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On the way to London Book Fair 2018: the international artistic exchange project has started

With the three Baltic countries being the main Market Focus of the 2018 London Book Fair (LBF), an impressive multicultural project has been designed to promote creative exchanges between the Baltic States and the UK, transcending linguistic barriers and opening new possibilities for young talented students all across the four countries.

With the support of the Arts Council England, the London-based organisation Pop Up Projects together with its Baltic partners, the Lithuanian Culture Institute, IBBY Estonia, Estonian Children’s Literature Centre and Latvia’s Kus! comics publisher create an international exchange mentoring scheme which involves 165 student artists aged 16-24. 20 Lithuanian, 20 Estonian, 20 Latvian and 105 British students will be artist-mentored and develop illustrated stories in intensive workshops.

The idea for the project came to Dylan Calder, director of Pop Up project, while visiting the Vilnius Book Fair in 2015, invited by the Lithuanian Culture Institute. Over the following two years, the project was developed, funding was granted and partners from Latvia and Estonia were invited to join the activities.

In March, the first two workshops started in Lithuania hosted by Vilnius Academy of Arts (Vilnius and Kaunas departments). Emily Hughes is the British author and illustrator who led the workshop in Vilnius, while illustrator Jim Stoten worked with art students in Kaunas.

Emily Hughes said that the first step of the project was enlightening and allowed her to start learning more about Lithuanian culture by drawing with the students. In this workshop, which lasted for four days, the British artist and the Lithuanian students focused on the Leporello format. Also known as accordion binding, it uses a parallel folding technique to create a sequence of images all bound together. The students considered which materials would be more appropriate, how the print would affect the colors and other technical aspects. Starting from an object found in their houses, the students tried themselves with different techniques and materials, working on multiples layers.

Emily said that the main point in Leporello format was the flow, “it is an object that unfolds, and the students need to understand how to tell stories that will be cohesive and that will work all together”. In this short but really intense workshop, the British illustrator had the chance to figure out how the students work and which is their own personal style. Thanks to the collaboration of five international publisher partners, the final 165 short illustrated stories will be published and showcased in the LBF in 2018. For this reason, Emily tried to inspire the students to be true to themselves, find their own identity and not to be afraid of the limits imposed by the narrative and stylistic choices.

Communication and exchange are the main points of this project. During the next months, the Lithuanian students will develop their own narrative starting from the ideas inspired by this first workshop, until they meet again with Emily Hughes in May. At the same time, in April and May four Lithuanian illustrators Lina Dūdaitė, Akvilė Misevičiūtė, Ieva Babilaitė and Rasa Joni together with other Latvian and Estonian colleagues are going to work with arts students in different schools in the United Kingdom.

The main aim of the Pop Up Project is to nurture young artists’ aspirations, opening for them new and rewarding career paths. For this reason, 60 students in the three Baltic States will be offered the opportunity to achieve the Arts Council Award through the project. On the long run, Pop Up Projects promise to create a publishing-orientated digital platform to seek out, curate and showcase emerging EAL talents, drawn from within the project but also beyond it.

By Elena Fiorotto

Erasmus +, European Voluntary Service