This Chennai artist created a pop-up book on endangered species and it's the MOST creative thing on the internet right now

We speak to Keerthana Ramesh about her pop-up book titled My Friends are Missing that contains 30 endangered species from around the world. You have got to check it out in a hurry!
Some of Keerthana's pop-ups for the challenge, which she later turned into a book | Pics: Keerthana Ramesh
Some of Keerthana's pop-ups for the challenge, which she later turned into a book | Pics: Keerthana Ramesh

Like several others, Keerthana Ramesh had also decided to try something new while stuck at home during the lockdown. "I always wanted to try making pop-ups and this was the perfect time to learn it," says the 28-year-old artist. Keerthana decided to check out online tutorials and learn from some of the best pop-up artists in the world. When she thought she was able enough, Keerthana decided to participate in an Instagram challenge called One Million One Month that aims to raise awareness about endangered animal species around the world through art. By the end of the 30-day challenge, Keerthana had created 30 individual pop-ups on endangered species that she has now transformed into a pop-up book titled My Friends are Missing.

Speaking about how the challenge works, Keerthana says, "This is the third edition of the challenge and it usually begins in the third week of May. The creator of the challenge posts the prompts for 30 days and for the next month, creators from around the world have to produce art based on it." Every day, Keerthana would have to work for around four to five hours on each pop-up piece. "The challenge is not just for pop-ups but all kinds of art. I wanted to showcase my pop-up skills and this challenge was the perfect opportunity," she says. 

The pop-up book on endangered species

Before even beginning to make the pop-up, Keerthana would have to do some research on each animal. "I had to watch videos, if they were available, of the endangered species. A pop-up is not a static form of art. It needs movement and motion and I had to watch the animals in motion to recreate it to the best of my ability," she explains. After doing her research, Keerthana had to make prototypes to figure out the mechanism. "I had to ensure that when the page is closed, the pop-up doesn't jut out anywhere," says Keerthana. Some of the animals that Keerthana incorporated into her pop-up book include the golden viscacha rat and the Kemp's ridley sea turtle.

But it was not easy tracking down all the endangered species. "It was easy to research about 50 per cent of the endangered species mentioned in the prompts, but there wasn't much information available about the other 50 per cent," says Keerthana, adding, "Not much is known about them and researching them proved to be a challenge." Keerthana cites the example of the New Caledonian owlet-nightjar, an elusive bird that we don't have much information on. "The only reason that the bird has not been declared extinct is that every couple of decades, some locals spot it. There aren't any photographs or videos and the only reference is a specimen displayed at some museum," says Keerthana. Her Instagram page contains information and background of each of these endangered species along with videos and pictures of the pop-ups. 

Keerthana Ramesh

Keerthana also faced some challenges sourcing material during the lockdown. "I thought that I would not be able to go on for 30 days because of not having enough paper. But luckily, I had hoarded enough," she says amid laughs. She used scrapbook paper to add some colour and most of the cutouts and animals were created by intricately cutting 130 GSM acid-free paper. Moreover, she also bound the book herself. "Bookbinding is a hobby but binding a pop-up book is quite different. I reversed engineered it from the pop-up books that I had at home," adds Keerthana.

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