In addition to being a children’s author and illustrator, Matthew Reinhart is a paper engineer but not the kind that works for a paper manufacturer; the kind that gets paper cuts.
He cuts and folds and tapes small pieces of paper onto one model after another, creating dancing princesses, open-jawed dinosaurs, and flying superheroes; perfecting scenes that will pop up when the pages of a book are turned.
Reinhart’s new Game of Thrones: A Pop-Up Guide to Westeros, is keyed to the popular fantasy novels of George R.R. Martin and the subsequent HBO series. The book has five two-page spreads, each with several mini pop-ups, and a large fold-out map.
Reinhart, 42, will give a free talk at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday in Main Library, where an exhibit of his art will open Monday and continue through Aug. 31 in the gallery. His appearance is in observance of the 10th anniversary of the Children’s Library’s Robert L. and Posy Huebner Collection of original book art.
He’s done about 30 books, including on DC Super Heroes, Star Wars, Transformers, and dinosaurs; fairies, princesses, puppies, nursery rhymes, and My Little Pony (not yet published).
The Game of Thrones book makes use of magnets. Listed for $41.11 at Amazon, it’s winning rave critiques including, "The ingenuity involved with creating these structures that fold seamlessly back into book format will leave you gobsmacked. The art is gorgeous and the skill in making these images jump to life stunning," from a reviewer for SciFiPulse.
“I become obsessed with everything I do,” said Reinhart.
Born in 1971 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, his family moved around the country because his father was a pilot in the Navy. As a child, he drew pictures constantly, made crafts, loved Star Wars and Transformers.
At Clemson University he studied biology, after which he moved to New York City and met Robert Sabuda, a pop-up book maker who encouraged and eventually collaborated with him. He enrolled in the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn to study toy design but found he loved engineering paper. His first big break was the The Pop Up Book Of Phobias.
“For a complicated book such as the Encyclopedia Mythologica, I’d build models more than 10 to 15 times.” Among his most complicated are Darth Vader’s helmet and Transformers, because each pop transforms into something else.
When pieces finally unfold and fold back perfectly time and again, he takes them apart and scans them into Adobe Illustrator, which makes die lines that will help the Asian manufacturer know where the cuts and folds are supposed to go.
Like giant cookie cutters, a die is made for each piece of each pop. Each piece is cut, then given to a team. Each person in a team will glue just one piece -- perhaps an arm, jaw, or tail -- onto the page. Then the page goes to the next team member who will glue on just their piece, and so on.
Sometimes pops use strings that turn a rod, and the strings may have to be wrapped around the rod a precise number of times. “Sometimes a piece will catch or bend the wrong way and we’ll look at it together [myself and the manufacturer] and come up with an answer. It’s often human error.” Problem solving, he says, is one of his strengths, along with patience and a grasp of three-dimensionality.
Reinhart lives in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan and walks six blocks to his studio. When not working, he runs triathlons, works out, reads science fiction, and avidly collects comic books, Transformers, and Star Wars action figures.
Why do we love pop-ups?
“It’s like magic happening in front of you in the pages of a book.”
To see a video about how pop-up books are made, see the short film Paper Engineering: Fold, Pull, Pop & Turn on YouTube.
Contact Tahree Lane at firstname.lastname@example.org and 419-724-6075.