Sabuda, pop-ups and some mysterious cases!

Hi everybody!

A little bit of an unusual post from me today as I won’t be discussing sewing at all! I thought I’d like to add a little bit about another great craft-related love, which has been around a LOT longer than making clothes: papercraft and, in particular, pop-ups.


A scene from “The Wizard of Oz” by Robert Sabuda. This 3D hot air balloon turns in the breeze! Can you see the little basket attached to it?

What motivated me to write this post I hear you ask? (Maybe). Well, I saw something on Indiegogo that got me so excited I ran through to my husband squealing. And I don’t squeal. Ever. Okay, so if you’re the sort of person who likes any or all of: puzzles, adventure games/board games, escape rooms, pop-ups you’ll probably like this. If you like Sherlock Holmes or know who Robert Sabuda is, you’ll definitely like this. If you don’t like any of the above, probably best move on. 🙂

I have loved paper and its crafty applications since I was a kid. I’ll never forget seeing a copy of Jan Pienkowski’s Haunted House book that a friend had – I suppose I was 7 or 8 at the time and I thought it was AMAZING. You remember it, right?


There were a few others around at the time: the Fungus the Bogeyman pop-up version was one I definitely remember, but, generally speaking, pop-ups weren’t huge in the 80s and I didn’t have the pocket money for those kind of books in any case. I started collecting pop-ups many years later, when I happened to see a book in one of the shops at Disneyworld, Florida, of all places. The book was called ABC Disney and the author was a man named Robert Sabuda. I couldn’t believe the intricacy and humour of the little pop-ups and how he had captured the exact spirit of the Disney characters, even though it was his own artwork in the book. Seeing pop-ups in 2D is already stunning, but so much of the added humour and characterisation comes from the 3D movement and this is very much the case with this book. You really have to see it in real life (or videoed at the least).


20160614_142134I was hooked. I checked Robert Sabuda’s back catalogue and picked up existing books when I had the spare cash. He is a wonderful artist as well as a brilliant paper engineer – and if you haven’t heard that expression before, that’s exactly what it is: engineering. Without fail, every person who has looked at me a little weirdly when the topic of my collection has cropped up in a conversation (it does occasionally) has reacted with amazement, glee and/or excitement when I have actually shown them some of my books. Even the most cynical can be amused by skill in unexpected places it seems.


A *ahem* small sample of my collection

Well, my interest in Robert Sabuda and pop-ups led me to discover other great illustrators and paper engineers. There are so many, and if you have interest in this subject I recommend (as well as artists I have featured) the likes of Louise Rowe, David Pelham, Damian Johnston and David Carter, to name but a few. I have books ranging from the very old to the extremely contemporary. I have one of the “Bookano” series from 1944, which must have been a precious present for a child then and the pop-ups are still delightful today, even though they are made from cheap paper to save costs during wartime.



The pop-ups may be 70 years old, but are still irresistable to toddlers! (My sneaky, but speedy one-year old)

More recent volumes include things like this Game of Thrones book from one of Robert Sabuda’s protégés, if you will, Matthew Reinhart. The cool thing about this is that it opens all the way up to form a landscape like the opening credits, with all the different regions of the world.


“The Wall” from Game of Thrones. I found out so much extra info from this book!

Okay, if you’re not a GOT fan, that won’t mean much to you, but everyone can appreciate the beauty of a book full of flower bouquets I think, right? This is “Paper Blossoms” by Ray Marshall. The heading image is also from this book.

20160614_142632There are many, many different art styles to be found which is another thing I love (I also collect simpler storybooks for the luscious artwork by oh-so-talented children’s illustrators). Here’s an example of a more graphic novel style, by Sam Ita in his book “Moby Dick”.

20160614_152003I also love it when extra little components are added. Can you see that the lights on this little Christmas house are on? They actually flash like real Christmas tree lights! Very clever.


From Robert Sabuda’s “Winter’s Tale”

There are so many innovative and creative aspects to pop-up books and paper engineering. It appeals to my arts-oriented side, but also my logical, scientific side (I studied Maths at uni). Not so dissimilar to sewing and other crafts when you think about it (e.g. I would say a dart is, in essence, a simple pop-up, just with material rather than card!) Crafts all have a definitely logic and science to them, and it’s within these scientific limits that you can express your creativity. Naturally, some push those limits harder than others, but the result is always interesting and unique. Maybe I will follow up with some paper-related posts some time soon, since I have delved into other aspects of this craft before, but in the meantime, I think it’s back to sewing some of the three cut-out projects I have on my desk! 🙂


Another character from the book that caught my imagination

Oh, but wait! So, what was the exciting thing I saw that made me think about all this? Well, Robert Sabuda, with fellow paper engineers, Shelby Arnold and Simon Arizpe, have started a company called the Armchair Detective Company. It’s a great name and their first project is currently live on Indiegogo. This comprises the creation of three “Mysterious Cases”, which you can buy separately, or in bundles. What is a mysterious case? Here’s how the team describes it:

Armchair detective 2

Part game, part book, and part interactive adventure, each Mysterious Case contains codes to crack, puzzles to solve, letters to snoop, boxes within boxes to unlock…all leading to the dramatic conclusion of an intriguing mystery.

