The Collages of Eric Carle

The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle

I expect you have seen The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle before. It is the children’s book where a tiny caterpillar spends one week eating his way through a variety of foods before making a cocoon and finally emerging as a beautiful butterfly. As a kid I loved the holes in the pages which showed where the caterpillar had been. But it was only recently that I found out how Eric Carle makes the fabulous coloured illustrations for this book and the many others he has written.

The technique uses a combination of paint, tissue paper and cut out. First he paints onto sheets of tissue paper building up layers of colour and patterns. There is a slideshow on the Eric Carle website showing how this is done. The outline of the caterpillar (or whatever the collage is to show) is then drawn onto tracing paper and this is used as a guide for cutting out the tissue paper shapes and arranging these onto the final page. Another slideshow on the Eric Carle website shows this process.

What I love about this technique is the depth of colour that it’s possible to get. For me, the subtle variations in tone on a simple shape of a pear, for example, give the cut-out shape the quality of a drawn illustration. And as a person who is not good at drawing, I’m delighted that it’s an eye for colour rather than the ability to control a line that is needed when trying to imitate this approach. I’m planning on using this technique to create the illustrations for my pop-up eBook. Of course, I’ll show you the results (good or bad!) here…


Pop-up Progress

My pop-up pig picture inserted into an eBook

As you can see from these pictures I’ve started playing around with fitting my individual pop-up pictures into the more linear procedure of a book. I’ve used the quite unimaginative title of A Walk in the Country to provide a narrative to the pictures.

Butterfly and Tree pop-up pictures in the eBook

The photos above are of my original pop-ups pictures from here glued into a blank eBook as I experimented with size, position and story. The photographs below show my first attempts to convert this into a shareable eBook that you will be able to download and make-up for yourselves. In fact, two or maybe even three eBooks will be needed to make one pop-up eBook.

The first eBook has the bases of the pop-ups printed directly onto the pages – you can see this below. The second eBook will contain the pop-up figures. These will need to be cut-out and stuck to the pop-up bases. Instructions on how to do this will either be in the eBook with the pop-up figures, or possibly in a separate eBook  depending on how many instructions are required. Currently I’m trying to think of how to make this whole process as straightforward as possible.

Base for the Butterfly pop-up and Birdhouse pop-up printed as an eBook with cut-out butterfly and bird figures

I’m also mulling over how much narrative to add to the eBook. Leaving the pages without text would allow you to write your own story around the pop-up pictures and I like this idea very much. Another option is to colour the pop-ups and the eBook pages then scan these pages in so people can download and make-up a complete ready illustrated pop-up eBook. Or maybe I’ll offer both options..


Paste and cut

The Philanthropist and the Happy Cat is another short story by Saki, and another eBook handmade by Carmen. For this book, like these examples, Carmen printed the paper twice, first with the background image and then with the eBook PDF. However, in this case the background image is a collage of scraps of paper Carmen collected. This was then scanned in and printed over with the text. You can still see the crumpled wrinkles from where the paper has been screwed up to be thrown away.

The Philanthropist and the Happy Cat by Saki: On a background of paper bags, phone directories and receipts.

As I’m not great at drawing I think that collage could be a good way for me to give eBooks and StoryCubes a hand-made feel. I’m wondering how the choice of collage materials affects readers experience of the book.

Carmen has chosen throwaway types of papers and put them together in a haphazard manner that reminds me of rubbish you might see lying on the street. For me this is an interesting contrast to the story, especially at the beginning which describes Jocantha Bessbury’s self-satisfaction at her well-furnished home and complacent life. I wonder how the experience of the story would be altered if the collage had been more figurative illustrating aspects of her home, or made from tea shop menus or books on Hindostan which feature later in the story. 

publishing on demand

Why make?

Over the last few weeks as I’ve been researching and writing about the pop-up books, flip books, cut-out books, electronic books and so on I’ve been wondering what it is that drives so many people to want to make stuff. And what is it about tangible materials that draws some people to them even when digital tools and computers mean we can create things with a lot less mess nowadays.

It seems to me that the makers I’ve written about seem to have in common a desire to shape materials and create new experiences. But is there more to making than constructing objects for others to enjoy? While I think that making something new, creating a new object through personal skill that others will find useful or inspiring or entertaining is part of the pleasure of making, I also think that some of the joy of making is unmaking.

It seems to me that unmaking is implicit in making. Before you can make something I believe you will have a picture in your mind of how the thing is made, for example, the materials, tools and skills you might need. At least, I think you have to have an idea of where to begin – though you certainly don’t need to know all of the steps you will take to get to the end or even to necessarily know where the end will be. This requires thinking about an object in a particular way, asking how was this object made? And one way to find the answer is to unmake the original object – at least in your mind – though often it seems that the most best way of understanding how to make something is to literally take it apart .

But what is the point of this making and unmaking? What does the maker get out of the experience of making? My answer would be that they get a deeper understanding of how the world is constructed.  The challenges that you come up against when making something can span the laws of physics, economics or social customs. This opens up issues of manipulation of materials, knowledge, ownership and control as makers ask – why is the world this way? who says that it has to be this way? how can I make it a different way? This is why I believe making – and unmaking – is important. It reconnects us with our world and helps us to  feel that we have the power to make the world a little bit closer to how we would like it to be.


Competition: Hand-made by bookleteer

A creative mess in the Proboscis studio…

I’ve been having a great time recently playing around with hand-made eBooks and StoryCubes and Giles and I thought we’d invite you to join in. So we’re going to run a little competition called Hand-made by bookleteer.

Send us your photographs of  hand-made eBooks and StoryCubes and we’ll write about the ones we like best on the blog. Hand-made might mean pop-up, cut-out, collage, printed, illustration, decoration, StoryCube sculpture, electronic eBooks – or something we haven’t thought of yet!

