Today, I will initiate you in the fine art of book making, an elegant craft for a more civilized age. Oh wait, no, it’s making a popup book, so a silly craft for a ridiculous age. As such, I have decided to immortalize the They Might Be Giants song, “Particle Man” in construction paper form.
Particle Man, Particle Man
Doing the things a particle can
What’s he like? It’s not important
Now, I said popup book, but I will mostly be working with pulled tabs and other things. For instance, what I have done here is cut little holes in the black paper. The tabs are made of black paper as well, except for the very tip, which is white. This way, when you pull the tab, it looks like a white dot is traveling from one hole to the next. Keep in mind, when you pull the tab, you have to have black paper behind so that the holes keep that illusion of motion and stillness. That backdrop also helps keep the tab in place.
Are you ready for some popup action? Are you? Okay, you are. First, fold the paper in half, then fold the crease side at an angle. Open it back up and reverse some of the fold lines, and you get this. It’s a pretty bland popup, but we’ll fix that.
Is he a dot, or is he a speck?
When he’s underwater does he get wet?
Or does the water get him instead?
Nobody knows, Particle Man
Asking the deep questions, this song. So, to get those lovely waves, put your piece of paper on a cutting board and get your old friend, Mr. “Raise the stakes” knife. Cut wavy lines, bonus points if they are symmetrical, and push in every other wavy part. Not pictured here is gluing the paper to a piece of white printer paper for a background. It totally happened later though.
Triangle Man, Triangle Man
Triangle Man hates particle man
They have a fight, Triangle wins
Some tension enters a song otherwise dominated by carefree accordion solos. Seriously, look it up. Particle Man’s tab is pretty much the same as the ones before. Triangle Man, however, wiggles around at the end of a tab that passes through a curved line cut in the paper. On the back, I also taped a band of paper over the tab so that it can’t go crazy wiggling around. As for the dramatic triangle vs particle fight, Triangle Man is simply on a little L tab that slides him along a horizontal slit in the paper. Particle man is a square glued to the paper for reasons known only by Particle Man.
Universe man, Universe man
Size of the entire universe man
Usually kind to smaller man
The man war has escalated quickly. Also, this is the only popup man, which makes him mighty. When making popup elements like this, it’s good to start with a folded in half paper. That way it’s symmetrical and it knows what to do when the page turns. Universe Man is directly on the crease, and those triangles at the bottom are the only things holding him there. Those folds also are the pivot for when the page turns, so it looks like Universe Man is bowing every time you turn the page. He’s very polite.
He’s got a watch with a minute hand,
Millenium hand and an eon hand
When they meet it’s a happy land
Powerful man, Universe Man.
Unsurprisingly, Universe Man is a hippy. Now, while that page looks pretty static, that isn’t good enough. The circles on the watch actually turn. To accomplish this, I poked a needle and thread through the bottom two circles and the arm (sorry, Universe Man, but it’s for art. He understands.) Then I taped the thread down on the underside of the arm, and as close as possible to the center of the top circle. That way, the two circles below turn like wheels, and the one on top like a circle on a thread. It looks like this:
Except, you know, try to have as little slack on the string as possible.
Person man, person man
Hit on the head with a frying pan
Lives his life in a garbage can
As if the interactions of sentient particles and universes weren’t deep enough, now we get to the human condition. As for the construction of this page, there’s not a lot to say. The frying pan is on a tab through yet another curved cut, and I had to resort to origami paper and grey cardboard to get the colors I wanted. Oh, and each of these pages is cut down to 11X8.5, which leaves me with handy strips of paper in the same color as the page.
Is he depressed or is he a mess?
Does he feel totally worthless?
Who came up with person man?
Degraded man, person man
Harsh, but to be fair, he does live in a garbage can. This is why I interpreted the scene a bit more lightly, with a little tab that can make him smile and frown. I had to cut through both the head and the paper under the head, but it works. The flap covering the sitting form of Person man is only taped on one side, hence flapitude.
Triangle man, triangle man
Triangle man hates person man
They have a fight, triangle wins
Who saw that coming? Truly, we are dealing with a sophisticated story, not afraid to have the classically noir ending of geometric supremacy. The entire fight scene is filmed on a single tab, all the better to wiggle it around and back and forth to get that shaky-cam effect. In the end, Triangle Man spins around on his thread, pretending really hard to be an equilateral triangle, when he is more accurately an isosceles triangle. Perhaps his feelings of inadequacy about his angles fuel his aggression? There is such depth and convoluted backstory, it boggles the mind. At least now, he is happy.
And so our story ends, where I tape all the edges of the pages together and then to a brown piece of construction paper for a binding. Perhaps someday I will read this to one of my grandchildren, emulating the grandfatherly love and kindness exemplified in the Princess Bride movie. Either that, or I will place this book on a window sill and guests will pick it up and read it.
May you too set an epic song to construction paper and glue, with wiggly bits and more tabs than is reasonable.,
Have I inspired you? Do you also have a terrible habit of wasting food? I would be very interested to see if others have followed in my rambling footsteps, so if you have made something inspired by one of my articles, take a picture and send it to [email protected] Label it: Crafts for Brandon. If you do, that picture will be at the end of my next article, with your name attached. If you made something beyond the fantastic scope of my chronicle, you might consider writing a guest article and sending it to that same email address to be considered as a guest post. It is always inspiring to see what art you may see in the mundane.
Brandon is originally from Olmsted Falls, Ohio. He has studied both at Baldwin Wallace college and Brigham Young University, and is currently pursuing Chemical Engineering, among other things. He considers himself a jack of all trades, and a master of none. In his spare time, Brandon enjoys knitting, guitar, reading, origami, writing, and photography.