Milwaukee, WI 2002
by Ellen G.K. Rubin
Our fourth Conference in eight years-it’s no surprise that we are growing up. From the quiet conversations at our opening reception in Milwaukee’s Wyndham Hotel to the in-depth subjects of our lecture topics, we are showing signs of maturation. Is it the effects of 9/11 or are we settling down in general? A bit of both, I think.
Since the last conference, the squeals of delight at rekindling old acquaintances had morphed into fervent hugs, handshakes, and private tête à têtesof friends playing ‘catch up’. While newcomers, and there were many, were warmly welcomed, the Movable Book Society had now become an extended family flung across the world. We were honored to have the Grand Master, Waldo Hunt holding court (near the delicious food buffet) and admirers playing musical chairs, dropping into seats to catch pearls of wisdom and bask in the light of our ‘Progenitor’. We missed Wally at the last meeting when he was awarded the Meggendorfer Lifetime Achievement Award.
The gears of the Conference, held September 19-21, 2002, meshed more smoothly than ever. Experience counts! At the 2000 Conference in New York City, Steve Horvath had suggested to Ann Montanaro that Milwaukee’s William F. Eisner Museum of Advertising and Design host our next convention. This immediately provided a destination and a supporter of almost half our events. (Ann was visibly calmer these past two years.) The Museum would mount an exhibit of pop-up advertising to coincide with the Conference. We were catapulted out of the child-like fantasy world of our magical books into the real world where pop-ups are used to sell stuff.
The reception also offered the opportunity for attendees to see the vetted books up for the Meggendorfer Prize, a change from the last conference. It was felt that since the Prize should go to the very best of movable books, the selection could not be limited to those which had the largest printings and, therefore, were the most available to members. What about an unseen small gem or a foreign book? (Members take note! Jot down your proposed books acquired over the next 2 years.) Hence, vet the books and have them perused at the Conference. Also, it was reasoned, we are NOT the POP-UP Book Society but the MOVABLE Book Society. If a successful book is the melding of illustrations, story, and movables, of any kind, members should consider books which have more than just pop-ups. Therefore, the vetted books included all kinds of movables and were examined and voted on by the attendees.
Members wandered in all evening, some still with the ‘white knuckles’ garnered from turbulent flights from the East coast. The presence of Paul O. Zelinsky, the Caldecott winner for Rapunzel-1998 (Honors-Hansel & Gretel ’85, Rumpilstiltskin ’87, Swamp Angel ‘95), sent a ripple through the group. Knowing Ann had Kees Moerbeek’s Limited Edition Rumpilstiltskin in her room to later show the Society, I dragged the always shy Paul upstairs. Surely a Caldecott Honors for the same fairy tale would make him interested in seeing another’s rendition. And he was. Paul painstakingly inspected the princely wrappers and gingerly opened the single elaborate pop-up. He was impressed. It triggered a wonderful story.
When Paul’s own Rumpilstiltskin was released, he received lots of mail. One letter was from an outraged woman who took exception to Paul’s depiction of the spinning wheel without a treadle. Her letter ranted on and on about the omission’s effect on children who wouldn’t see the mechanism by which the wheel worked. Paul humbly told us he had researched extensively on spinning wheels and had placed his story in the mid 1500s. He politely wrote the woman that the treadle had not been invented until 1620.
Friday began our first full day, held at the Eisner Museum. While the Museum was within a hearty walking distance in the rapidly being restored Landmark and Historic section of Milwaukee, for some, transportation was needed. (Some of us are ‘longer in the tooth’ than others.) No problem. Ann donned her invisible chauffeur’s cap, hopped into the van she’d rented, and shuttled members back and forth. (That gal does everything!) We were able to see Milwaukee’s version of Downtown. (I am a New Yorker and this was a Friday. A blind man wouldn’t need help crossing the wide streets!) The van’s route took one of the numerous bridges giving us a glimpse of the river. Milwaukee is cross-hatched with small bridges making for a walkable and beautiful city, free of graffiti.
