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The Beauty of the Book – Folio Society competition:
I grew up surrounded by books. Even when my parents were travelling, somehow my mother seemed to manage to take a good part of her own collection of books with her. And, when I was eight or nine, they started to buy Folio Society books. I now have the original pair of books they bought – Therese Raquin by Zola and a collection of Maupassant short stories. I can remember being told to make sure I washed my hands before I touched the books, printed on thick paper, beautifully bound and encased in sturdy sleeves they exuded romance and tragedy. The Maupassant is bound in shell pink, embossed with gold while the Zola is grey and gold (not suprising if you know the story). My parents carried on buying Folio Society books all their lives and I’ve often thought about continuing the tradition. These are books to escape into, the romance of the story enhanced by the beauty of the book itself.
I was thrilled to be invited to an exhibition of the long-list illustrations for this year’s Folio Society competition and to the final results. The winner gets a £5,000 commission to illustrate the Folio Book of Ghost Stories – and obviously it is a great accolade even if you just make the long list, with around 400 initial entries whittled down to a final of twenty-six.
I wandered around the House of Illustration with Bet Ayers, who is herself a book designer and whose mother was an illustrator. We tried our best to pick the winners (there are six shortlisted winners – three students and three professionals and from that list the winner is selected). Meeting Sheri Gee, the Folio Society Art Director, it became apparent that they were looking for a lot more than just a pretty picture. The judging panel comprised prolific author of The Woman in Black, Susan Hill, 2014 winner Sean McSorley, Production Director for the Folio Society Limited Editions Joe Whitlock Blundell and Book Editor and Author Mandy Kirkby together with Sheri Gee and Colin McKenzie from the House of Illustration who were responsible for the long list selection.
We learnt that we were looking for designs that reflected the tone of the book, that were subtle and hinted at the horror of the ghost story. I managed to pick just one of the shortlisted winners, while Bet did rather better picking everyone on the short list though her personal favourite wasn’t the overall winner. Once the results were announced though, it all became very obvious why the overall winner was chosen.
So, congratulations to runners up Charlie Dixon, Emma Buckley, Carrie May, Jamie Clarke and Imogen Clifton
And to the overall winner David McConochie whose work was beautiful, subtle and chilling.
There are events where I am invited and I go along on the off chance that it will be fun. Where I have a friend who just might LOVE to be there and who I can take with me. And where it’s just a chance to do something different. The Folio Society and House of Illustration annual competition was one such evening. I’d never been to the House of Illustration – it only opened in July 2014 and it’s a great place to visit to learn more about all forms of illustration. The chance to meet and get some understanding of their inspiration from the long-listed artists who were there that evening. And, of course, the chance to see more beautiful Folio Society books.
All illustrations copyright the artists and Folio Society