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Unfolding Paper Magic: The Enchanting Journey of Xingtong 'Star' Shen, Pop-up Book Designer and Illu

In a world where digital screens dominate our daily lives, Xingtong ‘Star’ Shen has chosen to captivate audiences through the magic of paper and storytelling. As a celebrated pop-up book designer and illustrator, Shen weaves enchanting tales that transport readers into immersive, three-dimensional worlds. From her humble beginnings on a tropical island in China to her thriving career in New York City, Shen's artistic journey is a testament to the power of imagination, passion, and unwavering dedication to one's craft.


As a child, Xingtong Shen was introduced to the enchanting world of pop-up books when she received "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" by renowned designer Robert Sabuda as a birthday gift. The three-dimensional storytelling captured her imagination, and she recalls, "As I flipped through the pages of the book, it felt like I had opened a door to a whole new world." Inspired by this experience, Shen created her own pop-up book, "The City of Mountains," a stunning pop-up book that transports readers to the vibrant city of Chongqing, a place rich with history, architecture, and cultural heritage.


Shen’s pop-up book, The City of Mountains


Shen’s "The City of Mountains" features six distinct pop-up structures that showcase different aspects of Chongqing, allowing readers to explore the city's unique charm and character. Shen's exceptional craftsmanship and eye for detail are on full display as she meticulously weaves together intricate paper structures to create breathtaking, three-dimensional scenes that leap off the page.


One of the standout elements of "The City of Mountains" is the harmony between art and storytelling. Shen's talent for visual narrative is evident as each page seamlessly unfolds into the next, crafting a vivid and cohesive journey through Chongqing's diverse landscape. The reader is not merely an observer but an active participant in the unfolding tale, as they delve deeper into the city's mysteries with each turn of the page.


Shen’s pop-up book, Everything You Need to Know About Mars


Shen's creativity and skill in pop-up book design extend beyond "The City of Mountains." Her ambitious pop-up book about Mars travel, "Everything You Need to Know About Mars," required months of research and intricate design. Shen has also worked as a pop-up book designer for Morrill Mocci Entertainment Ltd, showcasing her proficiency in creating engaging and visually stunning stories for children.


Shen’s collaborations also span various industries: She has been involved in several other outstanding endeavors. She collaborated with CCTV.com to create a 2022 New Year pop-up book, showcasing her expertise in pop-up book design. In 2021, she participated in the Mango TV variety show "Amazing Sisters," where she was interviewed by Su Mang, former editor-in-chief of Harper's Bazaar China. During the show, Shen discussed her experiences in illustration and pop-up book creation. Shen has also worked on a joint illustration project with Starfield, a leading plant-based food technology company in China that has partnered with over 100 brands and has a presence in over 14,000 stores across the country. This collaboration further demonstrates Shen's versatility and ability to work with various industries.


Shen’s pop-up birthday card design in collaboration with the Movable Book Society and Poposition Press


At the end of the year, she is set to release a science education picture book titled "PETE." Furthermore, she has teamed up with the Movable Book Society and Poposition Press to design a 2022 pop-up card. Since graduating last year and moving to New York, Shen has had the opportunity to work with numerous clients and participate in several exciting art exhibitions, such as the MoCCA Fest 2022 & 2023, the 2023 Capital Art Book Fair, and the Wizard Fest 2022, among others.


Her work has received coverage from various media outlets, including CCTV, The Movable Book Society, and Hunan Television. She is also grateful for the chance to have been featured in Shoutout LA, which was her first interview with an American media outlet. With a rich educational background, including degrees from the Maryland Institute of Art, the University of Leeds, and Soochow University, Shen has built a solid foundation for her artistic career. New York is a magical city full of opportunities and challenges, and coming here from across the ocean required a great deal of courage. Although she faces moments of confusion and anxiety, Shen remains passionate about her work, career, and new life in the bustling metropolis.


“Pop-up book design may not be the most popular profession, but it has provided me with an opportunity to create worlds that come to life and captivate the imagination of readers. I am excited to continue exploring the endless possibilities of pop-up book design and seeing where it takes me,” Shen says. Xingtong Shen's diverse and impressive portfolio of projects highlights her immense talent and creativity in the realm of pop-up book design and illustration. As she continues to explore new opportunities and collaborations, her work will undoubtedly continue to inspire and captivate audiences worldwide.


Image of Xingtong Shen



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