Magic and Passion in Portland
by Ellen G.K. Rubin
(reprinted from Movable Stationery vol.18 no.4 November 2010)
The magic and passion that would infuse the Movable Book Society’s Conference in Portland, Oregon [Sept. 23-25, 2010] began on my American Airline’s flight. I had read in the NY Times Sunday Magazine a description of the Livescribe, a special pen for note-taking. Not to whine, but while MBS conferees are schmoozing, I try to be everywhere taking notes. Being the luckiest gal in the pop-up world, I had found Divine intervention. This pen has a built-in recorder. When notes are taken on special paper and the pen is later pressed against a written word, the recorder skips to where that word was spoken and the scribe, me, can hear those words again. If this is not magic, what is?
I had come early to the Conference to see a bit of Portland. I knew my first stop would be Powell's Book Store, walking distance from the Hilton Portland and Executive Tower, site of the Conference. Powell’s reputation is legendary and it's size greater than Strand's in NYC. Powell’s website for rare books offered little hope for a great find but what book collector would pass it by?
For any other store I would have immediately exited as soon as I saw The Map. I was there the day Bed, Bath and Beyond opened in Manhattan. As I entered, an employee handed me a map of the store with a big grin and said, “Welcome!” I looked down at the double-sided page and handed it back. I told her, "Any store I need a map to shop in, is too big for me." I left. Of course, we all know, no bookstore can be too big.
I immediately went into Laser-Focus mode; blinders on; eyes forward. I moved through the maze-like shelves, map memorized like an eager pirate, to Aisle 630 in the Rose room where the pop-ups are conveniently displayed together. A Bruno Munari and a Random House book were spine-to-fore-edge on one shelf. Most books were reprints, such as Crowther’s Most Amazing Hide & Seek Alphabet and Numbers books, which I bought. [And NO! I do not already have everything!] I thought it a good place to fill in some books one has missed and made a note to relay that to conferees. I didn’t purchase any new releases. Remember airline luggage rates?
On Wednesday evening, 23Sandy Gallery owner, Laura Russell, escorted fellow juror, Larry Seidman, and I to see the exhibit of artist books, Pop-Up Now! A Juried Exhibition of Movable Books. The Gallery is an intimate, light-filled space. Larry, Jill Timm, and I had selected 43 books from the almost 120 submitted for the exhibit. Each artist had sent 3 photos, which could include one video. Laura, a perky and passionate book artist and curator had created webpages for us to view the images this past July. It was a most enjoyable experience. The exhibit was co-sponsored by the Movable Book Society who would be giving awards to be chosen tonight by Larry and myself. Jill, unable to be in Portland, had sent her selections ahead.
At 23 Sandy Gallery
For the first time, Larry and I could handle the books and see if our impressions held up when crossing from virtual to real. Some did, some didn’t. The more delicate books had signs, Do Not Touch. The books could be seen from several angles including the glass-fronted store itself. We had no problem choosing prizewinners for each category. Best of Show winners receive a copy of Celebrat10n, donated by Ann and Larry. THANK YOU! Juror’s Choice Award winners receive a year’s membership to MBS. The Gallery Choice Award, selected by Laura, is a solo show at the Gallery. Some of the unique books and all of the editioned books are available for sale. On Friday night, conference attendees made their way across the Williamette River to see the books and rub elbows with those book artists in attendence.
But, I get ahead of myself.
From Vista House at Columbia Gorge
Larry Seidman at the Falls
Despite the rain on Thursday morning, Larry and I trekked to the Gorges to see the waterfalls, a well-worth-it excursion. Leaving him that afternoon, both of us soaked from the hikes, I returned to the hotel to find my Livescribe waiting for me, overnighted from Amazon. Ah, blessed event—it worked right out of the box! The magic was mine! I headed off to the Meet and Greet. Hello! Hello! to all those I haven’t seen since Washington, DC— Grab-and-Hug, Linda Costello, Quiet-Not Shy, Shawn Sheehey and his hip-mate, Emily Martin. Ahoy! Dagmar Kubaštová. Shamelessly, I touted my Magic Pen. By the end of the Conference, I had only to raise it to see eyes rolling. My passion was not contagious. Alas.
