Pop Stars

French illustrators Icinori have just created a beautiful new limited-edition pop-up art book, using three-dimensional paper structures to bring their distinctive, precise and characterful images to life. We caught up with the pair to learn more about the creation of the book... 

Large e44bbbdf cc3e 44dc b3e0 d37fd50ed07e

Tell us how this book came about — is it the first pop-up book you have created?
As designers we create both commissioned work and personal and experimental projects, and we have been publishing art books for almost 10 years; we have already created four other limited-edition experimental pop-up books, and wanted to produce this new one to bring together our more recent experiences and thoughts.

What kind of story does the book tell, and what references did you draw upon to create the images?
The book, La Carrière (The Quarry), presents a set of scenes: at the beginning, a mountain – a volcano, almost abstract – which serves as a quarry where stones are cut, sawn and piled. Plans are drawn, a city begins to be built, and the projects within it are both ambitious and absurd. Suddenly the volcano wakes up, destroying the beginning of creation, then goes out, and all is calm. It's a story of entropy, moving from simplicity to complexity and then back to simplicity again, both within history and in its representation.

We are really interested in utopian architects such as Superstudio and Archigram, but also and above all the Japanese metabolists and the associated Japanese graphic scene, from Kiyoshi Awazu to Kazumasa Nagai. We also are really inspired by a number of different artists & graphic designers playing with images and structures: Schrauwen, Killoffer, Yokoyama, Paul Cox and Chris Forgues, for example.

Large 5cb20bb7 c834 4fb3 813e 448ef429cd25

Large bba376d7 0b7b 43e0 9598 f595d53ed338

How did you begin to create the pop-up structure, and what role did experimentation play within this process?
The structures within the popup book are very simple mechanical systems with strong constraints, which leave plenty of room for illusion. We did a lot of research for this project, but the base is still very simple: scissors, paper and scotch tape. Make and redo. We began with very complex technical desires that we had to simplify to leave room for drawing and ideas.

It is not the complexity of the system that is important but the effect produced, and the synchronicity between the mechanism and the drawing. Each pop-up is produced by hand, so we count each dot of glue and each fold in order to achieve an interesting effect for the minimum amount of hand-work.

The major problem is to develop the general idea and organise the different tasks. At first, it is very hard to know where to start – you need to draw, cut, make models, contact printers, contact paper suppliers, and check that each item works together. If the printer changes the paper size, then the paper size changes the book format, and the page size changes the popup system, so the popup changes the drawing, and the drawing changes the story. And then you have to do it all again.

Large 24ab1b1e f49f 4c67 8405 d227185c7809

Large 591f7654 96ee 4e61 a336 9c74ddbe2e57

Large 4fe0e9f9 c4e7 4bd8 98c7 a851107038b9

What were the biggest technical challenges within the project?
We've got our own printing studio in our workshop (with equipment for Riso, letterpress and silkscreen printing) but for this project we wanted to work with a printer in order to exchange and learn. Our pop-ups require a real precision and regularity of printing, so we collaborated with Lézard Graphique, one of the major screen-printers in France and Europe. They are passionate about graphic design, and work regularly with designers such as Karel Martens, Henning Wagenbreth, Tomi Ungerer, Fanette Mellier, and Sara De Bondt.

They are used to interacting with creators, are extremely accurate in colour, and can work fast on large format pieces of print. The tactile qualities of the different inks we used are really amazing. We have added a hot foil embossing to the cover and a booklet within in Riso that we printed ourselves, and we did the cutting and assembly in our workshop. For this project, we wanted to share and learn as much as possible, and to have everything produced in France.

Large 010b4b7a eaab 498d b6f1 715c8ebb4314

Large f4212d67 e1d7 4551 8e7b 6b88dfad4400

Large d411dd42 b80e 4624 9dd4 c757e34bb19b

Large 2c7ccd93 c9a8 457f 84c8 4a23d4ec140e

Does working with both two and three dimensions in this way make you think differently within your creative process?
Yes, of course – it's very exciting! We are passionate about architecture and sculpture but our field is drawing, so with this project we tried to make a bridge between those different disciplines. We often use drawing as a sculpting tool and now integrate a lot of software and algorithms (which we sometimes develop ourselves) into our drawing process. We test the boundaries of the drawing gesture.

What are you working on now, and what's next for you?
We have just finished a book that will be released internationally in September, a crazy large book for children that is both pop and experimental. We also have several exhibitions planned in galleries related to contemporary art, and are preparing an art book about Seoul containing more than 200 drawings, which is scheduled for release in 2019!

Large ed4cf7b1 db93 4dc9 9d2f b07391341a86

Large e3afe77b f749 47ff b0b9 13cd5167a722

Large 65c20ef2 01b2 4cd7 ae0f 7da7db5ba6d2

Large c1a29a75 9d0a 4f62 9a96 a3819de35431