Henry Ford Community College Alum Karen Imarisio Shares Her Passion for Paper

Vasarely Pop-Up Op-Art by Philippe. Photo by Kip Kriigel
Vasarely Pop-Up Op-Art by Philippe. Photo by Kip Kriigel

Henry Ford Community College alum Karen Imarisio turned her hobby into a lifelong passion. Imarisio curated the exhibit “Inspiration and Innovation: The Art of Paper Engineering,” at the Stamelos Gallery Center at University of Michigan- Dearborn. Imarisio donated a large portion of her pop-up book collection to Mardigian Library at UMD. As part of her work on the exhibit, Imarisio helped arrange events and guest speakers to help educate the public about the wonders, both functional and artistic, that can be done with paper.

Mirror News: Can you please define for our readers what the “Art of Paper Engineering” is?

Imarisio: The art of paper engineering encompasses many things. It includes the amazing world of paper engineers, which include people that create pop-up books. The exhibit is built around the collection of books I donated to the library. It also involves amazing paper engineers that are involved with origami and kirigami folding techniques, which are extremely complex. These techniques are used in science, mathematics, medicine and many other fields. The exhibit also includes book artists. There are many amazing book artists out there. We have one book artist represented in the exhibition. Art is also a big component of paper engineering. In this exhibition the main focus is pop-up books but it builds around a lot of other things to encompass this whole world of paper engineering. It’s amazing.

MN: Do you mind sharing with our audience how you became interested in the art of paper engineering?

Imarisio: It started with a pop-up book by a very well-known pop-up book artist by the name of Robert Sabuda, and I got the Wizard of Oz because I was obsessed with the Wizard of Oz as a kid. I could not believe every page I opened had these amazing pop-ups on every level, and I thought, “Wow this is really cool,” so I started collecting additional pop-up books. But then, the game changer in this whole thing was with David Carter. He is my idol, he actually wrote an artist statement for the exhibit for me. He has books that have very abstract forms, colored, very modern designs, it is a whole other way of how these paper engineered objects twist, pop and make noises, and that really changed my world. I started collecting all of his books at that point. There are so many people that associate pop-up books with children’s books, but that’s not necessarily so. I started seeking out different types of pop-up books and I came across a pop-up book by Kelli Anderson and it was a camera pop-up book that actually takes pictures. You can take pictures, there is film that comes with it, and you can develop the photographs with coffee, water and baking soda. This camera pop-up book is in the exhibit. Then my husband and I were watching a documentary that I think is still available on DVD, it’s called,” Between the Folds,” and it focuses on professional paper engineers and all these very complex techniques and all the things they can do with it. They apply their skills in all sorts of fields. I wondered if there was anything I could do with my pop-up collection because it was just sitting on my bookshelves so I contacted U of M Dearborn and the library staff enthusiastically were onto the idea that my collection could be used to teach students about these paper engineering styles. I then gave the library around 130 books, which led to this exhibition.

MN: What are some ways the art of paper is used in engineering?

Imarisio: One way is the scientific field. The paper engineers and techniques of origami were used for folding solar panels for satellites, transporting collapsible solar cameras and telescopes to the space station. There are also self assembling and self folding robots. People have done amazing things with creative packaging, which is on display in the exhibit. People have developed folding kayaks and foldable bullet proof shields. The art of paper engineering can be used to make automotive craft absorbing structures and ready to use, self deploying, relocatable structures which help during natural disasters.

MN: What is the difference between origami and kirigami and how are these methods used?

Imarisio: It’s very simple. Origami is folding. Kirigami involves folding and cutting to produce even more complexity.

MN: How is paper engineering similar or different from origami?

Imarisio: It actually is the same. Paper engineers usually fold in some capacity and origami is the art of folding.

MN: I understand the gallery has online materials that are free for the public, can you please share more information about that?

Imarisio: The first go-to place is the Stamelos Gallery website, and that is where you will find quite a bit of information on the exhibit. Kelli Anderson, pop-up book artist, opened our exhibit with an online lecture. It is an amazing lecture that is available on the website. I have worked on the website for two years and it includes links and videos all related to origami and paper engineering. The entire goal of the exhibition is for students to think outside of the box and apply what they learn here into other things.

MN: How can paper engineering be innovative?

Imarisio: The visual itself is an inspiration. The books speak for themselves. What I want is for the visual appeal to turn into curiosity, the curiosity to turn into study and take it one step further.

MN: I understand you are an alum of Henry Ford Community College, can you share some memorable experiences you had at the college?

Imarisio: My two years at Henry Ford were a wonderful educational experience. I was studying music, I wanted to be a music teacher at that time, and I had the most amazing professors. I also wanted to get a lot of my core credits out of the way, but my core credit classes turned out to be an introduction to a world of things I hadn’t known before. It was a very positive experience for me, but most importantly it was a good fit.

MN: What does the exhibit consist of?

Imarisio: Pop-up books are the core of the exhibit. Then it works around different types of paper engineers and what they do. There are also direct applications that take you to an article that relates to each pop up on display.

MN: What are your favorite books from David Carter and Robert Sabuda?

Imarisio: My all-time favorite is “The Wizard of Oz,” by Robert Sabuda. I have most of David Carter’s books. I like all of his books, but the first book I purchased was “One Red Dot,” which is a series. The series will blow you away. Just by looking at these books you will be able to understand the more non-traditional paper engineering forms. “The Elements of Pop Up” by David Carter and James Diaz is an instructional book on how to make all the different types of pop ups.

MN: Do you plan to continue collecting and expanding your collection?

Imarisio: It is expensive, but yes. I am already looking into buying new books this week. I want to support the paper engineers because it is very difficult to be one.

“Inspiration and Innovation: The Art of Paper Engineering” runs through Dec. 15 at the Stamelos Gallery Center, University of Michigan - Dearborn. The exhibit is currently open only to UM-Dearborn students and staff, but online exhibit materials are available for the public at: https://sites.google.com/umich.edu/innovation-and-inspiration/home

One Red Dot by David A. Carter. Photo by Kip Kriigel
One Red Dot by David A. Carter. Photo by Kip Kriigel

Red Dot 1 by David A. Carter. Photo by Kip Kriigel
Red Dot 1 by David A. Carter. Photo by Kip Kriigel

This Book Is a Camera A Pop-Up Book Camera by Kelli Anderson. Photo by Kip Krigel
This Book Is a Camera A Pop-Up Book Camera by Kelli Anderson. Photo by Kip Krigel

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