Young artist transforms ideas into pop-ups

Aspiring paper engineer Amy Nayve.

The fascination of 22-year-old Amy Nayve with pop-up art started when she was inspired by the books received as gifts from her grandparents residing in the United States. She was only around five years old when she made her first pop-up heart in a card and was nine when she created her first carousel dollhouse pop-up book for a school project.

Nayve wanted to be a paper engineer since childhood, but it was only during her days at the De La-Salle College of Saint Benilde’s School of Design and Arts that she fully realized the joy in creating pop-ups. The precision and accuracy she honed at the College — with two years enrolled in the Architecture Program prior to shifting to the Industrial Design Program — added to her foundation. And are very well visible in her choice craft.

The New York Times best-selling paper engineer Matthew Reinhart, whose books are some of the most mind-blowing Nayve has ever seen, asks: “What is the most awesome way to experience things?” This question was carved in the young artist’s mind when building her own pieces.

“Pop-ups are an exciting way to deliver an interactive experience to the reader where two-dimensional images would fall flat,” Nayve beamed. “They’re like little theaters — you know you’re in for a spectacular show when the curtains open.”

Multo-multuhan, a Halloween-themed Filipino pop-up book by Amy.

She does this miracle inside her own studio, a spare room in her family home, where her table, art caddy, scanner, printer, Silhouette Cameo machine cutter, A3 cutting mat, art materials, handy dandy hobby knives, washi tape, lots of paper, and stacks of her all-time favorite books for inspiration, take refuge.

“Creating a pop-up is similar to making a scene in a movie or play,” Nayve revealed.

Usually inspired by the things that radiate wonder as well as things that are puzzling brain teasers, Nayve always starts with an idea in her head, puts it into a storyboard, and finally translates it into pop-ups through paper engineering, where each piece goes through a process of refinement to ensure that it moves and folds away neatly as it should.

The emerging paper engineer believes that storytelling is a core element in the craft with every piece conveying a specific scenario to the reader.

“Pop-ups can magically bring a story to life and I want to share stories that left an impression on me,” Nayve discussed. “It could be local legends or folklore and that’s the kind of story I want to start my career with — one that’s begging to be brought to life and introduced to the kids of our country.”

Nayve compiled all the works she personally designed, engineered, and photographed, while at school into what she now calls Popfolio. “It was a personal choice to make it a pop-up book, as I felt that it’s best to let the reader, in this case my clients, interact with my designs just like they would with the actual object,” Nayve shared.

After a year of completing Popfolio, she submitted it to The Movable Book Society, a non-profit organization that curates to pop-up and movable book enthusiasts. It was awarded the Honorable Mention for the Emerging Paper Engineer Prize.

“One of the best things that happened from being given this recognition was that it introduced the art of paper engineering to the Filipinos,” Nayve said to the crowd of pop-up artists and enthusiasts during her talk at the organization’s conference in Kansas City, United States. “The art form is still in its infancy in the Philippines and I am lucky to be part of its beginnings,” she imparted.

Nayve believes that most of the best experiences she’s had in life, including getting the special citation for Popfolio, are astonishing coincidences.

“I guess I’m just really lucky to be at the right place at the right time and in the right frame of mind,” she shared. “Staying positive and knowing you deserve all the good things happening to you really, really works. You just have to trust that everything is happening to lead you to your dreams,” she added.

She likewise helps spread pop-ups in the local art scene by facilitating lectures in schools and organizations, and a series of workshops such as at the MNL Art sesh 2.0 for SM City Manila, and Manila Mini Maker Faire at The Mind Museum, where her modules are suitable for both adults and kids aged eight and above.

“One thing I like to stress at my workshops is that paper engineering is a skill just like any other art form and skills can be developed by anyone with enough perseverance. It’s great for people who like art as well as physics and geometry,” she advised.

Apart from currently transforming her brand Pumapapel Crafts into a business, Nayve is also busy working on both personal projects and commissioned pieces such as single artworks and wedding invitations. With her love for theater, she is also eyeing on the possibilities of intricately blending the craft of paper engineering with performance art.

“Can you imagine a pop-up stage set? How awesome would that be?” she beamed. “Being a Swiss army knife of creativity seems to be a common trait among paper engineers if not a prerequisite. A lot of thought goes into the art and science of the art. Being able to draw for various creative sources is a huge advantage.”

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