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Arts Playlist: Turning paper into art

Because books are by design two-dimensional, it might seem impossible for a page to add motion or depth other than through illustrations with perspective and illusion. But for more than 700 years, artists and book designers have tried to challenge the book's bibliographic boundaries. They have added flaps, revolving parts, and other movable pieces to enhance the text.

The paper engineer must determine how movable pieces attach to the page so they won't break. The key is to be both imaginative and practical.Artist and paper engineer Rob Kelly is up to the task.

“When I was a boy, obviously no one would give power tools to a little kid but I really wanted to make things,” he says. “My father was a contractor so we had plenty of tools but I was not allowed to be using band saws so I would make little springs out of paper and I had all these little tiny things that I made completely out of paper, tape and scissors.”


Kelly has been granted several patents for his unique paper mechanisms like the one’s he’s used on his pop up greeting cards.


His new paper based art show “Midway,” alludes to the space between science and art.

The Delawarean is inspired by movement and incorporates elements of amusement and surprise into his work.

“That was the kind of kid I was, I took my toy robots apart to find out what made them work,” he says. “I also used the little corners of tablets to make animation flip books. Whatever is kinetic inspires me.”

Rob Kelly’s show, “Midway” is currently on view at The Delaware Division of the Arts Mezzanine Gallery in Wilmington.

This piece is made possible, in part, by a grant from the Delaware Division of the Arts, a state agency dedicated to nurturing and supporting the arts in Delaware, in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts.