Magic of Paper Art and Pop-up Books, NYC-based Illustrator Star Shen

Star Shen is a freelance illustrator and paper engineer currently based in New York. With a specialization in visual design and paper engineering for pop-up books, greeting cards, and children’s books, she takes great joy in creating artwork inspired by her favorite places, stories, and foods.

Perfect Blue, 6.5 x 10.6 x 20 in, Pop-up Book, 2022

We’d love to hear how the journey has been so far, Star. Can you tell us a little about yourself?

Hi there, I’m an illustrator, pop-up book designer, and the founder of StarryHouse, a paper art studio based in the vibrant city of New York. Originally hailing from a tropical island called Hainan in China, I developed a deep passion for art and design from a young age. I was fortunate enough to spend time learning traditional Chinese painting with my uncle when I was a kid. This experience had a profound impact on shaping my artistic journey. I pursued my undergraduate studies at the esteemed University of Leeds in the UK, and later completed my graduate studies at the renowned Maryland Institute College of Art in the US, obtaining degrees in BE Fashion Technology and MA Illustration respectively. Since establishing my creative career in New York in 2022, I have been dedicated to the pursuit of artistic excellence while co-founding the innovative StarryHouse design studio with my partner. My work encompasses a range of artistic endeavors, including mesmerizing pop-up books, enchanting greeting cards, captivating brand designs, alluring packaging concepts, captivating fashion illustrations, captivating book cover designs, delightful children’s books, and imaginative toy creations. Clients include CCTV (China Central Television), The Movable Book Society, Poposition Press, CheerFly Culture, Starfield, SISYPHE bookstore, AIT Card, Chongqing Publishing Group, Range Comic, Embrace SF, and Xiaohongshu (App).

Everything You Need to Know About Mars, 9 x 10 in, Pop-up Book, 2022

What ideas are you exploring in your practice? As an illustrator, how do you keep yourself creative?

The subjects that pique my interest are boundless, but ultimately, my creations are inspired by everything I adore. Those who are familiar with my work understand that my original pieces often revolve around my beloved destinations, tantalizing cuisine, or cherished literary and cinematic works. In my view, maintaining a constant wellspring of creativity as an artist hinges upon wholeheartedly loving what one does and savoring the blissful state that accompanies it, deriving joy throughout the artistic process.

Everything You Need to Know About Mars, 9 x 10 in, Pop-up Book, 2022

You’ve been very active during the past few years. What is the most exciting project you’ve worked on so far?

Selecting the most exhilarating project is no easy task; however, currently, I find tremendous delight in crafting imaginative and experimental paper art centered around delectable cuisine. Since 2021, I have embarked on a series of culinary-inspired endeavors, driven purely by my passion and curiosity. Although these endeavors do not necessarily possess a commercial purpose, I have been pleasantly surprised by the reception they have garnered. Some of these delightful creations have been showcased and made available in limited quantities at art exhibitions throughout New York, capturing the hearts of many. Looking ahead, I am excited to further refine and expand upon this concept, aspiring to create a more sophisticated and comprehensive series in the coming year.

The City of Mountains, Page 1 & 2, 11.7 x 16.5 in, Pop-up Book, 2021

What does “community” mean to you? How do you see yourself in a community?

The concept of “community” holds profound significance for me as an artist who embarked on a transoceanic journey to nurture my craft in the bustling artistic hub of New York. Engaging with diverse communities has played an integral role in my artistic endeavors, whether it be through involvement in Asian artist collectives or collaborations with esteemed artist associations. Within these vibrant community settings, I find a sense of belonging, contributing my skills while also benefiting from the collective wisdom and support of fellow creatives. Engaging in dialogue and collaboration with other artists continuously ignites fresh perspectives and innovative ideas. While the act of artistic creation can be a solitary pursuit, artists thrive when they become an integral part of a thriving creative community.

The City of Mountains, Page 5 & 6, 11.7 x 16.5 in, Pop-up Book, 2021

Is there any topic or theme you’ve been particularly interested in lately?

Lately, I have developed an ardent fascination with marine life, immersing myself in the art of depicting these enchanting creatures through my drawings. Since arriving in the United States, I have embarked on a journey of exploration, visiting various captivating.

Perfect Blue, 6.5 x 10.6 x 20 in, Pop-up Book, 2022

Do you have any advice that you would offer to others?

If I were to distill my experiences and offer advice to aspiring artists, I would liken the path to becoming an artist to embarking on an exhilarating adventure akin to the game of Jumanji. Embrace the spirit of daring exploration, for it is through courageous exploration that we unlock the treasures of artistic fulfillment and growth.

Pop-up Cards Sample – Pizza

text & photo courtesy of Xingtong (Star) Shen

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