Roy Dicks, now seasoned in his role as program coordinator, began with the video portion of the day’s schedule. These included: The Movable Book Society on the Martha Stewart Show (with Robert Sabuda and Ellen G.K. Rubin), Pam Pease on her local news for her book,The Garden Is Open, Robert’s ABC Disney being hand-assembled in Ecuador, and Kees Moerbeek’s construction of his The Diary of Hansel and Gretel. In a way, these last two presaged the direction the Conference would take, namely, the Society’s interest in how our precious books are actually conceived and made. Due to technical difficulties with PowerPoint, and there were many, only the German version of Moerbeek’s presentation was working. Nonetheless, the animated pictures, with lively music, were more than sufficient to see into the mind of the creator and witness the project from start to finish.
The first lecture, “Big Hair and Glue Tabs”, was by the somewhat reluctant, Linda Costello. A self-proclaimed ‘popupaholic’ but an architect by training, Linda relishes having given up teaching such topics as, ‘Earthquake Design in Hi-Rise Buildings’. “Pop-ups are more fun!” she declared. Linda was snagged into doing pop-ups by a friend who had overbought ‘pinch dolls’, those 3” costumed plastic dolls with arms that separate when pressed on the shoulders, then grasp an object when released. Her friend wanted to bring something special to a nephew in the hospital and enlisted Linda’s help, thus giving rise to the Pea-Pod gang. Today, Linda has 14 books to her credit. While going for the ‘Yikes!’ not the ‘Wow!’ effect, Linda certainly wowed the group with some of her oversized pop-ups, especially the rabbit in the tall grass (Big Hair /Big Hare?).
Andrew Baron, still the ‘Wunderkind’, began his talk by holding up
the world’s largest pop-up uterus. Men-o-pop, one of Andy’s two recently
engineered books, had been a “difficult birth.” It is already in
its second printing. Andy continued with an almost 40 minute video on the making
of KKP (Knick-Knack Paddywhack, as in-This Old Man Came Rolling Home), with Paul
Zelinsky. We were to literally witness the nuts and bolts of the making of the
most complex movable book ever. (There are no pop-ups in KKP.) Bound for the
Hua Yang (pronounced, Y Yang) Printing Company, we shared a seat with Andy as
he experienced the teeming streets of Shenzhen City, China for the first time.
What followed was a step-by-step (Andy will never be accused of not being detail-oriented.)
view of how KKP was printed, die-cut, and assembled. We looked over the shoulders
of every specialist as they refined each process according to Paul or Andy’s
changes. Colors couldn’t bleed, the assembly line had to be organized,
and every spread needed to move smoothly. The book has 200 movable parts, 300
glue points-twice the usual number-15 lift-the-flaps, and 10 parts on the last
spread alone, moving simultaneously with one tab!!! 500 people worked on the
book. We were tempted to wipe the sweat from their brows. It was humbling to
see so much effort just for our pleasure and all for only $18.95.
Andy described the working conditions at Hua Yang, anticipating a question he is most often asked in this post-Kathy Lee Gifford/Nike era. He told us most workers are women between 18 and 24 years of age who send enough money home to be ‘set for life’. The environment is clean and safe; the factory houses and feeds them. Five tons of rice are consumed each day! At the height of the season, 3000 workers are employed. Each one is individually trained for their task.
The net result for us movable book worshipers was to be awed by the process. Never again will we cavalierly flip through a book and dismiss it. Even those which don’t thrill us bear the hallmarks of this incredible effort. Our newly found respect for this intensely detailed process is much akin to having children of one’s own and understanding for the first time what goes into being a parent. We saw ‘behind the curtain’ and knew we weren’t in Oz. The term ‘magic’ took on another quality, a more mature one.
Since I never run out of ‘awe’, I had plenty left for Paul Zelinsky whose talk was scheduled after the lovely lunch and book sale. Paul packs pounds of talent into his small frame. A polished performer, he led us through the initial process of coming up with KKP, from the original concept, (Itsy Bitsy Spider was discarded for having only up and down movements), to coming to my home to select the paper engineer, Andrew Baron. (We also witnessed on the video the first face-to-face meeting between Andy and Paul who had worked on KKP for over a year via phone, fax, email, and mail. They had actually grown to resemble each other!!!) It had been ten years since the very successful Wheels on the Bus, and Paul wanted to do another children’s song. While “thinking through the words” is the most pleasurable part of the project, Paul also showed us pages and pages of doodles so that we could watch a single old man evolve into many different ones each with a ‘matching’ dog. Even the concept of ‘old’ morphed into someone who could be ‘historic’. Talk about being a fly on the wall!!
