An article I wrote for a college paper publication.
My Studio is my happy place….
...but sometimes it’s not enough.
An opportunity came up on my Instagram feed in June 2018 that was almost too good to pass up. It was for a workshop in Germany, run by one of my favourite illustrators, Jesus Cisernos (Hay,zoose). I decided there and then to go, and made my plans, spent numerous pennies and pounds on travel and accommodation. A tonne of emails later, and I ended up near the Polish Border in a village called Gerswalde (Gayz,valda). It was quiet, remote and almost chic without knowing it. On the way into the village centre, there were some big green metal gates that opened into a garden that wouldn’t look out of place in a novel by Frances Hodgson Burnett ( The Secret Garden). This was the garden we would work in for 6 long and very hot days.
We spent 6, sometimes 12 hour days working to the direction of Jesus, creating imagined worlds, limericks and illustrated narratives in the company of 15 other artists from all over the world. It was the most unique, rewarding, hot and sweaty week of my life and I loved every minute! Even the gripes we had about mis-organised buses and distracting babies screaming over talks in three different languages, was not enough to mully my ideal view of a week in Gerswalde.
We worked hard in the day and cycled to the lake to swim most nights before returning to our accommodation a few miles away in Böckenberg. We ate together and showed our work to each other after each project set. Shared our creative life experiences, laughed about stories we told each other, probably moaned a little bit too, but generally everyone was so accommodating, accepting, forgiving and open to each and everyone’s quirks, and there was always a tree to shade under or to escape to, and a lake to cycle to when the day got too much.
Coming together and seeing what everyone else had done was so important for me, it gave me a marker for my own work. Something I could reflect on and work with when I got home. While I was there I wasn’t sure how this week would impact my life, or whether it would at all.
Cafe Zum Lowen within the garden walls was where we ate everyday, Ayumi (Saito) and Sayuri (Sakairi) at the helm feeding us a variety of fusion Japanese / /British / Vegan wholefood Delights. One review said it feels like you have ‘just stepped inside and got lost in a Ghibli movie’. The cafe offers a certain grubby ’Patina’ as another person reviewed, which added to the timelessness and character of the whole experience. Ayumi became a friend, as did everyone who took part. I have already arranged to visit Yoshiko and Robin in Japan in 2020/21. Some of us are planning a catch up in Berlin in April, and I have starting learning Spanish, the most spoken language of the week.
The week here taught me above all that with a common ideal, cause or love of subject, cultural differences could be transcended by creative endeavour, and a good narrative could breathe fully and with vibrancy regardless of language barriers. This is continued to be mirrored in seminars and conferences I am beginning to attend at Picture-Book fairs such as Bologna Children’s Book Fair in Italy and Shanghai.
It was the illustrators I spent a week in Gerswalde with that are right in the middle of a way of thinking and representing the world through Picture Books that is exciting, different and pushing boundaries of the picture book aesthetic. Celebrating through individual style, while continuing to use content that is globally resonant, and I felt privileged to have experienced that week, with those exact people, in that very place and that specific time.
The participants were and worth a google:
@Maria.Dek - Poland
@ValarioVidili - Italy
@KatjaSpitzer - Germany
@Sophie.Jackson - Chile
@Cyndoor - Cynthia Alonso - Argentina
@csrdraws - Cristina Sitja Rubio - Venezuela
@MarieVanPrague - Belgium
@Nomonki - Cristobal Schmal - Chile
@varyadrawing - Vavara Yashchenko - Russia
@HannahGopa - Chile
CarolineHeinrich.de - Germany
@lu100ac - Lucienne Abdala - Peru
@Johanna_Schmal - Germany
@Isabel_zazel - Isabel Peterhans - Austria
@Kunstgriff23 - Heike Isennmann - Germany
Robin Weichart - Japan
@Yoshiko_Hada - Japan
Interesting publishers around the world and also worth a google:
Tara Books - India
Pato Logico - Portugal
L'Ecole des Loisirs - France
Magikon Forlag - Norway
La courte echelle - Canada
Les Fourmis Rouges - France
Topipittori - Italy
Planets Tangerina - Portugal
Liels un Mazs - Latvia
Peter Hammer Verlag - Germany
Baobab - Czech Republic
Pequeno Editor - Argentina