Ann Montanaro, MBS’ founder, began by shepherding us into the ballroom for dinner
and a formal welcome before introducing, Kyle Olmon, our Program Director.
She explained how the Society had underwritten the printing of the four-color
glossy catalog for the Pop-up Now! exhibit, $10 for attendees and $25 at the Gallery and after the Conference.
After dinner, Kyle presented the first and only speaker of the night,
Colette Fu, who combines photography and paper engineering. We followed
Colette from project to project growing amazed at her energy and ingenuity,
not the least of which is securing funding for her innovative ideas.
Colette’s talk was entitled, “We are Tiger Dragon People.” On a Fulbright Scholarship to her native China, Colette was to produce a pop-up book from photos of 25 ethnic minority tribes of Yunnan province. Her mother is a member of the Yi tribe and her father had been a Lung Yun or governor in the area. We were treated to a colorful travelogue that Colette turned into pop-up books. One was in the Pop-up Now! exhibit.
Working on a large scale, 36” x 53” on binder’s board—these books rival Linda Costello’s for size—Colette complained, “On a good day, I can carry 2 [pop-ups] at a time.” But her work got a bit lighter when she was commissioned by the Children’s Medical Center in Dallas, Texas to produce a series of digital commercials using pop-ups. These videos of children making recoveries from serious ailments and narrated by actress, Linda Hunt, are beautifully done and heart-warming. Colette described the technicalities of transferring paper pop-ups to video. The videos may be seen at Colette’s website. Where the dinner smorgasbord had been previously, we now enjoyed a smorgasbord of Colette’s work.
The evening’s program was over but members could not break apart. As waiters rolled away tables and clanged silver and glassware, several of us hung back catching up, sharing stories, and exchanging ideas…..until almost midnight! My Magic Pen was capped but the passion of members flowed.
A sunny day in Portland; a day of surprises and magic. With my Magic Pen charged and ready, I joined the others for a tasty breakfast spread. While pouring my coffee, I looked up to see a vivacious young man with a tiny braid behind one ear and a real tree branch over his head! From the tree hung small “apple slices.” “Are you Johnny Appleseed?” I asked. “Not really,” he replied with a big white-toothed grin and a lush Italian accent rolling off his tongue. The “apple slices” would turn out to be Giovanni Iafrate’s business card that one could inflate through a small hole. Giovanni, straight to Portland from Italy, is a fledgling paper engineer we would get to know over the next 2 days.
original to the core
Kyle opened the day’s events by introducing Laura Russell, another ray of sunshine, who would talk about the Pop-up Now! exhibit. Laura reviewed her life as a book artist. She showed slides from the exhibition including video of some award winners telling us this was the first time that videos, each no more than 1 minute, were used in submissions. Jurors did not know the identity of the artists. Laura announced the winners of the Movable Book Society’s co-sponsored show.
And the winners are:
Best of Show, Unique (One-of-a-Kind) Book - Kevin Steele for The Movable Book of Letterforms [click here for video]
Best of Show, Editioned Book - Mary Jeanne Linford for Tool Box [click here for video]
Juror's Choice Award - Sue Collard for her Small Museum of Nature and Industry
Juror's Choice Award - Kitty Maryatt and Her Scripps College Press Students for Arch
Juror's Choice Award - Linda Johnson for Blessing Bowl
Gallery Choice Award - Elsi Vassdal Ellis for There Goes the Neighborhood
Mary Jeanne Linford of Bad Girl Press, Bainbridge, WA was there to receive the
award for Tool Box. She was clearly “shocked and awed” at the recognition. This
over-the-top movable book with wooden covers is an homage to her father, a carpenter.
Each tool was made to work realistically down to the turning buzzing circular
saw. Even the tape measure snaps back! There are witty definitions and admonitions:
“No power tools while bathing and showering.” She thanked Shawn Sheehey for introducing
her to pop-ups. Larry Seidman presented Mary Jeanne with her copy of MBS’ Celebrat10n book. Considering this was Mary Jeanne’s third book—a second, A Bainbridge ABC,
was also in the show—Mary Jeanne has a bright future as a paper engineer.
