Lowell Hess... Designer, Paper Engineer and Artist Extraordinaire
“Almost everything that guy ever did makes my head explode.”
- A contemporary illustrator, commenting on Lowell Hess' work.
Graphics3’s designs are whimsically unique in form and function yet entirely traditional in theme, with an appealing character somewhere between folk art and the vintage tin toys of old. That might be expected when one considers that the genius behind many of our card designs is Lowell Hess, an illustrator from what is known today as the ‘latter Golden Age of Illustration’. Lowell was a post war contemporary of Norman Rockwell, Harry Anderson, Boris Artzybasheff, N.C. Wyeth, Dorothy Lathrop and Charles Kerins, the great illustrators that epitomized the earlier era of printed media. Among these luminaries during the heyday of magazine illustration were an often unheralded group of terrific commercial artists, a good many still alive and living in relative obscurity, including Art Seiden, Hawley Pratt, Tom Oreb, Aurelius Battaglia, Lowell Hess, Charly Harper and Moritz Kennel.
An Oklahoma native, Lowell served as a lieutenant in the US Army in Europe during World War II and afterwards attended the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, NY. As a working commercial artist Lowell’s work shined forth from the covers of many national publications, including Collier's and Boy's Life as well as illustrating numerous children’s books for the Golden Books series, his work touching millions. Lowell also worked for the Hallmark Cards, Inc. of Kansas City, Mo. at one point in his career. Known for his "strength of line", Lowell's style evolved through the years, his most imaginative work culminating in Graphics3's structural paper pop-up designs.
Joining Graphics3 in 1974, Lowell demonstrated an uncanny ability to visualize the transformation of 2-d art into 3-dimensional reality. Lowell’s two-dimensional “strength of line” translated quite naturally into shapes of cut paper and sculptural qualities as his mind’s eye envisioned dimension where none existed. A new frontier in pop-up design was crossed when, together with Graphics3, Lowell’s fertile mind created and designed the first commercially viable rubber band activated pop-up Christmas card designs; freestanding designs that required no cover and did not have to be manually opened. The multifaceted nature of the man's considerable innate talents had found new expression.
Where most artists start and finish with a static illustration or sculpture, the Graphics3 pop-up engineer's creativity is just beginning, visualizing not only the final dimensional form the paper sculpture will take, but also the intricate means by which it will ultimately fold flat - and return again to full dimension when opened - with the help of a rubber band!
In 1990, for the first time, Graphics3 entered seven of Lowell’s original pop-up card designs in the International Greeting Card Awards held by the Greeting Card Association in conjunction with the National Stationary Show held in New York City. Known as the “Louie” awards, so named for Louis Prang, the father of the American Christmas card, this is the greeting card industry’s equivalent of Hollywood’s Emmy, Oscar or Tony Awards. The event was held in the famed Waldorf-Astoria’s Grand Ballroom and was hosted by actress Mariette Hartley. In the first year entered all seven of Lowell’s Graphics3 produced pop-up card designs were nominated as finalists in seven different categories, every category entered, winning outright in five of those categories and winning the industry’s highest honor, the “Louie” award for ‘Card of The Year’ in the Traditional Christmas Category, for his ‘English Toy Shoppe’, a design inspired by Charles Dickens. In 1991, the last year entered, another Lowell Hess design again won the category for Best Traditional Christmas Card; this within an 800 company strong greeting card industry.
“We draw our design ideas from a wide variety of social and cultural sources but the creation and production of our pop-up cards is very much an art. Every card is highly unique in its innovative design, the paper stock and the rubber band that makes them pop.”
In a prolific career that spanned 6 decades, Lowell Hess combined knife, brush and paper with whimsical brilliance. Anyone receiving our cards is a bit awestruck at the inherent ingenuity of someone that could not only conceive and create such elaborate three-dimensional designs from scratch - but envision how to do it with a hidden rubber band as the motive power that transforms them into freestanding 3-dimensional wonders!
More recently Lowell engages his creative talents in whittling whimsical wood-carvings, carrying his good humored vision into yet another dimensional dimensional medium while in active retirement. Every card we produce is a reincarnation of the creative process begun in Lowell Hess' studio. Each card is painstakingly hand assembled for the most important occasions - yours!
They aren’t for everyone. We don’t sell them in stores. You can’t get them anywhere else. These are not trendy, contemporary social expressions – most of our designs harken back to a different kind of genius – much as Christmas celebrates something higher. If you are looking for a classics made by hand in a digital age that just might be treasured for future Christmas’s you may be in the right place.
Cultures everywhere have found timeless appeal in simple paper cleverly cut, folded or printed as a societal expression. Classic interpretations are the art of Japanese origami or the Scherrenschnitte craft of Germany. With the Victorian industrial age western civilization brought intricate manufactured pop-up books and greeting cards to the public. Graphics3 brings to this tradition a bit of ‘Yankee ingenuity’ with the innovation of rubber band activated freestanding pop-up card designs.
Since 1974 Graphics3 Inc., a Florida corporation, has been the leading the proprietary designer, manufacturer and original publisher of rubber band activated pop-up greeting cards, calendars and custom pop-up projects. We pioneered the innovative use of rubber band activated mechanisms to make cards pop-up. Graphics3 has enabled businesses of every size to create positive relationships, response, awareness and lasting goodwill with pop-up greeting cards during the holidays, pop-up calendars and custom designs for promotional use.
Graphics3's unique expertise is an outgrowth of involvement in the commercial printing business going back to 1935, where a reputation for successfully producing unusually challenging graphic arts projects was established. In 1976 Lowell Hess evolved the concept of Graphics3's very first rubber band activated pop-up greeting card, which we used as our company Christmas card that year. This card, now a collectible, was so warmly received by our customers that they, in effect, put us in the greeting card business. Each year we add new designs to our collection and showcase all our current designs in our catalog and web site.
Our popular pop-up polygon desk calendars have been in continuous production and entirely manufactured here in the USA since the business was established in 1974. To ensure consistent quality our polygon production is fully automated in our own plant, on machines we developed and patented.
Graphics3 delivers extraordinary pop-up greeting cards and promotional tools that clamor for attention. Graphics3 offers the intersection of long experience, creativity, leading-edge graphic arts capability, and essential production control that add up to clean, professional execution. From initial design and prepress to printing and die cutting operations, critical print production takes place within our own facilities and assembly is performed under our supervision providing the control necessary to efficiently manufacture high quality products.