As the project advanced, Paul and Andy used the latest technology to communicate their ideas. (The screen spun with a plethora of pages from his phone bill and email account list.) Web animation was most helpful for Andy to show Paul progress in the movement of the artwork. Paul was seeking a “sense of chaos and motion”. (There is no other book which has so much movement for one pull of the tab. I know, somewhere, Meggendorfer is tipping his hat to Andy.) Most awesome for me in the presentation was seeing the movables from the back which had a very organic quality, like a “beating heart,” according to Paul.
We saw again the production process in China but from Paul’s point of view. Richard Burgess, Senior Marketing Manager for Hua Yang, was ever in attendance. Having immersed himself deeply in the production of KKP, Paul found it ‘hard to let go of the project’. His beautiful artwork (He works in oils.) was continued after the publishing of the book by his making his own KKP tie-which he wore-and designing the store display cases. Andy and Richard were also unable to ‘let go’ and could be seen throughout the conference continually pulling on KKP tabs…a mobile quality-control team.
Ever the stickler for detail, like the spinning wheel in Rumplestiltskin, Paul had us focus on the carpet on the final spread. It has eight (8!) different numbering systems, Babylonian, Mayan, Chinese, Hebrew, Ethiopian, Arabic, Roman, and Sri Lankan. Careful examination of every spread will yield many surprises. Andy pointed out, “The more you look, the more you see.”
After this thrilling talk, Paul and Andy signed books appearing as the cohesive team they had become. That other ‘Dynamic Duo’, Robert Sabuda (The Night Before Christmas) and Matthew Reinhart (Popposites), also signed their collaborative The Young Naturalist Handbook[s]- Beetles and Butterflies.
Our final speaker, Collector Extaordinaire, Adie Peña, presented a feast for our eyes with pop-up advertisements from his collection. This cornucopia of colorful and sometimes surprising ephemera -Greek for mayflies-whetted our appetites for the viewing of the exhibition which was to follow upstairs at the Eisner. Since Adie’s collection is so vast-although he sadly told us the Philippines, his home, turns out few pop-up advertisements—Adie only showed us items given to him as gifts, “drawer stuffers-not seriously collected”. A veritable Fagin, Adie even had his sister stealing a pop-up menu from Denny’s! (Having been with Adie in the presence of possible ‘donors’, I can bear witness to his shameless begging and pleading.) Outstanding among the items was a brochure from the Australian Tourism Board which folded origami-style into a kangaroo.
Chuck Sable, curator of the exhibit, Pop Up Advertising, told us he was inspired by Brooklyn Pops Up! to mount this exhibition of promotional pieces. After giving a tour of the building, a former lighting factory (c1892), we were let loose in the second floor gallery to Ooh! and Aah! As to be expected from those in the design business, the Eisner had used their well-lit, open space to the pop-ups’ best advantage. The exhibit, which runs until February 2, 2003, was divided into categories, mostly represented by the ‘Big Money’ groups- cigarettes, alcohol, and pharmaceuticals. Most of the 100 ads had appeared in ‘high-end, glossy magazines’. According to Sable, “[An] ad is conceived as art and concerned about design aesthetics.” Some ads were over the top with interactive components. Interactive elements were used on the walls of the exhibit as well. We were lucky to have with us Cliff Wood of Trimensions, Inc. and Frank Ossman of Structural Graphics, two companies which had produced many of the ads. Their presence allowed us to get some background information and congratulate them as well. Sadly, individual paper engineers were rarely credited. Wally Hunt, of course, was puffed with pride having been an originator of pop-up advertising in the 1960s.
Ann again donned her virtual chauffeur’s cap to take many of the pooped-out conventioneer’s back to the hotel for a brief respite. Still a ‘driving’ force, she next delivered us to Marder’s Restaurant, for a taste of Heidelberg in Milwaukee. As promised in our MBS promos (Thanks, Adie!), many got to taste a buffet of beers and Bavarian food. Lucky were the ‘senior’ members already on the statin-drugs for lowering cholesterol.
