Steps Artist Pop-up Books
The Steps artist’s books series started on the occasion of the 10th Movable Book Fair in Paris, for which each of the participants had been asked to make one artist’s book, i.e. books made only in a few copies, ideally not mechanically, ideally by the artist themselves. At the time I was part of the organization team of the Fair (well, there was just three of us) and I decided, just one month before the Fair, to make one too.
And that was Steps, the ten copies (+ two A.P.) of which were designed, hand-cut and assembled in one month in the mornings and evenings before and after work. They were splendidly displayed in Chez les Libraires Associés (Paris 18)’s magnificent exhibition basement during the Fair and it was a great success.
Why stairs? The one-month deadline was tough, so I decided on a few logical limits: there should be as few added pieces as possible and every spread shoud be one A4-size sheet with cuts and folds only. I like architecture and puzzles: impossible stairs sort of just popped out as an evidence (with Escher at the back of my mind at the time, most probably). The book depicts two people lost in mazes of stairs, looking for one another, and a short poem in French serves as an additional red thread. Representing people with small squares is obviously a reminiscence of Lavater and suited my purpose well: small dots of colors over pure white. I initially thought to name it simply Stairs but when I showed the final draft I was told there was already a pop-up book with that title and the same subject (by Rein Jansma, 1982, which I got to see much later thanks to a pop-up book collector) so Thibaut Brunessaux from La Boutique du Livre Animé suggested ‘Steps’ instead (which is even better, since it has several meanings), and that was that.
Steps 1.5 came quickly after (we are in 2018 then). It is a more complex variation in one foldable panel that can be displayed on the obverse or the reverse, meant mainly as an elegant and striking decorative object.
I had many ideas still so Steps 2: More Steps followed, more complex and better-crafted. I worked hard on the general quality of the book, including the binding, to provide a sturdier and cleaner design (Steps 1 had defects that appeared over time, such as materials and glue not going well together). Steps 2 got the perfect form I had in mind. Everything is hand-crafted and, side story, I actually got a tendinitis from making it, haha. This time the book is about one’s inner mazes and a short text in English depicts the states of mind of the narrator.
After I crafted all 20 copies of Steps 2 I made three contrasting copies of Steps 2: Colors! which uses only very flashy color paper! One copy of this book is at the Metropolitan Museum of Art of New York, which is really cool.
All main Steps installments are books that can be unfolded, leporellos (accordion-books). It is a form and shape I really like as it gives the reader two alternative ways to apprehend the work: diachronically (one page after the other) or synchronically (all in one glance). This changeable form also allows these books to transform into beautiful book-objects, full-fledged decorative artworks, not only books to be stored away back on the shelf but items to be displayed and enjoyed at all times.
At that time I made a small set of color pop-up cards from Steps 1 in a flashy envelop which was damaged and later replaced by a magnificent electric blue / red box (if I may say so myself ; ). There is only one copy.
At that time was also designed the (very cute IMHO) card of Steps: Ciel Bleu, with different clouds on every copy. The general idea probably comes from the final scenes of The Truman Show. One of our best sellers!
Now that I had arrived at the desired form with Steps 2 I decided to apply it to Steps 1, and that’s how Steps: Baby Steps was born. It’s a much smaller (so as not to mess up the copy count of the first version) and upgraded version of Steps 1, with a simple slipcase. Small is Beautiful!
I crafted a few revised Steps 1 (roughly same size as the original, which is the one now available in the Shop) at the time and a few independant spreads as cards, but there was a time gap in the series afterwards (I was working on projects for publishers).
A new variation came in early 2021 as I was working on old maps (I am an antiquarian book lover at heart) and on my miniature book John Tenniel’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland: I decided to craft a miniature version (miniature, in the collectible world, means that the longest side must be less than 3 inches) in which the backgrounds would show stars and constellations like on XIXth-century star maps, with holes for stars. So I chose a few adequate spreads from Steps 1 and 2, used deep blue paper for the backgrounds (for the night skies of course, but it’s also just that white and blue work so well together) and made Small Night Steps. There are 10 copies of those and one of them is also in the collections of the MET in New York City.
I also made also some separate pop-up cards (2 Night Steps cards and 3 Small Night Steps cards) that are very lovely decorative objects.