Detail of Paul Johnson Pop-up Book

Detail of a Paul Johnson Pop-up Book. Can you see what’s going on here at the edge of the book?

“A pop-up needs a fold:” this is what I say whenever I  begin showing a class how to make a pop-up. Ha! Turns out I was wrong!  Paul Johnson’s  show at the North Main Gallery in Salem N.Y. has authoritatively proven me to be completely mistaken. Throughout this generous celebration of structurally engineered books  there is not a fold, in or out of sight.



This is not a show of books with pages that turn to reveal a sequence of cleverly folded and glued structures that seem to magically jump off the page. Instead, in many cases, the books themselves begin as appearing rather flat, then they simply explode into space. And it’s not folds or glues that are responsible for these feats. It’s …

HInged Roof, Paul Johnson

Hinged Roof, Paul Johnson

hinges. Well bust my britches, I never thought about creating non-folded hinges for pop-ups  The roof piece above is joined together by making opposing slits in two separate pieces of paper. Johnson also makes good use of piano hinges -this link is a piano-hinge-tutorial by Wendy Southin- as well as dovetail joints, which I have to say I have never seen a bookbinder use in paper engineering.

PauL Johnson book, detail of attachments

Paul Johnson book, detail of attachments

It was not just a few books here, but rather a plethora of book structures and book sculptures, each one as unusual as inventive as any I’ve seen. Now I know I haven’t stepped back here and given you much of the big picture: that’s more than I can process for one post. The overall look of the show is stunning, as is each book in the show. But those photos will have to wait for a later post. It’s the details that I am so intrigued with today.

Cinderella's-tricycle, Paul Johnson

Cinderella’s-tricycle, Paul Johnson

This show, it’s quite a ride. Up until October 6.

Books written by Pual Johnson

Books written by Paul Johnson

Oh, and if you are an educator and you are wondering if this is the same Paul Johnson who writes prolific amounts about Literacy and Book Arts, yes, this is him.



Pocketed Selves

An Autobiography Book by Gail DePace’s 2nd graders, 2010

I had planned that this post be about the Paul Johnson show, but I won’t be able to get in to photograph it just yet. Instead I’ve decided to seize the moment and write about this great back-to-school project that Gail DePace did with her 2nd graders a few years ago. Gail and I worked together many times, and I see my influence in these books, but Gail (now retired) was an inspired teacher in her own right, and just took off with any of the skills that she picked up from me. What she did here was make a  template of a young person, which each student personalized in their own likeness. With some simple folding the students created a pocket, which was glued on to the front of the book and which held the little self.


Origami Pamphlet, modified

Based on Origami Pamphlet folds

For the body of the book I’m fairly sure that Gail started out with a somewhat large sheet of paper, probably 11 inch x 17 inch (A3). The folds are based on the Origami Pamphlet folds. That cut away window in the middle makes a place for a secret picture, which is only revealed with when the book is set up in a certain way. Like this…

Looking through the window

Looking through the window

Here the book is set up so you can peek into the lives of the author.

View from above

View from above

Here’s the bird’s eye view of the book. Have you noticed the bit of framing that is done around some of the little drawings? This is accomplished by providing each student with just one square post-it, which they mount, temporarily, in their book, then color around it, thus masking off what’s beneath.


As lovely as this structure is, it’s the content that makes them so fabulous. Student wrote about their family, about their favorite place to be (which was illustrated inside the window) and what they like and dislike.

It turns out that no one likes picking up their brother's dirty socks

It turns out that no one likes picking up their brother’s dirty socks

Then they ended the book with hopes for the future.


Hmm. I love student work.



North Main Gallery, 2014, Salem NY

North Main Gallery, 2014, Salem NY

For the past few summers the Book Arts Summer In Salem (BASIS) has been evolving as the involvement of the main organizers ebb and flow. This summer Al Hutchinson aka Hutch, (no relation, except professionally to Ed Hutchins) joined the mix and developed a community sourced facet to this summer’s exhibit. This focus on the community continues into the fall, in a most unexpected and exciting way, but more about that later.

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The theme of the summer was Paper Structures. Lynn Oddo, Donna Maria de Creeft, Cathy Daughton, and I taught a wide range of skills. The work that came out of our workshops became part of an ever-expanding show! I loved the fluidity, expansiveness and playfulness that this brought into the gallery. Lynn Oddo was the first up. She taught animation with stop-action photography, then  put together and made available a video of the mini-movies that people created. Donna Maria de Creeft taught Origami Accordion Structures, which resulted in the books pictured above, as well as….inside to out

…this long trailing origami stream that was displayed in the window. The story I was told about this was that after the class was over, a young participant in the workshop showed his friend how to make the base of this structure. Then the two of them repeated this folding technique, having a grand time using up the all the paper left-over from the workshop. Ruth Sauer, the owner of the gallery, was so delighted by the results of their industriousness that she found a front and center place for their creation.

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Cathy Daughton introduced us to the secrets of quilling. I have long wondered why, when I try to curl paper, nothing interesting happens. I, therefore, quite eagerly signed up for the quilling class. Another one of life’s mysteries revealed! There are tools and techniques that I had no clue about.

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Ruth managed to convince us to leave our blossoming efforts for display.  But harvesting from workshops wasn’t the only manner in which pieces showed up here.

by Al Hutchinson

by Al Hutchinson

I think I am remembering this correctly – while Hutch was hanging these prints before the opening of the show, there came a clamoring that he create something similar for the window of the gallery, which he did, which you can see in the photo at the top of the post.

