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Innovation and Inspiration: The Art of Paper Engineering

Guest Curator: Karen Imarisio

September 9, 2021 - December 15, 2021

About the Exhibition


Page from popup bookOne Red Dot, David A. Carter
Photo by Kip Kriigel

Innovation and Inspiration: The Art of Paper Engineering was created to introduce the Valerio and Karen Imarisio Pop-Up Book Collection to students and the greater community and to inspire ideas through the innovative work of professional paper engineers and artists on display.

The pop-up book collection was donated to the University of Michigan-Dearborn to spark innovative ideas through visual inspiration of various paper engineering techniques found in each book. It is an accessible collection with a special interest for engineering, robotics, science, biology, business, architecture, art, design and medical students.

Karen Imarisio began collecting pop-up books over thirty years ago after receiving Robert Sabuda's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Soon afterwards, she discovered the amazing pop-up books of David A. Carter and curiosity turned to a passion for collecting all types of paper engineering, origami and kirigami folding styles, especially books with modern designs.

Karen is an alumnus of the University of Michigan-Dearborn and Ann Arbor. Valerio had a close connection to the Dearborn area where he worked as an engineer at Ford Motor Company for over thirty years.

Letter A from A to Z picture bookA to Z: Marvels in Paper Engineering (Letter A), Simon Arizpe
Photo by Kip Kriigel

Karen is serving as guest curator for this exhibition.

This exhibition features complex forms of paper engineering, origami and kirigami folding techniques through inspirational works found in pop-up books, the paper arts and commercial design. Several displays illustrate a direct connection between various applications and a similar pop-up book.

Today, paper engineers are producing pop-up books with complex paper folding designs that are truly astonishing. Applications inspired by these folding techniques have been used for: devices with flexible structural electronics, automotive crash absorbing structures, self-assembling and self-folding robots, folding solar panels for satellites, and transporting collapsible solar cameras and telescopes to space stations. Additional applications include creative packaging, ready-to-use self deploying relocatable structures, biomedical stents, folding kayaks, fold up bullet proof shields, architecture and art design.

The exhibition highlights several themes within each case. Various innovative paper engineering styles can be found using one central theme with each pop-up image displaying a unique interpretation of each theme.

Page from picture bookBy A Thread, Lynne Avadenka
Photo by R. H. Hensleigh

Remarkable works by Lynne Avadenka, Matthew Shlian, and Matthew Richmond are also displayed in the exhibition.

Artist and printmaker Lynne Avadenka is known for her works that explore text and image, redefining the book form to create both artistic expression and the beauty of visual language.

By A Thread (2006)

This book is woven around the conversations of two women: Esther, the Jewish Queen, and Scheherazade, the Muslim heroine of "A Thousand and One Nights." The book begins with Esther, as she first tells her tale and then advises Scheherazade, who then takes over the narrative. Although their stories are separated by hundreds of years, there are similarities: both were unwilling wives of insomniac kings. There were 1000 women that came before each of these women in the tales of their lives. Esther and Scheherazade both told stories, both women spoke up and saved lives when they could have remained silent. Both utilized the only power each had at the time: the power of language. The title comments on the danger each woman was in, that their lives were hanging by a thread. The structure of the book reflects the weaving in and out nature of storytelling, and the text never ends, looping back from the end to begin again.
--- Lynne Avadenka






Ann Arbor artist Matthew Shlian is a paper engineer and his work is rooted in print media, book arts and commercial design. He uses his engineering skills to create complex paper sculptures which have led to innovative collaborations with scientists at the University of Michigan.

Page from picture book
Ara 142, Matthew Shlian
Photo by Matthew Shlian
Page from picture book
Detail of Ara 142
Photo by Matthew Shlian







Page from picture bookUntitled, Matthew Richmond
Photo by Matthew Richmond
Page from picture bookUntitled, Matthew Richmond
Photo by Matthew Richmond


Paper artist Matthew Richmond has been creating unique avant garde fashion for over a decade. The images included here are examples of Matthew Richmond's past work.

He will be creating a remarkable life-size paper dress, inspired by pop-up books from the collection, that will be on view for the first time in the exhibition.






Video screens, kiosks and interactive tablets in the gallery show movement within various books on display, share informative links to direct applications found in all styles of paper engineering and provide extensive educational content for visitors.

Page from picture bookOne Red Dot, David A. Carter
Photo by Kip Kriigel
Page from picture bookFunny Birds, Philippe UG
© Editions des Grandes Personnes, 2011
Photo by Kip Kriigel
Page from picture bookCreatures From the Deep: The Pop-Up Book, Maike Biederstaedt
© Maike Biederstaedt/Prestel Verlag, Penguin Random House VG
Photo by Kip Kriigel
Page from picture bookDali Pop-Ups, Courtney Watson McCarthy and Martin Howard
Photo by Kip Kriigel





















C'era una volta (Once Upon A Time)

Art Inspired Solar Cells

Engineering with Origami

Exhibition Lender

Karen Imarisio

Exhibition Sponsor

Movable Book Society logo



Exhibition Events

Opening Reception
Thursday, September 9, 2021, 5:00 p.m. - 7:00 p.m.

Reception is free to the public. Complimentary wine and hors d'oeuvres to be served.


Educational Lectures

All lectures are free to the public. Complimentary refreshments will be provided.

January 23, 6:00- 8:00 p.m. - Gallery Talk by Halal Metropolis Guest Curators

February 6, 6:00- 8:00 p.m. - Culinary Pioneers

February 20, 6:00- 8:00 p.m. - Fashion Influencers

March 12, 6:00- 8:00 p.m. - Foodies and Innovators

March 26, 6:00- 8:00 p.m. - Innovating the Halal Holiday


The Stamelos Gallery Center is located on the first floor of the Mardigian Library at the University of Michigan-Dearborn. For more information, see below for contact information. Anyone requiring accommodations under the provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act should contact (313)593-5087.

Featured University Art Collection Piece

Featured collection glass artwork

Taketori Tale, Kyohei Fujita (b. 1921), n.d., Mold blown glass with gold and silver foil inclusions
Gift of Richard and Louise Abrahams, Collection of UM-Dearborn (Adp39), Photograph by Kip Kriigel

World renowned artist Kyohei Fujita was born in Japan in 1921. He is known as the father of Japanese studio glass. Many of his works, including this one, were inspired by early Japanese boxes that were richly decorated with lacquerwork and mother-of-pearl inlays, and traditionally used to store Buddhist writings, jewelry, inkstones and brushes. Fujita's celebrated ornamental glass boxes revive conventional Japanese aesthetics in a contemporary form. This breathtaking piece was mold blown with gold and silver foil inclusions. Whenever asked by collectors what to keep in the boxes, the artist usually stated "You should put your dreams in them."

---Laura Cotton, Art Curator and Gallery Manager

Contact Us

  • Stamelos Gallery Center
  • 1st Floor, Mardigian Library, UM-Dearborn
  • 4901 Evergreen Road, Dearborn, MI 48128
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