Each Mysterious Case contains:

  • An intriguing tale of mystery to solve
  • Tactile, hands-on puzzles
  • Codes and ciphers to crack
  • Photos, letters, postcards, and other ephemeral clues 
  • Paper pop-up items and other unique objects
  • Specially designed Cipher Lock key

Armchair Detective 1

So it’s like a real treasure chest, filled with all manner of cool little puzzles and items, and each needs to be considered to solve a mystery story/detective case? Made by, amongst other people, Robert Sabuda???? Gahhhhh – count me in!

You can watch the rather nifty intro video here, which gives you a great overview of what the campaign is about. It’s not bargain basement cheap, but it was never going to be, with this kind of intricacy and quality. The project really strikes me as a labour of love and I have full confidence that it will be worth every penny to people who like this kind of thing*. The campaign has another 17 days to run, so if it interests you at all, make sure to check out their Indiegogo page here. Last time I checked they were at 92% funded, so this is definitely a goer of a project!

Armchair Detective 3

*Note: I have no incentive for getting you to go here in any way: I just love the campaign! 🙂

Finally, if you’re still missing sewing this week, don’t forget to leave a comment on my last post for a chance to pick up some patterns and a book I have to giveaway! I’ll be making the little draw this Thursday. 🙂 Bye for now!

8 thoughts on “Sabuda, pop-ups and some mysterious cases!

  1. I remember that Haunted House book! What a fascinating post, about something I have never thought about beyond the ‘please don’t rip it’ when we’ve borrowed a pop up book from the library. ‘Paper Engineer’ is now up there with ‘Master Lego Builder’ as perfect jobs.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. You know, Pieńkowski wasn’t published in Poland 😦 When you mentioned him, I went on a bit of a googling spree, concerned that I had somehow missed out on something major in my childhood. But a lone Polish interview with him that I found confirmed that he had never been published in Poland. That just seems downright unfair.

    I don’t have much experience with pop-up books myself. I’ve looked at a few that were definitely less intricate than the ones you’ve shown here. They’re incredible. I’m fascinated by how the paper elements fold and unfold when you turn over the page. I’m really tempted to get the pop-up Moby-Dick!

    I think the tactile aspect of reading doesn’t get enough attention. The pop-up books take it to the next level, certainly, but reading a paper book — even one without any illustrations — is very tactile. It’s difficult to name the significance of that but I do long for it whenever I try to read a book on a screen, which is an experience I cope with just in cases when the paper copy is much more expensive than the electronic one.

    I’m not “against technology” by any stretch of the imagination. I just don’t think it’s smart to discount the importance of touching and handling things, doing things with them. And I’ll never accept lumping in books with “clutter.”

    Thanks so much for sharing a little bit about your collection here!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That is crazy! Did the interview say why he wasn’t published in Poland? Interesting, since there’s such a great tradition of paperwork from there. He also illustrated the “Meg and Mog” books that were extremely popular with children (maybe still are).

      I share your views on books, although I’m sure my husband did wish I viewed them more as clutter. 😉 I have undertaken some very painful book culls in my life! But yes, I’ll take a paper book over an electronic version any day. Having said that, I have adopted a Kindle (finally) in recent years for novels. Even though I’d prefer the feel of turning a paper page, it has been more practical for me with all the travelling. If I ever thought I’d be staying in one place for a significant period of time or had a “permanent” house, I would have to rethink that…


      1. It’s really unfortunate we missed out on his books. I can’t really explain it other than that the publishing market before 1989 operated very differently: only select authors from the West got published. And most of the children’s books I grew up with were by Polish authors, with — again — some select works from the West.

        And then, I guess, the moment passed. Children’s publishing today seems to me very much about ever newer titles with a small batch of classics getting reprinted, always with new illustrations, it seems.

        But I’m talking about impressions here, since I have nothing to do with publishing.

        Never agree to viewing books as clutter, I say. Never. 🙂


    1. Thank you Christie! I’m glad you enjoyed the wee look and they do give me a lot of pleasure. I agree with your comment – there are some things I have no desire to “grow out” of… (Rollercoasters being another such thing). 😀

      Liked by 1 person

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