Laura continued to describe other award winning books, such as Sue Collard’s, Small Museum. Sue’s background as an architect was evident by her incorporating “the rod used between doorknobs” as the spine. Larry and I had seen Sue arranging her miniature ‘books’ although it seemed more like she was playing with doll-house furniture.
Linda Johnson’s Blessing Bowl hit many hot-buttons for design, message, and materials. It’s a flag book with “flag” blessings or wishes such as, “House still standing after hurricane,” and “Long hair. Cremé rinse. No tangles.” Remove the book, close the box, and put the magnetized rock on top. The book wraps around the rock, creating a bowl. There were lots of loud Oohs! and Aahs!
Arch is an unusual entry in that it is the collaborative effort of Assistant Professor Kitty Maryatt, a book arts teacher, and her students at Scripps College in Claremont, California. A leporelo, it stretches 88 inches and compares the parts of a book to architectural constructs. There was barely space to stretch it out for us.
Lastly, Laura announced her pick for the Gallery Choice Award. It went to Elsi Vassdal Ellis for There Goes the Neighborhood. Again, by magic, there stood Elsi gushing with joy at having won the prize and the solo show. She explained that this book is less complicated than her first, The Quest for the Ethical Compass, which we’d seen in the Stand and Deliver Show in San Diego/2004. Ed Hutchins—We miss you here, Ed!—had counseled Elsi to let the book “breathe” and follow the Kiss principle, as in Keep It Simple, Stupid. Like Quest, Neighborhood is concept-driven and “very political” taking on climate change and G. W. Bush. Elsi showed us a movable spread she added after submission. Seeing strip mines on a road trip, she put a mine in “jail,” saying, “This is the only time a corporate executive will be behind bars.”
Laura left us with a warm invitation to visit the 23Gallery between 4 and 7 PM that night. Members could see the exhibit’s books and have savory light fare.
We were ready to be wowed by a couple whose creativity reads like a chapter in
Genesis, each idea “begetting” the next. Kyle introduced Joe Freedman as
an artist “on the vanguard of digital technology” and whet our appetites
for Ilisha Helfman by telling us she is a big proponent of “Jazz Knitting.”
Joe would be conducting our workshop after the talk. He and Ilisha have
a new store in NW Portland, LeafPDX.
This passionate team, that finishes each other’s sentences but seem not to step on each other’s toes, produces 3-5 books per year. The last one by Joe was Book Dynamics for Ed Hutchins, an overview of Ed’s oeuvre. Laser cutting puts the duo on the ”cutting-edge” of movable paper objects. They’ve done special projects for Yale’s Beinecke Library and Italian festivals where a parade of floats can be pulled with tabs. Joe spoke at length of his optical toys, like retroscopes and thaumotropes. All his cards fold flat for mailing.
Ilisha’s collapsible dollhouses, scale ½ or ¼ inches, come white or patterned. Ilisha can’t abide blank surfaces and finds ways to overlay all kinds of patterns on her work, especially her dollhouse furnishings.
Before arriving at the 23Gallery Exhibit party, a few of us went to their store. Here we were almost overwhelmed by that cascading creativity, presented in a very small space. There were neckties, and tiny, tiny buttons, tunnel books and laser-cut greeting cards, lamp screens, the optical toys and pop-up theaters. Joe confessed, “There are projects worked on that never go anywhere.” The tiny buttons were repurposed for countless other crafts. We got to see examples of the Jazz Knitting. As I said, “Begat, begetting, begotten.”
Based on past workshops, it was hard to imagine that we could make tunnel books in 15 minutes. Clearly Joe had spent hours creating post-card style images of Portland, laser-cutting them, and assembling everything into individual kits. We only needed a glue-stick to make the tunnel card. With the help of circulating paper engineers and Joe’s demonstration, we put the tunnel together successfully without tears.
Dagmar making a tunnel book.
