Uniting Two Galaxies | Marc Hagan-Guirey talks STAR WARS™ KIRIGAMI

We first featured paper artist Marc Hagan-Guirey back in September, when his new book, STAR WARS KIRIGAMI, hit shelves. He explained how he first encountered the world of kirigami and what led him to start creating scenes, buildings and vehicles from movies.

Now, with only one week until the latest instalment in the Star Wars saga hits cinema, he has told us a little more about the book and its part in the journey to The Last Jedi.

Photograph by Seamus Ryan
Photograph by Seamus Ryan

So how do you turn the ships into paper? What is the design process?

Needless to say I watch a lot of Star Wars. There’s a ton of resource material to work from which is great to make the kirigami design as accurate as possible. Sometimes there’s a bit of artistic license involved in order to make a ship fold properly. It’s about figuring out the basic shape of the ship first and then building upon that with details. I often use the LEGO versions of ships as resource because they’re essentially simpler versions of the real thing.

SW Kirigami_JediStraightfighter_Spread02

Which is your favourite ship in the book and why?

A prequel ship. The Jedi Star fighter from Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith stands out for me. The prequel ships are slightly more stylised than those in the original trilogy. With lots of extra details and folds, they translate really well to paper.

Is there anything else interesting about the creation of the book that you can share with us?

Apart from a new ship from The Last Jedi, I wanted to offer something a little different with my book. I’m really interested in the production design process, from concept to final product. Each project comes with a written accompaniment detailing this. There are lots of interesting facts about the designers who worked on the films and pictures of the original concept drawings. It’s a celebration of the people behind the camera.

Tell us about the Star Wars exhibition you did.

It was called Cut Scene. It had 12 kirigami scenes from the original trilogy. my exhibitions are more like a collection of tiny movie installations. Each kirigami was housed in shadow box with a strong backlit colour reflective of the tone of the movie scene. I love how lighting plays a huge effect in cinema in creating that theatre. With the kirigami you get to experience a dual personality. You can appreciate the paper for the ‘craft aspect’ when viewed in a fully lit room (with ‘the big lights’ on) and then become immersed in the effect when they are lit with colour. It’s a bit like riding a ghost train in the dark and then again with the lights on. The experiences are very different – with the lights on you get to say ‘ah! That’s how they did it’.

The pieces were arranged chronologically and floated on the walls at eye level. I loved how every morning when I’d go in to the gallery to prepare it for opening, I’d have to clean nose smudges off the perspex from when people had be peering in. They’re probably the most complex work I’ve done to date. For example, my favourite, the Carbonite Freezing scene from The Empire Strikes Back took me around 2 years to master. Tweak after tweak, I was still working on it a few days before the show opened. I’m so glad I did that show. I was nervous because the Horrorgami exhibition had garnered so much press that anything other than that would have felt like a bit of a letdown. Cut Scene ended up dwarfing it in those terms. I was also not feeling great before that. I’d lost my mum to cancer, came to the end of a 7 year relationship and moved out of our home that I’d spent 2 years renovating, so much of the effect of those experiences had compounded. I literally decided one day – what makes me happy? What will help me get back to being me? As silly as it sounds the answer was kirigami and Star Wars.

What other books have you published?

This is my third book now. My first book ‘Horrorgami’ was a follow up to my first exhibition. Just a few months ago my second book ‘Frank Lloyd Wright Paper Models’ was published. It’s a collection of his 14 most celebrated buildings. I’ve just returned from California and visited (loitered) outside quite a few of them.

Whats next for you?

I’m keen to have another solo exhibition. I’ve had 3 year gaps between them so I’m ready… that’s how long it takes to build up the energy. They’re all consuming! If enough people like this book then hopefully I can do another!

Who or what are you inspired by?

I guess there’s no one particular source. Film, TV, interior designs. I have a tendency to be drawn more towards the relatively more ‘unsung’ heroes of film & TV such as set designers and concept artists. Outside of media I find inspiration in all sorts just from being observant. I guess if I can look at something, anything be it an object or photo and I can see it has a backstory – then my mind goes into overdrive romancing what it’s history is. I’ve got lots of pals who make stuff – crafters and artists. Anyone who makes something from nothing inspires me to keep creating.

If you could meet any actor from the Star Wars films who would you most like to meet and why? 

