

Last weekend I went to a workshop given by Artist/Bookmaker Shawn Sheehy on making pop-up structures. I love pop-up books and have quite a collection of them at home, so I was very excited to be able to attend to see how pop-ups are made. I thought that it might be something that I could include in my art journals.

Some things I learned that day:

  • it’s a very structured craft, relying on engineering, yet offers a lot of room for creativity (something which I really  like – going back to my sewing and photography; both structured crafts).
  • Commercial pop-up books still have to be cut out and put together by hand. There is no machine that can do this.
  • Shawn cuts everything out using a mat knife – no scissors are used.
  • You need to lightly score the outside of the cardstock that is used, in order to have it fold properly. Folding the paper down is called a mountain, folding the paper in is called a valley.
  • Cardstock comes in all sorts of colors and textures but you can’t buy it at Office Max; you have to order it online.
  • Kalamazoo is a great art and antiques shops town. Shawn ended going home to Chicago with several purchases he made at the Heritage Company which specializes in architectural salvage.
  • Chicago doesn’t really have a good paper making center. There are a lot of papermakers that have small studios  but nothing to make the large sheets that Shawn likes to work with.
  • Shawn enjoys gardening and recently bought a house which he is currently fixing up.

The Book Arts Center, where the workshop was held, had a display of Shawn’s work. I took a few photos of my favorites:

My favorite cards. I had to buy a copy of the Columbine card, I loved it so much. Shawn gave us the pattern for the frog card, but we didn’t have time to do it.

We did make some other cards, beginning with simple pop-ups and moving to more complex ones. All were designed to move and are called animated.

the lollipop

 When opened, the lollipop moves up and down. The box shape is called a parallel fold structure and the stick part of the  lollipop glued down by the 2 tabs is a floating strap.

The Arrow

When opened, the arrow moves down, pointing towards the bottom of the card. My arrow was slightly off kilter so it didn’t line up with the back, but I could easily see the problem and knew I could make sure it came out right the next time I made this design. (I forgot to make the arrow in a different color so it looks a little bland.

The Duck

The duck had an interesting folded strap in the back so when the card is opened, the leg moves back and forth like he’s swimming. The class had a great time embellishing their ducks, but I kept mine simple. I can always add stuff later, or even make another, fancier one.

The Man

This pop-up looked complex but was surprisingly simple. As the card was opened the man popped up, his arms opening as if to hug someone.

Another view, showing the folds used.


This one was the most complex pop-up we did, as it involved making a pull-tab so the dirigible could move back and forth. Again, we students had a good time embellishing the scene.

The back view showing one of the braces used to hold the pull tab in place – a stabilizer.

I had a great time and learned a lot. I want to continue exploring this craft, though I will probably do the more intricate cutting with scissors instead of a craft knife. Shawn was a great teacher; good at taking us through the process step-by-step and very patient with people like me who always seem a step behind everyone else.

Here are a  few more samples of his work that was on display at the Center:


About Jill-O

a girl who likes lakes, trees and critters; making an attempt at living the artistic life.
This entry was posted in art, classes, paper art and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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