Joie de Vivre

Book Arts

I attended a lecture at Loyola University by Paul Johnson last Thursday. I heard about Paul from my book artist colleagues, Jenny O’Grady and Jodi Hoover.


From the Loyola site: “Paul Johnson is a successful pop-up book artist with work in such collections as the Tate Gallery, London; the Cooper-Hewitt Museum, New York; and the National Gallery, Washington DC. Dr. Johnson has an international reputation for his pioneering work in developing literacy through the book arts. He has written books on making art books, and he loves to teach children how to make books.”


Paul insists that art has been on the decline since the middle ages, and he draws inspiration from medieval architecture, especially cathedrals.  Paul likes to take nursery rhymes and fairy tales and mash them together – stories like “Jack and the Beanstalk meets Goldilocks” or “Mother Hubbard and the Three Pigs.” Or, even, stories from the bible.  Then, he makes pop-up books.


All of his books can be disassembled and placed flat to be carried in a suitcase. He does not use glue, nor does he fold the paper. He uses joints to connect the elements:


He started making these books after he turned 40, and is now 72-ish. He leaves Britain to travel the world, teaching his methods and staying with other book artists.






Paul’s books are astonishing – not only for their detail and engineering, but also the cleverness of how he reworks classic stories into new ones.

On Saturday, Leezle and I were lucky enough to attend a 3 hour workshop with Paul. We learned some folding techniques, and we made some pop-ups.







Paul had a dry sense of humor and was a delightful presenter. He sells his work – both, the original books and editions. They are lovely and worth owning.