In my mind, Halifax will always be the peninsula that welcomed me into the fold. In 2009, with my living arrangements in Ontario ending, I decided I’d rather hunt further afield than face the daunting chore of finding an apartment in the increasingly sprawling Waterloo region. Although I had planned to try out the East Coast lifestyle for just a few years, I soon realized how much there was to fall in love with — and my seasonal allergies were suddenly almost non-existent. I found a beautifully quirky community of mostly come-from-aways and married a sweet gal from Nova Scotia’s South Shore. At this point, it’s safe to say that I’m out here to stay.
After teaching myself how to illustrate, watching hours of YouTube videos, and reverse-engineering classic pop-up books (including Matthew Reinhart’s Mommy? and Robert Sabuda’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz), I sold my first three-dimensional greeting card in 2018. With the help of a trusted cutting plotter, which my mother (a card maker in her own right) recommended when I was getting started, I’ve now assembled more than 5,000 copies of my unique designs by hand. Recently, friends and family members from across Canada have sent me pictures of charming albeit rudimentary mechanical cards that I made for their birthdays in years past. And now that I have an honest-to-goodness pop-up book out in the world, I hope they send me pictures of themselves reading it.
Halifax is a city that truly supports local artisans and craftspeople, so it seemed natural to pay homage to this enchanting place. Natural does not necessarily mean easy, though. When I’m at work in my cramped home office, I try to put off using a ruler (and math!) for as long as I can; I prefer when it’s just card stock, scissors, temporary adhesive, and bits of paper snow in my workspace. But eventually the tedium does kick in.
It took me the better part of a year to finish and finesse the two most basic mechanisms in my square volume of just six pages: the V-fold and the parallel fold, which are exactly what they sound like.
More specifically, Peggy’s Cove was fairly easy to execute, and the Titanic graveyard was straightforward enough. The Halifax Public Gardens were by far the most tricky to get right. Initially, I intended to create a lovely spread with the flora and fauna, the bandstand, Griffin’s Pond, and the spot beside the Soldiers’ Memorial Fountain that instantly transports you back to when you used to grab a novel, find yourself a willow tree, and secretly hope that your reading a hip book in a hip spot might coax a hip stranger into striking up a conversation (maybe that was just me).
But then I realized that many who visit the gardens pass through the wrought iron gates on the southeast corner. Those main gates, purchased from the Saracen Foundry in Scotland and installed at their present location in 1907, act almost as a switch that dims the noise and bustle of nearby Spring Garden Road. I needed to figure out a way to incorporate the prodigious portal into my design.
I planned the layers of my garden spread so they would fold downward as readers turned the page. That meant they would have to be shorter the closer they got to the bottom — so they could remain a secret within the confines of the shut book. But including the ornate entrance front and centre would require folds that moved in the opposite direction — without crashing into the top of the bandstand. Luckily for me, the swinging portions of the gate were hung backwards all those years ago — so that they form a concave shape when closed rather than a convex one. I realized that the accidentally wide opening beneath the words “Public Gardens” could help things move back and forth in my book without incident. Even as I saw the solution, I went through nearly forty designs to get it right — about double the number of my normal builds.
I know the book manufacturer will do a fine job assembling the garden spread, along with the others, but there is a small part of me that wishes I could be putting each one together by hand, in my little office in my adopted city.