As lunch was being served, someone at my table started talking about Portland’s
Voodoo Donut Shop, known for its oversized donuts in outrageous flavors,
like bacon. Ugh! I’d have to be very hungry for that. Giuse Longo from
Italy pulled out her own bottle of olive oil for the salad—a purist for
sure! While dining, we were treated to Bruce Foster and Chuck Fischer’s
video for the Smithsonian exhibit, Fold, Pull, Pop & Turn, showing how they made a single spread for Angels. It’s a soup to nuts
education not to be missed.
And now for a true magician, Robin Sutton, Conservator! Her talk “Silk Purses
from Sows’ Ears” illuminated how she p a i n s t a k i n g l y transforms, recreates,
and repairs injured books. Working with magnifying glasses, tweezers, and years
of accumulated images, she often makes discoveries either between the pages or
on the covers. For example, for one of Dean’s first movable books, The History
of how Ned Nimble built his cottage [1859, 1861, 1862], she identified different
cover-art for each edition. Sometimes there are subtle changes in the movables
and it’s important “to preserve every scrap of paper.” Robin set down her Principles
1. Preserve every original pop-up piece
2. Use only archival and reversible material
3. Invade [inside the movable] only as necessary
4. Do not re-engineer the plate
5. Use invention and instinct
Robin had many colorful terms for the books she works on, like, “train wrecks,” and “cornflakes” for books whose paper disintegrates. [If the words are more “colorful’ when she struggles with abused books, she prudently didn’t share them.] Books may be taken apart, scanned, and collated. Robin “can create the whole from less” while all repairs remain reversible should new information or better parts emerge later. Kyle reflecting on Robin’s work said, “The bigger the mess, the happier she is.”
Our final presentation picked up where our Washington, DC conference left off. Book artists, Emily Martin and Shawn Sheehey, talked about Handmade Paper in Motion, the newly printed collaborative book of movable spreads created by teams of papermakers and paper engineers for Handpapermaking of Beltsville, MD. [Robert Sabuda and Carol Barton were 2 of the 4 jurors.] Many of us had visited the workshop in DC. One hundred fifty-two copies were produced. These “could not be printed in China,” Shawn said.
Sean & Emily
Uniquely, Shawn was paired with himself being both a papermaker and paper engineer.
Consistent with his usual book themes of ”evolution and use of planet resources,”
he created the “Frog Goddess, Hesperana.” The result of all his painstaking
work is a frog “with mutated wings.”
Emily [of Iowa City] was paired with Bridget O’Malley [of Minneapolis, MN]. There was a lot of give-and-take including Emily’s concession to make the pop-up of a snake and not a cookie. They created "Pandora’s Box" with a gift tag from Zeus. Making all the editions by hand required 7 snakes per spread x 152 books=1064 snakes! Each was printed on letterpress with polymer plates. “Everyone was trying to figure out how to do [the 152] copies by the deadline and not be insane.” The die for the snake could not cut the very small eyes; Emily cut 2,128 eyes! “Here is where I wish I were in China,” she whined. To complete the pop-up, a group met in Minneapolis and assembled 104 spreads in 9 hours. Whew!
Kyle Olmon spoke of his collaboration with Michele Bayer. Not knowing he could use interns, Kyle did all the work himself. Like Shawn’s, his pop-up had an environmental theme, CCD-Colony Collapse Disorder, believed to be killing American honeybees. His “Bee-line” involved encasing the pop-up bee in seed-impregnated paper and sealing it shut. After opening the “pod,” the pop-up bee is released and the covering paper may be buried for marigolds to grow. As if any collector of this fine book would do that! We did not hear from Ann Montanaro who wrote the book’s introduction.
Eat, Drink, and Talk Pop-ups!
It was now time to visit the 23Sandy Gallery to see Pop-up Now! There was still a crowd when our taxi pulled up to the curb. The night was quite balmy allowing food and guests to sprawl out on the street. Members having already seen the show, gathered in tight clusters. I finally got a moment to talk to Julie Chen, a rock-star among book artists. I had met Julie at a Grolier Club function in New York, gushed at being able to talk books with her, and then invited her to the Portland Conference. And she came!
Previously unaware of this Society of crazy people, she was thoroughly enjoying the conference. After re-examining the artists’ books and revisiting Handmade Paper in Motion, I grabbed a cookie and stepped out to the street where Giovanni Iafrate, without his apple tree, had spread two pop-up books in front of Kyle. The books were made to satisfy his art thesis in Italy. With Continental manners, he offered me a chair. Giovanni laid his books on the grass and began turning pages. One book interpreted an old American Western movie. He used several types of mechanics, all to their best advantage. We should keep an eye on Signore Iafrate.
Giovanni & Kyle
After a late-night Board Meeting, I slumped back to my room, sorted materials for the next day, and charged my Magic Pen. I repeatedly tested it to make sure it was working properly. I said my prayers to "The Innovative Pen God" and dropped asleep.
Saturday! Already the last day of the Conference but billed to be quite a full
one. Like a bunch of Busy Beavers, Abby Ranson, Ann, and Ann’s Special
Friend, Richard, were laying out donated books for the Silent Auction in
the ballroom. Arriving members began immediately inspecting them and making
choices. This looked like the largest number of books we’ve had and some
were quite exciting. There was a Neiman-Marcus pop-up catalog, signed books
by Matthew Reinhart and David A. Carter, and Pop’N’Play mailing packages.
Classic books from Hallmark and Random House were scattered on the tables,
including many in pristine condition, donated by Jim Deesing, formerly
of Intervisual Books. Along another wall, samples of the Meggendorfer Prize
entries were lined up. The auction bidding would continue throughout the
day but ballots for the Prize would have to be in by noon.
Linda's BIG book!
With all the activity, it took a while for Ann to get the group settled
down. In accordance with IRS regulations, she conducted our requisite business
meeting. Ann went over the Society’s financial report we had found in our
conference packets. Due to higher postal costs, there will be increases
in membership dues. Credit cards are not accepted but PayPal is with an
additional fee. The Board had decided that, going forward, the proceeds
from the Silent Auction would be used to support conference programming.
As always, Ann encouraged people to write for the newsletter.
Now back to our program and another Magician, one who pulls the most unusual movable paper objects out of shoeboxes, if not his pockets! Larry Seidman’s talk was entitled, Movable Ephemera: the Early, the Unusual and the Risqué. Instead of slides, Larry had brought the actual objects, most quite small. Not to worry! Kyle attached a hand-held device to the projector—Voila!—more magic, Larry’s precious movables loomed large before us. Our own Jumbo-tron! Working with Robin Sutton, who repairs his acquisitions, Larry has amassed a collection of movable ephemera and miniature books. Pre-cinematic optical toys were produced in paper and are among Larry’s favorites. His earliest, from about 1815, is a slotted toy, demonstrating that even paper engineers like Meggendorfer and Nister had borrowed earlier mechanics.
Larry explained that several of his movables are hand-colored copper engravings, a technique that dates back to the 1700s and was still used to the mid-1800s when stone lithography came into vogue. We thrilled to see The Grimacer with a transformation of faces. What made it so unique was the double-dowel set up that changes the face in two directions. Donna & Peter Thomas, after seeing this mechanism, used it for a new book. Robin Sutton, channeling Vanna White, kept bringing more objects out.
Larry called Dean & Son a “great marketer,” one who created movable cards, and then re-used them in books. He held up a rare miniature pop-up book by Dean and Meggendorfer ‘s Dance Master on a card with joints of linen string, not coiled rivets. Biedermeier cards, really love tokens, always delight with their delicate life-like movements, some with six joints secured by silk thread. My brain resists learning how the ‘roller screen’ mechanism works. Knowing would erase the magic. Pull the tab and a bar slides across the illustration leaving a new one behind. Eureka!
A Cornucopia of Larry's collection.