I hear it was sunny in Milwaukee on Saturday, and that the streets were abuzz with the imminent arrival of Paul McCartney who would appear that night at the Performing Arts Center across the street. Many, like yours truly, never got to step outside lest we miss the jam-packed schedule Roy had planned. (Even he was apologizing for such a full program. Doesn’t he know we’re not so young anymore and can only retain so much?)
A ray of sunshine came into the Wyndham Hotel in the form of Dagmar Kubastova Vrkljan (pronounced Virk´-len), Vojtěch Kubašta’s daughter. She had graciously made the trip from Canada with her husband, Nick. I was overwhelmed at the gesture, timed for my scheduled lecture about her father later in the day. I introduced her with pride to whomever I was able, gleefully watching members reach out to literally touch the closest living thing to our venerated icon.
More light poured from our first speaker of the day, the handsome, and, yes, youthful, Matthew Reinhart. Matthew mapped out his road to pop-ups. While always an artist, his parents pushed for the more lucrative profession, medicine, drawing on his interest in biology. Yet, he deferred his acceptance to medical school and took a year off in New York, sampling the ‘starving artist’ life in SoHo. To make ends meet, he held a job at the Eye Bank for Sight Restoration where he removed eyeballs for transplantation. (Readers-I don’t make this stuff up!) Matthew learned he didn’t like hospitals or sick people. With his parents’ support, he entered Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York and studied Industrial Design.
Always a toy collector, especially Star Wars and transformation robots, Matthew focused on toy design. After meeting Robert Sabuda at Pratt, Robert offered Matthew an internship exposing him to the world of pop-ups. In 1998, Matthew was approached by Melcher Media to engineer a book, The Pop-up Book of Phobias. Matthew thought the concept “weird” and “not a good idea”. (Well, I did say he was “youthful”.)
While browsing at Maxilla and Mandible, Ltd., a store selling animal bones and carcasses near the Museum of Natural History, Robert and Matthew found themselves fascinated by bugs framed under glass. With Robert sharing his enthusiasm, Matthew pitched the idea of a factual insect pop-up book to Hyperion who liked the dummies for The Young Naturalist Handbooks. (A flat book, Insect-lo-pedia, will follow.)
The search for the most exciting insects (which included a back-stage visit to the Museum of Natural History) yielded the Australian stag beetle which was both “pretty” and had “big mandibles”. Using Adobe Illustrator, the artwork was scanned in to make die-lines, making the various parts of the insects “look like roadkill”. The butterfly required blowing flocking onto glue necessitating assemblers to wear facemasks. The beautiful insects, a beetle and a butterfly made with iridescent foil housed in faux glass boxes, are the first pop-ups which “do not have to fold flat”. For future projects, like Noah’s Ark, Matthew plans to “focus on the fun-stuff, not just the academic”. Ah, those ‘younguns’!!
Almost without taking a breath, Roy ushered in Joanne Page, a conference regular, to provide information on repairing books and to answer questions on attendees’ fix-it needs. She recommended Japanese paper with strong, long fibers for tears and using wheat starch or white glue (archival, of course). Bent pull-tabs could be reinforced with 2-ply Bristol paper or cardstock. She cautioned NOT to use pressure-sensitive tape (“Don’t use any material which can’t be reversed.”) and described the use of acetone to remove the residue from such tape. A sheet of suggested vendors (see websites below) for archival repair supplies was provided as well.
Again, with his now familiar scheduling ‘shoehorn’, Roy introduced Emily Martin, an Iowan book artist who calls her shop, Naughty Dog Press. Emily’s initial artistic interest was in sculpture but found the work “dangerous and heavy”. She moved on to paper sculptures, clay work, and intaglio (etching). Finally, she settled on books as an alternative to sculpture producing her first pop-up, In One Ear, written with her sister and mother. Her Vicious Circle Series made use of the flexagon form. But it is the Iowa Series or How a Tornado Spawned Five Books (see Movable Stationery, Nov. ‘01), which to-date is her magnum opus, a five volume set originating from her Iowan experience with tornadoes and her need to justify to outsiders living in the state.
The books take several formats, including a carousel, tunnel book, flexagon, and panorama. Development of her book, Sleepers, Dreamers, and Screamers, was halted by the events of September 11. In the spirit of ‘You Had To Be There,’ I am unable to give you the flavor of Emily’s wit, one which comes through raucously in her books.
