We asked him questions about his extremely impressive career, his latest book Game of Thrones: A Pop-Up Guide to Westeros, and what’s on the horizon:
1. What was your first pop-up creation, and what gave you the idea?
Pop-ups weren’t really a big part of my childhood, unfortunately – my little sister tore apart the only one I had, which was appropriately about dinosaurs, within 24 hours of receiving it! That said, back then I was always building and constructing things out of paper and cardboard, whether I realized they were pop-ups or not. Back before digital music media and even CDs, we used to make mixtapes of pop music (prophetic, huh?) and I always included a miniature comic to go with each cassette. There was one person I was smitten with back then who inspired me enough to make a sort of pop-up comic scene for the mixtape package…amazing what puppy love will do, eh? I don’t know why I decided to make it, probably just wanted to enhance the scene a little. That little pop-up scene, the first pop-up I constructed, is thankfully back in my possession.
2. Was there a moment when you realized that you could make a living out of pop-up design?
Yes. After apprenticing with acclaimed pop-up book master and children’s book illustrator Robert Sabuda for a few years, I started to get the knack for paper engineering. With his encouragement and patient guidance, I was able to see a path toward a real career in movable books.
3. Did you have a mentor or artists that inspired you?
I’ve taken inspiration from countless artists, from ancient times to current young artists just coming out of art school (seriously)—there’s too many to name, really, but I’ll try.
Paper Engineering inspirations: Vostech Kubasta, David Carter, Marion Bataille, and one of my former interns, Giovanni Iofrate.
Illustration inspirations: Peter Spier, Eric Carle, Maurice Sendak, Will H. Bradley, Charley Harper, Raiph McQuarrie...too many to mention!
Art movement inspirations: Art Deco, Grafitti – Urban Street Art, Photorealism, Impressionism, Superflat, Comic Book art (from the beginning to now), advertising artwork/graphics... even ancient Greek, Roman, Egyptian, and Babylonian!
4. We hear talk about the decline of print books due to the popularity of ebooks, but nothing digital could ever compare to what you create. Was that a consideration when you first got started?
Not at all! I was not that forward thinking in the least (kinda in my own world sometimes)—I just wanted to make cool movable books for readers of all ages. Back then, it seemed to me the opinion was that print books would keep growing, ebooks weren’t a threat, Barnes & Noble would continue to keep opening stores and Borders Books would be around forever… but things changed. Books went in a slightly different direction, and it taught me that an artist needs to continue evolving. Pop-up books and paper engineering will always be a part of the work I do in some way, even though I have already started to broaden the types of books/stories/artwork/media I create in the future. Ooooh, mysterious—huh?
5. Obviously, your new book is not designed for kids, but you’ve done a ton of children’s pop-up books in the past. What was the most fun to work on?
OK, I’m going to answer in a really corny way, but it’s totally true: Every book is fun for me in some way. Admittedly, some are more fun overall than others. Being a huge Transformers and Star Wars fan, both projects were pure love and joy, but also a huge amount of stress as well—everything had to be beyond perfect. Seriously, though, I have fun with just about every book I create. Making pop-ups is really fun, I’m not gonna lie! I sometimes joke about my job being a prolonged ‘Arts & Crafts’ project, and at times I’m not far off.
6. Have you ever given pop-up tutorials? What’s a project you’d recommend for the novice pop-up artist?
Occasionally, I give tutorials if I’ve the time in my busy schedule. School visits are the most enjoyable to me—kids’ art inspires me most. Their imaginations are unencumbered by logic, and cynicism.
As for novice pop-up creators, there’s a bunch of simple Do-It-Yourself pop-ups on my website, www.matthewreinhart.com, to download, printout and build—complete with instructions.
7. Were there any creative challenges unique to the Game of Thrones pop-up that you hadn’t faced before?
Certainly, yes! The unfolding book/map concept was once of the most difficult challenges I’ve ever met. When I came up with the idea, I thought it would be appropriately awesome and so unique, but had NO idea if it would actually work. After many constructed concept models (most of which were tossed in the trash), I found a way to make it work, and our expert manufacturer, my friends at Sirivatana in Thailand, made the book’s mass production a reality.
8. How long did it take to construct?
The book took about four months to engineer from the beginning concept to final, although there was some lag time waiting to incorporate the incredible artwork of the uber-talented illustrator Michael Komarck.
9. Do you have a favorite pop in this book?
The pop-up for Winterfell I like quite a bit because it’s so intricate. I also love the Wall pop-up, because it becomes so large and impressive. The book/map transformation, though, remains my favorite paper engineering for this magnificent project.
10. I’m guessing you’re a fan of Game of Thrones—what’s your favorite house? Character?
Totally House Targaryen all the way. Daenerys rules (at least I want her to), and I find her development and journeys the most interesting. I’ve also been a fan of Tyrion Lannister from the very beginning! My other favorites—mostly lesser characters with complicated pasts—are Brienne of Tarth, Davos Seaworth and Sandor Clegane a.k.a. ‘The Hound’. They all go through such wonderful and surprising transformations of character, something those of us in the mundane world hope for ourselves (at least I do).
11. What does your workspace look like?
A mess! Well, not entirely—I rent the far corner of a bustling multi-purpose workspace with an architecture practice and textile design studio. It gets a little loud sometimes, but I enjoy the creative energy around me and the big windows with 15-foot ceilings. What’s not to love? No crazy artist hours for me—I work normal workday hours typically (9am – 6pm) , except before deadlines when I am at work all hours!
12. What are you working on now? Book-related or otherwise.
Wow—there’s a lot happening right now! Just finished up a pop-up book about (drumroll please…)—My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic! Yes, I know what you’re thinking, very different from Game Of Thrones, but I am a big fan (as are my sister Erin and niece Lillian, who would’ve been very cross if I didn’t do it) of the new cartoon from The Hub Network. MLP has an unreal cult following (ever heard of Bronies?), and I understand why—it’s really well written, the characters are fantastic, and it has real heart. Also prepping a series of fun movable non-fiction books, about creatures, history and science—which takes me back to my roots in publishing. Lastly, there are some secret (possibly pop-up) projects in the future that I cannot yet reveal… more mystery!