Pick Me Up Festival London, 2016: Charming Sculptures

An unexpected medium presented plenty of highlights at this year's graphic design fair

One of the things that makes London-based graphic design festival Pick Me Up such a fun event to visit is that it really gives visitors direct access to the pulse of the current UK design scene. The festival is currently in its seventh year, and this time plenty of the contributing artists—whether they’re emerging stars showing in the Select section, or more established talents—have gone three-dimensional. Sculptures were dotted among the many prints on show, as designers experiment with ceramics, clay, Hama beads and even a “secret industrial material.” And the unifying theme of the sculptures was a certain playful naivety that made the carefully crafted pieces appear deceptively simple. Below are just a few of our favorites from the inspiring festival.

Clay Collective

During the Pick Me Up Festival’s 11-day residency at Somerset House, visitors will be able to expand their own creative skills through workshops on subjects ranging from illustration to bookbinding and sign-painting. One of those is Clay Collective’s “Illustrating Animals and Making Mammals,” which should hopefully leave visitors with their own colorful animal sculptures. Whether they’re leopards, seals or badgers, Sandra Dieckmann’s super-charming animals prove that you’re never too old to want your own zoo.

Julian Glander

Made from a secret industrial material of the artist’s own formulation, US-based animator, illustrator and game designer Julian Glander’s 3D “floam” sculptures look like oversized, colorful pieces of candy. It’s a step out of the digital realm for the artist, but the tactile sculptures definitely have an internet-friendly feel; resembling slightly lopsided, confused emoji come to life.

Charlotte Mei

At the recent Beer at Beach exhibition in London, Charlotte Mei’s wizard-pup stood out among the other, two-dimensional pieces. At Pick Me Up, her child-like ceramic sculptures fit right in. Inspired by the internet, video games and manga, Mei populates her kawaii world with humorous sculptures like the “Reclining Worm” and the “Monkey Pot.” She also showcased her first-ever jewelry designs: brass medallions that included dog and heart references. They can be bought with their own ceramic frames, making them wearable art.

Dan Singer

Southeast London based illustrator and printmaker Dan Singer managed to bridge illustration and sculpture with his Hama bead-pictures. From a distance, they look completely flat, but get up close to the artworks and you realize that they’re three-dimensional—and seriously labor-intensive. Singer is inspired by VHS videotapes and classic skateboard graphics, influences that definitely shine through in his lo-fi, meticulously crafted bead-men in primary colors. Their jagged outlines make the designs reminiscent of 8-bit computer graphics, adding a nostalgic edge for Pick Me Up visitors old enough to remember those.


Malarko’s ceramic head was inspired by Morris dancing, the strange English folk dance that sees participants wear bell pads and wave sticks around. But the street painter and illustrator’s take on a Morris-dancer is a much more laid-back figure. The oversized ears evoke Mickey Mouse and the hat can be removed, revealing that the figure is actually hollow—and can allegedly be used as a bong, although we’re unsure how practical it would be. Malarko’s piece is part of Beach London’s collaboration with the Museum of British Folklore, which encourages the gallery’s contemporary artists to offer their own take on unusual cultural traditions that continue in the UK today.

Pick Me Up is open at Somerset House now through 2 May.

Lead image and Dan Singer image by Kevin Meredith, all other images by Cajsa Carlson