The last time we saw Pam Pease she had just self-published The Garden Is Open. I declared her my idol. With the completion of her latest project, I raised the pedestal. While watching the Macy’s Day Parade, November 2000, Pam realized that the following year was to be the Parade’s 75th anniversary. “What a great idea for a pop-up book!”, Pam thought. Pam called me and I enthusiastically agreed. She hoped to have the book ready by the that November. “Lotsa’ luck!” I said. (She had asked me to be candid, after all.)
Pam ploughed in and prepared a dummy for Macy’s, who loved the idea. (She reasoned, “These were people who put on parades for a living.”) But Macy’s only agreed to loan their name and then set her adrift. Never rudderless, Pam got to work and secured the most difficult items of all, permission to use each of the various names, e.g. Big Bird, Snoopy, and the Rockettes. She met the worst resistance with the Rockettes who complained, ‘the legs look too fat’. Unable to find publishing support, Pam did it the old-fashioned way and dug into the pockets of family and friends procuring 50 investors. Andy Baron helped with paper engineering problems.
Pam found a printer/hand assembler in China and her book was launched. Besides the trade book, there is a limited edition of 300 with an extra pop-up. We were shown the beautifully foil-enhanced book with the Rockettes’ signature ‘kick-line’ high-steppin’ with just the pull of two tabs. Besides a book signing at Macy’s, the pièce de résistance will be Pam’s performance in the Parade as a clown!! Caught this day between her daughter’s 18th birthday and her father’s 90th, Pam, breathless, had time to tell us of two more projects already in the planning, a pop-up book of Radio City Music Hall at Christmas time and another of the Wright Brothers’ solo flight. My idol, indeed!
Lunch looked beautiful but I had ‘bigger fish to fry’, namely getting ready for my talk on Vojtěch Kubašta which I began by explaining how lucky I was when it came to pop-ups. For example, Dagmar, in Canada, had caught my segment on The Martha Stewart Show and found me. Eager to revitalize her father’s legacy, Dagmar extended herself for interviews by phone and fax. She also loaned photographs of some of her Dad’s work which I incorporated into the presentation. Drawing upon items from my Kubašta collection, I sought to give an understanding of Kubašta, The Man, and biographical information for which we were all starved. Kubašta was born in Vienna on October 7, 1914, grew up in Prague, and graduated from the Polytech Institute of Prague in 1931.
Embarking on an architectural career, Kubašta would design a hotel and, later, a vacation home for his family, creating art works and furnishings as well. His tenure as a professor at the School of Graphic Design was ended by the Nazi’s march into Prague in 1941. He then worked as a designer of household plastic goods also creating sales brochures and promotional material, several of which were shown.
At this same time, he started working for Aventinum Publishing in Prague. With different historians, he did a series of five limited edition folios I believe to be the harbingers of the Panascopic series begun in the late 1950’s. The folios consisted of stiff cardboard folders, about 11” by 17”, with linen bindings. Inside was a separate 3-5 page booklet of text with an elaborate vignette on the cover and a smaller vignette on the colophon. Hand-colored chromolithographs of architectural features of Prague would be included. The first folio, in 1943, of the Loretta Monastery was a relatively straightforward depiction of buildings of the Prague site. The last folio in 1945 of the Klementinum, a 16th century Jesuit college with an astronomical observatory, already showed some of Kubašta’s brightly colored and whimsical artistic hallmarks. (Kubašta did another folio in 1954 commemorating Mozart’s visit to Prague in 1754. Kubašta was a life-long Mozart devotee.)
The first dimensional piece in the collection was an un-dated pop-up souvenir card from the early 1950s. (Around this same time, he was doing set design and costumes for a puppet theater and producing souvenir items for Slovtour Publishing.) Until then, Kubašta had illustrated many children’s flat books.
