With their ability to have animals, characters and other constructions spring off the page in all their three-dimensional glory, pop-up books have delighted children for many decades. So it may surprise you to discover that the genre (broadly termed "movable books") was initially aimed at adults, back when the first movable books appeared during the thirteenth-century.
German artist and paper engineer (we love this moniker) Peter Dahmen creates intricate paper pop-ups, suitable for grown-up appreciation. Immortalizing subjects like flowers in full bloom, spiralling forms, buildings and more in ephemeral paper, Dahmen develops his ideas primarily by hand, starting simple and progressively developing the concept with more complexity. This short film Christopher Helkey gives us a glimpse of how Dahmen got started in this fascinating field:
Beginning in his university studies, Dahmen loved working with paper, due to its relatively lightweight yet strong qualities. In completing a school assignment to build a three-dimensional model out of paper, Dahmen had a problem: he had no car, and he knew he wouldn't be able to transport his model on the train easily. Finally, he realized he could make it fold in half, and thus began his journey into pop-up paper art.
Only recently has Dahmen started using a computer to scan individual elements of a design to refine these moving parts further, ultimately using a cutting plotter to cut out those intricate details. It can take Dahmen days, sometimes even weeks, to fully flesh out a design from start to end, depending on whether he's doing a single pop-up piece, or a series.
For Dahmen, it never gets old:
I've opened pop-up cards for so many years, but it's still a magical moment, a moment of wonder, that happens. It's a dead material, yet you grab it with your hands, open it and something appears in front of your eyes. It's always a moment of magic.
Paper is indeed an amazing medium, versatile enough to be indispensable and yet also the perfect material to use in creating papercuts, sculptures or pop-up art. To commission something, see some tutorials or take a look at more of Peter Dahmen's works, visit his website and Instagram.