How Pick Me Up chooses illustrators to showcase at Somerset House

Pick Me Up - the illustration exhibition that offers a chance to buy limited-edition prints, apparel and homewares, watch talks and attend workshops - has arrived at Somerset House in London where it'll stay until 5 May.

In addition to established names such as Gemma Correll and Kristjana S Williams, and collectives and agencies like Puck Collective and Outline Artists, Pick Me Up also offers up-and-coming talent a chance to showcase their work and sell it to illustration lovers. Each year, an industry panel chooses new illustrators to be part of Pick Me Up Selects, for which each artist produces new and exclusive work for the event.

We spoke with Pick Me Up's Cat Smith to find out more about how the team chooses illustrators for Pick Me Up Selects, Pick Me Up Collectives and Pick Me Up Galleries, and what the biggest trends emerging from this year's event have been.

How does Pick Me Up choose illustrators for Pick Me Up Selects?

Cat explained that the Pick Me Up Selects illustrators and graphic artists have graduated or set up their studio within the last seven years. “They're specially chosen by a panel of industry insiders and the PMU team,” she said. “Each panel member comes to the selection meeting with ten nominations and, after much deliberation and tea, we have our selection of 16 artists.”

2014's Pick Me Up Selects includes illustrator Jack Hudson.
Collective and Galleries including Best are also chosen from the hundreds of applications for Pick Me Up.

The rest of the show floor is taken up by Collectives and Galleries. This can include studios, independent galleries and agencies, all of which curate their own space after being chosen by the Pick Me Up team. “We get mountains of proposals,” Cat told us. “We get over 100 applications and this year we are showing more Collectives and Galleries than ever before – 17 in total. It's exciting to receive these proposals and decide who would work well together along the gallery.”

2014's Pick Me Up trend is 3D objects & cacti

With so many proposals to look through, it's easy to spot the trends that are growing within the industry. “There are a lot more 3D objects this year,” Cat highlighted. “In Selects, we have 'Practical Sculptures' by Jack Hudson including a pen pot holder and a plant pot holder, as well as Isabel Greenberg's Russian Dolls and charming little mixed media characters by Ed Cheverton.”

“Outline Artists and Best have used their artist's designs to upholster chairs, and ceramics are cropping up in a number of spaces too.”

“There are also a lot of cacti,” Cat added. “It's a natural progression from the terrariums of previous years!”

2014 is the fifth year of Pick Me Up, and each year differs from its predecessor. “We've got a real mix of works this year,” said Cat. “From Thibaud Herem's highly intricate architectural drawings (his piece St Pancras took more than 500 hours to produce) to Animaux Circus' focus on sign writing and wall murals.”

With so much incredible work on show, Cat admitted she can't choose a favourite, but did share her highlights with us. “Jess Das' Cat Island installation complete with a giant cat vinyl [shown at the top of this article], Holland's finest Letterproeftuin who brought along their project 'Smallest Printing Company' to focus on the creative process and display the results, and I'm really excited that we are finally showing some animation in Selects with two Julia Pott films,” Cat said.

Visitors to Pick Me Up include incredible papercut artist Rob Ryan and Harriet Vine, founder of Tatty Devine.

Cat's advice for someone hoping to showcase their work at Pick Me Up in the future is simple: “Come to Pick Me Up and see for yourself what it's all about.”

“There are lots of opportunities to meet other illustrators and discuss collaborations and make plans,” Cat said. “That's the spirit of Pick Me Up; sharing ideas, supporting each other and enjoying making new work.”

Photography by Kevin Meredith.

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