My talk was called, The Prolific Artistry of Vojtěch Kubašta, and I shared my incredulity at the number of illustrations he created from the late 1950s through the 1960s-literally thousands of them. One Kubašta contemporary commented, “Kubašta was born with a pencil in his hand.” which could be seen in a 1984 photo of him working in his home studio. It wasn’t until 1953 that he offered to Artia, a Prague publishing house, a crude working dummy of a pop-up book which was well received. It was also at Artia that Kubašta saw the Blue Ribbon Mickey and Minnie Mouse pop-up books. Those of us who had believed it was the Jolly Jump-up series which may have inspired Kubašta’s love-affair with pop-ups now had the real ‘scoop’. Kubašta went on to produce for Artia over 200 titles, with 10 million copies in 37 languages! His concertina design showed great economy of paper while his technical ingenuity maximized the dynamics of the movables.
Dagmar had told me that there was a collector’s group in Prague which coveted the 12 –15 Christmas centerpiece/advent calendars her father had designed. Two are a part of the Panascopic series. One untitled piece, I call Silent Night, is a triptych with the pop-up signed by Kubašta and the 2 ‘wing’ pieces drawn by others in Kubašta’s style. There are plans in the works to have these holiday pieces reprinted in Prague. Other Kubašta books may be reproduced as well.
Kubašta saw himself as an Eastern European Disney, imaginative, entrepreneurial, and inexhaustible in his ideas. There is no question his reach was restricted by the Nazis during WWII, and, after, by the Communists. He did have the opportunity to fulfill a lifelong dream to work for Disney, engineering 5 books, including 101 Dalmatians which featured his own artwork in the Disney style.
Another question answered was the derivation of the Tip + Top + Tap series. Dagmar affirmed that they were her father’s idea. He had wanted to imagine characters which were not mythical or classical but to whose antics children could directly relate. The names, he reasoned, would need no translation. Vojtěch Kubašta died in Prague on July 7, 1992 having left a legacy of highly cherished pop-up and illustrated books. I could have gone on another hour but we had more fun things to do.
With a break only long enough for materials to be assembled, we moved into the ‘audience participation’ portion of the program.
Whether giddy with fatigue (This was some full day!) or just looking to let one’s hair down, tunnel book-making with Ed Hutchins and paper engineering with Robert Sabuda was riotous, if not bawdy, good fun.Ed gave us the abbreviated version of the history of tunnel books (see his treatise, Exploring Tunnel Books, Artists’ Books Reviews, vol#6/Winter ’02) and passed under our noses the wonderful books he would have at the Swap/Sale to follow.
The allure of tunnel books, he said, was that
the “reader enters inside
unaware of what’s around.”
Ed is the consummate teacher- patient, prepared, and precise. He led us merrily down a golden path or, should I say, tunnel, to making our own versions of this versatile format. But some unnamed individuals, whose egos crumbled under the weight of being perfect or having ‘mature’ expectations, were not so merry. What could be heard, at my table at least, was, “Is this right?” I’m doing this wrong.” “Do you like this?” “Oh, No! I’m left-brained!” Dagmar Kubastova was having her own problems manipulating the scissors and glue, but then, she had her father’s reputation to live up to.
It was the table at the door, however, which caused the most ruckus. I think I even saw Ed blush a few times after being called over to view their work. I never got to see their ‘products’ but Ed called it the “smut” table. I should talk! My tunnel book was entitled, ‘Perversion’. Let’s just say, “We let it all hang out!”
Robert (with Matthew mirroring him at the other end) followed Ed with a well-oiled presentation. Robert had us ‘creasing and wiggling’ our 110 lb. cardstock making v-folds and layer folds turning us into comfortable pros inside of 15 minutes. He supportively cooed, “Wiggling is good.” The ‘needy ego’ at my table triumphantly declared, “I made it myself!”
Continuing the frenetic pace, Roy announced the Sale/Swap /Book Signing and with little fanfare and much chaos, gluesticks, scissors, and paper were cleared. The tables were now set with old pop-up books from dealers and fellow conventioneers. Ed Hutchins and Emily Martin had their own Artist Book Table which seemed to be doing a brisk business. Cliff Wood declared himself a ‘convert’ and bought his first Kubašta. There were rumors of transactions having gone on privately in rooms in previous days, and hints of the ‘pajama party swap’ to be held that night. Robert and Matthew anchored the only calm corner, fluidly signing their books.
