Elly MacKay Makes Worlds of Whimsy on YUPO


Yupo Corp.

Children’s book author, illustrator and mixed-media artist Elly MacKay creates magical stories and settings with her carefully crafted “paper worlds.” MacKay began using YUPO Synthetic Paper for her dioramas when she found herself less than pleased with the way light filtered through regular paper. Having received some extra pieces of YUPO from her mother, artist Joan Irvine, she found the way light played beautifully through YUPO an inspiration.

“YUPO stood up firmly and responded to the ink I use in such interesting ways,” MacKay explains. She uses inks with oil spray, alcohol, salt, and a liquid mask to create textures on YUPO. “When I need control, I use either an ink with a dip pen, fine brush, or Derwent Coloursoft pencil crayons.”

YUPO’s smooth, waterproof finish allows her to place layer upon layer of color and also lift color from areas to create unique effects. Its durable, tear-resistant properties also make her creations stand up to movement and repositioning during her staging and photography processes. Using different opacities of YUPO allows MacKay to create surprising layers of light and color, which ultimately become lovely works of art.

MacKay begins her process by sketching, painting and hand-coloring her illustrations on YUPO, which she then carefully cuts and positions, creating multilayered settings. Each of her creations becomes a magical YUPO world.

After creating and placing layer upon layer of YUPO paper elements into her diorama, she begins the magic of setting up very intricate lighting, which beams through the different opacities and translucent layers of YUPO to create magnificent landscapes, atmospheres and dreamlike settings. Once her lighted paper world has come to life, she then photographs the setting for use in her stories, or as standalone pieces of art.

“Over the years I’ve come to use different opacities of YUPO for different projects,” says MacKay. “I use cover paper for things that I want to be in shadow and use transparent YUPO for highlights.” At times, the same scene can take on many different moods simply by adjusting the placement of light in the YUPO setting.

With children’s books like “Shadow Chasers,” “If You Hold a Seed” and her most recent work, “Butterfly Park,” she has created quite a following among schoolchildren in her hometown of Ontario, Canada.

“Butterfly Park” allowed her to build an entire little city out of YUPO. The book tells the tale of a little girl who moves to a new town and is surprised to find a place called Butterfly Park devoid of any butterflies. MacKay takes you on the girl’s luminous journey to enlist the town’s help in luring the flitting creatures back to their homestead.

With its magical appeal and richness in craft and detail, local school programs have picked up the book for use in classroom settings, so MacKay will be visiting dozens of schools to share her craft and teach the techniques she uses to create her worlds. She takes YUPO with her into the schools she visits to show children the dramatic effects ink and color have on YUPO Paper. The children love learning about YUPO as much as she enjoys working with it. (One inspired student mused about taking YUPO out into the rain to see what effect that might have on a painted surface.)

MacKay’s work continues to inspire and elate children and grownups alike. Interested in taking a look at some of her YUPO creations? Take a look at some of her works using YUPO on her Etsy site, theaterclouds.

And for more information on YUPO Synthetic Paper and the many worlds you can create through print, packaging, label and design applications, visit yupousa.com.

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