Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Super Star Interviews: Renee Jablow

Welcome to my monthly interview feature! I’m so excited to be interviewing all the fabulous artists, illustrators and designers I’ve meet over the years (both personally and virtually!) and sharing their artwork and experiences here on Bird Meets Worm. Look for a new interview on the first Tuesday of every month.

This month I’m so excited to be catching up with the amazing Paper Engineer, Renee Jablow! Renee and I became friends while working together at Intervisual Books, a novelty children’s book publisher. It was amazing working on so many titles together! Renee lives in Los Angeles where she creates pop-ups and paper novelties for publishing, advertising, and packaging. She learned the art of paper engineering at Intervisual Books (Piggy Toes Press) where she worked for thirteen years. She is credited with paper engineering more than sixty pop-up and novelty books. In 2009, Renee was nominated for a Grammy for "Best Recording Package" for The Ditty Bops' "Summer Rains" pop-up CD package. You can visit more of her work here!

Check out this adorable Dogs At Sea pop-up card!

Q: You are a paper engineer, which is an unusual career. Tell us all about what a paper engineer does and how you came to be one professionally.

A: A paper engineer designs pop-ups and mechanisms using paper. While these paper designs are most often created for children's books, they can also be found in greeting cards, packaging, calendars, advertising, and promotional materials.

I learned how to be a paper engineer while at the novelty book company, Intervisual Books. I started out as an intern in their art department putting together pop-up books to be used as sales samples. After a couple months, I was hired on full-time. I eventually worked my way up to manager of the Paper Engineering department.

I'm currently a freelance paper engineer working with private clients as well as publishers. My most recently published books are Silly Skeletons by Jumping Jack Press and Shapes by Reader's Digest.

Perfect for Halloween! Shake your skeleton!

Q: Tell us a bit about how you begin a new paper engineering project and what your artistic process is like.

A: Every project is different and most people aren't familiar with how a pop-up is made. So, I first determine the best course of action based on my client's needs and understanding of the process. Usually, my client will supply me with a sketch of what they want the pop-up to look like. I'll then create a rough mock-up based on the sketch. As I engineer, I draw templates for all the pieces in Adobe Illustrator. The next stage is to have an artist create finished art, which I use to build a color mock-up. I make sure all the pop-ups and mechanisms still work properly with the final art applied.

If needed, I'll then assist my client to get their project produced. This involves finding vendors that are capable of printing, die-cutting, and hand assembly. While most projects I've produced have been done in Asia, I've also produced some domestically.

Q: You have paper engineered over 60 children’s books. Which book is your most favorite and why?

A: I do have a special place in my heart for Harry Potter Hogwarts School: A Magical 3-D Carousel published by Scholastic. Besides being a Harry Potter fan, this book came along at a time when Intervisual was doing fewer pop-up books. I was excited to work on a more complex pop-up and have the opportunity to work with the editor at Scholastic.

Harry Potter magic, indeed!!

Q: Novelty books have always been a mainstay of your craft. What do you see for their future as more and more young children are turning to apps and e-books?

A: I do think that times are hard for novelty books. While children are redirecting their attention to apps and e-books, I think the larger problem is economic. With online merchants like Amazon, there are fewer bookstores and even fewer people are going to them. Even if a video of a pop-up book is available online, it does not replace handling the actual book. And, there are fewer novelty books out there from which to choose. The cost to manufacture these kinds of books has rapidly increased to the point that publishers are rather reluctant to publish them. 

With all this being said, I do think there will always be a place for novelty books. Apps and e-books can't replace the tactile experience and sense of wonderment a child has as he or she turns each page to discover a tab to pull or a scene pop-up.

Happy pop-ups make celebrations more fun!

Q: You are a grammy-nominated artist! (So super cool!!) Tell us about the project you worked on that was nominated and what the experience was like.

A: The project was creating pop-up packaging for the album, Summer Rains, by The Ditty Bops. Amanda Barrett and Abby DeWald of The Ditty Bops are very creative and wanted to do unique packaging for their first independent album after recording two albums on the Warner Bros. label. Along with their photographer/graphic designer Rick Whitmore, we created a CD package with a pull-tab on the front, pop-up in the center, and revolving wheel in the back. It was important to The Ditty Bops that this package be made using eco-friendly materials and processes, so we produced it locally with recycled paper and soy ink.

We were all absolutely thrilled to be nominated for a Grammy in the "Best Recording Package" category. We unfortunately didn't win the Grammy, but we did get to attend the award show!

Ditty Bops super cool packaging!

Q: Describe your most perfect Sunday.

A: I think more than a particular activity, my most perfect Sunday would be spending time with people I love. And, hopefully it would include something chocolaty!

Thank you, Renee, for chatting up with us here on Bird Meets Worm! We can’t wait to run out and pick up a copy of your latest book! XO