paper sculpture

The Art of paper sculptures.

I am a self-employed graphic designer who lives in Dortmund/Germany. My favourite subject is the creation of paper pop ups.

Why do you like paper?
I love to create things from paper because it is such an endless source of creativity.

You can paint or write on it, fold it, bend it, cut it and much more. To me, it is the perfect material.

Who I am and What I do.

Why do you create pop-up books and not another kind of paper art?
This is a misunderstanding.

As a graphic designer, I create many different things. I work on illustrations, typography, logo design and much more.

But the thing I love above all is creating paper pop up sculptures.

I think that every artist has a technique that suits him/her best. I admire artists who do origami or paper cuts.

But I love the magic that happens, when a flat paper transforms into a 3-dimensional object and then back into a flat sheet.
Up to now I haven’t designed a whole pop-up book.

I just created single sculptures and many prototypes for serial production of commercial pop up cards.

What kind of paper art do you make? What material do you use?
I am mostly interested in the creation of 180(degrees) pop up cards, which means that the card can be fully opened.

I don’t like the 90(degrees) pop up cards that much but I will create these cards for my clients too.
I use a wide range of paper sheets for my personal artwork.

It always depends on the effect I want to achieve. A blossom or a butterfly will look better if made from soft paper.

For an architectural model I will use stronger cardboard.

If my pop up cards are manufactured in a serial production, usually the paper‘s weight is 300 grammars.

How did you become a paper artist? How long have you been making pop-up sculptures?

I started making my first pop-up sculptures in 1989, during my design studies. Since then, I am still learning.

I think that a lot of practice is the only way to become a good paper engineer.

When you make pop-up sculptures, do you start from a fully defined project or from a simple idea and then leave other ideas coming through until “eventually” it becomes a pop-up creation?
Every time is different. Sometimes, I have an idea and I am happy with my very first model. Unfortunately, this is not the rule.

Usually, I have to make three or four sometimes more than ten models, until I am happy with the final result.

Sometimes, the final design looks totally different from my very first layout. Sometimes, I must realize that my idea doesn’t work at all. In this case, I have to start again from scratch.

It is always an adventure finding out whether an idea can be put into practice or not.

What inspires you as an artist and as a paper artist? Do you ever run out of ideas?

Architecture, paintings, nature everything can be inspiring. It’s hard to tell where ideas come from, but I have no fear that I will ever run out of ideas.

Although I have to admit that I cannot fulfill all clients wishes. It would be far too complicated to make some models into a pop-up sculpture.

Do you remember how and when your passion for paper has become a career?

For over twenty years I have shown my paper artworks only to a few people.

In January 2010, I uploaded a video with some of my pop up designs on YouTube. This video became very popular. At the same time, I could obtain my first commercial pop-up project. Since then, I have worked on several projects for different clients.

Tell us how do you make each pop-up creation unique.
I always try to create new things instead of copying existing artwork. I usually have to make several models until everything fits correctly. I need around two to ten days from the very first sketch to the final model.

Most of my work is made by hand. Therefore, my designs are very personal.

What would you advice to aspiring artists?

I am often asked about the secret recipe to become a paper engineer. In fact, there is no secret, but many hours of practice. Don’t give up if you fail.

If your first pop-up design doesn’t work, make a second, a third or a dozen. Like for a musician or an athlete, there is no other way to improve your skills than practice. You can’t be a good sportsman just by watching sport shows on the TV.

If you want to be a paper engineer, you have to work with paper. That’s all.

Tell me about your projects: what is your procedure for creating?… Do you think, do you draw? And where do you get your inspiration from? A book, a discussion, a color… tell me how does your creativity work?
I usually start from a very simple, rough model. Mostly I use very cheap paper and board for my first sketches.

I try many things and, step by step, my sketches become more and more perfect. When I see that my idea will work, I draw the final shapes usually after a lot of failures.

Do you exhibit in Art Galleries? (Tell me about your exhibitions)
Last year, I joined the art fair “kunstbox“.

In october 2012, I will show some of my pop up artworks in an art gallery in Schwerte/Germany.

If you are part of clubs, mailings, forums, associations do they limit your freedom?
As a graphic designer, I am member of the “Alliance of German Designers”, AGD.

How important is your computer?
My most popular pop-up sculptures are completely made by hand in 1989 I did not even HAVE a computer.

Even today, my first sketches are still made by hand. I do not use the computer until everything fits perfectly. I use the computer only for my final designs, especially if I am creating a prototype for serial production.

The manufacturer needs vector data to produce the cutting mould. I use the computer for the final drawing, but it doesn’t deliver creativity. The designing process is always done completely by hand.

Which social media do you use? Have they been useful to increase your visibility and sales? How do you use them?(hours per day, week, etc.)
My artwork became very popular through the use of YouTube. Since April 2011, I have a fan page on Facebook, and since September 2011, I write a blog… You can also find me on Twitter and on Xing.
I have received some very interesting requests through the internet. In average, I spend between one and three hours a week on social networks.

What about the future?

I am very thankful for all the creative projects I could work on these last months.

If I could make a wish, I would be very happy to have the possibility to realize more paper projects in the upcoming years. I love to create paper popups. If I can’t do this for clients, I will surely do it for myself.

And finally… if our readers wanted to start creating pop-up books, can you advice a useful book, link or website for beginners? Thank you!

If you have access to Facebook you will find a lot of tips and tutorials in this list.

If you want to make your own experiences, these books will be helpful:
“Elements Of Pop Up: A Pop Up Book For Aspiring Paper Engineers” by David A. Carter and James Diaz.
The Pop-Up Book” by Paul Jackson.

Thank you Peter!

11 thoughts on “Paper pop-ups with Peter Dahmen”

  1. Great Artist, fantastic sculptures and beautiful, meaningful interview! Peter, I totally agree with you ragding the importance of practicing, practicing and practicing! And never be afraid to fail! Thank you for remind me of it 🙂

    And thank you Paperdolls for these very interesting series of interviews 🙂

  2. I have been an avid follower of your art, Peter! I even made the “True Love Never Ends” folding greeting card that my wife loved! I always look forawrd to see your creations on fb. More power and se=uccess to you! Horacio

  3. Fantastic beat ! I would like to apprentice at the same time as you amend your web site, how could i subscribe for a weblog website? The account helped me a appropriate deal. I have been a little bit acquainted of this your broadcast provided brilliant transparent idea


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