It would have been Carrie Fisher. Her passing has a huge effect on me. It was very strange – psycho-analysing myself – her death had obviously re-surfaced the loss of my mum a few years ago. Another feisty woman who was gone too soon. On top of mourning the loss of a person you admire as a fan-base, we also are hurting due to the loss of the character too – knowing that they’ll never be able to fully complete her character’s arc. I always felt out of every character, Leia lost the most and gave the most. Luke was obsessed with his own journey whilst Leia looked at the bigger picture and sadly either her family was taken from her or they abandoned her (in the new films). She deserves a happy conclusion.

Are you excited to see the new film; The Last Jedi which is released cinemas this December?

I think tormented by the wait is the more accurate feeling!


STAR WARS KIRIGAMI is out now. Find out more here and watch Marc Hagan-Guirey in action here!

QUOTH THE RAVEN, “NEVERMORE.”

The Raven

Once upon a midnight dreary,

while I pondered weak and weary,

Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore,

While I nodded, nearly napping,

suddenly there came a tapping,

As of some one gently rapping,

rapping at my chamber door . . .

 

Paper engineer, David Pelham, has re-imagined Edgar Alan Poe‘s haunting poem; The Raven, through incredible paper craft; he is here today to share the process and inspiration for creating this awe inspiring book.

UNDER THE SPELL OF ‘THE RAVEN’ by David Pelham

In the grey drab days of the late 1930s my earliest memory took shape from within the confines of an iron-framed, high-sided hospital bed. Three years old and recovering from an emergency operation, I was visited by a very kind but rather gaunt giant of an uncle in a dark overcoat. I can still see him looming above me as he reached deep into his pocket, slowly withdrawing the most wonderful, the most dazzling and exciting toy I had ever seen: a toy that awoke in me a visual sense that has influenced and enhanced my life ever since.

It was a magical clockwork butterfly, its shiny tin wings printed in rainbow colours. To me it was the toy-most toy imaginable, joyful and strange, with wings flapping, colours blurring and merging to make more colours. This thrilling piece of clockwork poetry delighted me as it flitted noisily about upon my bed-tray, while outside the dark clouds of war were gathering ominously.

Today, over seventy years later, I still vividly recall my infant joy at the sight of my wonderful tin butterfly, and I believe that something of its bright colours and the visual excitement it gave me during those dark days have stayed with me, and have had a strong influence on my novelty books for the young.

I have had a lifelong passion for kites; their design, construction, performance, and, of course, their bright colours. In the mid 1970s while art director of Penguin Books I wrote The Penguin Book of Kites which is still in print today. This book later led on to a further large-format volume called Kites to Make and Fly, published in 1981 by Pan Books. When detached, the pages could be cut, folded and glued to create ten kites.

During the process of designing these paper kites I became captivated by the creative potential offered by the simple, low-tech immediacy of constructing three-dimensional sculptural forms out of nothing more than folded paper and glue. After an intensive period of self-instruction and exciting experimentation I found that my hitherto flat creative efforts were almost magically lifting off the page as pop-up entities into a dramatic extra dimension. This discovery had set me free, and my love-affair with pop-up books and paper engineering began.

The Raven Book Cover

The idea of treating Edgar Allan Poe’s The Raven in pop-up form was first suggested to me in 2013 by my wife, Jacqui Graham. Jacqui works closely with Clive James and would regularly check James’s sales on the Amazon bestseller list and elsewhere. While doing so she was struck by how often The Raven topped the poetry charts both in the UK and the US. After some further checking she was also struck by the number of distinguished translations of the poem that exist.

The Raven: A Pop-up Book

As she knew that my interest in the works of Edgar Allen Poe goes back to my schooldays, and that I had previously considered other Gothic ideas, she suggested that The Raven might make an interesting proposition. As usual she was right, and I spent the next six months or so pondering on the notion, assessing how best to distribute the eighteen wonderful stanzas of the poem through the seven spreads of the book in such a way as to maximise the drama, impact and dimensional potential of each spread while completely respecting and staying true to the text.

So vivid is the imagery of the text it was not long before I had the book planned and, while the paper engineering had its challenges, the structure of each individual tableau began to slowly emerge from the seven spreads of the book.