Larry couldn’t get through his whole box—“I could go on forever!” Part showman, he saved the risqué one for last, exclaiming, “This is the coolest paper toy I’ve ever found.” Turning a wad of spiral paper changes the face while images of suggestive positions change above. Printed on the back is “Zeites patent.” Larry estimates the date to be 1920s or 30s. “If I could reproduce any toy, this would be the one.” Kyle allowed members to gather round Larry to get a closer look and gawk.
Our next speakers were members from around the globe.
Guise Longo told her story, with her husband Ernie serving as linguistic support. Guise was born in 1937 in Florence, Italy. “Old people get back to [their] childhood,” she offered as a justification for the approximately 500 books in her movable book collection. Reading in heavily accented English, Guise told us that when her sister was born in 1944 and Italy was absorbed in both a civil war and the Nazi occupation, her father came home with a book for her. It was Le Maschere Animate illustrated by Attilio Mussino and published by Franceschini. This book, still in her collection, became extremely special to Guise and “initiated her to the wonderful world of movable books.” “I [also] had to keep it from the destroying hands of my little sister.” Mussino was most famous for painting Pinocchio.
Other samples from her collection are the giant carousel formats done by Zampini in the 1940s with dioramas reminiscent of La Scala’s set designs. Finally, Guise extolled the work of Massimo Missiroli [b1958], a bank employee who has become “a most important illustrator in Italy,” has re-interpreted Pinocchio, and, in 1992, established a center for pop-up books.
Guise concluded by saying, “Being here is somewhat like being in a Wonderland.” She extended her “special gratitude” to Ann for encouraging her to collect and attend the conferences. At this point, Guise became quite emotional and, when she could compose herself sufficiently, she added, “Thanks, Daddy! Thanks, Ann! Thanks all of you!!”
Next up was Corrie Allegro of Victoria, Australia. Have you ever wondered how
people’s names sometimes reflect their personality? Allegro: at a rapid
tempo. Where Guise carefully modulated her pronunciation in recognition
of her accent, Corrie spoke “English” and barreled along. Linda Costello,
never shy, called out, “Speak slower and lose the Australian accent.” It
was hard to temper Corrie’s enthusiasm but he did slow down so that we
could hear his lament at being one of only two MBS collectors in the Southern
Hemisphere. I imagine him like “The Ugly Duckling” now finding himself
a swan. Corrie was among his peers!
A graphic designer by trade, Corrie confessed to a 32 year collecting habit. His 48-hour flight to Portland is proof of that devotion. Beginning with his love of Tin Tin, Mad Magazine, and The National Lampoon, Corrie slid into a love of pop-ups. Many of his books, as you would expect, reflect Australia, like Waltzing Matilda and Think Of England. An Identikit Preview Of The New Heir To The Throne by William Rushton, a flap book with die-cut faces about the inbred Royal family. He showed us examples of Van der Meer’s health book series with volvelles and promotional material from pharmaceutical companies, “who can always afford to produce detailed work.” Corrie also demonstrated the Richard Fowler books which he says presaged Moerbeek’s Roly Poly series. He regretted having to bring only a few light books due to airline fees but sees himself as having “the biggest pop-up book collection in the Southern Hemisphere.”
The final speaker in this group was Dagmar Kubaštová Vrkljan. On the occasion of Vojtěch Kubašta’s 95th birthday, October 7, 2009, Dagmar spoke in Prague City Hall about her father, “Renowned, Yet Unknown.”
Dagmar left Czechoslovakia for Canada 42 years ago. She re-capped her father‘s life in art and pop-ups starting with a scene he drew at 4 years old. From his countless drawings of Old Prague, Betramka, where Mozart lived, and Communist posters depicting Dagmar with 2 friends writing “Peace,” we appreciated his monumental oeuvre.
Kubašta produced a series of pop-up créches which Dagmar believes were his first attempts at movables. She offered his Little Red Riding Hood as his first pop-up book made for export in the 1950s by Artia. Such books as Koko and Moko were never printed in Czech.