Jumping Jacks by Paula Beardell Krieg

My Jumping Jacks

Another impromptu entry happened when we were doing the animation class. I said something about Jumping Jacks, which was an unknown structure to someone in the room. So, at lunchtime I went home and brought back these two colorful guys, which Hutch then re-appropriated for the wall space next to his trees.

By Bob Nopper

By Bob Nopper

While there were certain pieces that were on display when the summer season began, such as this paper sculpture by Bob Nopper…

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..and a collection of Japanese Pop-up greeting cards,….

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…as well as some zany pop-up books, other items showed up next to the original displays at the summer wore on. That tall pink pop-up card on the right in the photo above was one of the samples I made for my cut and folded structures workshop.

By Ruth Sauer

By Ruth Sauer

It was such a delight to walk in the gallery and see what had showed up next. The whole summer felt like a group-sourced performance piece. It seems fitting, therefore, that the grand finale of the season should have a community centered theme, which it does in a big and unabashed way.

The Briton Is Coming!

I have no idea who made this sign, but I love it

I have no idea who made this sign, but I love it

What’s happening next is so wonderful that it defies comprehension…especially since it won’t exactly exist until tomorrow. At this very moment Ed Hutchins has his hands full hanging and displaying the amazing Paul Johnson’s work at the North Main Gallery, which will feature, guess what!

Paul Johnson's Salem Village Panorama sign

Paul Johnson, Salem Village Panorama

Paul Johnson created a body of work based on the buildings of Salem, NY! I can’t tell you much more than that, though, until after tomorrow. Then on September 23 at 6pm, between engagements in Philadelphia and Balitmore, Mr. Johnson will be coming to Salem for an Art Party and presentation, which will include some never before exhibited work. The next day, Wednesday, September 24, he will be teaching  an all day workshop (there are two spots lefts at the time of this writing). Make note that even though the show opens tomorrow, the Art Party opening will be happening on September 23 at 6pm. Be there! (My apologizes to my readers in far off places like Australia and Qatar…)

More Salem Buildings to Come sign


a Modest Spine

August 25, 2014

here it is w

Searching for that little White Spine

I had been searching, unsuccessfully, for a recently acquired purchase, a zine about making soup. As I did not have the help of the big black arrow in the photo, that little slip of a white spine eluded me for days. Not a good thing. I like being able to find my books. If a book is going to show up in my bookshelf it needs something of a spine. I’m not inclined to making elaborate casings for pamphlets, but there is a way to create a lovely little spine, so I made one. I love this little detail of paper work.


4 Steps w

I started with a piece of paper that was the same height as the book and about 3 inches (8 cm) wide.

  • Fold the paper lengthwise, but not in half! Instead, make the fold so the edges are away from each other about 1/4 inch (1/2 cm).
  • open
  • Fold the paper lengthwise again, to the other side, again so the edges are about 1/4 away from each other
  • There, you have a spine, about 1/4 inch wide.

It didn’t make sense to me at first that if I made left 1/4 inch overlap on each side that the spine would end up to be 1/4 inch wide. It seemed to me that two 1/4 inch offsets would create a 1/2 inch spine. But, no, it creates a 1/4 spine.

I could actually stop writing this post right here, as it’s this bit about folding the spine piece that is at the heart of what I want to show. This folding method could be used on a much longer piece, large enough to be the cover for the whole book. The way that I am going to continue here is to  extend  my narrow strip by adding to. You’ll see what I’ve done next.  but, really, the steps illustrated above are the details that I am mostly focused on offering here. 

sewing  w

Create a second spine piece and sew it on to the pamphlet

I didn’t take photo of attaching the cover of my folder to the spine piece that I just made….there is no real protocol for this. I just cut my cover to what will fit for my project and glue them to the blue paper. This is something I just figure out as I go along, and my hope is that anyone else who tries this will do the same.  I used a piece of plastic acetate that I had around, because I wanted to see the book design through this semi- transparent  material, but medium weight paper, or cover stock works just fine. Next step is to create a second spine the same way as the first then sew this to the pamphlet, which is eight pieces of folded paper stapled together. I didn’t remove the staples, as that’s what the book came with, and there was no compelling reason to take them out. 

stock tips w

Before going any further I added the title to the spine. Always a good idea if the book within has a title. The pamphlet, with the second spine piece now attached is laid into the my open cover. I glued the edge of the inner spine, closed the cover, flipped it to the back…

back w..repeated the gluing process on the back, then closed the cover and pressed. Done. this took minutes to do, so I decided to do another one.

scrap papers w

I’ve been cleaning out my workspace, and rather than throw away every odd piece of paper I have been putting them together and making these offbeat little books.  This here one is about to get a spine, but I am going to proceed a bit differently with this book.

green wI made the spine piece in the same way, but glued an extra piece of regular weight copy paper on the inside, to give the spine just a bit more substance. Next, I glued the front and the back of this spine piece right on to the first and last pages of the book. Note that there is no glue on the spine itself. 

back green w

I took two pieces of decorative paper that were cut  the same height of my book and a bit wider. I glued them directly on to the first and last pages, just overlapping the edge of the first  piece I glued down, and folded then glued the overhanging part on the inside of the first and last pages. I used UHU glue sticks for this project. 

done w And that’s it! This is not a technique for fine books, but I love having non-precious books around to toss into my bag and use whenever I want to write something down. This is book making at its most casual. Spines are a way of making these humble gathering of pages stand tall.