Saturday Studio: Who Loves a Pop-Up? (We Do)!

Kaitlin Binkley, Director of Visual Communication

With the 2021 Scholastic Awards in full swing, the Education department reached out and asked for some help in the Studio, so here we go! In my first art class in college, the professor wanted to get a sense of every student’s skill level. So, with this goal in mind, they introduced a pop-up project! We were asked to create a pop-up card, and that’s what we’ll be doing in the Studio today.

Last year, artist Kara Walker was featured in FWMoA’s exhibition By Women: Works from the Permanent Collection. Her pop-up book of silhouettes is a fairy tale of a young African woman in the 19th century who is captured on her journey from home to America. Originally commissioned by Peter Norton and Family as an annual Christmas gift, and further inspired by the holiday pop-up cards Paradigm Gallery featured over the holidays, we decided to create our own pop-up! This one is simple, but once you get the hang of it, you can go on to more narrative works like Kara Walker, below.


  • Paper*
  • Pencil
  • Marker
  • Glue or Double-sided Tap
  • Scissors.

*TIP: I would recommend thinner paper, not cardstock like I used, because it will fold easier and cut more smoothly. You can also use scrapbook paper with printed designs already on it or choose a solid color and add your own statement design. You need enough paper to make seven flowers and one card.

Start with seven 10x10cm squares of paper. I took one sheet of scrapbook sized paper and made a tic-tac-toe board, then cut it up!

From there, take each square and fold it in half, one corner to the opposite, to form a triangle. Then, take the bottom point and fold it up to the top point, pressing the fold firmly. The third fold is again point to opposite point. The picture, above, shows each step in case you get lost. Repeat this step for every square.

Holding the lowermost point, where all the folds come together, draw a round shape from the fold side to the open edge. This will become the edges of your flower petals, so you can mess around with the edge to get different flower shapes. For this example, we kept it simple with ovals. This creates a lovely 8-petaled flower shape.

Add some detail to your flower now by using a marker to darken the center of the flower and add simple stamens. However, leave two petal shapes, or one heart shape, clean (see above). Once your stamen design is complete, take your scissors and cut off one petal from the clean petals. You can discard that petal, or save it to wish on your love! On the remaining clean petal, add glue and bring the closest drawn on petal over top. Glue in place. This creates a 3D cup shape of the flower.

Press every fold line down tightly for a crisp edge. This makes it easier for the flowers to “open” once the final shape is complete and glued in place.

Now, it’s time to layer all our flowers together! Take one flower, folded in half, and place glue on the top and bottom petals, just along the edge (see above). Next, lay on top two new flowers also folded in half. This creates the second shape. Add glue along the edge of the two petals on the two new flowers placed on top of the original flower, as I have marked. Add one more folded flower on top of those glue dots. Add glue to three petals, one on the right-most petal of the top flower, one on the center petal of the first flower, and one on the right-most petal of the bottom flower. Layer another flower shape on top of the four previous flowers. Glue along the marked edges as I’ve shown, once again, and lay two flower shapes on the top two dots and the bottom two dots. The final flower shape is laid on the final three dots of glue I’ve marked.

This is your complete flower pop-up! However, we need to glue it into the card for it to reach its full pop-up potential! Fold a regular sized sheet of paper in half and tuck the flower pop-up in the crease. Add glue to the center petal of the top flower where I have marked. Close the card and flip over to the opposite side. The flower pop up should flip easily, but we’ll change that by gluing down the center petal on this side to the closed card.

Finally, press the card shut and wait for the glue to dry! After a minute or two, carefully open the card. A lovely bouquet of flowers should unfold before your eyes!

Some things I learned re-doing this project: use thin paper that folds easily, glue along the edges when you’re building your pop-up but on the full petals when you’re making the first flower shape and final position in the card, and use a thicker or reinforced paper for your card shape as the pop-up will tug at the paper and want to close. Folded paper doesn’t just spring open, it wants to stay folded! A stronger card makes for easier opening of the pop-up.

A pop-up card makes a great birthday or holiday gift for friends and family!

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