There had been several exhibitions over Kubašta’s lifetime; the last, What VK did for Children, in Dobriš in November, 1991. Last year was an exhibit of his Aventinum portfolios in Prague. If the name Vojtěch Kubašta is not on the tip of the tongue of Czechs of a certain age, they are familiar with his illustrations. Previously renowned but unknown, a Prague street now bears his name. It is in a new section where the streets are named for famous artists. “My Dad would be so proud.” Dagmar’s talk completed the series of “accented” lecturers. While their accents pointed to their non-American origins, their passion for pop-ups was not foreign to the rest of us.
The last speaker on the day-time schedule was Jim Deesing, former project manager
for Intervisual Books and Waldo Hunt’s son-in-law. Jim treated us to
an inside look at the book-life of the man we consider “The Father
of the Modern Day Pop-up Book.” Waldo, or Wally as he was called, died
on November 6, 2009. Jim described a “larger than life” figure whose “home was always open to artists and publishers” hosting parties awash in
“libations.” Babette Cole, Jan Pieńkowski, and Colin Hawkins were among
the visitors. Wally always kept a 4’ x 5’ canvas in his garage for
the artists to paint on.
Until the very end, Wally remained creative, still coming up with ideas in his pop-up filled hospital room. Not too shy to don a crown, Wally dubbed himself “The King of Pop-ups.” Jim delighted us with family photos, several with Wally wearing a crown. We saw him accepting an award from Walt Disney himself. Wally had no hobbies; “pop-ups were his whole life.”
So many paper engineers admitted to “owing their livelihood to Wally” including David Carter and Robert Sabuda. The names of legendary paper engineers were casually dropped during the talk: John Strejan, Nick Bantock, David Pelham. Ron Van der Meer in his red shoes, curly hair, and tall stature was “always moving.”
Wally Hunt in Milwaukee '02, MBS Conference
Asked about print runs, Jim told us typically David Carter’s Bug books would have a first printing of 130,000 books, 100,000 for the US market alone. Most other books had runs of 40-80,000. Asked, “What did Wally think of Kubašta?“ Jim responded, „He was really into that guy!“ For the printing of the reproductions of Nister and Meggendorfer books, sometimes the original books were „torn apart.“ I don’t have to relate the gasps that went through the audience.
What are Jim Deesing‘s recent projects? He is meeting with Stephen Van Dyk of the Cooper-Hewitt Library to consider the donation of Wally’s books to the Smithsonian. A new museum has been built in Springville, CA. Today, Jim roams far from the pop-up world as a location chef for Kawasaki motorcycles and jet skis.
Here’s the part of the Conference where it’s every collector for himself.
Kid gloves off. Elbows sharp. Watch out! They’re going to the book sale! Like
Silent Auction, we had a large and varied group of booksellers. After quickly
identifying what would fill empty spaces on my shelves, I wandered over to
the front of the room where Kyle, a seasoned paper engineer, held a „round
of young paper engineers. We had many newbies at this conference, mostly women.
Kyle was being peppered with questions about getting PE gigs, agents, contracts,
and fees. Later, Kyle and I would agree that a workshop of some kind on the
subject would fit well into the next conference.
At the other end of the spectrum was Monika Brandup, Creative Director for Jumping Jack Press. Monika was confident pop-ups, properly priced, would remain in the marketplace despite the advent of virtual images. The samples she brought of greeting cards and books demonstrate the strength of her company, a division of Up With Paper.
All the while, out of the corner of my eye, I could see Giovanni „Appleseed“ at the lectern giving a slide-talk on his thesis books. Talk about coming prepared!
Just before I left to rest before the evening’s festivities, Board Member Frank Gagliardi sought me out with a sheaf of papers in his hand….the results of the Meggendorfer Prize. I took the guarded secret [and my purchases] back to my room.
Don Compton shows off up-coming National Park pop-up-Bruce Foster/Paper Engineer
The group reconvened at banquet tables set with miniature books on Oregon, gifts
courtesy of Don Compton. Thank you, Don! Abby, in charge of the Silent
Auction, announced the winners. MBS earned $2100 through the generousity
of the donating and purchasing members. Frank, my seatmate, found himself
arm-laden with books. I’d snagged a few myself.
