Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Visible worlds – Hilary Powell’s pop-up book factory

We made 51 of these...

 Writers are creating all the time, but we make invisible worlds. Once the notebook is closed, the book shut, there is nothing physical to hold up and say, ‘I made that!’ So it’s not surprising that writers often relish physically productive pursuits, the making of visible things. This was one of many sources of satisfaction for me last week, when I took part in a pop-up pop-up: a temporary production line of ten apprentices, making actual pop-up books.

The whole book, and the factory/performance (we were ogled by the visiting public as we worked) were designed by the artist Hilary Powell, who has been working in and on the Lea Valley in East London for years. The book is called Legend: an A-Z of the Lea Valley, and gives an alternative history of the area, from first manned flight to the Olympic developments, in the form of images and beautiful, complex pop-ups.

Apprentices learning

Hilary put together a group of workers with amazingly diverse skills – biochemists, artists, architects, geographers, librarians (and a writer) – and somehow or other we made it happen. The pink coats helped, of course.

I make a pop-up junction
We spent one day at the wonderful London Centre for Book Arts, being taught stitching and binding techniques by the meticulous Simon (check their website for courses, I’d highly recommend them). Then one day figuring out how to actually build a book from piles of laser cut sheets of paper. And then we were off.

We used a lot of glue
The last day was a frenzy, but working so hard on something so beautiful was profoundly satisfying. I didn’t notice that my knees wouldn’t bend anymore until some time later. Having endured a hailstorm, and an extremely leaky roof, we finished our  51st pop-up book at 10.30pm on Saturday, surrounded by the launch party.

The pop-up factory in full swing
 Here are a few images of the finished article. It is beautiful, unique, and very special to me because I know all the amazing people who helped to make it. 

P is for Pylon

A pop-up pile of cars

Paper buildings that will never be demolished

Thanks again to Hilary Powell for such a wonderful idea and for bringing us all together to make her book. Inspiration may lead to some pop-up papercuts...

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