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Senior Exhibition 2023: Calla Rivera-Matos

When Calla Rivera-Matos ’23 (Illustration) started planning her senior thesis project, she envisioned something unique and interactive. That planning process resulted in an intricately engineered pop-up book called “Mi Casita Criolla” featuring the architecture, tiles and culture of Puerto Rico.

“My work is focused on cultural preservation and the media I would love to have seen when I was growing up,” says Rivera-Matos. “I wanted something interactive that people could use in play.” The illustration senior, who had never tried paper engineering before this project, explained her process of research and development as “a lot of trial and error … and reverse engineering.” Having produced a fully functional and beautifully illustrated book, Rivera-Matos is interested in continuing to pursue paper engineering after graduation by exploring the pop-up card industry.

In addition to paper engineering, Rivera-Matos also researched Puerto Rican architecture from the early 1900s to create a detailed rendering of homes on the island. Losa criolla, a style of floor tile integral to Puerto Rican homes, features prominently in Rivera-Matos’ project. “There were a few tile companies in Puerto Rico and some of those tiles are only found on the island,” she explains. Fan-shaped soles truncos above the doors showcase intricate decoration, as well as light and ventilation in real-life homes. Cultural decor and paper dolls with plenty of props round out “Mi Casita Criolla” into an interactive and enticing book.

Although “Mi Casita Criolla” is her first pop-up book, Rivera-Matos is not new to the world of children’s books. For one of her illustration classes, she translated, adapted and illustrated the Puerto Rican legend of the hummingbird. “Those books are usually more than 25 pages,” she says. “My style is very intricate and it took about 20 hours per page!”

As she finishes her time at MIAD, Rivera-Matos reflects on the professional experiences and close connection with friends and professors that made her experience at MIAD special. Working with Kohl’s inspired an interest in surface design that she hopes to pursue further after graduation, while the tight-knit MIAD community helped her make lifelong friends.

View Calla’s work, along with the senior projects of her talented classmates, at MIAD’s 2023 Senior Exhibition. Keep up with Calla on her website and learn more about the Illustration major!

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