The Raven

Pop-up books vary widely in complexity, and the degree of complexity obviously very largely governs the cost to the publisher, The Raven is a complex book with some very challenging assemblies and, while designing the book wasn’t easy, the real work starts when the printer is sent a blank dummy of the proposal. This assembled blank is accompanied by a make-up sheet showing all the die-cut shapes arranged jig-saw style. The pieces are grouped along with the concertina pages into which the pieces will eventually be fitted.

These sheets are generally referred to as ‘nesting sheets’, and if the complex die-cut pieces exceed the available area on the sheet then it’s back to the drawing board for modifications. This takes time of course, so the designer is then caught between – not so much as a rock and a hard place – but more between a budget and a schedule.

On receiving the designer’s blank dummy and the nesting sheet, the printer then cuts and assembles a number of copies of the blank, carefully timing the assembly process in order to help establish an overall manufacturing cost.

Several of these dummies are then sent to the publisher and the designer for approval. Much later they will send out printed proof sheets for the approval of the designer and the illustrator.

The Raven: A Pop-up Book

From the outset of The Raven project I had hoped to persuade the artist and engraver Christopher Wormell to illustrate the book. I had admired his work for many years yet had neither met nor worked with him. Prior to our first meeting – in order to convey something of the illustrative technique I wanted – I prepared a further dummy by montaging each spread with blowups of Victorian engravings to suggest the mood I had in mind. To my delight Christopher was very enthusiastic, and I knew at that moment that this book was no longer ‘my’ book but ‘our’ book, and that with Christopher on board it could become very special.

Communicating mainly by email I would send Christopher the refined die-cut shapes showing my rough drawings, along with reference material and so forth, and by return I would receive his preliminary sketches. These were magnificent, strong and assured drawings of such confidence and brilliance that they constantly brought to mind my complete dismay that drawing, the rudimentary skill of visual creativity, is – to our shame – no longer taught in our art schools.

The Raven_Internal

Drawing is the discipline that lies at the very root of creative endeavour, as important to artists, designers, architects, engineers and scientists as is the written word. Similarly in music the understanding, appreciation and practice of scales and chords must form the rudiments of any real musician’s craft, so the ability to draw is essential to any real artist or designer.

The study of drawing not only concerns itself with making marks, it also develops scrutiny and perception, sharpening our ability to look rather than to simply see. It is an essential skill; a means of enhancing our perception of the physical world around us; a skill that helps us not only to observe, but also to convey, develop and present our creative concepts.

Although Christopher had never previously tackled the demands of a pop-up book he took to the task quickly and positively, constantly providing work that far surpassed that which was expected from the brief.

The Raven_Internal

Some months later I was holding an assembled pass-proof, apprehensively turning each page, carefully scrutinising each little tableau in turn, checking that every one of my detailed adjustments had been carried out by the printer, the die makers and the assembly teams. All was in order. I was holding the result of three years of intensive work in my hands and it felt good.

The Raven: A Pop-up Book is out now. Find out more and buy your copy on our website.

 

Spread the Crafty-Love this Valentines Day

Don’t give generic cards to the people you Love (with a capital L) this Valentines Day. Give them something personal, with a little help from Sally J Shim’s Be Mine: 25 Paper Projects to Share the Love!

How about a Peek-a-boo heart card?

Peekaboo

Say “peek-a-boo!” The photograph hidden under the heart on this card is a fun surprise for the recipient. Photo booth strip pictures are the perfect size, but you can use any small photo that will send a heartfelt message.

MATERIALS

1 piece of coloured cardstock, 2½ by 4¼ in/6 by 10.5 cm

1 photograph, 2 by 2 in/5 by 5 cm

1 piece of gray cardstock, 4¼ by 5½ in/10.5 by 14 cm

TOOLS

Pencil with eraser

Ruler

Self-healing cutting mat

X-ACTO knife

Bone folder

Glue stick

HOW TO

  1. Using the pencil and ruler, draw a heart that is 2 by 1¾ in/5 by 4.5 cm in the center of the col­ored cardstock.
  2. Place the colored cardstock on the self-healing cutting mat and, using the X-ACTO knife, cut around the edge of the entire left half of the heart. Erase any visible pencil marks.

Remember, showing love is not just for Valentines Day! Send unique, hand-crafted messages of affection ALL year round with this adorable little book on your shelf!

be mine

 

Text copyright © 2015 by Sally J Shim
Photographs © 2015 by Chronicle Books LLC