What about prizes you ask? Well, we have 20 packs of StoryCubes to give away as prizes. These packs contain 8 pre-cut blank StoryCubes and 48 blank stickers. The StoryCubes are made from cardboard and sturdier than the ones that can be made by printing on bookleteer. The stickers can be printed using a laser or inkjet printer and then stuck onto the cubes. Proboscis have used these cardboard StoryCubes for many many projects and they’re brilliant. So get making. You have until 14 July 2010..

You can either email your photos to me at karen(at)proboscis(dot)org(dot)uk  or upload them to the bookleteer flickr group.

P.S If you want to take part but don’t yet have a bookleteer account go to the website and request one by clicking on the link in the top right corner below the login box.


Electronic Popables

A little while ago I wrote about the integration of electronics and books and speculated about the different kinds of reading experiences this might create. Now I find Electronic Popables by Jie Qi which electronically augments a pop-up book and creates a beautiful series of scenes where sliding, pressing and flipping pieces of paper causes underwater sea creatures to glow, the buildings of New York City to light up and stars in the night sky to twinkle.

Jie Qi created the book with Leah Buechley and Tschen Chew during a summer working in the High-Low Tech group at MIT Media Lab. The High-Low Tech group aims to engage people in creating their own technologies through situating computation in new and unusual contexts integrating high and low technological processes, materials and cultures.

Electronic Popables integrates traditional pop-up mechanisms with thin, flexible, paper-based electronics including capacitive sensors, bend sensors and pressure sensors, and the result looks like a familiar pop-up book but with added electronic effects.

Watch a video of Electronic Popables on YouTube here..


Prototyping Pop-up eBooks

My tests for making a pop-up eBook.

Inspired by Robert Sabuda and Matthew Reinhardt (who I wrote about here) I’ve been working on making a pop-up eBook. I chose the loose theme of ‘A walk in the country’ and selected pop-ups from Robert Sabuda’s website to fit this concept. All of the pop-ups are labelled ‘easy’ except for the pig where I tried out an intermediate level design (woo!). And they really were easy to make. The base and the figures are provided for you to print out and then step-by-step instructions are given with photographs to guide you through the making up process. It would be difficult to go wrong!

At the moment the pop-ups exist as individual pages and my next step is to fit them into the eBook format. Because of the way that eBooks sequence the pages I will need to cut the bases in two so that they span the whole width of the eBook when it’s open.I’m planning it as two eBooks to download, one will have the bases and one the figures. Cutting the figures out of book 2 and adding to the bases in book 1 will complete the pop-up. Keep reading the bookleteer blog to find out how I get on!


Johan Hybschmann: Book of Space

Book of Space was made by architecture student Johan Hybschmann while at the Bartlett, UCL. Johan was inspired by Sokurev’s film Russian Ark in which viewers travel through time as they move through the rooms of the Winter Palace. This all takes place in a single shot sequence. Johan writes:

The distortion of time is, of course, interesting in terms of the timelessness of the spaces – but the interest of the project lies in the way that the camera never looks back. Even though the viewer never sees the full dimensions of these spaces, we are still left with a sense of coherence and wholeness. It’s as if we constantly use the previous space to create an understanding of what should be behind us.

Book of Space draws directly on the film and transforms two scenes into constructed perspectives cut into the leaves of the book. The elements collide and the nature of the space changes as the user turns the pages.

For me, Book of Space is a fascinating and inspiring match of concept and construction as it explores spatiality and temporality through its content as well as through the book format. And I feel that the fragility of the cut-out pages brings a further reminder of the temporal nature of books as they are used.

See more images on Johan’s website..

publishing on demand

Alphabet Book No.1: by Clara

One of the great things about bookleteer eBooks and StoryCubes is their hybrid nature that means they can be simultaneously mass-produced and hand-made. Alphabet Book No.1 is a fantastic example of this.

Each letter was sketched in pencil then painted over by Clara Angus Lane (then aged 3). The painted letters were than scanned and put into an eBook that can be downloaded from the diffusion website here.

I love this book because it has such a hand-made quality to it (and fabulous colours and quirky letters!) yet it can be shared and enjoyed by anyone with an internet connection and a printer. And because you have to make up the eBooks by hand I feel they keep a strong sense of a handmade tangible object – even though they can be printed in their dozens!


Chisato Tamabayashi: Book Artist

Chisato Tamabayashi is a London-based artist who’s made a range of stunning books using cut-outs, printing and pop-ups. I thought I’d share a few of my favourites with you.

9 – 5 is a book of hand-cut images showing the shape and colour of a tree transforming through the seasons. Alongside this three miniature books nest inside the book cover illustrating smaller transformations of the tree at different speeds and times. The image below is not actually from the book because I couldn’t find any accessible photos of it. Instead these two pictures are from Chisato’s Season series and similar enough to give you some idea of the beautiful colours and delicate nature of the work.

Two untitled images from Season series

queue is designed as a pop-up book and as a fold-out pop-up scene. As a book each page shows a single car that, once unfolded, line up to form a traffic jam.

queue as a fold-out pop-up scene

The last project I’ll write about is branches which combines elements of both of the above (and do check out Chisato’s website because there are many more fabulous works to see!) branches is a pop-up book that explores the transformation of a family of trees in different seasons and of different generations. Like queue, branches can also be viewed as a fold-out scene showing all of the trees simultaneously.

I find these books completely inspiring and after looking at these I’m impatient for my next session of bookleteer experiments (last week I played with pop-ups and I’ll write about the results of that soon). I would love to see what Chisato would make out of the bookleteer eBooks and StoryCubes..

All of the projects I describe here (and more) are on Chisato’s website..