Kyle next introduced our keynote speaker, Sally Blakemore. He admitted to knowing Sally „through many hair colors.“ She also is a member of an Afro-Gypsy Jazz Band. We were ready for a ride! Sally, with her green ponytail and large glasses, told us in her honey-sweet Southern drawl that „others‘ passions fuel your own.“ She recalled her initial pop-up inspiration, a movable Hallmark card received at 8 years old. Thirty years later, she discovered Haunted House and bought 20 copies to take apart. Those „little environments“ fascinated her, and she knew she had to create them. When she met Tor Lokvig, it was „like meeting ‚Gahd!‘“
The talk centered on the production of the NASCAR pop-up book, a project she „never, ever thought she’d work on.“ Sally had us roaring with laughter as she related problems arising in the design and production of the book, contrasting her arty world with the macho one of car racing. To get ideas, Sally was given full access to the pit at a race. We belly laughed imagining Sally in a NASCAR pit.
Since NASCAR is a licensed product, „there can be problems with artistic control,“ she explained. When logos were drawn on the cars, she was told, „no logos allowed.“ A pop-up crash scene had fire colorfully shooting out but she was told „No fire!“ and the redesigned spread turned into a fender-bender. A crowd scene provoked the ire of the publisher who said, „You cannot stereotype a NASCAR fan!“ The designer became „passive-aggressive“ and gave a driver „a wedgie.“ Some fans in the crowd were rejected by the publishers for being like „yuppies with perfect posture, too thin, and without a beer in their hand.“ Sally confessed, „This was a project from Hell.“ She related a long series of mishaps, including a hurricane, the failure of several hard drives, and the sound chip that didn’t work due to moisture in the shrink wrapping. „The book was considered cursed!“ With the help of my Magic Pen, I could relate many more anecdotes, but I could never relate the hysterical laughter heightened by her droll, drawling delivery.
The subject clearly closest to Sally‘s heart was her time in Juarez, Mexico working with 150 children who were the victims of drug wars where „narco-zombies“ come through and „shoot up everyone.“ The children at one Mission made tunnel books of iglesias [churches] and locked „their monsters“ inside.
Sally concluded by thanking Wally Hunt for his vision that had allowed her to travel all over the world making art. „Thanks also to all of you and the passion for pop-ups I see on your faces.“
Without a drum roll, Kyle ushered in the final item on our Conference program, the announcement of the Meggendorfer Prize. Putting down my Magic Pen, I moved to the podium. It has always been my privilege to present the award. For the first time, the Prize was given to a European paper engineer, and a winner who was not in attendence. I cued Kyle to start the video of ABC3D paper engineered by Marion Bataille of Paris. The MBS members had voted unanimously for a paper engineer who elegantly made us see the ABCs as totally new. Kyle waved good-bye and invited us to return in two years, probably to Salt Lake City, Utah.
Well, again, many were reluctant to leave the ballroom especially since we knew Uncle Larry still had a boxful of goodies. We were treated to unique mechanisms, some a bit „blue.“ The shrieks from the younger female paper engineers, I suspected, were from more than enthusiasm for the mechanisms. Yet, there was nary a blushing face among them…or us. Even with some profane subjects, the delicacy and beauty of these mostly 19th century paper movables were enthralling. Larry’s magical examples and his passion for collecting made for a perfect finale to our time in Portland.
Pop-up Now! exhibit http://www.23sandy.com/popup/catalog.html
Colette Fu http://www.colettefu.com/video
Joe Freedman http://www.sarabande.com/
Ilisha Helfman http://www.hestiahouse.com/
Handmade Paper in Motion http://portfolios.handpapermaking.org/no9/index.htm
Smithsonian video-How Pop-ups are Made http://www.popuplady.com/about06- smithvideo.shtml
ABC3D video http://www.popuplady.com/mbs11-meggprizes.shtml
The Magic Pen http://www.livescribe.com/en-us/smartpen/echo/
Kyle Olmon's blog http://kyleolmon.com/blogmain.html
And while your at it, JOIN THE MOVABLE BOOK SOCIETY!