The Story Behind Alpha Blocks

The Story Behind Alpha Blocks

I’ve just finished packaging the first 40 copies of my newest artists’ book, Alpha Blocks. Would you believe that this project began in 1986? I was studying abroad in Germany for a year and stumbled across the font Block Up in an old letraset catalog. I was captivated with the idea of bringing the two-dimensional font printed on paper to life, so I decided to render it in three dimensions. 

When I took on the task of writing Playing With Pop-Ups about a year ago, I started thinking about the font Block Up again. And since I have been producing artists’ books for the past 10 years or so, it seemed like a good fit to publish Alpha Blocks

Alpha Blocks for blog

But oh, the decisions! First of all, I had to figure out how to design the font! Since the learning curve on illustrator could have caused me to have a nervous breakdown, I decided to hire a graphic designer, a former intern, Leah Moch Uvodich. She did the design work (to specification for the laser cutter) and this is what one of two pages looked like:

ab laser

Prior to starting the layouts, I had to choose the paper and figure out the color and size. I opted against handmade paper, since it can be finicky in the laser cutter (machine made paper is much more regular in thickness). I chose Fabriano Tiziano, in part because I am traveling to Fabriano this summer, but also because it was the right weight for the project. I bought parent sheets from Meiningers Art Supply in Denver and had them cut the sheets down to 12″ x 16″ (the size of the laser cutting machine) making sure that the grain ran in the right direction. I hired Alicia Bailey of Ravenpress Studio to laser cut the paper in four colors: moss green, charcoal gray, blue gray and white.


This is how I received the sheets, so you will understand why I spent a good part of the afternoon packaging them!


I purchased these cool plastic cases from, designed and printed a small colophon sheet with details about the card set, and we’re good to go!


I almost forgot to mention that one of my favorite things about paper sculpture is transforming a single sheet into a sculptural form without removing anything, but just through pure manipulation (folding, crumpling,etc). Only a couple of tiny pieces were removed to create this alphabet, such as the hole in the letter “A”.

I made this video (with the help of Zach Mahone) to show the folded letters. Half of the fun is making them pop up!

If you’re interested in acquiring a copy of Alpha Blocks, there’s a special offer available through May 1st. See below.


Playing With Pop-Ups!

Don’t forget to pre-order my new book and receive your autographed copy plus a bonus project: all of the parts and instructions you need to create a pop-up dandelion card. And receive a discount on my new pop-up alphabet, Alpha Blocks, if you order a copy of each book. Offer expires May 1, 2014. Click here for details. Thank you!

Playing with Popups Final Cover


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