With barely enough time to relax (Yeah, right!) and dress, the final chapter of our Conference opened with another crowded agenda. Our meal was delicious and topped off with a celebration of youth, Matthew Reinhart’s birthday. Putting on her chef’s hat, Ann sliced us all generous portions of cake. She then took the podium and thanked, among others, Roy Dicks, who accepted pajama bottoms as a gift. (The pajama-book swap was his idea. I swear!) When the laughter died down, Ann introduced our keynote speaker, Richard Burgess of Hua Yang.
Boyish and blond, Richard held up one of the DK Snap Shot series which were on the banquet tables as gifts for the conferees. The series had been the first pop-up books he worked on at Excel. (At our table, I could see him registering the passage of time and wistfully assessing how far he has come in this field.) Richard began by outlining how he found himself making a life in pop-up books. With a degree in aeronautical engineering, his youthful restlessness took him to China to visit a classmate and resulted in his replacing his friend at Excel, a hand-assembly plant.
After 2 years at Excel, he spent 2 years at White Heat doing quality control in Hong Kong, and then moved on to Hua Yang where he’s been for the past 4 years. At Excel he remembers asking, “What is a pop-up collector?” that experience being his first with pop-ups, a ‘baptism’ of sorts.
Richard gave us a brief history of Hau Yang (meaning East West) which started in Shanghai (under another name) in 1935 directed by Chung Ming Chan. It was moved to Hong Kong in 1949 to escape Communism. In 1987, a factory was opened in China and simple pop-ups were made. Hua Yang was bought by Zindart in 1998, a printer and manufacturer of hand-made books, specialty packaging, and other paper products.
In its 1/2 million sq. ft. factory, Hua Yang nurtures its workers providing health care, minimum wage standards, training, and meals. Its planning department maps out each project in an attempt to avoid problems. We had seen evidence of this in Andy’s video where each spread had its own ‘production book’ encompassing everything from the hand-made dies to the order in which movables are assembled. The quality of the paper is tested, and the final books are individually dehumidified before being shrink-wrapped.
Richard commented on the many changes which have taken place in the pop-up book manufacturing world, among them are the consolidation of publishers, the decrease in the number of packagers-some have begun self-publishing- and the greater independence of paper engineers. Not wanting to venture into Tomorrowland, Richard did say he sees the need for more innovation in projects.
As we tried to digest both our dinners and Richard’s large output of information, Roy, forever stirring the pot, moved us onto our first-ever auction. Andy Baron, understanding the heart of a collector, contributed one of the 140 salesman copies of Knick-Knack Paddywhack, certainly a treasure for anyone’s collection. Roy, now an auctioneer-and a most able one. I might add-brought the gavel down after brisk competition at $160, sold to Intervisual for its pop-up museum. The proceeds from the auction will go to offset the cost of the Conference. Wouldn’t this be a great way in the future to help defray conference costs and whet collectors’ appetites to spend money? Publishers, packagers, and paper engineers take note: Donate!
Wally Hunt stood up to salute the group, offering his optimistic view for the future of pop-ups including the Frankfurt Book Fair which should have many new titles. He graciously invited all of us to the Los Angeles Central Public Library’s exhibit of pop-ups from his collection. The exhibition will run until mid-January.
At last, we came to the denouement of the evening, the presentation of the 3rd Meggendorfer Prize. Fulfilling my assignment as the presenter, I announced the prize ‘Miss America’-style, reading the names of the runners-up first. The second runner-up was MBS’s very own, Brooklyn Pops Up, and the first runner-up, the most unusually formatted book in the group, Roly Poly Nursery Rhymes by Kees Moerbeek. And the winner is…… Robert Sabuda’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Robert shyly came to the podium to accept yet another well-deserved Prize. There was no acceptance speech. Like bobblehead dolls, we all sat silently nodding in agreement.
The Conference disbanded with a clear affirmation of who we are. Our Society is ‘on the map’, no longer a fledgling. As a group we had acquired a new and more mature appreciation of our beloved pop-up books, especially the talent, patience, tenacity, and man-power it takes to bring them to fruition. These new insights, garnered from the exhibit, in-depth lectures, and videos, and personal interactions as well, put a patina on who we are as collectors, artists, and business people who ‘live’ in the world of pop-up books and ephemera. Time has served us well. Plans are already underway for the next conference, our 10th, which will surely be an eventful milestone.
www.popuplady.com photos from the conference
www.robertsabuda.com photos from the Eisner
repair suggestions from Joanne Page: