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Artist of the Week – Peter Dahmen

March 30, 2010 by · 8 comments

An interview with the graphic designer Peter Dahmen by Sandra Schmidt
Translation from German to Bulgarian: Elisaveta Baltova
From Bulgarian to English: Asya Draganova

Peter Dahmen brings paper to life…

Peter Dahmen

Where did the idea to create pop-up books come from?

When I was a child the books with pop-up illustrations impressed me a lot. I didn’t have one of my own, so I looked at those in the library and the bookshops. I used to entertain myself by making things out of paper, so I started aiming at creating effects such as pop-up designs.

I abandoned the idea for a few years. During the third semester of my designer course (1989) I felt that winning urge, while I was working on a “Framing” project. The name of the project was – “Paper and Cardboard – 3D”. At that point I was drawing sketches of, and was finishing, one or two paper objects per week. I show the best works from my years of education in a YouTube video, which I did this year.

Can you remember your first work? And if yes, what was the pop-up like?

Unfortunately, I can’t remember. But I still remember how happy I was when I first finished a series of paper objects. I can also recall when in 1990 I had an order from an advertising agency to make bronze casting on a card with a pop-up object.


When do the best ideas spring into mind?

Oh, it’s really different every time and it is uncontrollable. There are some days when ideas just spring out of me. However, sometimes I feel immense pressure until I finally come to an idea which I regard as good. Often ideas come all of a sudden. A few weeks ago I send a friend a card which is made of Goethe’s colourful circles. The inspiration came from this card:


Sometimes deadlines are strict and things have to be finished by a particular time.

Since I had planned to send one card to zur Kundenakquise in January, I completed a few works in November last year. At the end I chose this one:

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But for the production of the series I made a few changes. So this is what the new card looks like:

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The single part I left to be printed 100 times using a laser printer. The sticking together of the two parts I had to do by hand, but it was worth it because expensive scissoring was avoided.

Is there a pop-up you like the most?

The most fascinating thing is the object I work on itself. The interesting thing is that what impresses people the most is not the complex technology of production. For example, for a very short time I cut out a simple figure of a butterfly.

Because I didn’t make it out of cardboard, but out of paper, the wings of the butterfly were moving more tenderly, when the card was opened. Motion is of great significance for the realistic effect, for the “coming to life” of the butterfly. This card is my favourite at the moment.

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Nevertheless, I am also attracted to architectural and abstract objects.

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Some of the pop-ups look so amazingly difficult to do… How much time does one need to realise a single idea?

The production of an elementary pop-up takes about 8 hours – from the idea, to the realisation itself.

When the card consists of many different parts or when the shapes are very difficult to cut out, I need 20 – 30 hours to finish the whole thing. The most expensive pop-up I’ve made is the sphere, which is the last figure to appear on my YouTube video. I worked about 60 hours on it.

When I have an idea, first I make a relatively rough plan. The first realisation is there to make technical aspects clearer for me. That is how I find out where the pillars have to be, where I can glue particular parts, where the slits and the folds should be, etc. When I am aware of the technical side of things, I continue with the other details, with which I totally finish the project.

Some of the diagrams I make by hand, and others on a computer. I can assess the result of my work and the effect of a pop-up when all parts are glued and cut, but cutting unfortunately takes a lot of time and effort.

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Have you managed to realise all your ideas so far?

Sadly, there are always some things that fail in a way, which I find out hours later: some ideas might not be completed the way they were planned to. Luckily, I have many ideas for paper objects and I will keep on gaining inspiration. I can complete them all, therefore, I am not afraid of losing my ideas in years time.

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How important are colours for a pop-up?

In my models, shapes are a lot more important than colour. I used to work with only white paper for some time. For the last few weeks, after a long pause, I have been working on a few coloured pop-ups that I like. Motives, inspired by nature, like leaves or butterflies, for instance, look best when they are in colour. However, they are more of a exception.

Most folding pop-ups, especially architectural figures, I like best in white.

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How do you see your future?

In the next few weeks I will concentrate on my creative paper works. After I published that video on YouTube, I received questions about the production of pop-ups. Since then I have been having conversations with a lot of companies, including a postcard producer, for whom I have to make a whole series; and an advertising agency, which wants to present my pop-up in the next edition of their magazine.

The organizers of an art exhibition ordered me a small series of pop ups, which will be sent as a gift to their sponsor.

Apart from this, I will be working on a pop-up book with another artist in the next few weeks.

Whether all of these projects will be realised, I can’t say. But still, I’m amazed how much attention I can devote to my work.
Paper is my passion and I will continue producing pop-up cards. I am also gathering ideas for bigger paper sculptures, which I would like to present on YouTube in a couple of months.

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I am so lucky to be a graphic designer. It makes me very happy after so many years. When it comes to my work, I don’t really want to change anything in the future.

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Peter Dahmen

Peter Dahmen was born in 1967 and has a degree in design.

His design university course started in 1988 and he graduated in 1993.

He also studied ‘Visual Communications’ in Dortmund. Meanwhile he worked for different advertising agencies.

1994 – 2002

Self-employed graphic designer.
Projects for the following clients:
Deutscher Bundesjugendring DBJR,
Deutsche Verkehrswacht,
Westfalenhallen Dortmund,
BITS-Hochschule, Iserlohn,
Stadt Dortmund,
Heyda-Werk, Hagen


Worked full time as a graphic designer for Fa, Heyda-Werk, Hagen. Had his own advertising department.
He was responsible for the concepts, the models, and the realisation of publications, paper objects, packings, and also for the corporate design.

March 2008 – up to date
Self-employed graphic designer

Main spheres of occupation:

Paper and geometrical design
Logos and corporative design
Screen design
Pop-up cards

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