The sixth edition of Pick Me Up, a London festival of the graphic arts, has verve and irreverence at Somerset House until 6 May.
It’s the showcase for a swelling wave of artists, making their way in illustration, a relatively new discipline at British art colleges. You can see/buy prints from rising stars and in the upstairs galleries meet the artists who include screen, wood-cut and lino printers, book and magazine illustrators/makers, card designers, film makers. animators and comic creators, laying on demos, workshops, talks, films and more.
You’ll also find textiles, ceramics and even wallpaper for sale. Illustration is becoming a major movement in homewares. Graphic art, from simple outlines and irreverent slogans to finely-coloured drawings, is bringing imagination, story-telling, humour, and even satire to home design.
“Yes, more and more illustrators are finding their way into the home,” confirms the co-curator of Pick Me Up, Claire Catterall. “There is a wealth of talent out there and a growing awareness of its design potential by manufacturers.”
Returning to Pick Me Up for the second time is Niki Best, who ran a popular gallery in Clerkenwell before moving to Brighton in 2007. Now she has a stable of illustrative artists, and she’s adapting their work for textiles, cushions and upholstery, helping to smooth out the mechanics of production.
“It’s immediate and accessible art for the home, bringing individuality and maybe wit and a bit of a story.” She has put a fun yellow design of birds and bananas by artist Danny Sangra onto a chaise longue, and it’s available by the metre, or as cushions.
Showing with Niki Best is artist Emily Dupen, also from Brighton, who graduated from Brighton art college in 2004. Eight years ago her risqué wallpaper drawings of 50s housewives were an instant and ongoing hit. Now comes Potions wallpaper, a charming collage of finely-drawn vintage bottles and packets she’s personally collected from all over the place, inspired by a TV documentary about Victorian apothecaries.
“I was fascinated by the ingredients once used for beauty treatments,” Dupenny says. Look closely at her design and you can see labels for “opium” (used to treat female hysteria), “man or beast amazing cream”, hair loss oil, bird droppings (an ancient facial treatment), and even “bull semen gloss” (for shiny hair…) The wallpaper costs £65 a 3m roll, or £165 for 10m.
Ohh Deer, another Pick Me Up exhibitor, was founded in 2011 by Jamie Mitchell and Mark Callaby. Now they work with nearly 40 illustrators all over the world and have branched out into textiles and ceramics.
Meanwhile, already celebrated for illustrative homewares is Kristjana S. Williams, who comes from Iceland and trained at St Martin’s. She co-founded the Beyond the Valley shop for new-graduates (off Carnaby Street) and ran it for six years before founding her own award winning brand for her vividly intricate and multi-layered artwork, based on hand-coloured drawings, and collages made from Victorian scrap books.
Hoxton-based Camilla Barnard is another young London illustrator. First of all, she turned her prolific sketches of household packaging, tools, appliances and so on into wooden sculptures, niftily fashioning shapes from plywood. These now have a cult following – she has done windows for Paul Smith, a show at the Design Museum, and is currently working on a station installation for TFL. And yesterday at Milan Design Week, Barnard launched her own range of cheeky and charming wallpapers.
Lizzie Mary Cullen is a London illustrator who usually draws her intricate tales of fantasy directly onto walls, creating ad hoc murals as she goes. However now she’s made her drawings into wallpaper for the New Wave collection produced by Lancashire manufacturers Graham & Brown.
Also contributing to New Wave is graffiti artist Kev Munday, who created artwork by covering an existing wallpaper design with his trademark faces. Called Alien Crowd, it has been used by a comedy programme on Channel Four, and for a hotel in Philadelphia.
Ozlem Djafer is a graduate with a unique style for drawing faces. She has put faces of 40 fashion celebrities onto a one metre repeat of a wallpaper called Fashion Hierachy. And Paul Bishop (based in Stoke) has built a ceramics company with an international reputation,by putting the work of illustrators worldwide onto plates breathtaking beautiful or sinister and surreal.