Pick Me Up 2015 – “we want to be more energetic and restless”

As London graphic art festival Pick Me Up prepares to open its sixth edition, we talk to curator Claire Catterall about how the show and the graphics scene have developed.


Image by Kevin Meredith
Pick Me Up 2014. Image by Kevin Meredith

London graphic arts festival Pick Me Up is set to open its sixth edition at the end of this month, bringing graphics, design and illustration to the corridors of Somerset House.

We talk to Somerset House director of exhibitions Claire Catterall about how the show has developed over the previous half-decade and what will be on display this year. 

Design Week: How do you feel Pick Me Up has grown or developed over the past six years?

Claire Catterall: When we first opened, we were the first graphics festival where people could come and see lots of different exciting work, meet all the designers, and generally get their hands dirty and have some fun. Now, there are many more graphic arts fairs and events around the UK. Plus there are websites like Design Week and It’s Nice That, that do a great job of disseminating interesting work and introducing new designers. We very much welcome this, but we’ve found that we’ve had to work hard to keep Pick Me Up fresh and surprising every year, while still keeping it relevant. We hope this year’s festival will be much more energetic and restless. We’ve really upped the activity level with more than 100 drop-in talks and events in amongst everything else. One of the events I’m most looking forward to is Pick Me Up TV, which will be a cross between Wayne’s World and Art Attack.

Pick Me Up 2014. Image by Kevin Meredith
Pick Me Up 2014. Image by Kevin Meredith

DW: Do you feel that the public’s perception of graphic arts has changed in the time you’ve been running Pick Me Up?

CC: I think the public are a lot more aware of great design and illustration in their daily environments. As part of our events programme we’re therefore opening it up and, for example, magCulture is hosting daily talks with different indie magazines such as Riposte, The Gourmand and Delayed Gratification. We’ve also got events like a Cover Club with Ian Anderson celebrating vinyl and music. We are celebrating not just the artists and designers themselves, but also their impact on and relationship with culture on a broader level.

DW: How will this year’s Pick Me Up demonstrate the process of graphic arts as well as the finished work?

CC: This year’s Pick Me Up is very much returning to its roots and talking about process. As usual, we will have loads of collectives busily making things throughout the festival – new this year is Peckham Print Studio and Hato Press, both operating live print studios, and we have loads of workshops and demos.

Pigeon Series, by Rop van Mierlo
Pigeon Series, by Rop van Mierlo

DW: Which newcomer’s work are you most looking forward to seeing and why?

CC: This year’s Selects artists have been chosen because they each represent a different process in an interesting way. For example, Thomas Lamadieu’s use of photography, Luke Evans’ printing with electricity or Rop van Mierlo’s experimental drawing. Each day one of them will be talking about their different working processes within our Pick Me Up Platform space.  We also have daily talks by top graphic design studios such as Graphic Thought Facility, Studio Myerscough, Julia, and Graphic Digital Agency about their working environments and practice.

DW: The Pick Me Up Platform will look at issues facing graphic artists – what do you think these key issues are?

CC: Pick Me Up Platform will have more than 100 talks planned. These will all be relevant to a range of working processes, but we also want to engage visitors more deeply in conversations about current trends and issues. As part of this overall talks programme for example, we’re holding a large scale sit-in for arts education with Bob and Roberta Smith who is standing in the General Election, a talk called LOOKING OUTSIDE DESIGN with GraphicDesign&, and one of our late night events with Crowd Talks is all about the influence of emojis, memes and tumblr culture.

By Alexander Medel Calderon – Lazy Oaf
By Alexander Medel Calderon – Lazy Oaf


Pick Me Up is at Embankment Galleries, South Wing, Somerset House, London WC2R from 23 April-4 May.

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