Caroline Pedler recently flew out to Shanghai to see her work in the permanent collection of the Baoshan International Folk Arts Museum, where it will be showcased and included in future touring exhibitions.
Edited by Sarah Packer
Caroline's had a busy year with work in the internationally acclaimed Illustrators Exhibition at Bologna Children's Book Fair in Italy earlier this year, alongside a packed schedule teaching and inspiring our students. We caught up with her following her whirlwind trip to Shanghai...
Hi Caroline, so was this your first trip to China?
I visited China for the first time after graduating in 1995. Staying in Hong Kong for three weeks and then travelling onto Bali and Australia for the remainder of my year out. Hong Kong was my first ever flight and was the biggest culture shock ever, mostly due to the heat and humidity. I travelled with a friend and we stayed with my friend Rich who was an illustrator for MTV over there at the time and we, therefore, lived more like locals and experienced so much because of that. I left really loving Hong Kong, so Shanghai had a lot to live up to over 20 years later!
Can you tell us a bit about the exhibition your work was in?
So my trip to Shanghai was predominantly to attend the opening ceremony of the Original Illustration Exhibition of the 2018 Chen Bochui International Children’s Literature Award.
It was connected, via the literature award, to Bologna Children’s Book Fair the largest children’s book fair in the world, of which I exhibited at earlier this year in the Illustrators Exhibition. Shanghai hosted a much smaller version of the fair for the first time this year, and where I spent the rest of my time in Shanghai in between searching for the more creative back streets of the city.
Canadian Illustrator Manon Gauthier was the overall Literature Award winner last year and was the reason I was most interested in, and why I made the effort to visit the Chen Bochui stand at Bologna Book Fair earlier this year. Her work has been hugely influential for me and a huge highlight of the fair. It was here that I got to speak to the Chen Bochui International organiser, Carolina Ballester, who after chatting about the award and my work asked for my business card.
Carolina emailed me in August, some 4 months later and asked me to be part of the Original Illustration Exhibition at the Baoshan Folk Arts Museum. The theme was Dreamer - childhood reveries, which I could fit my current work around easily. When I finally found out my work was accepted in mid October, I had just under three weeks to buy plane fairs, accommodation and visas etc, so I had to decide very quickly whether I would go to Shanghai or not!
Three things helped me decide; 1. BA (Hons) Illustration Programme Leader Mel Brown supported me in going. 2. They were paying me 800USD to keep my work for the collection which would mostly fund my trip. 3. What an incredible opportunity to have my work in a collection in the most populated city in the world!
Which pieces of your work were on show in the exhibition?
They were the same sketchbook pieces that I had chosen for the Illustrators Exhibition in Bologna in April, plus a new piece, and also the same ones I had received a diploma for at Image of the Book in Russia in August this year. They are all pieces that are made in my sketchbook, and made as part of an idea generation exercise for my own picture books, so to have them recognised as exemplars of picture book illustration, and a reflection of world trends is the best part of the whole experience.
Can you tell us about the diploma you received at Image of the Book?
The Image of the Book Competition is an illustration contest run partly by Anastasia Arkhipova in Russia. When I was at the book fair in Bologna I took the chance to have tutorials with three people I thought would be really beneficial - illustrators Laura Carlin, Will Grill and Anastasia Arkhipova.
Anastasia was one of the five judges for the Illustrators Exhibition in Bologna and I wanted to see what she thought of my work, She said she loved the space and composition and gave me her email and suggested I enter the same pieces into the Image of the Book contest, and then in August she contacted me to say I’d won a diploma for my work which will be awarded at a ceremony at Bologna Fair in April 2019.
What's coming up next for you?
My biggest goal and research trajectory is to enter a completed self-authored picture book to Nami Concours, in South Korea in 2021, a huge event that celebrates picture book illustration and storytelling from all over the world.
My next commercial book which was completed just before I left for Shanghai will be published in mid 2019. I start on the next one very soon! I will be going back to Bologna Book Fair in April, along with visiting Berlin with our BA students. In July this year, I took part in a week-long sketchbook workshop in Germany and have kept in contact with all of the illustrators and artists who were there, and will be visiting them in their studios in Berlin in April. The biggest and most urgent job on my hands is to build a new studio in my garden at home, so I have the room to fulfil my dream of creating my own picture books.
Above all, I have learnt that getting into these exhibitions is great, exciting and punctuates and pushes my practice forward, including fostering a new belief I have in myself, but now I need to make time to sit at my desk for a prolonged period and just create how I know best.