Part Toy, Part Book: Rikhard and Ginny Laiho
“It’s important to know that pop-ups are part toy and part book,” says Ginny Laiho. When she went through training as a new docent 15 years ago, the late Dr. Jerry Mallett, then director of the Mazza Museum, opened a pop-up book to demonstrate the work of paper engineering. Her reaction was “Wow!” “When I first started working as a docent at the Mazza Museum, I was told to find a passion for something, and when Jerry opened that book, I knew that was it,” says Laiho. She became interested in the art and history of paper engineering, a field that includes die-cuts, foldouts, and moving paper in addition to pop-up illustrations. According to Laiho, paper engineering began in the 13th century as educational tools like medical books illustrating parts of the anatomy, and it wasn’t until the 1800s that pop-ups began to illustrate children’s books. Mazza is the first museum in the world that will have an entire gallery devoted to paper engineering.
Named in honor of a gift from Ginny and her husband Rikhard Laiho, the new Laiho Gallery will provide a separate space to illustrate the craftsmanship and artistry behind the engineering of these paper works of art. The exhibit includes original pieces from every step in the process, as each page becomes a part of the story. Laiho’s favorite books from artist Matthew Reinhart such as “Mommy?” about a little boy looking for his mother in a house full of monsters from mummies to Frankenstein; “Star Wars,” which includes a light saber that lights up in red and blue, and so many more will come together before guests’ eyes. Reinhart also donated to Mazza an original paper-engineered Chinese dragon over 8 feet in length from his book “Dragons & Monsters,” who Laiho has named Ming Lóng.
For Laiho, an important part of her role as a docent is to convince kids to go to a museum as adults. “Taking children to museums widens their experience in everything else they do,” says Laiho. “They just light up because they’ve never experienced all this.” Laiho explained that visitors will learn the different types of pop ups and how to put a pop up book together. “Pop-up books are all put together by hand,” says Laiho. “When people leave the museum, we want them to really understand the value of these books and the time and effort that it takes to put them together.”
Photo: Matthew Reinhart with Ginny and Rikhard Laiho, their son Peter and his wife Ann at the Laiho Gallery’s grand opening.